yesterday, i traversed unfamiliar territory and endeavored to take ruth and joel alone to the library. it’s always pretty anxiety-provoking any time i do anything by myself with both kids, and especially, the first time. ruth can be a loose cannon at the library, regardless of the fact that i try to drill “the rules” into her at least twice, possibly three times before we even pull into our spot in the parking lot. rule number one: no running (this is a big one for ruth because she. loves. running). she has nearly tripped up old ladies numerous times and almost been trampled herself because, go figure, people don’t usually expect a three foot tall person to come running out of nowhere and cut them off as they are walking along minding their own business. rule number two: no yelling. “why not?” ruth asks. people are trying to read, i say, and study. and they need quiet. ok, she thinks this is bologna as who would rather sit and read quietly than run around yelling? but whatev. and lastly, rule number three: stay close to mom. even if she’s not running, she can sometimes disappear (see: three foot tall human) without a trace.
also, i can never quite seem to anticipate how any given circumstance is going to play out with both kids in tow, the pitfalls or triumphs of any activity until i live it. yesterday, for instance, it didn’t occur to me that i wouldn’t really want to take a fussy baby into the library and then find a place to feed him. other places, like the park, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a fussy baby in a stroller who is on his way to falling asleep. at the library? not so much. i could feel my nerves pulling taught and bunching up somewhere in the vicinity of mid-back. right between the shoulder blades. luckily, there are some picnic tables off to one side of the library, so i decided i would stop there first, feed the baby, and then walk into the library (luckily i left a good thirty minutes early to account for any unanticipated detours) with falling asleep baby, who would hopefully remain so for the remainder of the time.
i led ruth by the hand, pushed the stroller with my free hand and found, to my satisfaction, that there was no one around. there was even a nice bench under an apple tree. the perfect place. i sat myself down and wrestled with joel for a minute to get him situated. meanwhile, ruth is pretty good at staying nearby and started investigating our area. “people smoke here,” she said, picking up a cigarette butt from amongst the wood chips underfoot. i looked. she was right. there were piles of butts all around. i was sitting on the smokers bench.
ironic, isn’t it? the last thing you’d want to do around small children and here i was breastfeeding one right on their turf. i just hoped no smokers would try to sit next to me and light up as i sat there. that might be a little awkward.
yet we do have something in common. smokers and breast-feeders. social misfits. banished to this bench hidden in the shade of an overgrown crab apple tree to do our respective deeds. yet, though a smoker might get a glare once in a while, no one averts their eyes when they see a smoker in position as though what they were doing was ungodly or embarrassing to the human race. the civilized, work-a-day part of it anyways. no one whispers to their friend, with an eye roll, “why can’t they do that somewhere else?” if anything, i have to hide more than a smoker.
i could be mistaken, but at one point, i thought i heard the door behind me creak open and then close. but when i looked, there was no one there. possibly a smoker popped her head out, saw me there, and thought, “damn. another breastfeeding mother taking over our smoking bench. i wish they’d find somewhere else to do that,” then went back in. smokers, though socially unacceptable, at least have their own designated areas.
“ruth, put that down,” i said as she picked up another butt. i quickly finished, relieved as always that joel was satiated and dozing and i had successfully breast-fed in public against all odds. there was no awkward encounter, no accidental boob-flashing. and ruth didn’t try to run off while i was in the middle of it. ok, so perhaps i lactated a bit on my shirt, but most likely, no one would notice, or if they did, they would just think i spilled water on myself or, worst-case scenario, it was a bit of throw up or pee from joel. nothing so grotesque as milk that had leaked out of my breast. no, nothing so unsavory as that.