Thursday, March 8, 2012

Guest Post from Georgia Statewide Nurse-In

I am SO excited to have a special Guest Post today from Andrea McPherson, organizer of the August location from the Georgia Statewide Nurse-In! Andrea has (AWESOMELY) agreed to share her experience with us! Thanks Andrea...... and JOB WELL DONE!!!!! Take it away, Andrea!

On Monday March 5th, breastfeeding supporters from the Augusta area gathered at the Columbia County Justice center in Evans, GA to support the Georgia Statewide Nurse-in. The nurse-in was to garner support for a more protective breastfeeding law that includes a fine for harassing a breastfeeding mom. Golf fans know Augusta as home to the Masters Golf Tournament, a small city bordering South Carolina, but today we hoped to put Augusta on the map for a different reason.

As the first to arrive at the location, on an unusually windy day, I had some time to reflect on what was about to happen. Months ago I heard Nirvana “Harley “ Jennette’s story on the Progressive Parenting radio show about how she was organizing a nurse-in in response to being kicked out of her church for breastfeeding. When I saw that other cities were hosting nurse-ins, I realized I could avoid a long trip to Atlanta (with 3 kids) if I organized one here. Soon I had a team of dedicated, energized Augusta mamas (Heather, Lynn and Betsy). The Augusta nurse-in team spent weeks facebooking, sending press releases, putting up flyers, emailing, and letting everybody know about the nurse-in and why it was important. We organized a sign-making party the week before the nurse-in and invited the local media who came to film and photograph us happily nursing and making signs.

Leaving the symphony the Saturday before the nurse-in, I realized that we were already making a difference. A gentleman stopped me and said “I recognize you from the paper—great cause!” It turns out that he had an early copy of the paper, and the Sunday paper featured a picture of me breastfeeding my 6 month old on the front page.

Sitting in front of the Justice Center, I had no idea what to expect, and my nervous excitement grew as the clock crept closer to 10:00, but I knew my team of women would arrive shortly. Then, like magic, moms started arriving, I got some help putting up signs in the wind (hard to do when you have a baby in a Mei Tia!) the media arrived, and we had a nurse-in!

The same photographer who came to the sign-making party told us that he had received several positive phone calls and one negative phone call about the picture he ran. I’m guessing that the negative one must have been pretty harsh, because the photographer remarked that he had no idea that breastfeeding moms faced such criticism, and now he understands why the nurse-in is important. We did interviews with two local television stations and got the message out in what we hoped were palatable soundbites.

As the hours flew by, moms, dads and children came and went. It was hard to get a good head count since the kids were having so much fun running around the courthouse lawn and having a great time, but we estimate there were 50 adults. Since the courthouse doesn’t get much foot traffic, we got very little feedback during the event. A couple court employees stopped by, and one woman drove by to give us a cheer. The highlight for me was when two women from the Doubletree hotel brought us warm chocolate chip cookies to show the hotel’s support.

The feedback I have seen online since the event has been mixed. If it were all totally positive, then maybe we wouldn’t need a better law, but the ugly comments on the Columbia County News Times website, only illustrate the ignorance out there that breastfeeding moms face and the necessity to protect moms. It turns out that as hard as it was for me to read the criticism following our media attention, that people needed to see it to understand what moms are facing and realize why we needed a nurse-in.

The Georgia State-wide Nurse-in was a success on many levels. We have a strong lactivist community here in Augusta that became even stronger as more friendships were forged during the nurse-in. The local media broadcasted and printed pictures of moms breastfeeding, a step toward normalization. Georgia moms now have a bill in the senate as a result of their efforts. I also have a nurse-in box ready to go containing the signs we used and our boob caps. All I need to do is rally moms and get my box and we can have a nurse-in! It is my hope though, that the “winds of change*” we experienced here in Georgia on March 5th will spread across the country, and that one day my children will stumble upon my nurse-in box in the attic and be shocked that we ever needed to rally for such a basic human right.
(The "Boob Caps!")

*I wish this analogy were mine, but the credit goes to Lynn Reed.

Andrea McPherson (Andrea is a mom of 3 living in Evans, GA where she avoids housework by getting involved in breastfeeding, childbirth and gay rights issues.)


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