Saturday, September 29, 2012

More on the Applebee's Nurse-In, and Some Mixed Feelings from Me

The Applebee's nurse in is happening today. In fact, it will probably be underway by the time I finish writing this post. Yes, that's right, I didn't end up going. More on that later.

I woke up this morning to this post by Best For Babes. The first part of the post includes an apology letter from the CEO and Chairman of DineEquity, Inc (I assume Applebee's is a part of that corporation). Julia Stewart said:

I am truly sorry that we haven’t connected. As soon as I learned about your experience, I wanted to reach out directly – not just as the CEO of our restaurants, but as a mom that nursed my own kids. I have my share of unfortunate memories from nursing in public and understand how you feel. I want to apologize personally for what happened. I also want to assure you the regrettable situation you 
encountered as our guest is unacceptable and completely contrary to how nursing moms are accommodated at thousands of Applebee’s on virtually any given day. We checked with your lawyer last week and she okayed my calling you. I tried you a couple of times and left messages with my number, so please feel free to call. While I know it doesn’t change what you encountered, I also wanted to let you know that the franchisee of the restaurant you visited took action to correct the manager’s mistake and she now knows better. We also took the opportunity to use this incident as a teachable moment and notified all Applebee’s restaurants about the proper policies and procedures for welcoming nursing moms to our restaurants – just to be doubly sure. While of course I can’t take back what happened, I can make sure we work even harder than usual to try and avoid anyone else having the same problem at any of our restaurants. Again, as a mom and the CEO, you have my promise that we and our franchisees will be even more vigilant on this issue.
Julia Stewart, Chairman & CEO, DineEquity, Inc.

I thought that was an awesome apology. This is obviously not a form letter thoughtlessly sent out from a big corporation, but a thought felt, personal apology from the company's CEO- who just happens to be a former nursing mom who apparently had some negative nursing in public incidents herself. That's a pretty big deal, and I applaud Julia for taking the time to reach out to Dawn in this way.

Best for Babes went on to say that even though this great apology has been issued, that a nurse-in is still called for. Danielle and Bettina write:

"The reason is, because day in and day out, mothers continue to be harassed, humiliated and discriminated against for choosing to breastfeed.  Not just at Applebee’s, which had a major harassment incident 5 years ago, and not just at Target, where the harassment and  lack of a proper response precipitated what was perhaps the largest nurse-in  in history.   The truth is that “Target mom” and Best for Babes Volunteer Director of Activism Michelle Hickman is getting a call almost every other day from a distressed mother who was harassed on the bus, at the airport, at a fitness club, at school.    That’s a lot of mothers, and it’s not right that they should suffer maltreatment.  What if we only hear from the moms who are upset, and not from the ones who fear public disapproval, and decide breastfeeding is just too hard, giving up before they can reap the benefits, or before they reached their personal goals?"

I can see that point of view. Women really do get harassed for nursing in public every day, and I could go on and on about how completely unacceptable that is, and how damaging those attitudes are to women, babies, and society in general. Sit-ins and nurse-ins have been effective vehicles for change in the past. I'm 100% in favor of women being free to nurse whenever, wherever without the fear of harassment.

However, I do have to admit that I have some mixed feelings here. Yes, even after that zealous post that  I wrote on Monday. Apologies have been issued- and not just formalities, but genuine, heartfelt apologies. Honestly, I don't feel 100% comfortable with the idea of standing outside of an Applebee's location with a protest sign(especially one where the incident didn't even occur), when Applebee's has sincerely apologized. Again, there are mixed feelings here, because while I feel that one one side, the other side of me says, "How could you NOT do something to speak out- this nursing mother had the COPS called on her for goodness sake!" Even with those mixed feelings, the issue of holding a protest sign quickly became a non-issue, because it's been raining all morning, and it would likely have been impossible to hold a protest sign outside of the store anyway.

I'm not anti-nurse in. I went to the Pure Fitness nurse in last year. I went to the actual location where the incident occurred, and where no apology had been issued. In fact they were so against nursing in public that some of the gym members actually held a counter-protest while we were protesting! I went to the Target nurse-in in December. Again, I was at the actual location where the incident occurred, but I still would have gone if I lived somewhere else. Target didn't issue an apology, and while there was an element of protest to the nurse-in event, the attitude was more one of normalizing nursing, not coming down on Target.

