April 4, 2016

General Hospital Tackled Public Breastfeeding and It Was Amazing

Yes, this post is about a soap opera. And breastfeeding in public. Have I officially hit housewife status or what?

I remember when I was about 10 years old I thought for sure I had a brain tumor. I did not have any symptoms of one, but I was convinced it was there. Because Dominique Baldwin, a character on my favorite show, General Hospital, had one. Yeah, I was that kid. I thank Vada from My Girl for that personality quirk of mine.

By age 9, I was hooked and learned quite a bit about life from GH, including how to kill someone, fall in love, have an affair, what to do if an evil Russian woman cursed you and that people can come back from the dead multiple times.  I watched religiously for 12 years until I graduated from college and had to get a real job which got in the way of my habit. Luckily soap operas are just like old friends and after almost 10 years off I was able to pick right back up where I left off when I stopped working while pregnant with the girls.

Little has changed in Port Charles and many of my favorite characters are still alive and up to their same antics. The dead just keep on rising and even veteran characters who were long gone have returned. I was devastated to find out that Luke and Laura Spencer had since parted ways but, despite Luke leaving the show last year, I'm pretty sure even that is only temporary.

Now that I am older I have a better appreciation for the real-life issues that GH portrays. While it can be a hotbed of fantasy with a healthy dose of paranormal, the writers have never shied away from tackling tough subjects such as rape, breast cancer, HIV, homosexuality, alcohol and drug abuse, infertility and domestic violence. And lately, finally the point of this post, public breastfeeding.

Here's a recap in case you missed it (which you did because you're not me):

Olivia is meeting with the Mayor of Port Charles, known only as Lomax, in the restaurant of her hotel when her baby gets hungry. She starts to feed him, much to the mayor's horror. Instead of excusing herself or just looking away, the mayor makes a huge fuss, using her power to belittle Olivia and essentially bully her into either making her child wait to eat or ending the meeting because she "shouldn't have to see that."

Olivia refuses to stop trying to feed baby Leo, despite being humiliated and told that she "shouldn't be doing that in public where people are eating." That's when the Mayor threatens to have her arrested for public indecency. If you know anything about public breastfeeding you probably know it's perfectly legal. Olivia knows that too. She gets up to leave in a huff and accidentally bumps the table, which is when she's arrested for assaulting a public official.

Olivia's baby-daddy, Julian, is married to superstar lawyer, Alexis Davis, (my favorite GH character of all time/Nancy Lee Grahan). While Julian, a local media mogul, is able to convince the mayor to drop the charges in order to avoid a public scandal, Alexis announces that she and Olivia are now suing her for assault. The mayor clearly provoked Olivia and forced her into leaving through shame and humiliation. She created the issue herself when she berated a woman for feeding her baby, which she is legally allowed to do. And when she realized she had no legal ground to stand on, she had Olivia arrested, because she's the mayor and she felt threatened

Last week the case went to court. I watched in tears while I nursed my own babies  as one side battled for a woman's right to feed her child anytime anywhere and the other actually fought for the public's right to not be exposed to "that kind of stuff." After two breastfeeding women entered the courtroom all hell broke loose and the mayor even went so far as to proclaim that, "What's natural to them is inappropriate and offensive to most others!"

Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of Olivia, but not before the women of Port Charles bared it all for every woman's right to not feel shame or judgement for feeding their babies. Several women in the crowd tore open their shirts in solidarity with Olivia (which is perfectly legal to do! You don't even need to have a kid on your boob!) It was incredible.

I feel like I should reward some of you for reading a soap opera recap.. So here's a cute pic of my crazy kids.

I have to admit, this means so much to me because I've never breastfed in public. I could blame the fact that they're twins who always want to eat at the same time or because we don't get out much but really it's because I don't feel comfortable doing it. Because I don't like making other people feel uncomfortable, almost to a fault. I care so much about what others are thinking that I'll stay home or excuse myself to another room when my girls are hungry, rather than risk putting someone else out of their comfort zone.

It's the reason I've never shared a pic of myself breastfeeding. Well, I'll change that now.

