The Mayor of our city was standing on your alter today, promoting the “I Am Someone” anti-bullying campaign in front of the congregation. Normally, I am the first in line to promote such ideas and campaigns. I love that you are participating in such an awesome organization, and are supporting it so enthusiastically.
Today, however, I couldn’t clap and nod along. Today, my heart was heavy, and I stood in worship with silent tears streaming down my cheeks and my jaw quivering, until I had to leave….because, in this place, where everyone is supposed to be part of a ‘family,’ I had just been made unwelcome.
Why is this? Because I have “big boobs.”
More specifically, because my daughter will not eat under a cover, and I feel lonely in the storage closet, formerly known as the nursing area.
I was pulled aside today, by one of your well intentioned female leaders, who had apparently recieved several complaints about me nursing openly, uncovered, in the church lobby.
“You have big boobs,” she said, “and they’re beautiful, but do you really want some seventy year old male usher staring at them? I don’t think you do, you have more self respect than that, don’t you?”
I was told that this “incident” had happened many times, and so many people complained, that it had “fallen to her” to finally discuss it with me. Apparently, dear congregants, one of you was about to angrily confront me in the lobby on Thanksgiving Sunday, but she stopped you by assuring you she would speak to me about it and get me to stop.
I wonder, have you ever *been* in the nursing mother’s room? I can describe it for you:
It is the size of a large walk in closet. It doubles as a storage room, with a changing table, long coffee table, a crib, several excer saucers tossed around on the floor, and a rocking chair stuffed in the corner. Things are often piled in the crib, or all shoved in front of the rocking chair. I have had to physically climb over the table and around the obstacle course of things to get to the chair. There is a flimsy curtain in front, blocking anyone from seeing in.
I was told I could “participate in the service” by listening to the sermon via the speaker system in the room. However, the speaker in that part of the room has been broken for months, (some claim it never worked at all,) and the part that does work, fades in and out, and sounds like muffled whispering. When there are toddlers shrieking and running around, or even over normal talking among the teachers, that can’t even be heard.
I felt embarrassed and ashamed today. I looked down at my shirt and frantically pulled it out of my daughter’s grasp, afraid that someone might spy a bit of my bra and be offended. I glanced around, searching for a frown of disapproval, an eye roll, anything to tip me off as to who I angered by nourishing my child. My husband attempted to speak to the woman, explain to her how I felt, and suggest they designate an area in the lobby, and was immediately shut down. “We already have an Opperation Christmas Child tree there. There isn’t any room.”
No room. No room for a mother trying to do her best for her baby. There is no space. I feel isolated, shoved aside, an inconvenience.
Do you know why I chose to nurse in the lobby? I want to fellowship. I want to feel like I am part of somewhere, like I belong. You do not know my history with church, but how can I share it when I feel like I have a Scarlet letter attached to me? When I have to spend a great deal of the service, locked away in what amounts to a supply closet? Do you realize that a big part of the reason my family left my husband’s childhood church is because there was no where for us to take my son once he could crawl? We met in a school gym, and I was told to take my baby to the gym change rooms.
I am supposed to dedicate my daughter next week. I am supposed to stand in front of all of you and commit to raising my child, and trust you to do the same. How can I trust you with my children, when you won’t allow me to do my very best for them? When every week, you all feast on God’s Word, and all you offer my children and I are table scraps?
I don’t want to give up on you, Church. But I am so tired of making excuses for you. I am tired of being shamed. When will you either learn to accept me…or will I just eventually leave you? My son loves Sunday School, and I don’t want to take that away from him…but what of my daughter? Or will she only be accepted once she is able to stay in the nursery without me? What if that doesn’t happen?
I am this close to giving up. I have been told the room will be fixed…until then, I don’t know what to do. I will still dedicate my daughter next week, but my trust in you is shaken.
I am someone, and so are my children.
You need to do better, Church. You just need to be better.