Long before I actually had a child, I knew I supported public breastfeeding. I mean, babies get hungry and thirsty, right? So it just made sense to me that the people who feed those babies need to be able to feed them wherever and whenever. And my feelings about public breastfeeding only grew more intense once I was a breastfeeding parent myself. If me and the baby were out and about, the logistics of being home when he needed to feed were so complicated as to be impossible, and we both hated using a breastfeeding cover. I’ve breastfed my kid in a number of places, restaurants and grocery stores and parks and even at the beach. But I’ve never felt as powerful as I did when I breastfeed in public at Pride.
On a muggy June day, I strapped our 1-year-old baby to my back, and my wife and I headed out to try to make it to our city’s annual Pride Parade. My wife and I don’t own a car, so we had to take a short walk, and then a city bus to get to the part of town where the parade and festival were to be held. Doing all of that with a squirming 1 year old was a little bit tricky, but ultimately worth it. (And honestly, thank goodness for babywearing, or I don’t think we ever would have made it at all.) Though I'd been on the fence about going the night before, we were instantly glad that we made the effort to get downtown. The baby adored everything about the parade, and seemed to think that somehow they'd put on this fabulous show just for him. His other mom and I took turns passing him back and forth, holding him up to make sure he could see. People gave him beads and a rainbow frisbee, and we all cheered and generally had a great time.
The festival portion of Pride is, in our city, held separately from the parade, in a nearby park that also hosts other summer fests. It isn’t my favorite setup ever, but given that we'd made such an effort to get to Pride, we decided it would be a shame to leave right after the brief parade. So along with some friends we ran into on the way, we joined the line to enter the festival. This was the morning after the Orlando Nightclub shooting, and security was on everyone’s mind, so the line was moving painfully slowly while security carefully checked and double checked everyone.
Then something else happened: complete strangers started to congratulate me. It felt amazing to be in a space where I felt completely supported for my choice to breastfeed my son, a space where at least for that one moment it did feel like we were all in this together, all lifting each other up. I felt, well, proud.
As it turns out, 1 year olds don't love waiting in line. I think actually no one likes waiting in line, but 1 year olds can be as loud about their displeasure as they like, having no real social skills as of yet. Our typically good-natured child was not happy anymore, and in addition to his crankiness about just standing there with nothing to do but wait (me too kid, me too!), it had also been quite a few hours since his last breastfeeding session. He was bored, hungry, and thirsty. It was hot, and I was uncomfortable, but as a breastfeeding parent who had been breastfeeding for the last year, I knew damn well what the solution was.
There was a sort of half-wall right by where we were waiting on the sidewalk. Still chatting with the friends we'd run into, I sat down on it and popped my boob out of my shirt, and my hungry baby immediately wriggled himself into a comfortable breastfeeding position. I smiled down at him, happy I could help, and of course at that moment, the line started moving again. My wife raised her eyebrows, but I managed to support the baby’s weight in my arms while I stood up and I walked along with everybody else as my child joyfully and obliviously breastfeed in my arms. I was a little surprised that I’d managed the difficult maneuver, to be honest, and one of my friends said, “oh wow, that was impressive.” But then something else happened: complete strangers started to congratulate me. It felt amazing to be in a space where I felt completely supported for my choice to breastfeed my son, a space where at least for that one moment it did feel like we were all in this together, all lifting each other up. I felt, well, proud.
For the most part, I’ve been an awkward and anxious new mom, rarely feeling sure of myself, often struggling. But in that one moment, surrounded by fellow LGBTQ+ people, with my child securely in my arms, I knew just want to do, and I did it. Parenting rarely feels simple, and being a queer mother often compounds the complications. But in that moment, I felt simple and safe. I felt seen.
It also reminded me of how far I've come. I didn’t have an easy path to motherhood, and so much of the first year of parenthood was a massive struggle for both my wife and me. When I first started breastfeeding, I was always nervous and awkward breastfeeding in public. I did it anyways, because I believed in it and felt it was important, but I rarely got to enjoy the experience of being close to my child because I felt so uncomfortable. For the most part, I’ve been an awkward and anxious new mom, rarely feeling sure of myself, often struggling. But in that one moment, surrounded by fellow LGBTQ+ people, with my child securely in my arms, I knew just want to do, and I did it. Parenting rarely feels simple, and being a queer mother often compounds the complications. But in that moment, I felt simple and safe. I felt seen, and I didn’t have to explain to anyone in that crowd that our child has two moms. I didn’t have to justify my decision to feed him at that moment.
I didn’t feel weirdly pressured to apologize for having him out in public in the first place. I just stood there, breastfeeding my beautiful baby, with my arms aching from his weight, and I felt like a complete superhero.