This weekend I fed Gideon at a small house warming party consisting of mostly strangers in their mid twenties to early forties. This was the first time I used his G tube outside of our home.
We were in a fairly confined outdoor space, a small patio, so it wasn't exactly discrete. I also didn't feel like I should isolate Gideon. Everyone else was snacking and drinking so why should we go inside to eat? For some reason, internally it felt like the old breast feeding debate reinvented. Should I be concerned about making other people uncomfortable? How would I feel if people stared?
I decided that all of it didn't matter. I casually lifted his shirt, while distracting him with a book, and hooked him up to his extension tube. I sucked up his formula in a syringe and went at it. I had tried feeding Gideon orally, as much as I could, but it was hot and we were in a strange setting, so he was just not really into it. I had to push more than I normally do into him via the tube. It seemed to take forever.
Yes, some people looked uncomfortable, while others looked with wide eyes before turning to conversation with others. Some had a sad look of pity in their eyes, others started up a conversation with inquiries into our situation. Yes it came across a little awkward as I tried to talk to others, casually inserting comments into their conversations every so often, as I held a syringe and tubing in my hands. I didn't care. I was owning it. I was overcoming social taboos and claiming public G-tubing as normal.
I've never seen anyone g-tubing in public. I'm sure parents do this all the time. They really are more common than you might think; our surgeon said they do 2-3 G-tube surgeries every week.
I'm not sure what advice to give to others who come across someone G-tube feeding in public. I think all the reactions we received were quite normal. What I wouldn't do is intentionally make anyone feel out of place. I don't mind answering questions about the G-tube or our situation with Gideon. I don't mind ignoring the elephant in the room, in an attempt to normalize it. What would make me angry is if someone assumed things about Gideon because of his G-tube and vocalized these assumptions or if someone verbally spoke up about loosing their appetite, while guzzling wine and asking us to be more discrete. I'm so glad there was no one like that at our first G-tube outing.
I think the next time I see someone else G-tubing in public, I'll smile to myself- as a nod to mutual understanding and in support of societal norms.