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A.  You do it in your seat.

New, single mom & girls leadership expert Rachel Simmons explores the horrors of flying with an infant in her recent piece in The Washington Post.  And she doesn’t mean the horror of long waits on the tarmac, canceled flights or no healthy snack options. Ms. Simmons means planes without changing tables.  Meaning, there aren’t any so where do you….?

Right. You change the baby in your seat.  Indeed, this is what I was told when I traveled, also alone, with Elisabeth to Denver last July.  Elisabeth & I at Denver International Airport 7.12She was almost seven weeks. For one leg of our journey, we were seated next to two older women who I will never forget. These were grandmothers of the old school, used to rolling with cloth diapers and engorged breasts.  They were hardcore and I knew it immediately. It was matter of fact, just what you did..changing a baby in the seat and that’s what they told me to do. So I did it.  When were were done, I felt like a rock star mom.

I recognize that tight chest feeling.  Oh, do I!  Especially in those early days where “new mom” felt like a tattoo that was stitched my forehead. But you have to push past it and do whatever you need to for your baby.  Because she is more important than other people’s disapproval, comfort level (nursing in public, anyone?) and your own feelings of new mom inadequacy.  The more you push through that tight feeling of fear the more competent you feel.  It’s like a muscle, the more you use it, the less you think about it. And you need this muscle because every time the doctor pushes the Vitamin D drops or looks disapprovingly at you because your daughter is only in the 17th percentile in weight, you need to be able to stand strong and move into informed, advocate mode, just like you’d slip the car into fifth, seamlessly without hesitation.

But here is something else.  You don’t only need to change that diaper in your seat because you need to feel more competent and confident as a new mom, you need to do it to send a message.  That message is that moms and babies count.  New moms aren’t going to stay shuttered in at home (more isolated than they already are) because planes don’t have changing tables or because the teenager girl who works at the pool tells a new mom to “cover up” (or worse, and usually illegal, to leave) because she’s nursing her baby.  These new duos, who are just getting to know each other in the long life that they hopefully have together, count just as much as adults do.  They should have the right to a bathroom that accommodates them, to a meal out where they both can eat, to a clean space to pump breast milk for a baby that can’t otherwise feed itself.  People, non-parents and others, need to see that while we all love babies, we don’t provide the way that we should for them and their caregiver.

So, you change a baby in your seat on a plane.  You nurse in public as often as your baby demands it.  You leave a meeting announcing it’s time for you to pump. You send a message: we are here and we count too.  When you do, you might not see the affects immediately but your actions do cause ripples.  Kind of like the starfish story.  It might not matter to the naysayer murmuring ‘why bother?’ but it sure does matter to the nervous, pregnant first time mom-to-be who has never seen anyone breastfeed or changed a baby herself, on a changing table, let alone a plane.  “If not you, who?  If not now, when?”

Okay, moms, what do you think?  What situations stumped (or still stump) you when you were a new mom?

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