I was really unlucky one afternoon a few weeks ago.
As a new Mum you quickly become accustomed to well meaning strangers sharing their advice as to how you should be raising your little one. However, I have found that it more often comes in the form of an experienced Grandmother on a bus. Plus, the ‘advice’ is wrapped up in such polite conversation that it hardly feels like disapproval at all. What you are not prepared for, is that someone would actually try and hurt you and your baby because of what you are doing. Breastfeeding.
I was about to jump on the bus when Belle woke up from her nap, hungry. I have learnt the hard way that traveling with a hungry baby is never a good idea and so I knew that I was going to have to find somewhere to sit and feed her before heading home. I had been into three cafes trying to find a seat but everywhere was totally full as it was smack bang in the middle of the London lunchtime rush. Belle’s fussing had turned to crying and the crying was on the brink of becoming a meltdown. I couldn’t put it off any longer. It was now a ‘STOP, DROP AND FEED’ situation. Something that I am accustomed to…
It was cold and I was outside King’s Cross station so I went inside thinking that I would be able to find a bench. Of course, all of the benches were full and nobody was going to be giving up their seat anytime soon. So, I found a quiet (ish) spot leaned up against a wall, where I sat on the floor, calmed my baby and started to feed her. Sure it sounds odd, sitting on the floor in a station, but it didn’t feel too out there as there were lots of other people sitting on the floor whilst they watched the departure boards waiting for their delayed trains. Plus for those of you who do not know KX, it is a nice new indoor station and so it felt like a better option that the pavement.
After four solid months of breastfeeding I have finally mastered the art of the discrete feed which means that on the whole, I feel confident feeding B pretty much anywhere. A combination of vest tops, clip down bras, baggy jumpers and a baby who finally knows what to do, means that there is no nipple to be seen (most of the time!).
A couple of women had passed me and given me that knowing look and gentle ‘I understand’ smile. It was reassuring to be reminded that others had been in a similar desperate situations with their little ones.
Then it happened. Every breastfeeding Mum’s worst nightmare. The creepy man.
I will call the creepy man ‘Mr C’. Mr C was lingering around in front of us, pulling his little suitcase behind him which was strange because he didn’t look like he had anywhere to go. A weirdly dull sense of purpose and urgency for someone waiting in a station. Sitting on the floor feeding your baby is a vulnerable position to be in at the best of times but there was something about this Mr C that was making me feel extremely uneasy, even though I was in a busy public space in the middle of the day.
So many things go through your mind when you get a ‘starer’. Some people just can’t help but stare but most often it is because they are a little awkward and embarrassed which is largely harmless for all involved. I tried to rationalise what was going on wondering whether Mr C was just curious and not very subtle. Maybe he is just looking at the baby? Whatever it was, my instincts were telling me that something was not right.
I thought about stopping feeding and moving elsewhere but why should I have to stop my baby feeding and move?
Well, I wish I had moved.
Mr C got closer. As he paced in front of me he made eye contact, smirking and muttering things that I could not understand. It was obvious now that he had a problem with me breastfeeding in the station and he wanted to let me know about it. But that is his problem. I was being discreet, my baby needed feeding and I have a right to feed her wherever I want (not that I really ‘wanted’ to feed her on the station floor may I add). In any case, it is a HUGE station and there were plenty of other places that Mr C could have stood where he wouldn’t have to watch if me feeding my child if it is so repulsive to him. No one was forcing him to stand right there.
Then he got closer and stood right next to me, towering over Belle and I. Feeling a intimidated, I shuffled to the side out of his way creating a little gap between us.
And that was it. There is no way that I could have predicted this.
Another passenger, a smartly dressed (larger) older man, walked through the gap that I had created as he made his way through the crowd to catch his train. In that moment, Mr C pushed the older man on top of Belle and I. Shock. The poor older man tumbled over the top of us just managing to throw his weight forward so that his foot missed Belle’s little head. Both Belle and I should have been been crushed by him.
It took me a couple of seconds to understand what had just happened. I was shock. The scariest things was that Mr C did not run off so as to not be caught but he stayed right were he was, looked at me and smirked again with a satisfied look on his face. Now I was really terrified and he was really pleased. Shaking, I grabbed my things from the floor and with Belle in one arm, I ran. I didn’t really know where I was running to but I knew that I needed to get away from Mr C. He had just tried to hurt us infront of a packed out station and I was not going to hang around to find out what happens next. Who tries to hurt a baby? He was clearly unwell and I just hope that someone can help him before he hurts anyone else.
I ran out of the station and into a hotel bar. I got into the bar, looked behind me to make sure that I hadn’t been followed, dropped my things on the floor, checked that Belle was ok and then burst into tears. A shaking, sobbing mess.
Everyone in the bar stopped and looked at me. The hotel manager was called as I was causing quiet a scene in the fancy bar. The hotel staff were incredible. They calmed me down, took me to a quiet room, called the police, and even entertained Belle as I caught my breath through the shaking and the tears. They were exactly what I needed in that moment. Perfect strangers. They even took a brief description of the man and put staff on the hotel doors to make sure that he did not come in until the police arrived.
Belle was totally fine. She was smiling and lapping up all the attention that she was getting from the waiters as I spoke to the police, gave a statement and waited for J to get there. Poor J didn’t know what had happened until he arrived. I had called him in a blubbering state and he just got that something serious had happened and left work to come straight to us.
The police are currently investigating what happened. They are hopeful that it all would have been covered by CCTV but even if it is, they then have to be able to recognise and identify Mr C to get anywhere close to a conviction. Who knows if they will ever catch him. Probably not. I am just so thankful my baby is unharmed.
Whilst I have totally forgiven Mr C (everyone has their story) I am still affected by what happened.
Am I angry? Yes.
But more than I am angry, I am thankful. Thankful that I live in a country and that I am part of culture that, on the whole, embraces breastfeeding. So much so that the right to breastfeed your child in public is protected by law, whereby it is unlawful to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother. There is nowhere where you are not ‘allowed’ to breastfeed and if anyone tells you otherwise then they are acting unlawfully.
So, my message to all the BF mothers out there is to embrace feeding in public. My experience is an anomaly, most people don’t care or even notice that you are feeding your baby. Whether you are on a bus, in a cafe, a hospital, a school or Gap changing rooms. Wherever you are you are free to feed your child.