See? There's me at a nurse in, holding a protest sign. 

I think that's what most of the moms that are going to Applebee's today are planning to do as well. They're probably going to sit down, order some food, and nurse their babies- just like they would on any normal day, even without a nurse-in scheduled. I'm all for that- but that's also another big reason why I didn't go today. I'm allergic to gluten, so I can't eat anything on the Applebee's menu. My nursling is 2.5 years old, and we don't nurse in public anymore. He just doesn't need to. So if I did take my kids with me and go, we'd sit down at a table, not order any food, not nurse, and do what exactly? I dunno, even knowing that I'd leave a good tip for the waitress for her time, I'd still feel awkward doing that- just sitting there with my 2 kids and not eating anything, to make a point about nursing in public, which I wouldn't even be doing. So, taking into account my mixed feelings about the whole thing, and the fact that I wouldn't even actually be doing anything there, I decided to stay home.

This is the part about blogging that sucks. Because at some point, you're either going to have to be dishonest, or show some of your flaws. Guess what- I have flaws! I don't have everything figured out. I change my mind sometimes. I get confused sometimes. I say one thing and do another. It's never on purpose, but it happens. But the one thing that I do always try to do is to stay honest and true to myself- to what I'm feeling, thinking, and needing, and to what I believe. And today, all things considered, that means not showing up at the nurse in this afternoon, and being honest about the reasons why.

I'm not against those that went. I totally understand Best for Babes' point about why the nurse-in is still necessary, and there's a big part of me that agrees. But even though it makes me feel like a crummy "lactivist", it just wasn't the right fit for me to go up there today. I do extend well wishes to those that are going, and I hope that they're able to represent the cause well and do much to normalize nursing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Step in, or Not To Step In- That is the Question.

Yesterday at the grocery store I saw a beautiful new family. The mom and dad were a young couple, and the little girl they had with them couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks old. She was so precious. I noticed the nursing cami that the mom was wearing, and the bebe au lait nursing cover that was draped over the baby's lap, and knew that she was a fellow nursing momma.

I also noticed that the baby was perched high on top of the shopping cart inside of her car seat. I felt my heart tighten up a little bit. I know how dangerous that is. I know that babies have been hospitalized after falling off of car seats perched atop a shopping cart like this girl was. I know that some babies have even died because of a fall like that. The thought of something happening to that precious, new little baby- I could barely bear to even think about it. If I felt that way about a baby that I barely knew, how much more must her parents feel protective of her? I'm almost positive that they didn't know just how dangerous it was for their little one to be sitting on top of the shopping cart like that.

These awesome little seats? They shouldn't go on top of a shopping cart. 

I so badly wanted to say something to them. Our paths through the grocery store crossed several times, and I thought about how I would approach them and what I would say. Maybe something about how I had no idea when my first was little, and that I'm glad someone told me? I could start by apologizing for inerrupting them, and then say something about how I'd hate to see something bad happen to the beautiful little girl they had with them. Would that come across right? I ran through all the things I wanted to say each time I saw them, but I didn't. I kept my mouth shut.

I know that people don't like criticism. Most people have a hard time hearing they're doing something wrong, no matter how nicely it's presented, especially coming from a stranger! I didn't want anything to happen to the baby, but I also didn't want to offend a couple of complete strangers, especially ones that were brand new parents. Parents, especially new ones, need encouragement, right? I was so torn- and when you factor in my nervousness with talking to people I don't know, it ended in me keeping my mouth shut and not saying anything to them.

Then last night I was scrolling through Facebook, and came across this link. It's an open letter that a mom wrote to a stranger that helped her in the Safeway parking lot- a stranger that helped her stay calm after her shopping cart hit the side of a speed bump in the parking lot, sending her baby's car seat crashing to the concrete. Thankfully, the baby was okay, but what a scary moment(including an ambulance ride to be checked out at the hospital) for both the baby and the mother!!!

