A few weeks ago, when mini was still a micro-mini, I attended a get-together with six or eight lovely women at a friend’s home. I brought mini along. I was a bit nervous because I knew she’d get hungry in the next hour or two, and hadn’t yet breastfed “in public” — I’d only ever done it in the security of my own home. I was trying to play it cool, but–other new moms may agree–there’s a lot to get the hang of in those first few weeks, and the last thing I wanted to do was fumble around awkwardly and self-consciously with a crying baby in front of an audience. Call it pride, call it new mama nerves, call it silliness–whatever it was, I was anxious about the thought of struggling with this natural act in front of a group of smart ladies.
But, I told myself, this was hardly “public” — these were kind women who would cut me some slack and support me no matter what. I knew most of them very well. And this was as good and cozy a place as any to cut my teeth on the whole breastfeeding-outside-the-home situation.
About thirty minutes after we’d arrived, I could tell mini was getting hungry. She was starting to clutch at my clothes and turn her face towards me. Around the same time, a friend held her for a few minutes, cooing over her. Mini started to fuss. It was time to feed.
The next twenty minutes were frenetic. It was hot; I had chosen a poor outfit situation that involved unpinning my wrap-style romper (DVF, I love you, but the damn vees on your dresses/rompers are too low! I always have to use a safety pin!), untying a sash, and then undoing a nursing bra, all with one hand and a sweaty, writhing baby; I was attempting modesty with a swaddle thrown over the two of us, but it was just inconvenient and in the way; I was sitting uncomfortably in the middle of a sofa with no pillow under my arm; and, I think because I was self-conscious about the whole thing, my milk didn’t “let down” quickly, so mini was extra feisty. We bungled our way through things. I tried to pretend it was all good, chiming in on conversations vaguely, as my stress level mounted, but I’m certain the other ladies noticed my awkwardness. I felt embarrassed. I was relieved beyond belief when, finally, I gave up after about 10 minutes of nursing and fed her a bottle instead.
I got home and sniffled to Mr. Magpie that I had really botched the whole thing. I had wanted to badly to have it all down pat, and I had been a (literal) hot mess. He said he was sure no one had noticed, and that–and I’ll never forget this–“it’s all a learning process, and next time, it will be easier. Things will go a little more smoothly.”
He was right.
I learned a few things that day (and now, feeding in public is pretty smooth for us). For starters, I realized I’d been too concerned with how I was being perceived, too wrapped up in seeming like “a natural mom,” whatever that meant. I made a mental commitment to not playing it cool–to just trying to zone everything else out and acting as I would if I had been at home. Second, I pledged to stick with easier access nursing outfits and to commit to using the nursing cover; the swaddle had been a poorly conceived attempt to cover up that wound up getting in the way. Finally, why had I opted to sit in the middle of a couch? I could have taken an extra 20 seconds to position myself somewhere more comfortable. What’s more–no one had told me I had to nurse in public; I could have excused myself to a bedroom for a few minutes to calm myself and handle the situation privately. Oy.
A week or two later, I was texting with the same friend who had held mini before I’d fed her, and I mentioned that I had been a little frazzled (“lol, haha”) the last time we were together and assured her that, next time around, I would be a little calmer; I’d learned a lot from my maiden nursing-in-public situation.
She seemed genuinely surprised at this: “What?! I had no idea! You seemed like a natural!”
She went on to say that she had been feeling stressed herself since that day because she–an expecting first time mom herself–had thought mini had started freaking out when she’d held her because mini had sensed her “new mom anxiety.” The incident had led this sweet pregnant mamacita to fret about her motherly instinct for the better part of a week (!!!!)
We comforted each other, boosted one other up, and then she wrote:
“Oh my. The inner monologues of women.”
Striking how the two of us had gone into emotional tail spins without anyone else noticing. How we’d (apparently) been successful in projecting a much calmer version of ourselves while we’d inwardly criticized ourselves to no end. How we’d let our anxieties (you know — the boogeymen that haunt us) get the better of us while keeping a stiff upper lip to the outside world. And how much easier things felt once we’d owned up to those emotions and supported one another in the moment instead of harboring these tensions privately.
Not long after this text exchange, I was attending an event and was seated next to a lovely lady I’d never met before. Perfectly dressed for the occasion, she was a polished and entertaining seatmate. She seemed to have it all together. At some point, the conversation turned to children. She started to fidget nervously with her place card and, after some polite conversation, she said, quietly, “hopefully I will have some good news to share soon.” She looked at me knowingly, with a sparkle in her eye tempered by what can only be described as cautiousness. As it turned out, she had been through six rounds of IVF (six rounds!!! what a trooper!!!) and was finally through the end of her first trimester. It occurred to me that this little lady had probably dreaded conversations about babies for years. She had probably sat through dozens of events just like this one, fidgeting with her place card, but out of emotional fatigue rather than newly-pregnant nerves.
As I looked around the room, I wondered how many other women sitting there were deeply lost in their own inner monologues. How many of us were nursing private wounds, working through personal anxieties, feeling alone and disheartened–but with a smile on our faces?
