While out and about on Sunday, J suggested we stop at a West Lafayette diner for a late lunch. This particular diner had been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and is supposed to have the best burgers in the area. We'd been there once before for pie, but had never had a meal there. LO was quiet (for the moment) in his car seat, and we thought 3:00 on a Sunday would be the perfect time for some Vitamin G(rease).
As soon as we sat down at the counter (which is all this place has), one of the waitresses started cooing over LO. He gave her the pout seen round the world, wherein his lip extends halfway down his chin, and his eyes take on the tragic wistfulness generally reserved for state funerals or watching Terms of Endearment. When LO makes that face, it's only a matter of time before a five-alarm meltdown will begin. (It's the baby equivalent of the China Syndrome). The waitress--a college student--immediately pulled away as we tried to reassure her that it had nothing to do with her.
"He's hungry," I said to J after the waitress took our drink order and skedaddled.
"Did you bring a bottle?" J asked.
Here's the TMI 411: I don't get a whole heckuva lot when I pump. I end up pumping three or four times a day to keep my stock up enough so that I can leave LO in daycare for my workouts at the Y and go on appointments without him on occasion. I've always been a bit of a hoarder by nature, and when it's so difficult to get this liquid gold anyway, I tend to treat the stock of breastmilk like hundred dollar bills. I do everything I can not to spend them, particularly when I'm saving up for something special. So, for running errands out with the family, I did NOT bring any of my liquid C-notes with me.
As LO's face became stormier, and we could see his lungs gearing up for the effort of some really operatic screaming, I shrugged at J.
"I'll nurse him," I said. "I've got the nursing cover."
The nursing cover is always in my diaper bag. I have mixed feelings about this thing. On the one hand, I am far too modest to think about breastfeeding LO in public without something like this to cover me up. On the other hand, do they have to make the things so dang UGLY? The one I have is plain black, but most of them are patterned in the same sort of ridiculously awful floral patterns that my Grandma Ruthie used to have on her dressing gowns. (I believe she bought those gowns in the 70s). I've thought about embroidering bare breasts on mine for laughs, but I would probably never do it.
In any case, I've gotten pretty adept at keeping everything private and discreet using the cover, and I had LO happily feeding long before any screams rent the air. Our food arrived, and I did my best to eat one-handed while keeping my boy happy and fed. After ten minutes or so, LO pulled himself off, and I thought he was done. But as soon as I tried to sit him back in his car seat, out came Captain Fusspot. (And you could see from the ambitious gleam in his eye that he hoped to become Admiral Fusspot before too long).
So, I put the cover back on and got him situated with his second course. Several moments later, a few short order cooks came in the front door to start their shifts.
It was at this point that LO reached his hand up through the top of the nursing cover. Now, usually when LO does a mid-meal reach like that, he is trying to grab at the collar of my shirt, as if to say, "Oh, dear lord, Mama, do NOT go anywhere. You would not believe how hungry I am. You stay put! I'm grabbing your shirt to make sure you do not in any way interrupt this meal."
This time around, instead of grabbing me, LO just sort of waved his hand back and forth. I've since realized that he was saying, "Attention patrons and staff of this fine diner! I would like you to know that I am currently eating a delicious meal. Which means there is a boobie in my mouth. Thought you might like to know. That is all." At that point, LO tucked his hand back under the cover, his announcement over.
When LO made his silent little declaration, J and I were sharing a piece of pie. (Yes, I had sugar. We'll discuss that later). I was trying my damnedest to eat the pie left-handed, and it took me a moment to realize that J had stopped eating and was looking over at the other side of the restaurant.
"We might have a problem with you breastfeeding," he whispered.
I looked over, and one of the short order cooks was loudly proclaiming that what I was doing was against the rule book. I have no idea what rule book he was talking about, as Indiana law states that I can breastfeed in any public or private place where I am allowed to be. So unless I'm trespassing somewhere, I can breastfeed LO. I said as much to J, and he nodded.
"I don't think he's going to do anything," he said. "He told our server to say something to you."
The server never did say anything. In fact, several of the waitresses came over to talk to LO when he was finished his meal and was happily bouncing in my arms. I think they felt bad that this guy was being passive aggressive. I doubt any of them knew the law, but I'm sure they didn't mind me feeding LO there.
The odd thing is that I still managed to feel bad, as if I had done something wrong. I went home and looked up the details of Indiana's laws. (J suggested I might want to print out and laminate the laws to keep in my diaper bag in case some jerky Puritan does make a big deal out of it.) Indiana's law is clear that I'm allowed to breastfeed, although it does not exclude breastfeeding from public indecency laws, as many states do. Which is moot, since I was using a cover and nothing could be seen other than LO's hand reaching to the sky. So, my takeaway is that as long as I am making an effort to cover up, I am completely within my legal rights to feed my child in public.
Unfortunately, I cheated on my no sweets plan for a slice of pie that I had trouble enjoying. If it weren't for J, I probably might have slunk away from the diner and never returned. He, however, noticed that they had a fabulous Vitamin G heavy breakfast menu, and suggested we bring our out-of-town guest to the same diner for brunch today.
"What if the same cook is there?" I asked.
"We'll find out his schedule and show up every day with a hungry baby," J replied. "That'll teach him!"
If it weren't for J, I'd never be a successful subversive breastfeeder.