I’m a big fan of Her Bad Mother’s blog, and although I’ve been a bit preoccupied this week, what with the 6 hours in Labor and Delivery Triage (nothing was wrong) and packing for a trip that I hadn’t caught up with her in about as long. Which is why my jaw dropped to read this entry.
For those of you who don’t click links, allow me to summarize.
HBM was flying back home with her infant son on WestJet and was quietly nursing him when a flight attendant got involved….
When she approached me in my seat near the back of the plane, blanket in hand, I ignored her. Jasper was tucked in at my breast, wrapped in his own blanket, his head pressed against the white half-moon of flesh that was barely visible beneath him. His head was damp from the stream of tears that had been running down my cheeks from the moment of our departure, the tears that I’d held back while saying my goodbyes. I bent my head over his, shielding my face, my breast, my baby, my tears from view with the veil of my hair. I didn’t even look up when she spoke to me.
Excuse me, perhaps you’d like to cover up with a blanket?
I don’t answer.
I brought a blanket for you.
She crouches slightly, bending closer. I gather my voice. I’m afraid that it will crack.
I’m fine, thank you.
She stands up, still holding the blanket in front of me.
Well. Perhaps I’ll leave it with you?
I don’t answer.
She reaches across me, across Jasper, and drops the blanket on the empty seat beside me. If you need help with it, let me know.
Thank you, I say, my jaw clenched, my throat closed. I am trying to not cry anymore than I already am.
Some women are more comfortable nursing with a blanket. I can’t see her, my head bent as it is, but I imagine that she stiffens defensively.
My tears are getting hot. I swallow my anger.
And then she walked away, and I kept my head bent over my baby for as long as he nursed and as long as he slept and until the tension in the back of my neck became too much to bear.
Let me state for the record that there are laws protecting a breastfeeding mother’s rights in Canada, including her right to nurse without harassment. And for anyone who doesn’t think that was harassment—what would you call it if I stood next to you and kept poking you repeatedly when you clearly wanted to be left alone?????
I have gone on the record in the past as being annoyed and frustrated with lactavists and breastfeeding nazis…however, I don’t see my position on this as antithetical to that. I hate people who say breastfeeding is the ONLY option and you’re a horrible terrible selfish mommy to bottle feed and your child will grow up to be something less than what they could’ve been you awful awful awful person.
However, breastfeeding in public is something I unequivicably support. Breasts are not dirty…they are functional, and their job is to feed a hungry baby…it’s not my problem that they’ve been fetishized into sexual objects of lust to the point where their mere presence is sexual, regardless of whether they’re sitting quietly in my bra under a button up shirt, bound in tightly so I can exercise without making them hurt, or subtly appearing to feed my daughter.
Breastfeeding on a plane is a smart decision. Babies have no idea what’s going on with the changes in cabin pressure. We can tell kids and adults to yawn in order to force their ears to pop. Exactly how do you propose to explain this to a preverbal infant? The suck reflex pops their ears for them. And keeps their mouths busy and occupied with something other than screaming at the top of their lungs.
As for the blanket…FUCK THE BLANKET.
If I wanted a blanket, I’d bring my own, as would any woman who prefers to cover up.
I have no desire to cover up. I don’t eat sitting under a tent with my food on the outside of the tent–why should my kid? I’m not ashamed of my breasts. I don’t think they’re dirty. If you do, that’s not my problem any more than it’s my problem that you think I’m going to hell because I don’t believe in your God, your politics or your parenting philosophies. Deal with it. No one is forcing you to watch.
WestJet needs to hear about this, and while their current response is a form letter citing the wrong incident, I’m a big fan of harassing the harasser.
You can harass them by contacting Gillian Bentley, Media Relations, e-mail: email@example.com.
Better yet, hit them where it hurts and fly another carrier.
Let’s make it clear that we know WestJet hates breastfeeding moms and until they change their policy, we’re going to give our money to other carriers.