Reading that had me doubting myself even more. What if the same thing had happened to the family I saw on their way out to their car? What if that little girl had been hurt, and I could have said something to save her, and didn't? But was it my business to say something? Could I even say something without being offensive? My "thanks for NIP" cards have gone over well- what if I made a card that explained the dangers of perching a car seat on top of a shopping cart to hand to parents that I came across? But wouldn't that just make the interaction even more awkward?

I'm still struggling with these questions, and I'm still not sure what I'll do next time I see a baby baanced precariously on top of a shopping cart. Is it even my business to care?

  What would you do? Do you say something when you see other parents doing something dangerous, or do you stay quiet so as not to offend? Is there a way to share important information with a complete stranger without offending? What would you do?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Another Nursing Mom Harassed- This Time with a Shocking Twist

*** UPDATE 9/25 ***

As of yesterday, Applebee's issued a new statement, one that looks a little more like an actual apology!

This is good news, right? Not so fast.



First of all, they only posted this new statement on the "Applebee's | COVINGTON" page, which has a whopping 160 likes. There's absolutely no mention of the incident or how sorry they are for the way Dawn was treated on their main Facebook page, which has nearly 3.5 million likes. I also haven't seen this apology in any of the news articles or other coverage of the incident. If Applebee's really wanted Dawn and everyone else to know how sorry they are, wouldn't they be making this statement a little more public?



And what of the fact that Applebee's claims to have attempted to contact Dawn personally, apparently with no response on her end? We asked Dawn about that, and this is what she said:


So let me get this straight- Applebee's didn't make any contact with Dawn, or attempt to apologize to her until after they found out that she had retained a lawyer? Call me a cynic, but that doesn't exactly make the apology seem genuine to me, especially with the other details taken into account. But I'm just one momma- take from it what you will.



*** END UPDATE ***



It's happening all over again, y'all. Yet another breastfeeding mom has been harassed for nursing in public, but this time the story is even more shocking.



On September 15th, Dawn Holland was in a booth in the back of an Applebee's restaurant in Georgia, nursing her 20 month old son. The restaurant manager came up to Dawn and told her that what she was doing was inappropriate, and that she'd either need to stop or take her son into the bathroom to nurse him. Dawn refused to do either, and asked the manager to look up the Georgia law on breastfeeding, which clearly states that women are free to nurse their children anywhere they are legally allowed to be.



I'm sure most of my readers have already seen this story and know what happened next. But if you haven't, just take half a second and guess. Manager asks mom to nurse in the bathroom, mom refuses and asks manager to look up the state law. Logically, a couple of scenarios could have played out. The manager could have walked back to her office, done a quick google, and realized that Dawn did, in fact, have the right to nurse in the restaurant! Aside from the initial harassement and lack of understanding of basic human biology, that sounds somewhat reasonable conclusion to the incident. Or maybe the manager refused to budge, and Dawn and her children left, frustrated and offended. That's been the outcome of several similar nursing in public harassment incidents.



But neither of those scenarios are what actually happened. Not only did the manager not go look up the Georgia law, not only did she continue to insist that Dawn stop nursing or go to the bathroom, she proceeded to CALL THE POLICE. Yep, you read that right. When faced with a peaceful, nursing mother in her restaurant, this manager decided the right course of action was to call the police.



Say what???



I'm really trying not to be rude. But I honestly don't understand what in the world would posess someone to call the actual police because a mother is nursing her child! Don't the police have actual crimes to stop? What kind of person would think that the act of a mother feeding her child is not only offensive, but a crime worth calling the police over? Consider my mind blown.



Of course, the police didn't give Dawn a citation of any sort, because they said that it was a civil issue. (How about the fact that Dawn was fully protected under Georgia law?) Dawn is still waiting for an apology, by the way, just like Michelle Hickman is still waiting for one from Target where she was harassed for nursing last December. (Side note- wanna see me on the news? Click that link and watch the video.) Applebee's has issued a public statement, but it falls far short of being an actual apology. They said (my comments in orange):



