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Every Mother Needs an Ann Marie

June 13, 2011

Every Mother Needs an Ann Marie

Genny White

In the last weeks of my first pregnancy we would be awakened by the radio alarm.  After the irritating buzzing would jar us to our senses, the irritation would mellow out to the wonderful sounds of classical music from Robert J. Lurtsema’s morning pro musica on WGBH, and then the child within me would begin to stretch and move around.  Our day would be off and it would be delightful to be awakened to something so lovely and comforting as a good friend — that is what classical music had become to our small family even to it’s tiniest member, the child inside yet to be born.

With Phillip gone I would cover my bed with all my books and notes and articles.  The subject before me was breastfeeding.  I looked, I studied and I learned.  From my analysis it was clear that this decision to breastfeed would take some commitment.  There were aspects to forebear such as frequent nursings in order to establish an adequate milk supply; there were issues of when and if to introduce a bottle, a pacifier: Nipple confusion was to be avoided.  My review had revealed that this breastfeeding thing was the thing to do, but must be executed well; therefore, if I was going to do this, I would have to be committed and prepared to nurse anywhere and at anytime my babe desired to be fed.  I carefully calculated what this would look like and if I would be up to the task at hand.  Well without saying the benefits clearly outweighed the inconveniences.  Yet still a nagging suspicion existed, “was I up to the task?  Breast feed any time any where?”

Six weeks later our Julia child had arrived, and Pappa Bear sprang home with the most pleasant of news that Ropes & Gray, the law firm in which he worked, would be hosting a holiday symphony concert, and that we were going. We, he, me, Baby Julia and our adopted family next door, whom also happened to be classical music aficionados.  John and Ann Marie were their names.  The day of the concert arrived and we bundled Julia up in a warm winter “thermie,” and stuffed her in the most elegant pure snow white baby bunting with delicate crochet lace stitching that you ever did see.

Into Boston, we drove from the outskirts on Cape Ann.  This was our first outing since the birth of our child, and it was exciting to see the city ablaze with Christmas lights. We parked the car and entered the sea of humanity that bustled and scurried about as the financial district emptied their employees into streets and sidewalks under the shadowing skyscrapers.  Phillip so proudly carried our precious bundle, keeping her little head so safely under his own chin.  He held her snug and secure as we made our way from the parking garage to the International Place lobby.  All along the way I heard to the hum of the streets and saw people whispering, “Goodness it is a baby” or “That man is carrying a baby.”

We made our way into the lobby and met our dear family: the Kershaws.

They beckoned to us once we were spotted. Ann Marie said “you two sit right here,” pointing to two seats directly in front of them.

We politely chatted as the orchestra warmed up, with mostly trickles of disjointed notes, with bits of harmony and a few simple scales thrown in for good measure. As the concert began in earnest, they lowered the ceiling lights so all that shone were the gentle twinkle of strands spiraling across the bows of the magnificent, thirty foot tall, Christmas Tree, adorning the lobby.

The melodious sounds of the orchestra filled the air, and for moments I was caught away by symphonic sweetness, when all of a sudden my babe began to stir.  “By grace,” I gulped back my heart, now in my throat; what am I going to do, knowing that for certain my baby within seconds was going to want to nurse and would cry if I denied her.  Ann Marie reached up her gentle hands and placed them on my shoulders and with her angelic voice she said, “Your baby is waking.”  She gave me that knowing look.  “She is rooting and no one is looking. Slip your baby under your shirt.  You can do this and you can do this now.”

The strains of  the violins did rise and so did my shirt now as I latched on my Julia child.  She settled in nicely and with a free hand, I did lightly lift that lovely baby bunting and gently drape it over my shoulder.  Right then and there we did nurse.  I did not miss a single note of that concert.  When the concert was over we all were smiling, but my smile was the biggest.  I had mastered the art of public breastfeeding.

Every Mother needs an Ann Marie to take us out on our first outing after the birth and stand or sit behind us and tell us we can nurse!  No one is looking, do it now,” with her kind hand on our shoulders and her angelic voice.  “Go ahead nurse your baby right here and right now.”  The concert was over what a sweet, sweet evening it had been for that lobby transformed from the ebb and flow of the corporate world to the most resonate of musical concert halls, and best of all we had accomplished our first public nursing!  That was the biggy; once I had accomplished nursing in public for the very first time there was no question of ever looking back.  I knew I could do it.

I logged in five years among 4 children of breastfeeding and really there was nothing alarming to me to report; however, I’m not sure if the same holds true for a toddler named Eric on the North Shore.  If you will remember my stated commitment that if I was going to breastfeed that would mean that I would nurse anytime and anywhere.

One morning found me marketing for groceries in one of the North Shores most popular markets.  Now several months had passed since the concert and by this time I had mastered the art of baby wearing and the baby sling.  So, there I was pushing a grocery cart, wearing a baby sling with Julia inside and holding a grocery list.  When you guessed it the baby started to stir, she started to root.  I calmly made an adjustment under the sling and the baby did latch on.  There she was held secure by the baby sling and I could push the cart, read the list and gather the groceries in the cart all the while she nursed.

I turned the corner of an aisle when what should I see at the long other end of the aisle but another shopper with a toddler in tow.  “Look Mommy,” the boy about three years old, gleefully squeaked, “A BABY!!! Instantly he started to run as fast as his little legs would carry him look a BABY.
“ERIC, ERIC,” the mother screamed, with a look of dread on her face as she recognized I was breastfeeding in public, “What ever you do.  DO  Not Touch that BABY!  Eric stopped straight in his tracks, only six feet away with his arms outstretched.

I stealthily walked by the boy and his mother; Julia comfortably nursing in her sling.  I reached out and grabbed the green peas I was looking for, scuttled down the length of the aisle before turning the corner.

Thank you Ann Marie for giving me courage.

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