I will no longer be leaving the house
Gracie met her Grandma Bellamy and Great-Grandma this week, who drove up from North Carolina to visit for a day and a half. They cooed and talked to her with their Paula-Deen-accents. They picked apart her features to see who she looks like, sweeping my hair aside to see if she has my ears and comparing her feet to James'. They fawned over her and loved on her and criticized the outfits I put her in.
They had one full day here, and my mother-in-law and her mother wanted to go out to lunch and shopping. I knew this meant I would have to face my fears and nurse in public. It's not something I want to make a habit of doing, but I knew that sooner or later it would have to be done, and I might as well get it over with. James had to work part of the day and had to leave after lunch, so I brought my mom with us as a buffer.
Nursing was a major struggle for us for about 6 weeks. It took awhile for things to click and for the excruciating pain to subside. Things improved a few weeks ago and we've been groovy every since, but I still have PTSD from those early weeks. I couldn't control the pain, so I would control my environment. I had (ok, have) a fort set up on the couch with a nursing pillow and remotes and snacks and blankets. Anything to make it more bearable. Even though I can easily nurse her on a whim now, I still retreat to my fort of comfort.
Needless to say, I've been hesitant to nurse her in public. After Gracie's vaccinations last week, the nurse suggested I breastfeed her to calm her down, so I did. I sat in an unpadded chair and swung my legs over the armrest so I could prop her up. I successfully fed her in a foreign environment and walked out of that doctor's office ready to conquer the world. It wasn't necessarily in public, but it was a good stepping stone.
After the harem of grandmothers, James, and I had lunch, I sat in a corner booth in a coffee shop located in a department store to feed Gracie. I made a little barrier with the stroller, and my mom helped me position the blanket the way she used to when she would nurse me. All was well. Gracie was happy, everything was hidden, and my mother-in-law was awkwardly watching, as was the man who had decided to sit at the table across from me. Gracie's head of hair was peeking out the side of the blanket, and a woman walked up to comment on her hair. I smiled at her and begged her with my eyes to walk away because HELLO, I'm nursing a baby under here and we're all just pretending like it's not happening and I'm starting to sweat a little. But I was doing it! I felt like a rockstar, and also mildly uncomfortable.
And then came the announcement. A little boy had gone missing in the store, and no one was allowed in or out until they found him. Employees were walking around searching high and low and invading my bubble of privacy. I was terrified they would think I was harboring a missing child under the blanket draped across me and force me to show them what was really happening underneath. I willed myself to be invisible and tried to hide behind the stroller as much as possible. A few minutes later they found the kid, Gracie finished nursing, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had nursed in public without flashing anyone! I had essentially conquered motherhood. My mother-in-law wanted to go shopping, and we walked through the store with three grandmothers swarming the stroller while I held on to my latte, beaming with pride at my accomplishment.
My mother-in-law insisted on buying me something to wear since she knows I've been struggling with my post-baby body. I was exhausted and feeling a little woozy from a cold and wasn't quite ready for the dramatics of the dressing room, but she loaded me up with shirts and dresses and jeans and sent me on my way to the dressing room, where my mother found me five minutes later on the verge of a meltdown. The prospect of having jeans that fit again was exciting, but nothing can prepare you for the first time you try on clothes after having a baby. It's like trying to find clothes that fit someone else's body, because nothing fits the way you think it will. I became an exhausted ball of emotions and sweat, because it was so hot in there and nothing fit and I was congested and I could hear Gracie crying across the store. Needless to say, I was a bit of a mess.
I walked out of the dressing rooms to find Gracie upset and the grandmothers passing her around, each trying a different trick to calm her. I knew she had gotten hungry again, so I grabbed the blanket and found a chair in a somewhat discreet location. I would've taken her to a dressing room, but even though the store was boiling lava hot, the dressing rooms were a temperature that would've been illegal in a sauna. Everything had gone well in the coffee shop, so I was sure I could do it again. James' grandma helped me position the blanket while I got ready, but Gracie wasn't having it. It was too hot in that store, and the blanket was practically suffocating her no matter how much air flow I could get in there. She would nurse for 30 seconds, scream her head off, nurse a little more, and scream her head off. My sweet, usually calm baby never does that, and I knew she had to be uncomfortably hot like the rest of us.
I was not in the best frame of mind, and I started to panic. I was that person with the screaming baby, and nothing was making it stop. There was nowhere else to go! The car was far away, the dressing rooms too hot, and she needed to eat right then and there, so I tried to make it work. The screaming got worse and people started to walk over to see what was happening. My mom and mother-in-law were trying to hide me with the pink cotton blanket while giving Gracie some air, and James' grandmother was fanning me with a fashion magazine like I was some kind of overheated celebrity. I was humiliated. I could feel not just my face, but my entire body turn beet red from heat and humiliation. The blanket kept falling dangerously low and I had to keep repositioning Gracie in an effort to calm her down and to hide the goods. It's like that nightmare where you go to school in your underwear, except it was reality and an entire upscale department store and James' family had seen me topless.
I finally handed Gracie off to my mom, accidentally flashed everyone again when I tried to snap my nursing bra back together, and hightailed it out of that store as fast as my Target sandals would take me.
But at least I found some jeans that fit. You win some, you lose some. And in this case, I lost the ability to ever visit that store and/or leave the house again.