"We're in the business of welcoming guests to our restaurants and our top priority is always to provide a friendly and comfortable environment for everyone, including nursing mothers who have the right to nurse in public.(Look at that- Applebee's can regurgitate Georgia law! Now can they take it a step further and actually apologize to Dawn?) This was an unfortunate misunderstanding(A what? A misunderstanding? What exactly was it that was misunderstood? The fact that nursing is the biologically normal way to feed a child, not a crime worth calling the police over? Yeah, there was definitely a misunderstanding there. Maybe the fact that Dawn was harassed and humiliated when she had done absolutely nothing wrong, and deserves an apology? Yes, you've obviously misunderstood that too, Applebee's, given the fact that you haven't even had the decency to apologize to her!) and we hope the guest will give us another chance to demonstrate that to her personally. (Really? You harass this woman, call the police on her for absolutely no reason, weasel your way out of an actual apology by calling the whole thing a "unfortunate misunderstanding", and then you expect her to actually darken your doorstep and give you another chance? I'm betting that's not going to happen.)"



Yeah, really good job there, Applebee's.



The other thing that really frustrates me about this entire incident is that the manager that called the police on Dawn was a woman! I shouldn't still be surprised by this, but I am. Silly me for expecting women to stick up for each other, and understand the basic concepts of motherhood and female biology! We've seen this before, of course, most notably(for this blog, anyway) during the Pure Fitness incident when Penny Schlanser was harassed for nursing in a women only gym. The women that were offended by Penny nursing even came out and held their own counter protest during our nurse in.



As usual when a nursing mom is harassed, especially in such a blatant manner as Dawn was, the nursing community has organized a nurse-in, which is to be held on Saturday, September 29th from 1-3PM at Applebee's locations all across the country. I plan to be there with a sign saying something like "Breastfeeding isn't a Crime" or "Nursing is Normal" or "End Discrimination against Nursing Mothers". This has got to stop, y'all. For every nursing mom who gets harassed and makes the news for it, there are at least dozens more that we don't ever hear about. It's completely unacceptable that women are still being harassed for taking care of their children in the most basic way possible.


Here are some links if you want to dig a little deeper:


News coverage of the incident, including a news segment and an interview with Dawn.


Dawn is also scheduled to be on Katie Couric's new show on Wednesday. Lets hope Katie is more supportive of breastfeeding on the air than she is on her website, where she posted this gem. She asks, "Should women breastfeed in public?" Gosh, I dunno, Katie. Should women bottle feed in public? Should mothers feed Cheerios to their todders in public? Should adults eat sandwiches in public? Are we really still asking this question? I sincerely hope Katie educates herself on both this issue and the law before her interview with Dawn on Wednesday.



If you want to take part in the nurse-in as well, I encourage you to visit the Facebook group where it's being organized. There's a list of local nurse-in's by state, many with their own Facebook group for more localized organizing.



If this will be your first nurse-in, I encourage you to check out this information from Best for Babes about nurse-ins. It explains what to expect, what the point of a nurse in is, and what to do and not do during the nurse-in.



Let's do this! We'll continue to stand for nursing mothers and babies until breastfeeding becomes so normal that no one bats an eye at it- and especially until nursing mothers don't have to fear having the police called on them.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Remembering Great Grandma

I'm thousands of feet in the air right now, heading back home to Houston from Charleston, West Virginia. I left my babies for longer than a night for the first time ever, and I can't wait to get back to them!!! At the same time, I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to take this trip and attend my great grandmother's funeral, and also spend some time with my grandmother.

Fair warning- this post is going to be pretty personal. My great grandmother was a really special person in my life, and I feel the need to share a little bit about her as my own personal tribute. If no one finds it interesting, that's okay. But I do think she had a pretty neat story that you might enjoy, and there are some pretty special five generation photos near the end that I think are pretty cool.

My great grandma, Doris, had such an amazing life story. She was born in 1919, and met my great grandpa, Preston, on a streetcar! They secretly eloped when she was just 19 years old, and didn't even tell anyone they had married until a month later! They were so in love, and it showed, even after decades. When my great grandfather passed away in 2006, they had just celebrated 68 years of marriage, and we're still very much in love. I've always treasured this picture of them from 1938- doesn't it look like it's straight out of a movie?

