I have to get something off my chest.
Last night I posted the image here on Instagram with the following caption:
If you were sitting across from me this is what you'd see. A child laying on her mother's lap? Sure. Could you tell she was nursing? Getting sustainment, comfort and connection that is still critical for her? Would you tell me to cover her up? What am I even covering? I'll admit I thought for a brief second I should find a more discreet seat instead of the 6 seater in the middle of the train car. But I have to nurse her here. For all the women that are still shamed for breastfeeding. For all the women who need a model, support and encouragement. You can breastfeed here. You can breastfeed anywhere.
Listen, I know I mostly post in to an echo chamber so I get supportive feedback. But I got a comment that I saw this morning saying, "Well, hey I've been shamed for for not breastfeeding in public...can't win I guess."
It hit me kind of hard. Spoiler alert, I have a need to be liked. I don't do well if I think people don't like me.
I texted a friend who is pretty social media savvy, and boldly puts herself out there daily on instagram. She told me I had to respond. And also said something that stuck with me.
"She also doesn't have to internalize your experience."
Where I got to as I digested the comment was a few places but mostly I felt she was looking for a reaction from me. Clearly she is carrying around some hurt about her experiences, and that hurt is being projected on my message of support, because it doesn't support her and her experience.
I totally agreed with my friends statement, this is my experience. But I also started to think. If I put myself out there in this way, on instagram and with this new platform I'm trying to create, do I have a responsibility to readers. Is that responsibility to ensure I'm sharing universal experiences? Is it my responsibility to ensure everyone that interacts with me in this social world feels comfortable and happy?
I think where I come out is, no. That isn't my responsibility. I think I shouldn't be an asshole. But I think sharing who I am in my strong voice is important. And being true to that, not trying to please everyone. It comes down to how I engage with the people who don't feel the same about me that makes a difference, not trying to please everyone.
I don't ever want anyone to feel shame. But I am not responsible for that woman's shame. I think she may have been projecting on to me, someone who will advocate for a woman's right to nurse publicly, an image of the "militant breastfeeding supporter" who shames other women for NOT breastfeeding.
And if that helps her feel better, I guess that is good? But I really hope she finds her own strength from within to stand up to whoever it is that is shaming her.
And I did respond. I told her,
I'm sorry you had that experience. I always support the woman's right to choose how she feeds if she's making informed and educated decisions. I will continue to reduce and fight against the stigma on public breastfeeding as that is where my passion lies and I never want a mother who wants to nurse in public to feel she cannot.
And that is how I really feel.
How would you have responded? Share with me below if you feel compelled!