These twin experiences restored to me a profound appreciation for the women in my life. They remind me that a lot can be gained from candor. That people rarely notice when I think I’ve made a major flub (in a good way — in the sense that we are our own worst critics!). That women–even total strangers!–so often act, intuitively, as advocates for one another if we only give them the space to do so. That everyone deserves to be cut a little slack. Also, that I should put that DVF romper in the non-nursing section of my closet.
And, 10 picks…
Pick No. 1: The Bejeweled Evening Mule
I mean, I CAN’T EVEN with these (No. 21, $845). YAAAASSSSS. AHHHH. I need I need I need.
Pick No. 2: The Button-Front Mini.
I know this is a bit of an oddball pick, but I think I have to have this retro oversized-button mini ($134). It reminds me a bit of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (post-makeover, duh) mixed with Jackie O. Those sleeves though!
Pick No. 3: The Button-Front Mini.
Love this sweet silk scarf from Tory Burch’s Garden party collection ($125). (I am obsessed.) Julia of Gal Meets Glam did a great tutorial on eight different ways to wear a scarf that inspired me to dust off some of my own. And P.S. — Ann Taylor is a great source for affordable silk scarves.
Pick No. 4: The Striped Halter.
I think I might live in this blue-and-white striped halter dress ($69). I love the interest/fashion-forwardness that the paper bag waist detailing provides. It transforms the dress from plain jane to street style starlet material.
Pick No. 5: The Cropped Jacket.
Every little lass should have one of these in her closet, and — why not snag one on maj sale? This Rebecca Taylor lovely with its fringed cuffs/hems is now on sale for $289! Worth the investment.
Pick No. 6: The Floral Stunner.
I would give my left arm for this Giambattista Valli floral dress (on sale for $1,102). And that’s saying a lot because I’m left-handed. If only I had some sort of important event to justify the cost…le sigh. (Does turning 33 count?) Stunning. P.S. — You should check out the Moda Operandi sale. So many ridiculous pieces from amazing labels. I love this neon asymmetrical beauty from Apiece Apart, and I’ve been lusting after this Marysia one-piece for awhile now, especially after seeing it on the darling Liz of Sequins and Stripes. Also, if you’re looking for an evening dress that no one else will be wearing, check out these sale pieces from Alice McCall. They’re fashion-forward, a bit loud, and hella chic.
Pick No. 7: The Packing Solution.
One thing I wish I’d handled better for our recent trip home was suitcase organization. I felt like all of our stuff–mine, Mr. Magpie’s, mini magpie’s–was crammed together in random spots and therefore difficult to find on arrival. Mini’s bottles were tucked in alongside my pajamas and Mr. Magpie’s belts. Ugh. We have a set of these Eagle Creek compression bags that we used–and love!–but two just didn’t cut it. As I went to Amazon to order some more, I fell down the ol’ research rabbit hole for packing solutions and also read great things about Flight001’s Spacepaks ($46). Apparently they compress up to two weeks’ worth of clothing (?! doubtful on my end, but I appreciate the sentiment) and are extremely well-made. Plus, the laundry/clean compartments are genius. I’m sold. They also have a toiletry compression pak, which I was initially against because I have these beautiful Cuyana ones, but on the last trip home, it was such an awkward thing to shove into the bag at the last minute. Finally, have also heard good things about these packing cubes ($49 for entire set!), which I rather like because they’re transparent–so you can easily spot what you’re looking for–and come in a range of sizes. Also, cheaper. Decisions, decisions. I think I’m going to go with a spacepak and maybe a set of the EZ packing cubes and see how we fare?
Pick No. 8: The Casual Sweatshirt.
I’m not normally a fan of athleisure, but I love the look of this Free People one I spotted on Pinterest and promptly hunted down — on sale for $62! (More fashion finds I’ve loved on other fashionistas and then stalked/tracked down. And P.S. — that shirt Arielle from Something Navy is wearing in the last pick of that post? It’s actually, I believe, this one from Apiece Apart!)
Pick No. 9: The Embroidered Sweatshirt.
Speaking of sweatshirts — not usually my steez — but this embroidered find from H+M ($60) caught my eye as a fun alternative to my more typical striped tee (I just added this one to my collection) for everyday wear. High-fashion in a D+G kind of way…
Pick No. 10: The Rose Oil.
What is it with me and my obsession with any beauty product containing rose? It’s magpie catnip. I “needed” this though. (Eye roll emoji.)
P.S. — I really like this situation ($105). Can I pull it off or will I look like a clown?
P.P.S. — Similar gingham black-and-white deal, but in a sweet dress form ($90).
P.P.P.S. — My sister is always texting me asking me to feature “PRACTICAL, MACHINE-WASHABLE, AFFORDABLE items for moms like me.” (She has a toddler and another baby on the way.) I hear ya and have been hunting around for good bargains that still look chic and can be thrown in the wash. Something like this $29 button-down dress (in the chambray color) is exactly what I spring for. Actually, as I type this, I look down and note I’m wearing a white eyelet shirtdress from Cynthia Steffe from a few seasons back.