Doris didn't have an easy life. Her mother passed away when she was a teenager, and she was left to help raise her younger siblings, who she became like a mother to. Her first daughter, my grandmother, went blind at two years old. The first doctor they took her to thought it was cancer and wanted to remove her eyes right away. Doris was smart enough to get a second opinion, and my grandmother's sight eventually recovered. She's struggled with vision issues her whole life, but that's much better than having no eyes at all!

Doris' third daughter, Kathy, was a dwarf. When Kathy was born, the doctors encouraged Doris and Preston to put her in a home for children, as they were sure she wouldn't live longer than 8 years or so. The doctors didn't think it was a good idea to add the burden of a special needs child to the family. Of course, Doris wouldn't stand for that. She and Preston brought their daughter home, got her the care that she needed, and the entire family was better for it. Not only did Kathy live past childhood, but she was one of the happiest people that you could ever meet. She brought so much joy into the lives of everyone she was around. Kathy did a lot of volunteer work with the Meals on Wheels program in Charleston to bring meals to invalids, and won several awards for her charity work. She lived to be 50 years old and touched so many lives- all because her mother believed that her life was valuable and refused to give up on her. That's love! Through all her struggles, Doris clung tightly to her faith and never lost her joy. She would always give thanks and praise to the Lord for helping her through them.

I have so, so many fond memories of my great grandmother. Her house was one of my favorite places in the world. From the big shower that had great acoustics for singing, to the kitchen table where so many wonderful meals were shared, to the attic apartment that had that wonderful, unique smell that I'll never forget- that house was so full of love and fun, and great grandma always did everything she could to make sure that we all felt welcome there. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to eat was cottage cheese with peaches on top, and she always made sure she had plenty of that when she knew I was coming to visit. She'd also make sure to have a blackberry pie ready when my dad came to visit- those were his absolute favorite! Some of my favorite memories were made in that house. It was really hard to leave today, knowing that it would be the last time I'd ever be there. The house is too big for just one person to live in now, and my grandma plans to sell it.

In 2009 I had the incredible experience of bringing Hayden to Charleston and introducing her to her great-great grandmother. It was so amazing to see them together.

They both used walkers, and Hayden loved to follow Doris around with hers.

It was so neat to see Hayden in the same house where I had made so many memories as a child. Somewhere I have a video of me playing in this same window bed where Hayden is here.

My mom and grandma were both there when Hayden and I were visiting, and we had a photographer come out to the house and take some 5 generation pictures. Would you believe that each daughter here is not only the first child of each mother, but was born when the mother was 22 years old? I couldn't make this up if I tried!

Hayden and her great-great grandmother, at 11.5 months and 90 years old. Aren't they cute together?

 Of course, we took lots of pictures ourselves too, even after the photographer left. This one is one of my favorites- Hayden with her grandmother, her great grandmother, and her great-great grandmother. Can't you just tell they're all crazy about her?

I'll miss my great grandmother so much- I already do! It's hard to believe that after so long, she's finally gone. I do love knowing that she's finally reunited with her dear husband and youngest daughter, and who knows- maybe she's already baked another blackberry pie for my dad by now. I don't know exactly how everything works in heaven, but I'm sure that they're all having a wonderful time up there. One thing I know for sure is that she's not suffering from the terrible pain she endured in the last part of her life anymore, and I know we're all thankful for that.

I love you, grandma! I'm so thankful to have had you in my life, for all the love that you shared, encouragement given, and lessons taught. You'll be sorely missed. Rest in peace. <3

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just one simple nursing session...

I've got a quick second to sit down at the laptop, and I want to share the coolest breastfeeding story that my grandma shared with me yesterday! Anytime I'm around anyone that knows me at all, they know that breastfeeding is fair game for conversation, so the topic came up without me even saying anything.

A couple of weeks ago, my grandma was at a funeral for someone in her ex husband's family. (In my crazy family, when people divorce, it's not an "I hate you and we're never speaking again" kind of thing, it's more of a "Hey, now that we're not married anymore, we can be great friends!" My grandma and her (now late) ex husband even flew in together to visit us once when we were kids. Silly. Anyway...) At one point during the visitation, her ex-niece (ex husband's sister's daughter- got it?) came up to her and said, "I just have to tell you this story!"

