Friday, December 01, 2006

A Rant

I know I'm really behind, but I just couldn't continue without addressing the October 13 issue of a Santa Fe woman named Emily Gillette being kicked off a commercial flight for breastfeeding her daughter. I assume you've all heard about this, but, just in case, you can read the story here. So many things about this bother me that I don't even know where to begin. Well, I'll try anyway.

I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is, "What would I have done if it had happened to me?" After being asked to cover up with a blanket (though allegedly showing no skin, mind you) Gillette calmly declined and was then told by the flight attendant, "You're offending me." So, how would I have responded? There are really two answers to that. The first is how I think I would have most likely responded in real life. With an unmistakably red face, I would attempt to calmly and nicely say, "Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I have a legal right to breastfeed my child in this place," which is pretty much what Gillette said (and was then given the boot).

The second question to answer is, "What would I have wanted to say," or, "What might I have actually said unrestrained after a 3-hour delay at the airport with a toddler (as in Gillette's situation)?" After the line, "You're offending me," I would have felt led to respond, "Sounds like a personal problem to me."

Why is it that this still happens in America?! Since when do women not have the right to feed their babies when and where hunger strikes? Last I checked, nursing in public is legal in all 50 states, as it should be. Why should my child have to suffer, being declined comfort and nourishment, on account of someone else's hang-ups? This is just another attack on families.

And let's not overlook the obvious--that a nursing child is a quiet child. There are very few places that this becomes more important than in a small, enclosed space, such as an airplane, and especially at 10:00 at night. Is nursing discreetly really more distracting than a screaming child kept up past their bedtime adjusting to major altitude changes?

"But she was offered a blanket to cover up!" some have protested (and that doesn't scream, "I'm breastfeeding!"???). Yes, she was offered a blanket and declined. I would have declined, too. Who wants to eat with a blanket over their head? Not me, and certainly not my children. Both of my kids, like many other children, would have gone berserk if I had enclosed their heads with a blanket. Kind of defeats the purpose if the kid won't nurse with the blanket, now doesn't it? So, next time that flight attendant feels led to offer a blanket to someone so that she won't be offended she should consider putting it over her own head so that she won't have to see the *vulgarity* of a nursing child. After all, it's her problem.

This really is an honest question, though. If she's offended by the sight of this, why not simply look away? It shouldn't have been difficult, given that Mrs. Gillette was in the second-to-last row seated with her husband between her and the aisle and it was dark outside. And please don't even think for a moment that we simply cannot help ourselves from looking--that excuse doesn't fly for staring at those who are disabled or disfigured and it doesn't fly here. Yes, I nurse my child in public. No, I do not want you staring at my breasts.

Because I still desire modesty, I do my best to nurse discreetly when in public. I cannot tell you the number of people who have obviously mistaken my nursing infant for a sleeping infant, completely unaware that she was downing her lunch. This is because there is usually no part of my breast showing. Now, if you look for it long enough, it is possible that a small part of my breast may be visible for a short moment while my daughter makes the transition on/off the breast. Maybe you'll see it, maybe you won't. I'm pretty fast and pretty good at blocking--and so are most mothers who nurse in public.

Others will still whine, "But Gillette was nusing a 22-month-old!! That's a little too old if you ask me!" Well, actually, no one is asking them, and they are welcome to their opinion so long as they don't infringe upon the rights of others. I hate to break it to them, but *gasp*--BREASTS WERE MADE FOR BREASTFEEDING. I'll bet you $10 that there was a woman on that same plane with a low-cut shirt showing cleavage and, therefore, more skin than Gillette, and yet there have been no reports of this same flight attendant demonstrating her disgust over such indecent exposure and kicking unsuspecting women off of flights left and right. It's also difficult to believe that this flight attendant had never before encountered a nursing infant aboard one of her flights. I would think she must have known better than to kick a mother with an infant off a plane. After all, breastfeeding is just one of those evil necessities when it comes to newborns, but we certainly shouldn't have to put up with a toddler engaging in such disorderly conduct, right?

Actually, breastfeeding is the beautiful, God-given way for mothers to feed and comfort their small children. As for the absurd idea that breastfeeding is okay to a point, but after 6-12-18 (fill in the blank) months, it becomes obscene overnight, I'd like to point out to the ill-informed that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years.

Oh, I could go on and on, but surely I've made my point (quite a few times, right?). Our family will be flying home for Christmas soon, and you can bet I'll be nursing in flight. Don't worry, though--I'll be sure to pack an extra blanket for any flight attendant that needs to cover his or her head. ;)