Friday, August 24, 2012

quietly, peacefully raising awareness

Yesterday morning I read about a breastfeeding mom who alleges that her manager refused her access to a private space in which to express milk.  There were a few news reports about the situation.  In each, the accused location failed or refused to comment.

This morning, I learned that some local mothers were going to gather peacefully at the location today to show support for breastfeeding mothers.  Despite having a pile of fabric still left to sew, I went to show some solidarity.

At 2:00pm this afternoon, I was joined by about six or seven other mothers and their children.  One mom brought along a friend, and member of Seal Beach's Chamber of Commerce, as well.  A newsman showed up and asked to film us--we agreed.

Towards the end of our gathering, a woman pushing a double stroller approached us and expressed her disappointment at seeing our group "protesting" one of her "favorite restaurants."  We explained that we were NOT a protest, only a peaceful gathering in support of breastfeeding awareness.  We told her that the allegation against her favorite tavern was disappointing, but that we hoped we could raise awareness about the legal protections for lactating moms.

Her reaction shocked and disappointed me.  She accused us of trying to drum up bad press about the business, admonished us for only accepting one side of the story, and attempted to shame us for our actions.  I tried to explain that we only had one side to go one as the business had denied comment, tried to point out that we were not blocking access to the restaurant, were not stopping the general public to rail against the business, and had only gathered to raise awareness about breastfeeding law.  Several of us even said that we suspected this was a case of an unaware employee (the manager) acting against corporate policy.

She either didn't listen, or didn't care.

Her arrival was just as the newsman was wrapping up, but he asked to speak with her, too.  Good reporting, I thought, as it is great to show multiple sides to an issue.  But I could not hear what she had to say and I dread the thought of what she had to say.  As I DID hear her repeatedly defend the manager and put down the waitress.

The woman could be right, of course.  The breastfeeding employee could have made up or exaggerated the situation, but to watch this other woman immediately tear down the waitress, I was gobsmacked.  But I suppose that I was not surprised.  Too often I see or hear of mothers not only failing to support one another, but even going so far as to put down other moms for making choices counter to the choices that they made.

When are we going to stop trying to tear one another apart as moms?  When are we going to treat one another with peace and love as our guide instead of jealousy and anger?  Whenever it is, it cannot come soon enough.

In about a half hour, the news piece is set to air.  I have no way of being able to watch it, but I may try to find it later.  Part of me is worried, afraid that with some creative editing the new will be able to show the peaceful gathering in support of a mom as a group of misguided, reactionary moms protesting a business.

Our detractor had a couple of other ladies with her.  All of them tried to shame us for bringing "bad PR" to the business.  Try as I might to explain to them that this could, in fact, bring the business a lot of free, great PR, they ignored me.  But I would like to express that this could actually be a boon for this business.  I'm not suggesting that other business mistreat their employees in the hopes of rectifying everything and appearing the good guy later.  But when a similar situation happened at LACMA, they were able to illustrated that while they'd failed to adequately train all their employees on their breastfeeding policies, they were willing to retrain and they even went so far as to HOST a family-friendly gathering in support of breastfeeding later.

What's the take away from this post?  I really don't know.  I confess that I am typing this up somewhat hastily and much of what I've written has not been edited.  But I wanted to document this.  And I hope that folks will read it and, perhaps, realize that it's time we support moms when and how we can.

Friday, August 3, 2012

open letter to another mom

Dear fellow mom,
I see that you have two children.  We have that in common, though my oldest was not with me today.  Just as our two kids are different from their siblings, I can assure you that my son is different from your two.  
I am sorry that my son’s crying bothered you.  But that’s what he does sometimes, he cries.  Not for milk.  Not for food.  He just cries.  Usually it is because he is in pain.  Today, that pain was teething.  Pain combined with a new environment, a lot of people, and a touch too much stimulation.  So, he did the only thing he knew at that moment to do--he cried.  
Perhaps you were too busy with your children to notice, but I tried a few different strategies to soothe him.  Sometimes when he cries, he wants to nurse but he will defiantly pull away until he realizes that he can nurse.  Sometimes, he wants to be put on the ground so he can move on his own.  I tried both, to no avail.  At times he will be so frustrated or in pain that he forgets to use his ASL.  He may want to eat, but cannot sign it.  So, I offered him food.  I even offered him a toy and some water.  He did not want any of those things.
At one point, I stood and moved around the room--even out of the room--to see if he’d calm down.  He did not.  So I returned to my seat near you to just hold him, talk to him calmly, and let him wind down on his own.
When you suggested that I “take him outside,” I was too polite then to tell you how I really felt.  I told you that my son is delightfully willful, but I would have loved to have told you that sometimes kids cry and there just is no magic wand that will stop them.  Sometimes, the best thing that a mom can do is just to be there, to let them know that mom or dad is there.  Sometimes, they just need to cry and all that we can do is hold them, talk softly to them, and let them fuss.
I can understand to a degree why his crying might have bothered you.  See, my daughter never cried like that.  She was a very easy baby, and a pretty mellow toddler.  But my son is very different.  Prior to him, I probably would have felt tempted to do what you did upon seeing a mom and child like us.  I would have wanted to make suggestions on how to get the kid to be quiet.  But I would have kept my mouth shut and silently felt sympathy for the mom.
Tell you what, I’ll tell you what you should have done and what you can do in future.  When you see a mom struggling with an upset child.  Tell her that you feel for her, and you’re proud of her for not melting into sobs, too.  Tell her that you’re glad that she is managing to keep it together, even though it is tremendously stressful.  Tell her that you’re happy to see a mom who doesn’t just smack her kid when s/he is being loud/crying/being defiant.  In other words, show some support and encouragement instead of criticism.  
By the way, you probably failed to notice that as I sat with him, held him, and talked to him, he eventually calmed down.  Alas, he continued to cry a bit, but he did wind down.  And because I calmly continued to be there, to hold him, respond to him, and talk to him, he learned that I will be there for him, even when times are tough.
Oh, and he did continue to cry a touch even after we were outside.  So much for your theory.
We’re home now, and he back to being a happy chap.  He tends to be happier in familiar places.  He’s chewing on his fingers occasionally, so I know that his teeth are still bothering him, but he is managing well.  Probably in part because he is learning that  his parents love him and accept him as he is, in any given moment, crying or no.
A mom to a high-needs child
My sweet, but high-needs boy with his loving dad

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Humility check

I got all dolled up today in a day dress I like. (It's nice to be able to shop in my own closet again.) But I'm not so glamorous now. The baby fell asleep as I was nursing him on the floor. I'm trapped beneath him.


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