<p>It wasn’t easy to come out of the bedroom.
I imagined stares, whispered comments. Instead, I settled for a life of cutoff conversations, constant seclusion and quick exits.
Until I reached the end of my tether. And one fine afternoon, while family and friends enjoyed coffee and cookies in my parents’ living room, I decided my time had come.
Much to my mother’s dismay and my uncle’s horror, I opened my blouse and placed my howling baby to my breast.
I did modestly attempt to cover myself with a receiving blanket. But the damage was done. Once you have experienced the exhilarating liberty of breast-feeding in public, you can no longer retreat to the bedroom.
I started feeding my baby everywhere I went. In front of friends, family and strangers. On the plane, in the mall, in McDonald’s and in Chaya Beverly Hills.
I became an expert in feeding and dining at the same time, one hand supporting my baby’s head, the other supporting a fork full of pasta. But more important, I discovered that I did not have to put my everyday existence on hold simply because I had to feed my child.
I discovered that breast-feeding doesn’t mean “disrobing from the waist up,” as California assemblymen admonished when they recently trounced a bill that would have permitted breast-feeding in public in the state’s Capitol. You don’t need to disrobe to breast-feed. Unclasping a few buttons usually does the trick, and if it doesn’t, baby or a nice shawl will cover up anything deemed improper.
Nevertheless, in some parts of the country women get kicked out of restaurants or even shopping malls when they’ve dared to have the poor taste to open their blouse in public.
Lucky for me, in Los Angeles, nobody bats an eye.
Your choices as a breast-feeding mom are limited: You go public or you go private. Or you pump to later feed your baby breast milk from a bottle. Going public is the most convenient.
Breast-feeding means that my job revolves around my baby’s hunger. I am fortunate in having wonderful day-care in the building where I work and truly blessed to have an enlightened male boss who believes motherhood is a valuable thing.
Thus, the pager I use for my job doubles as the pager used to call me when my baby gets hungry, about every three hours. And when that day-care number beeps in, I run down the hall, across the bridge to the building next door, down three flights of stairs, and into the room where my baby waits to be fed and where I will feed her, sitting in a rocking chair surrounded by a dozen other babies and caregivers who don’t see anything unusual in a woman taking 15 minutes out of her busy day to feed her baby in front of everyone in the room.
I suppose I could go back to forsaking dinners and conversations and outings because baby will need to be fed. And, I suppose I could start feeling sorry for myself and in a few weeks give up breast-feeding altogether, saying it was just too inconvenient and, most disturbing, too lonely.
But I’ll have none of it. Because my baby needs my milk, and I am her best restaurant: nutritious, sterile and open 24 hours a day, wherever we are.