Mostly we managed ok. Jacob fought sleep like his life depended on it, but we found a nice woman to talk to for a while. She asked if I had bottles or a soother with me. "Well, no, that's a bit complicated..." I said.
"Everybody's complicated. We're complicated too!"
Well, ok. She seemed decent enough. I explained all about being transgender and breastfeeding Jacob donated milk, etc. etc. She thought everything was fantastic. Jacob got a little calmer. "Maybe Daddy has a nice cookie or something for you," she said.
Cookie? Sugar for my ten month old? Not a chance. But I did have some cut-up grapes. I got them out and Jacob enjoyed picking them up himself and chowing down on them. Then he gagged a little. He started to spit up the half-grape when the lady vigorously wacked him on the back and simultaneously jammed her finger down his throat, shouting, "he's choking!"
"Stop that! No, he's not! He's crying - that means his airway is not blocked."
Jacob screamed, and screamed some more, I believe at this insult of having a strange lady's finger shoved into his mouth. I took him to the back of the plane and held him until he cooled down a bit. Then I nursed him to sleep, finally, and enjoyed a few pages of a book and a sandwich for myself.
I felt the plane starting to descend so I immediately got out the supplementary nursing system. If I had only one goal on this flight, it was to nurse during take-off and landing to help Jacob relieve the pressure in his ears. He nursed in his sleep for about half of the descent. I watched the mountains become clearer through my window. It was good to be going back to Vancouver, where I was born.
Suddenly Jacob came off and started to cry, and I could not convince him to latch back on. The pilot turned on the seatbelt sign, so we were stuck. I offered him a drink of water from a cup but he only turned his head away and screamed louder. Desperate to get him to swallow, I took the tube out of the bottle of milk and tried to get him to suck on the plastic nipple to no avail. He started to do that horrible sobbing, gasping cry that twists my own insides in knots.
"Don't you have a bottle or a soother or something for that baby?" Genius. Wow! Why hadn't I thought of those things? I explained to this thoughtful woman a few rows up that I had tried but he wasn't willing to take anything in his mouth. She frowned and informed me that his ears were probably hurting.
We landed, and then Jacob latched on. Suck, swallow, suck, suck, swallow, hiccup, suck, suck, swallow. He calmed down.
The woman from a few rows forward pushed her way past a few people to stand right in front of me. "Why are you breastfeeding this baby?"
I couldn't tell if she was accusatory or just curious. I glanced around and reminded myself that I was on a crowded airplane. She couldn't do anything physically dangerous to us here. I decided to be frank with her. "I'm transgendered, I birthed my baby myself, and I breastfeed him."
"Well, he needs a real boob, MAN. Come on!"
"No, I actually do make a little bit of milk for him, and the rest he gets through this." I held up the SNS.
"You're going to wreck his ears doing this, flying with him like this. He needs an actual boob. It's about time someone told you this."
I made what I thought was a rather generous offer to squirt some milk in her face, but she declined. I actually could have done it; I'd only managed to latch Jacob onto one side, so my other side was relatively full.
I could see her revving up, so I said, "I hope you have a good vacation. Take care."
"You too. You know, Jesus loves you. I hope you know that."
Ugh. I couldn't go anywhere since the door to the plane wasn't open yet and nobody was moving. I ignored her as best I could and tried to chat with the guy in front of me, who rolled his eyes at my adversary.
After she left, I packed up my things and cried along with Jacob whose ears were probably still sore. I wish someone could teach me how to grow a thicker skin. I'll need it to keep on being this parent raising this child. I'm astonished that this was the first time I've been directly confronted by a stranger for breastfeeding my baby. I've been incredibly lucky so far, but still, it hurt me to hear this woman telling me that I'm failing as a parent and damaging my baby.
At the luggage belt, the man who'd sat in front of me came up to me, looking serious. "Don't you let anyone keep the joy of this baby from you," he said. And then he repeated it. "Don't let anyone keep the joy of this baby from you."
Another passenger approached me to say that I have a beautiful child. I will try to keep these well-wishers in mind while I do my best to develop the protective hide of an elephant.