She told about how way back in '64, right after my mom was born, they were all at a family function when my grandma excused herself to another room to go nurse the baby. Her niece, Bonnie, who was just a child at the time, followed her into the room and watched her nurse my mom. My grandma says that she doesn't even remember the interaction, but Bonnie told her that the sight of her nursing the baby was one of the most beautiful things she's ever seen. She said that she and my grandma sat there and chatted for a couple of minutes about breastfeeding.

Then Bonnie told my grandma that that one interaction when she was a child was so meaningful to her that it inspired her to go on to not only nurse all of her children, but to also get certified as a lactation consultant! (I'm not sure what kind, but it doesn't really matter.)

I thought that was just so amazing. Women inspiring women to help other women- it brings tears to my eyes! What my grandma did that day so many years ago didn't seem like a big deal- she doesn't even remember it. But for one little girl, it was enough to inspire her to nurse her own children and make a living out of helping others to do the same. Just one nursing session witnessed by a little girl has sent waves of love and support throughout an entire community! 

So remember- the little acts of love and nurturing that you show to others might not seem like a big deal to you, but you never know when they could be making a world of difference to others. That little word of encouragement you share with another nursing mom might be exactly what she needs to give her the strength to keep going when it gets tough. As women and mothers, lets try to do whatever we can to encourage each other- you never know the long lasting effect it might have!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Still nursing. Still loving it.

Nursing is normal. You know what else is normal? Nursing a toddler. Nursing a preschooler is normal too. It's biologically normal, developmentally normal, and historically normal. It also works really well for me and my son. So why would I stop nursing him just because it's not socially normal for me to continue? I don't make a habit out of making decisions based on what society thinks of me, especially when it comes to the well being of my children.



I think some people assume that a toddler nurses just like an infant does, but that's just not true. At this point, it's really not a big deal. We don't make a grand ceremony about it. I nurse him down to sleep every night, and every morning he climbs into my bed looking for his num nums. We snuggle and nurse for 5 or 10 minutes, and then he declares that he's "all done" and runs off to ask Daddy for a bananna. Nursing is just a lovely part of his morning routine. We don't nurse much during the day anymore, only every once in a while. We have healthy boundaries set too. If he wakes up in the middle of the night(which happens occasionally, but not often), he may nurse, but not all night. If he gets upset about that, I comfort him, but he still doesn't get to nurse all night. If he asks to nurse during the day, and I'm not able to nurse him for whatever reason, I say, "Sorry buddy, not right now", and he says, "Awww, man!" and moves on with his day. But most days, we only nurse first thing in the morning and as the last thing before he goes to bed.



Extended breastfeeding has amazing health benefits. My breastmilk is still boosting his immune system and helping keep his gut healthy. My breastmilk still contains the cancer killing properties that it did when he was an infant. My breastmilk is still helping prevent my chances of developing breast cancer, and the longer I nurse, the lower that risk goes! My breast milk is also helping boost his brain- studies have shown that the longer a child is nursed, the more intelligent they are. Breastmilk is still the perfect food that it was when he was an infant, and it's changed along with him to provide just what he needs at this stage of his life. It's amazing!



The psychological benefits are awesome too. Tristan and I have an amazing bond, and he's secure in the knowledge that I'll always be there for him. He's such a happy kid, and rarely gets upset enough to throw a fit or do other "terrible twos" things that are talked about. He's independent and adventurous, and loves to climb. He has a wonderful imagination, and is constantly pretending with his toys. He has a huge vocabulary, and often uses words like "actually" in context, like that's a completely normal thing for someone his age to do. He's cherished and well loved by everyone that knows him. Of course, breastfeeding doesn't get all the credit for that, but I do believe that nursing has had a big part in helping him become the awesome little toddler that he is. At the very least, it's clear that it's not hindering his development in any way.



And on that note, Tristan and I have reached 2.5 years of nursing as of last week! I'm so proud of us! We've achieved and exceeded the goal that I set when he was born, which was to nurse for two years. I dare say that if things continue the way they're headed, we'll have no problem making it to three.



Still going strong, still loving nursing!