My first public breastfeeding selfie!
That's why this story matters. Because I shouldn't have to feel that way at all. I should feel confident feeding my kids in front of anyone - strangers, my father, my best friend's husband or my landlord, without even a second thought. I shouldn't think twice about sharing a picture of something so natural online. Because they're my kids and they need to eat and that's how they do it. Because it's what I think is best for them.

But I don't, because I have learned that people aren't comfortable with it and that it's wrong to make people feel bad. Never mind that my kids suffer for it.

I hate that I care more about what other people think than my kids' needs and I have to wonder, how would I feel if people weren't allowed to berate us for it? No, I can't be arrested, but I can be judged. What if the tables were turned and I could call the cops on you for side-eying me? 

I'm not allowed to walk up to strangers and ask them to stop eating because I don't like the meal they are having. I'd probably get beat up if I told a woman to cover up her earlobes because I found them offensive. And god forbid I ever vocalize my disgust to a mother doing anything with HER children that I disagree with, unless she was actually hurting them. Sure, I'm legally allowed to do all of those things but I'd be insane to and society would likely shun me.

And yet people are constantly insulting women who nurse in public. Some times it's with blatant threats and shame. But more often than not it's simply a look of disgust, a tsk-tsk, a sigh or a huff. Or a rant on social media. Just enough to make the woman know you disapprove but not enough for her to say or do anything about, let alone file a law suit.

I wonder if, unless you're a breastfeeding mother, it might be hard to understand why this GH story was so awe-inspiring. Obviously it's a soap opera, so it's over the top and dramatic. Plus, if it's already the law, who cares if people complain? They can't stop you and you don't have to listen to it, right? You might even say, just ignore them or walk away, it doesn't matter since you have rights.

But it does matter. Especially if you're not a breastfeeding mother. This story was written because there are still so many people who just don't get it, who continue to perpetuate lies about breastfeeding or the idea that it should be hidden away, like some shameful secret. These people who just can't seem to grasp that it's not about sex or nudity or indecency. And it's not about what makes you comfortable or what you don't want to see. It's about a mother, feeding her child, the way she was literally born to do. Plain and simple.

Isn't that something we all want, no matter where or when it happens? Fed babies?

I've seen people turn a blind eye to abuse of all kinds, to outright racism and hate, to poverty, to the plight of the environment, etc. People can pretend to see past all sorts of terrible things, and yet these same people will go out of their way to berate a mother for feeding her child. How backwards is that?

I have to wonder how people would react to if they actually saw it on a regular basis? Breasts being used for their intended purpose and not just to sell everything under the sun or in porn? I mean, it's not like there are droves of women going out to dinner and target at the exact moment their child needs to eat. When a woman does nurse in public, she's not usually doing it just for fun or even because she wants to. Even my husband admits I'm the only person he's ever actually seen breastfeed. It's not like it's everywhere. But if it was, would people finally just see right past it and stop this crap?

Whatever happened to, if you don't have anything nice to say then just shut up? Or, even, live and let live?

Thankfully it seems the tide is turning. We are seeing more stories like the one on GH and hearing more about people accepting and standing up for nursing moms everywhere. Multiple "Nurse-ins" are being held in protest after a woman is shamed by a business or employee. Alyssa Milano stood up for all nursing moms against Wendy Williams on national television. #Normalizebreastfeeding is booming. Brelfies (breastfeeding selfies shared on social media) are a thing. It's happening. Women are feeding their babies, regardless of who might see or say something.

So, bravo, General Hospital for holding nothing back (literally) and helping empower breastfeeding women. I am an incredibly proud fan these days, even if it does make me the ultimate housewife.

Here's another, more updated, #brelfie, just for good measure.

To watch scenes from this epic General Hospital storyline click here, here here and here.

To learn more about breastfeeding in public click here.

If you're a nursing mom and you need to know where you can and should breastfeed check out this amazing video by Latched Mama.

And if you're not a nursing mom but want to support acceptance of public breastfeeding just be a decent human being and keep your opinions and looks to yourself. Have your friends do the same and the world will be a better place.


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