Invisible Nursing Woman

On May 11, I was honored to participate in Listen to Your Mother Philly. It was a life changing experience. I first published this piece on my blog.

Before Baby, if you had one word to describe me, you’d say cleavage. I’ve always believed that cleavage hides any flaw, and if I were a hot mom, you’d hate me. Alas, deep into mommyhood, my cleavage has been hijacked by a hooter-cover: hiding both baby’s head and my ample bosom. I always assumed I’d be one of those women who whipped out their boob with no cares in the world; I was wrong.  Now, I imagine my plentiful boobs spilling everywhere. I am mortified that one small inch might expose itself to the world.

With cleavage I brought attention, with breastfeeding I become invisible. I hear stories of cruel words and unwelcome commentary. However, despite my fears of over-exposure, no one has even looked in my direction. It’s as if, the minute the baby is nursing, I cease to exist. Instead of screaming out, “Look at me! I’m breastfeeding!” The hooter cover has become my cloak of invisibility. People, males, in particular, forget that I’m even there. Mysteriously, I find myself in the midst of testosterone fueled conversations I’d like to pretend don’t exist.

Scene one: a burger joint somewhere off the Garden State Parkway. My husband finds what he claims is a discrete table where I can feed the baby. Discrete my ass, I find myself surrounded by three tables of teenage boys. The second my husband walks away and I place my invisibility cloak over my head, the boys start talking like, well, boys. Their mouths fill with stories of the latest young lady who’s fallen for the sweet nothings only a teenage boy can promise.  Of course, none of these stories involve innocent hand-holding. Instead, it is the R-rated version of “Summer Nights” from Grease. Details of what they (supposedly) like girls to do to them are swapped back and forth across the table. It’s like a bad Penthouse letter. No shame. No body part left to the imagination. No act left unspoken. The boys laugh loudly, filling the air with their smut.  ”In their dreams,” I think and then, looking down at my nursing daughter, “God, I hope you turn out to be a lesbian.”

Scene two: one day later. I’m in a ski lodge bar filled with families. I sit down to feed my baby, place my cloak over my head and BAM, three thirty-something guys plop down next to me. They appear perfectly normal:  brightly colored hats on their heads, Patagona jackets keeping them warm, and glasses of Vermont’s newest microbrew in their hands.  They sit so close to me, I can smell the beer on their breath. Their conversation? All the girls on the slope they want to bang. Each girl that skies past the window or walks through the bar is rated- graphic details of legs and boobs and unmentionables analyzed at length. Then, the conversation turns to marriage. A friend has an apartment in Manhattan and a house and wife in Connecticut. They practically squeal over his luck. Imagine the possibilities—the women, the booze, the sex their friend could have all week and then spend the weekend with the little woman who would provide him with a home-cooked meal and a clean house.   ”I’m sitting right here!” I want to scream. “Hello! I’m nursing a baby!!” But, the courage that cleavage always gave me has disappeared under my cloak, so I’m stuck, for twenty minutes listening to their hopes and dreams of the meat that is woman. And then, my daughter falls asleep, so I pull off the cloak. Suddenly, one of the men turns to me, looks me in the eyes, smiles sweetly and says, “what a cute baby.”

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