Almost 12 hours later and I am still buzzing.
It was amazing. I was truly overwhelmed by the whole experience. I honestly don't think that I have even finished absorbing everything that happened today, but I'll do my best to write it out here.
About two weeks ago, I had the bright idea to sign up Cork City as part of the 2010 Quintessential Breastfeeding Challenge.
What with Ireland having the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe (we are however, top of the charts when it comes to the production of powdered infant formula!) and with many Irish mothers citing "being uncomfortable feeding in public" as reason not to breastfeed, this seemed like a great chance to:
a) show the country that public nursing is not "obscene," nor is it comparable with "pissing in the street," as one noted Irish Late night talk host and early morning radio presenter once suggested. and
b) create a supportive atmosphere for breastfeeding mothers to come and meet other breastfeeding mothers.
Well, the entire thing took on a life of it's own and over the course of the last week I have been inundated with calls from the media. We have been featured in every major newspaper, approached by two television networks and I was even interviewed on the radio (where one listener later texted in to say that my feeding the snot queen was "vulgar.")
One of the main questions people asked was, "How many mums to you expect to turn out on the day?"
Media Answer: "We have about 50 - 60 confirmed and are waiting on further numbers!"
Honest Answer: " There's a good chance it will just be me, my neighbor and a creepy looking man in a dirty trenchcoat taking "unofficial" photos for his non existent website."
I could never in a million years have predicted what really happened.
At 9:30, people started arriving. I figured that when things died down, I'd get the chance to sit and have a coffee, maybe grab a bite to eat.
They never died down. The line kept growing and we quickly ran out of sign up sheets and had to start writing on the backs of the old ones.
When 11:00am rolled around, we had 97 mothers, 106 nursing children, their older siblings and a strong showing of supportive husbands, partners and family members.
We spilled out of our allocated area and took over the entire upstairs section of the food court.
There were nursing mothers everywhere.
It was beautiful.
There was no shame, no worry, no desperate shushing of a child in the hopes that they would wait until you got home or found the "Nursing Room/change room/wheelchair toilet" which is generally a lonely place with a bad smell.
There was no looking around to make sure no one was watching before you latched your child on for a feed.
There was no apologizing to companions as you popped on a hungry child as if you were doing something wildly inappropriate and they were being extremely gracious for overlooking your public indecency.
There were just mothers and babies, families out for a good day. People mingled and chatted as though they'd known each other for years and the children played and slept and nursed and did all the other things that children do.
At one point, I was standing chatting away to another mother when the tiny one ran up crying as she'd taken a tumble and wanted a cuddle. Without missing a beat and without any awkward pauses, I whisked up my 28lb, 15 month old toddler, latched her on and continued on chatting as though nothing out of the usual had happened.
It was amazing.
It wasn't about "bottle bashing" and it wasn't about berating non nursing mothers for the choices that they've made.
Instead, it was about showing the country that nursing is normal. That the primary function of breasts is to feed children and that there is nothing wrong with making it an accepted part of public life.
Today we had almost one hundred women feeding their babies simulataneously in a shopping center in the heart of Cork City as though there was absolutely nothing odd about it. And guess what?