On how I was mistaken for a terrorist while breastfeeding

September 1, 2013
Last week I yelled "I'm BREASTFEEDING!" at a TSA Agent at the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Yup. I've heard stories about women getting booted out of restaurants or malls for breastfeeding in public--but I've never actually met one of these women. Maybe it's because I am a part of a generation that avidly believes in tolerance and freedom-to-do-as-you-will, but I find it hard to believe that someone would come up to me while I am feeding my baby and ask me to stop. It seems circa 1950, Betty-Draper style to question a woman's right to feed her tiny one.

Women have even more ammo to defend their baby-feeding rights with the advent of research that seems to beat everyone over the head with the facts that breastfeeding is the holy grail of all future health for your baby (while I am a staunch supporter of breastfeeding, I don't believe that its' the only choice--sometimes its' not even possible to make this choice. If there is anything I have learned from motherhood, its that It's the hardest thing you will ever do to keep this tinies alive and well-fed, so frankly, I don't care how you do it).

To all those out there who have never "milked" a human person: it is one of the most inconvenient things you will ever do. Yes, I know, it's supposed to be more convenient than, let's say, making a bottle in the middle of the night.

Granted, if I had to choose between making 6-12 formula bottles a day, or breastfeeding, I would choose breastfeeding. At least you can leave your house without thinking about how you will get to a gas station to use their lukewarm water out of a faucet to make a formula bottle. You are the warm bottle.

 The problem with breastfeeding is you are perpetually stuck to your baby. You are afraid, sometimes terrified, to leave  them for fear that they will start that ear-pitched screaming that qualifies them for a bad singer on America Idol try-outs. .That you will get a frantic call from your husband with that screaming in the background and imagine that your tiny one is yelling "I've been abandoned!! I'm starving!" over and over again.

Screaming like this goes into my ear, and gets translated instantly into mama-warrior "I've got to feed my baby" tunnel vision. And this is why I will be avoiding the Raleigh-Durham airport for the near future. Or at least I will be dying my hair and wearing sunglasses next time I decide to travel.

It all started as a normal blue-sky North Carolina day with two babies crammed in the back-seat. Gold fish crackers were everywhere.We were picking up my mother-in-law at the airport on her flight from Los Angeles. I started out a little late because I knew she would have luggage to pick up at the Baggage Claim. Unfortunately, we still arrived early. The luggage wasn't out yet.

 Zoe was already acting up and the sun was beating down on us as I drove around the airport, not once, but twice. I contemplated parking, but realized that this was probably the worst option available, as anyone will know who has sat in the car with a newborn that doesn't have the "rocking motion" that they are used to when the car is moving. I have had Kaiden scream bloody murder for a half-hour as we have waited for Chris to finish work.I was not doing that. A moving car is a car with a happy baby. Normally.

By the time we saw Chris' mom, Kaiden was worked up and screaming. As a mother I can take about 15 minutes of screaming before I want to either: 1) Die or 2) Leave and give the baby to the closest familial adult or 3) Feed the baby--since this appears to mostly be my sole purpose in life. As I listened to the screaming go on and on, I decided that I need to feed him, and it needed to happen NOW.

And this is how I ended up, parked up about a 500 feet beyond the terminal, shirt up with my baby in the front seat of my car with the air-conditioning blasting us both in the face until we were dry-eyed. 

And this is how I noticed the TSA Agent in my rearview mirror with a face like death incarnated coming towards us and making those traffic motions with his entire arm swinging up and down like an army soldier. 

And this is why I was not in the best mood for confrontation. My mother-in-law was in the terminal with Zoe, getting her bag, and I could not move my car. I wildly held up Kaiden (imagine Lion King music as Simba is held up to the rearview of the car for said TSA Agent to see my little cub). TSA Agent did not see my little Simba.

And so I was then forced to completely unlatch my little cub-ling, get out of the car in all of my breastfeeding glory, with my nursing cover swinging in all of its psychedelic purple-patterned obnoxiousness, and scream 100 yards away, while squinting into the sunlight, "I'm BREASTFEEDING!!"

TSA Agent turned red-faced (lets be real, he was already very chubby and red-faced, so this could have been his normal 'confrontation-face'.)

Let's just say he was not impressed.

Imagine this: The hot sun beaming off of the pavement, a giant man in his uniform, legs apart, and arms on his waist barking: "Ma'am, I need you to leave, now!"

Imagine about 5 minutes of screaming back and forth as I refused to move my car and he grew increasingly angrier and angrier. 

