Although Keith and I try to avoid cliches, one he’s been repeating to me ever since Finn’s first week out of the womb is “two steps forward, one step back.” It’s advice delivered often when I’m close to tears over some new worry that has arisen just after another has been tended to and set to rest. An ongoing concern has been breastfeeding and the associated complications that I’ve slowly but surely dealt with: Will it always be this messy? Will bottle-feeding cause confusion? Can I eat THAT or THAT or THAT? Is this quick glass of wine okay? Is my milk okay? Will I be able to keep this up when I go back to work? Will I ever feel comfortable breastfeeding when we’re out and about?
I was so proud of myself when I finally addressed the last question while attending the Las Olas art festival with family last weekend. I stepped away from the flow of people, past a row of trees, and behind a cement barrier that separated the booth-lined street from a deserted sidewalk. I sat on the cement in front of a closed storefront window and asked Keith to block me in case someone happened to pass through. Then I draped a light, muslin blanket over my breast. All was good in the universe. The area was mostly free of traffic. A mother and her kids crossed in front of us and smiled. “Good spot,” she said. A couple engaging in conversation walked by without even noticing us. Then, suddenly, our suburban “mother and child” image fell to pieces. An older man whisked past and shouted “DISGUSTING!” I felt a rush of confusion, shock, anger, and, yes, shame — despite the fact that this was obviously his problem, not mine. Still, he found me and my discreet act of feeding my 12-week-old child so repulsive. How could this be? How? Everything suddenly seemed so wrong.
But then all I had to do was refocus on what was in front of me, and all was right again: