I hadn't planned on being a lactivist this weekend. I just wanted to see a hockey game with my family and friends. Kevin, Jake and Tommy made an impromptu trip down to visit us this weekend and we headed out to the last game of the season for the Norfolk Admirals versus the Hershey Bears (the farm team for the Washington Capitals). We grabbed some local dinner and walked over to Scope to enjoy some family fun.
When the game started up, Ian did really well with the noise. But the first time there was a close goal and a loud groan from the crowd, he started to fuss in alarm. I dug through my jacket, sweatshirt, past the sling and under my tank top to wrestle out enough boob for him to latch on and console himself from the noise. He ate for a few minutes with a blanket over his head to block out the light and sound. Things were going well until the Admirals scored and there was a LOT of noise. That surprise was just a little more than he could bear and he started to cry. We put the boob away and took him out to get a fresh diaper and walk around in the quiet.
When first intermission started, I headed back towards the stands to look for Rich. As I headed to the door, a woman walked up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. She said, "Ma'am. I just want to thank you for ruining my evening by breastfeeding in public."
Now, had I been thinking fast, I would have countered, "Really? Cause that sweater you're wearing just ruined my evening." But what she said sounded so bizarre to me, I honestly thought she was joking until I saw her face. So I just turned around and walked inside in stunned silence.
And then I got mad. Stomach churning, hot face, lip-biting mad. I had actually assumed when she first walked up that she was going to complain that my baby cried and was ready to retort that he cried for about 10 seconds before I removed him from the area. But she was actually mad that I fed my baby under a blanket in the half full stands of an AHL hockey game. I was torn between tracking this woman down, unsure what I would even do once I found her but assuming most of it was illegal and trying to just move on. Moving on has never really been one of my strong points, though, so I was mostly just working on holding back tears.
I found Rich and told him about my encounter. We went back out so he could get peanuts for Tommy and eventually I saw the same woman walk past us. I walked up to her, tapped her on the shoulder and said "Ma'am, I'm not sure I understand. You said my breastfeeding upset you?" She ignored me and kept walking. When I followed up with, "oh you're not going to talk about it now." She yelled out, "don't touch me, lady!!" Realizing she was straight up crazy and I still had my baby in my arms, I decided to just walk away versus deal with her.
Rich watched all this with tight-lipped anger. Second period started and most folks walked back inside. I walked around with Ian and chatted with one of the police officers about his kids. After a bit, Rich came back out to check on us and noticed the lady was still walking around the lobby area. He said he'd be right back and I knew he was heading to confront her but figured I would just stay with the sleeping baby and let him take care of himself.
Rich approached her and, remembering her freaking out that I tapped her on the shoulder, decided not to touch her. He just said, "hey, since we're all just walking up to strangers and saying crazy stuff, do you mind telling me why ..." She started saying "you're not allowed to talk to me!" but Rich continued following her. When she realized he wasn't going to walk away from her, she - I shit you not - started yelling "FIRE!" over and over in the hockey arena. Rich asked the security guard next to them, "do you see any fire?" and she then shook her bottle of water in his face.
At that point, I watched and it was as if time got slower. I wondered if my husband was about to punch a woman and go to jail. I wished that we had taken a separate car from our friends so I'd be able to bail him out. But he surprised me (and this lady) by just looking her straight in the face and laughing. He said, "HAHA! That is fantastic. You have fucked up now." She turned to bolt back into the stands but he followed her. He went up to the guard and told them, "this woman just assaulted me and I want the cops. Now!" Ironically, the same cop I was chatting with earlier came back with four of his fellow officers along with the manager for the arena. Rich had followed her over to where her husband was sitting and introduced himself to the poor guy. This is when we discovered that she wasn't even in our section of seats. He came back out to me while Not Nice Lady had a long chat with a police officer about how assault works, the limitations on free speech and the laws protecting breastfeeding in public.
The silver lining to all of this was how we were treated by everyone but her. The police officers were nothing but understanding, the arena manager was apologetic, no one hassled me or my husband. Ian was still asleep in my arms, but one of the officers suggested we finish watching the game in the VIP lounge so there would be less noise and free snacks.
I was sitting at a table with Ian in the VIP lounge when he woke up all smiles. He started to "phbffft" at me, so I "phbffft"ed right back. The woman in the table next to us turned around with a funny look and the first thing I thought was, "oh for crying out loud, please do not give me a hard time for phbfffting with my son." But she then smiled and I think was just surprised at the noise since she hadn't noticed the baby before. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The best part to all of this was explaining to four-year-old Tommy why Aunt Genie and Uncle Richie weren't in the arena. There was some explanation that a Not Nice Lady had said mean things to Aunt Genie and Uncle Richie went to get help from the police. Tommy's comment was "words are not for hurting." Indeed. He apparently understands just fine. Perhaps he could have explained it to the Not Nice Lady in terms she could understand.
"The Not Nice Lady said mean things to Aunt Genie because she didn't understand that Genie was just trying to be nice to the baby ... Uncle Richie, do you want some of my water? I won't throw any on you like the Not Nice Lady did. You can just drink it ... What happened to the Not Nice Lady?"
"She had to talk to the police and have a sort of grown up time out."
"And they told her not to say mean things again because it hurts other people?"
"I'm sure they did, little guy."
P.S. If you'd like you can also read Rich's version of the evening.