Thursday, 29 January 2009

As Real As It Gets

I've just left my distraught child at Nursery, being comforted in the arms of another woman.
He was distraught as he has a cold, and is clingy, and we took an unscheduled stop on the journey in, and he 'lost' his toy car out of his pocket. (It wasn't lost, just not in his pocket.)
In the life of a small child, these are big deals.
Enough of a big deal, that he required some real, and sustained cuddling from Mummy, before he could bear to move on and play. Extremely unusual, in a child normally far more resilient to stress, and pain, than his peers.
The reason why he was crying in another woman's arms?
My little boy was so deeply upset, he wanted to nurse, for comfort and love. Had I been able to nurse him, just for a few moment, he'd have recovered on his own, and gone off to play under his own steam. He would have taken control of his own distress.
Unable to allow him this heinous act, in a Nursery of other children, I had to refuse, and load on distress, rather than provide him comfort.
I then had to allow another woman, to sweep him up into her arms, and comfort him. As I was now a source of distress, it was better for me to leave, and allow another to take my place.
Because my body, and what I do with it as a mother, is socially controlled. As a woman, my mothering, and my body, is controlled by the gaze of others. I didn't even feel I could ask to withdraw to a private space, as I didn't want the entire "she's a freak" thing to enter into my, and my son's, relationship at his wonderful Nursery. I was too afraid. Too scared.
The next time someone tells me that 'discretion' in breastfeeding isn't a feminist issue, or that they have the right to determine how, where, and when, I offer my breast to my child, I'm likely to punch them in the face.


Rob A said...

That sounds really distressing.

I know how much comfort and peace my children have got from nursing in times of crisis.

Ruth Moss said...

Sorry you couldn't nurse him in the nursery. (Doesn't that sound like a contradiction?) With you on the facepunch thing.

Jake Aryeh Marcus said...

Why couldn't you nurse him? Was it about your comfort level or does the nursery actually forbid it?

So sorry you had to go through this regardless. :(

Anonymous said...

I know it isn't the same, but we stopped in a motorway service station a couple of weeks ago and Katelyn threw a tantrum on the floor (she was tired, we weren't surprised). We tried not to do anything different to how we'd deal with this at home, but both later admitted that we knew we were being watched and judged by most of those nearby.

To know that you had a really good solution and couldn't do anything for similar reasons.. that's horrible. Society is rubbish at times, but we're social animals. Thankfully we also have free choice. Mostly.


Morgan said...

It was fear, Jake. Fear of being 'outed' as a nursing dyad with an older child, in a way that might stigmatise myself, and my child.

I wasn't in an anonymous space, where there would be no personal repurcussions, should the judgement be made, either by the staff, or the parents of the other children, that I was acting inappropriately. The usual ignorance could raise its head, and I'd have put myself, and my son, directly in its path.

I've never been in a situation prior, where my son was in genuine need, and it was the absolutely appropriate thing, to nurse him, and where it felt too 'dangerous' to do so.

So I've never confronted the emotional aspect of feeling that danger. I've always understood it intellectually, and as a rational extension of the understanding of our current society. Today, the political moved from the personal, to the visceral.

Incidentally, legally I had a perfect right to, in England. But, as I said, it just felt to personally dangerous. So I stayed in the closet.

Jake Aryeh Marcus said...

Ah, I see.

I know my eldest was in preschool for two years while he was still nursing (ages three and four). I remember thinking the "will I nurse him in front of his peers or not" question through but I am honestly blank on how I resolved it. My memory wipe is obviously about more than the passage of ten years. :( I remember nursing his younger brother at pick-up time (while waiting for my eldest) and being relieved that one other mother was also nursing a younger child. I remember distinctly hating the "don't worry, he will stop crying as soon as you leave" protocol. It ripped my heart out. I felt like he started to dissociate a little.

Little wonder neither of my other sons went to preschool (or school at all for that matter). I sent my eldest because I was so heavily pressured by everyone I knew. I am so sorry you have to deal with this Morgan. :(

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your experience. I am tandem nursing my four-year-old and her two-year-old brother. I no longer feel comfortable nursing her in many public situations (like on the train). We had a terrible incident on a train when she had a tantrum because I wouldn't nurse her. She couldn't understand why I would not let her but I was so fearful. Everyone on the train got uptight because she was screaming so much yet if I had have felt comfortable enough to nurse her, the incident would never have happened. Luckily I am involved in a Steiner community and have not been judged for nursing her amongst my friends and acquaintances, some of whom have also nursed older children. Good luck. Maybe soon your son will understand that nursing cannot happen in some places. My daughter seems to accept now that we don't nurse on the train.

NakedFaery said...

Oh that sounds awful :-( I think it's so unfair on both yourself and your child that this has to happen. It's ridiculous how strong we have to be to stand up for what we consider normal/acceptable :-(

Summer said...

I'm with you on the face punching thing.

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I'm so sorry. The post pained me. Your follow-up comment pained me more. It is ridiculous that we should be so judged.

When I have been in those situations, I have sometimes left for a private space. I don't feel the need to announce what I am doing and I do this even now that my older child is not nursing, when I just want us to have some quiet private space to connect and calm down.

antiprincess said...

that's rotten.

and yeah, you'd think you could nurse in a NURSEry, right? without people making you feel all weird about it.

facepunch 'em once for me!