On our way out to Utah, Sam and I stopped to eat in a restaurant in the Boston Logan airport. As we walked in, Henrietta was fussing a little, and I tried to decide if this meant she was hungry or tired or wet or what. I suspected she was hungry and this was distressing because we were seated at a table right next to a couple having a quiet meal, and they seemed to be glad to be having their quiet meal, and I somehow got this vibe that they would not be interested in having me feed my baby one seat over.
I'm a discrete breastfeeder, dedicated to using a cover, but still. You know this vibe? This sort of stiffening in the room when you walk in with a baby? I mean, there are rooms I've walked in that I can instantly tell are full of moms, or people who understand kids, and I feel like whatever goes down is going to be okay. But when I sense that stiffening, when I can tell people are eyeing my baby like it's only a matter of time before she ruins their meal, it makes me nervous.
I was nervous about this couple. They ordered another glass of wine, and the man looked out the window, and the woman pushed around the french fries on her plate. They weren't talking much, and I wondered if they were having a disagreement, or had just generally run out of things to say. I pulled the baby out of her seat, tried to bounce and hold her into chilling out, but she was having none of it. Sam tried to walk her around the terminal a little, but she didn't wish to walk about. She was hungry. There was only one way to fix it. And though I knew they wouldn't dig on her crying through the meal, I somehow thought they wouldn't be keen on my breastfeeding in public, either.
You see, I'm the kind of person who cares a lot what people think. I wish this weren't so. I think about what you might think of me and I try to anticipate and control it and it's endlessly impossible. But this is one of the lovely things about this baby: I'm learning how not to care. There's this focused priority, this person I'm somehow more comfortable being responsible for than I am being responsible for myself, and if it comes down to disappointing the couple next to me or feeding my hungry baby, I feed my hungry baby. Their peaceful grown-up lunch be damned. I'd rather have Henrietta happy. It's deeply liberating.
So I fed her, and she made her slurping happy noises, and by the time the couple got up to leave she was back in her car seat, kicking her legs and cooing happily. And the woman bent down to me as she was leaving and said, "You're lucky to have such a sweet baby."
So see? Maybe I have no idea what people are thinking anyway. Maybe the stiffening is in me, and I project it out into the room ahead of me. But all I know is that I've spent my whole life trying to listen to the part of me that knows what needs to be done, and that part of me is much less muddley now. What a relief.