It was a stand-off. I thought I was winning for about 2 minutes as I yelled with tears in my eyes "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? I have a SCREAMING baby that is six weeks old, a TODDLER that is crazy, and A GRANDMOTHER in the airport with my TODDLER. They are coming out of the terminal right now!" Even as I screamed this, I could see Chris' mom with a giant suitcase and Zoe in one hand, leaving the airport terminal and ambling towards the car. I clutched Kaiden to my breast, his little eyes blinking in the light, like some kind of little salamander, and the TSA Agent looked at me in what seemed like...disbelief.

He looked like he was going to pass out with rage. But so did I, I am sure. And it was in this moment that it got real.

"Ma'am, I am writing you a ticket, make that TWO TICKETS for 200 dollars!" He screamed. 

I wish I could say my entire life flashed before my eyes--but that would be way too dramatic--let's just say our entire bank account flashed before my eyes (and an image of my husband saying "you did what?")

And I retracted all of my wild, crazy-haired, baby-wielding ways. I waved the purple-breastfeeding cover of surrender.

"I am so sorry." I sobbed. "It's just really hard!" I pointed to my mother-in-law and toddler. "They will be here in a minute---please, please, don't write me a ticket."

"YOU have 30 SECONDS to get them in the car or I will continue writing this ticket" bellowed TSA man as he waved his arms at me.

I have never so quickly, or shakily scrambled a toddler, a grandmother, a giant suitcase, and a six week-old into a car seat in my life. 

I'm not even trying to make the case here that I was in the right. Somewhere in our screaming match, I learned that there were taxi-cabs on the other side of the airport wall, and apparently it was a major concern that I was going to blow them up. I actually completely support our country's need for security and the fact that you are not allowed to "park" next to an airport (or next to a taxi location that could be blown up). My one suggestion to any would-be terrorists is that they don't try anything to cover up their terrorist activity (like putting a breastfeeding mother in a rigged-car). I can attest to the fact that this will, in fact, not distract a TSA Agent from doing their job. 


My Husband, My Soul Mate.

August 25, 2013

Dear Christopher,
If there has been any silver lining to the past few weeks, it has been you. In the midst of mutually giving up every spare moment of our time to this little tiny one and the busiest toddler in the world, we have somehow remained maritally unscathed. Your arms feel safer than ever, as I watch you carry Kaiden, football style, for hours on end. I know that you will do the same for me when I need it. You pull more than your weight, and you don't complain.

And here we are, at the end of another summer that ripped right by us as days turned into nights and nights turned into days of baby/toddler world. And still, you managed to get those freckles from the August sun that I love so much. They pepper your face. There is one on your eyelid that I trace down to another on the curve of your mouth when you are asleep. And I love you more than I ever did.

It has been almost six years since I met you for the very first time. Though it seems like a lifetime. I can't even recognize the girl I was then. We have irrevocably changed.

It's as if I have been watching the movie of two peoples' lives in fast-forward. You changed so quickly from a boy to a man. When I met you in college, you were unsure of yourself, as we all were. You had your brave face on. The boy who constantly wore black Red Hot Chili Pepper shirts with skater shoes and an i-pod full of loud music. Was that really you?

I'm slightly afraid to even say this out loud because it seems so childish--like believing in Santa or the toothfairy--but I believe you are my soul mate.

I imagine an older, wiser person looking at me knowingly, then saying, "that's so....nice" with a condescending smile.

I've heard it a few times this year. Your husband is not your soul mate. Love is a choice. Marriage is about commitment. Sacrifice. 

I am so thankful that marriage is about commitment and sacrifice--but what if I secretly believe that you are my soul mate? What if I need to believe this so that I understand love and sacrifice and commitment?

We are not just making this work. That would be far too hard. We are not eternally bound to one another like two people running a two-legged race, awkwardly crashing into one anothers' shoulder all the way to the finished line.

We are one person. We grow more and more toward one another, like two vines on a trellis, twisting until you can't tell where one starts and the next begins.

When we have a second of silence, when the noise of our day quiets around us and we lay arm-to-arm, we talk about our lives. We talk like God has it all figured out. Like there is a plan. Like everything we are and everything we do is a part of a big cosmic universe that God has ordained. Like it is holy, this experience of me and you.

It is holy the way it was when Zoe and Kaiden were born. The moments where we both clutched tiny hands and realized shakily that we had been given the incredible gift of life to hold together. That is how I experience our marriage. Like me and you were always together, from the beginning of time. Meant to be.

And maybe that seems a little bit too Disney. Maybe we are totally cliche. Maybe someday we will turn to each other and wonder if there was a different path. But I hope not. I want to fiercely believe in this. I have to fiercely believe in you and I because I am not sure that I could last a lifetime if I didn't believe you belonged to me, now and forever.

I know it when you kiss me. I know it when you tell me you don't have a dream because the dream is what we are living--two beautiful children, a tiny apartment, a pile of student loans, and a soul mate.
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