Monday, September 29, 2008

Goodness Gracious!

Today I walked with the children to the shops, as we do nearly every day. We waited in line at the post office for a bit, and Tombliboo was upset- wanting to feed and sleep. He started making a lot of noise, and I thought we would just leave and come back later. Then I thought Princess could handle getting some more stamps, so gave her the money and left her in the queue.

I took Tombliboo outside to a park bench ,and sat down to breastfeed him. There were a group of peopel nearby chatting, and I was alone on the seat. I noticed two teenage pregnant girls walk past us...andthen when we were finished feeding, Tombliboo got up to look for Princess, and these two girls came back.

One of them said, "You should show respect to the people around you".

I siad, "I'm sorry?"

She replied, "Show some respect to everyone around you! Don't breastfeed a baby in public- it's sad."

"I'm sorry?," I repeated again (unsure if she was serious, or having a laugh).

"Don't show your boobs in a public place", she yelled, and her friend said, "Haha- that showed her". They walked off, and I talked to the shop lady who had come out with Princess- she didn't want her to need to walk alone with change :0)

Princess had asked for the wrong stamp, so I was going to go in to swap them, when the lady said she woudl do it for me and I didn't need to come back in (very busy with Tombliboo).

She took quite a while, so I went in to see what the hold-up was, and the two teenage pregnant girls were in there with their mum/auntie.

This older woman said to me, "Disgusting! Pakeha have no shame".

I smiled, but didn't respond. She said, "Showing your breasts in public- Maori women have more respect for themselves and others."

I said, "I was not showing my breasts- I was covered up"...I pointed out my sling, and breastfeeding top. (Honestly, anyone who knows me knows very well I do not *try* to show my breasts!).

She said, "You should have some respect."

I responded, "You are not being respectful. You should be a role model to these young girls."

She said, "You throwing your boobs everywhere...Maori have more respect than that."

I repeated, 'I did not show my breasts to people."

She said, "Well I didn't see- I believe my girls. Whether they are right or wrong- I stand up for them."

I said, "Well that's silly- you weren't there, you can't know...I was covered up as best I could."

She said, "Don't you get smart to me- I'll punch your lights out!"

I laughed, which probably wasn't the best thing to do but it was more a nervous giggle. Ialso thought just briefly "Woud you seriously come and hit someone in a bookshop, with cameras and loads of people"...I also thought since she was smaller than me, that she was unlikely to do a lot of damage with her fists.

"Stupid Pakeha don't know how to behave". At this point, a pakeha lady with a baby turned aroudn and said, "Look now you've gone too far."

The first lady said, "Aw, maybe you're different then"."

I was shaking my head at it all, and nearly ready to leave, when she addressed me again, "Don't you come starting arguments with my girls in a shop...rude pakeha, breasts everywhere- feed your baby at home!"


I was so uspet, I was shaking, and could feel my cheeks red-hot. The owner smiled at me as I left in an apologetic sort of a way.

I got the children, and went to the next shop and rang dh. I was bawling by this time, and he said he would come and help.

I have never before been threatened like that. I have been told not to breastfeed in public (at a shop, when Tombliboo was 5 weeks old).

Dh thought we shoudl call the police, and get the footage from the security cameras at the shop. I was more inclined to think there is nothing anyone can do about it- but he is being super-protective and thinks the woman should be charged with threatening to harm. Meanwhile, I was feeling scared that there might be another confrontation, and very glad of his presence.

I am not seriously worried about any repercussions from the I said, I'm a larger woman- I could probably sit on her if she came to get me :0) But in this are, I am worried more about weapons, and revenge. Even as I type that it sounds silly- and maybe I am over it, but at the time, I was concerned that maybe she would come to "get" me.

We don't live in the best area, and violence is common place. Two days ago, I saw a small child (around 2) get whacked round the head by his mother/carer, and then verbally abused. Yesterday, I watched another teenage mum (perhaps 14) hit her younger sister/cousin. It was no small thing-more like an open-handed whack on her face. While the young girl (perhaps 9) hid her face and sobbed quietly, the other people in their group laughed and said, "Look at her crying, hahaha!" I tried to convey my disgust/sorrow to them, and to catch the eye of the girl who was hit- but none of them were looking.

While dh and the shop owner discussed retrieving the surveillance footage, I walked home with Tombliboo to breastfeed in the privacy of our own home. I don't feel much like going out for a while. I like it here, it feels safe and happy :0)


Sandra Dodd said...

Breathe deeply and smile and look up and remember that you're breastfeeding for your child's sake. The milk will taste better if you're calm and happy.

Maybe a letter to the newspaper or e-mail to a local webpage (TV or city or something might have a webpage) would help. If you can calmly say that feeding a baby naturally is good, and that it can be done modestly, and that it's a shame more people haven't seen it. Or you could just let the whole thing go.

I'm sorry that happened to you. I used to get more smiles and good comments than bad ones, when my kids were little, but I'm in a hippiesh place.

Noix_coco said...

Sad isn't it? Too common in France...I am surprised it happens in NZ...
Better to think they are jealous of you being so comfortable BF everywhere...

CH said...

Here in Prague women seem to breastfeed wherever they want to, it's just normal.

Telling someone not to feed their baby is rude beyond belief.

Johanna Knox said...

Oh Lishelle - I'd have been shaking and crying too. I hope you can gather some friends around you (physically and virtually) and feel better soon. lots of love, Johanna.

Colleen said...

Oh Shell I'm so sorry that happened to you! I'm glad Ben came right away. I think I would probably want to lie low for a while too. :(

The Gorgeous Debbie said...

Honey, that's just awful. You handled yourself and the situation very well, considering you had T and A with you, big ups to Ben also for coming to your rescue, aren't you glad you have such a lovely hubby for support. More Maori should breastfeed, as should more Pakeha, Chinese, Punjabi, etc.... You're such a fab role model for a lot of folk, be strong in the knowledge that you are doing the right thing for your family :o)

Shell (in NZ) said...

Thanks folks :0) I'm feeling way better about it all now...I have usually only ever had good comments, or people lamenting that they found breastfeeding difficult, etc.

I'm still a teensy bit scared to bump in to those people again, but mostly I've moved on.

Ben was incredible- I wouls never have expected him to drop everything and come, and was really surprised when he told me he would. He wasn't even looking for me to say 'No, no- you odn't need to do that"...he meant to come, and was on his way- it was very lovely...13 yrs on Tuesday since we got married :0)

Cally said...

Shell, that is so awful! I thought we had grown as a nation since my baby years, but it seems not :( I am sitting with tears in my eyes reading this - both for you, and for the memory of sitting in the kitchen of a flooded camping ground, water up to my knees, breast feeding my about 3 month old baby and being told by an elderly man to "go do that in the toilet, you are disgusting."


Kelly said...

How awful! I am so glad you are feeling better now. I would agree with the poster that said asking someone not to feed her baby is extremely rude. Unbelievable.

How wonderful that your children have such a strong loving mum, unlike the girls that were so very rude to you. How wonderfully supportive of your husband.