Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Kind Word Goes a Long Way

A few weeks ago, my husband, John and I had to take a quick and necessary trip to Atlanta. I say necessary, because trust me, if we could have avoided going, we would've. Not that I don't love Atlanta, but the thought of traveling by air with a baby and all his necessary stuff gave me a tired head, straight up.

But there we were anyway, packed up and ready to check our baggage for John's first airplane ride. Unfortunately for us, we discovered (even after checking several times online) that our flight had been canceled, because of a massive storm system that rolled in. So after arriving early for our now-canceled 7:30 p.m. flight, we found ourselves wandering the airport for another six hours until our new flight boarded - at 11 p.m.

As it turns out, John's not a big fan of airports, or spending six hours in them. But luckily, we finally found a quiet corner (thanks to an airport volunteer), and he fell asleep. Of course, he cried for about three hours solid prior to this, but mercifully, he slept through the rest of the trip.

John, despite his best effort and the best efforts of three lactation consultants, and myself, never really figured out how to latch when nursing. Otherwise, I would've had far less to pack in that diaper bag that we lugged around at the airport. I've been pumping breast milk and pouring it into bottles for the past two months. No, it's not the breastfeeding experienced I envisioned, but I'm happy to do it. Generally.

But that night, after I handed my sleeping son off to my husband and gathered my pump to go to the ladies room, I wasn't that happy. In fact, I was tired. More than anything, in that moment, I wanted to be able to throw a blanket over my shoulder, open my bra, and feed my son. Quietly. Modestly. Without having to get up from my chair.

Instead, I went to the ladies room, where there were electrical outlets, but no place to sit. In fact, the outlets were at the sinks - the same sinks people used to wash their hands after using the restroom. There was water splashed all around them. After cleaning up as best I could, I stood there, in front of a sink, with a blanket over my chest as I pumped breast milk. Nobody made eye contact as they jockeyed up to the two other sinks next to me.

At that moment, pumping became a lonely chore. While breastfeeding in public has become somewhat of a lightning rod issue, for the most part, when people see a mother nursing, they applaud. When they see a mother feeding a baby a bottle, they assume it's formula. Now, I don't need applause for trying to give my baby the best food I can, but at that moment, yes, I was discouraged. I wanted to cry.

But then a woman walked up to the sink, as I began putting away my pump and washing off the parts. "Did you just pump?" she asked. When I responded yes, and that it was the only way my son would eat, she said, "I'm a lactation consultant, and I think you're wonderful for doing this. It's harder, but I'm proud of you."

It was like the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders at that moment. She patted me on the back, and then continued out the door. I placed the last part in my bag, and walked out, a little less tired, a little happier, and encouraged.

John and I still work on nursing. Some sessions, he does a little better than others. But at 2 a.m., when my alarm goes off and I trudge out of the bedroom to go pump, I go into the nursery to peek at my chubby, thriving son, and the chore doesn't seem so chore-like anymore.

Bethany Erickson is the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson and Mom of a 9-week-old son.

1 comment:

  1. I love this story! I am a nursing mother and a pumping one as well, my baby just turned 1 and we're still going at it but I had a very close relationship with my pump. Henry, my son was in the NICU for 2 months and I remember setting my alarm for midnight, 2am and 4am to pump. You are amazing and good for you for providing for you little guy!! Keep it up girl!