When I was planning for BlogHer, I was excited about taking Ivy and showing her off. BlogHer is known to be very baby-friendly and at Blogher 2008 in San Francisco I remembered Julie and Catherine wore their babies at sessions and parties and I imagined something similar for us.
And for the most part, it was a great experience having my baby with me. I wouldn't have been able to attend otherwise. I wore her in the sling almost the entire time. Occasionally letting her crawl on the floor where she might have eaten crumbs from Social Luxe hors d' oeuvres and when I thought it might be getting too crowded, I picked her up. When I needed to nurse her, I found a couch in a corner and fed her. And when I had said my quick hellos, watched my friend win an award, I left without incident (and without swag.)
As for the actual conference, I did find it limiting to take a baby. Every single session I tried to attend was too full- I couldn't even stand in the back or the door way. If I hadn't had her with me, I might have tried to squeeze in somehow. I then decided to wait in line for 45 minutes to hear the last session I wanted to attend, and got a seat in the very back. Ivy napped and then nursed and when she wanted to get down and move around, I left immediately so that we wouldn't be a distraction (even though Jenny had told me beforehand she wanted her to make all the noise she could because it would be awesome. And then she said she was going to kidnap her. So I got the heck out of there.)
If there hadn't been a line to even listen in the doorway I would have tried to stick around once she quieted, but I couldn't get back in.
Yes, there is childcare. But I can't even leave my baby in the church nursery. That is not BlogHer's fault. That's mine. Also when I found that I had no cell phone reception in many areas of the conference, I was wondering if I had done childcare, how would they get a hold of me?
Even hanging out with friends was frustrating because I wanted to do things while she napped on me so that I could get the most out of whatever it was we were going to do but then there is a lot of waiting at BlogHer. Wating on people, in your hotel room, for the elevator. And it started to wear on me that I would waste a good nap just waiting.
The part where I started to feel like I was seeing things in a whole new light was after the parties.
I was a guest of Katja's at the Hanes party held at Rebar in the Trump Tower. It was a bar. When I first received the invite I immediately let her know I'd have the baby. They didn't bat an eye at my bringing Ivy with me. The driver installed her carseat. The bar staff were incredible and brought her crackers to crush into their carpet. I sat with her on my lap in the back, on a couch. The Hanes people were gracious and entertained by Ivy's tricks. And then she slept in the sling the rest of the time.
In my head and heart, I want you and anyone there to know that I was thinking "blogger event" the entire time. I wasn't thinking "bar". I honestly probably wasn't thinking. Even though it was BlogHer weekend I was tired, and I was still Mom. I was me.
Looking back I am now realizing that maybe I should have thought it through a bit more and considered that while it was a wonderful gesture that they invited us both to come along, I didn't have to accept. Maybe they were outwardly smiling and sweet but on the inside thinking how annoying or inappropriate it was that I had brought a baby to a bar. Maybe they were scared off by what could happen if you upset a nursing Mom blogger.
That is not who I am.
Yes, I do nurse my baby in public but I don't wave my rights around like a gun. I know the right time and place. At least I thought I knew.
At BowlHer on Saturday night we had an absolute blast. In the music room there were mini concerts and plenty of room to chill and let the babies crawl around. Ivy was dancing and clapping and at one moment I turned and said this was the best moment yet. Only I didn't say it. I had to shout it. And I looked at Kim and asked if I was an idiot. If we had to shout to hear each other, what were we doing to the babies' ears?
The set ended and we took the babies out before the next musician came on. I felt like everyone was watching me and, although I am honest and make plenty of mistakes here on the blog, it seemed like in real life? I wasn't allowed to make any mistakes. Because shame on me if I just had a learning experience like any other Mother.
I started to question myself. On my way back to our hotel room I stopped in the Cheeseburgher party because I wanted to say hi to Isabel and Lindsay. I'm so glad I did because I also got to see Rick from Tiny Prints again and seriously if you were there this weekend you will agree with me at least somewhat that he was the happiest and most cheerful person there. He was taking photos and having a great time and I wished I could see the conference through his eyes. (And yeah, he was also my sponsor but that is a blessing that I basically just fell into.)
Anyway, as expected, their suite was packed. I made my way through with Casey & Emily and got my bag hat, burger, Dr. Pepper, with Ivy in the sling. I was able to say my thanks to the girls for the party, they were glad we made it, and then Ivy and I wriggled our way out to the hallway and back to our room.
By then, the weight of the weekend came crashing down. I was embarrassed if anyone thought I was being inconsiderate for bringing Ivy with me to a bar and concert. I didn't want to be thought of as some selfish nursing babywearing Mom that keeps her baby with her all the time no matter who it might inconvenience. All this time I had thought she was welcome. And I began to wonder about all the other times I might have given the same wrong impression. No event, no amount of friendship or networking is worth risking my reputation (and sanity), someone else's reputation, or my child's safety.
Next year I'll hopefully still be nursing her and so it doesn't look like I'll be going. It's just not the right season in my life to be doing these things. And if I hadn't already committed to another blogging event coming up next month, I wouldn't be taking her to that either, even though she was clearly on the invite with me. I'm looking at everything a bit differently now.
It's my choice to keep her with me at all times even if that means we have to stay at home. And I won't be moping around about it either.
Photo by Beth.
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