Jackie Johnson-Smith was enjoying a meal out with her husband when her baby began to cry, so she nursed him in the middle of the restaurant. But when her husband asked for the bill, he couldn’t believe what the waitress had written on it. It turned out she had been watching all along.
Johnson-Smith is a mother from Des Moines, Iowa. Back in the summer of 2013, something happened to the new mom and her husband while they were out that was so remarkable the story hit local headlines. It all started when the three of them went out for a meal.
The couple, who had recently welcomed a baby boy into the world, went out for a pizza with the newest addition to the family. They headed to Fong’s pizza restaurant, never having dined there before. But it wasn’t set to be a normal night out.
First of all, the couple’s new baby wasn’t sleeping soundly. Instead, he was a little bit unhappy about something, and so, naturally, Johnson-Smith wanted to calm him down. Thinking that it might be hunger bothering him, the mom began to feed him.
Remaining at the table, Johnson-Smith started to breastfeed her baby. But when he still wasn’t settling, she decided to get up and take him elsewhere. In a Facebook post about the incident, Johnson-Smith said that she moved so as “not to disrupt the restaurant.”
Little did the new mom know that there was someone watching her every move. And that person later did something to let Johnson-Smith know exactly how they felt about her breastfeeding her baby in the middle of the restaurant.
It all came to a head when Johnson-Smith’s husband asked for the bill. But when it arrived he got a bit of a shock. He read something that the waitress had written about his wife on the receipt, and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
That’s because the bill had been tampered with. Not only that, but there was also a little handwritten note next to the final total. Johnson-Smith was so stunned by the message that she uploaded a photograph of the bill to Facebook, where it attracted plenty of attention.
And for good reason too. The note from the waitress may have been totally unexpected, but it wasn’t nasty by any means. In fact, it was an incredibly kind message. After all, the staff member had written it to explain why the bill was one pizza short.
Indeed, the waitress had written “I bought one of your pizzas.” But the reason why she did so was the most astounding part of the story. The final part of the note confirmed the waitress’s intentions. It read, “Please thank your wife for breastfeeding!”
The couple were amazed to have been treated to a discount all because of Johnson-Smith’s decision to breastfeed her baby in the restaurant. According to the new mom, she was “speechless and emotional” when she saw what the waitress had done for them.
In her Facebook post, Johnson-Smith praised the waitress for her kind actions. “Although I don’t need a pat on the back for feeding my child, it sure felt amazing. It is amazing how we women can make each other feel when we empower each other,” she wrote.
Once she uploaded the image of the receipt, the post was shared over 3,000 times, with many people taking the chance to comment on the story. “An amazing act of kindness for something so normal, yet so shunned in our society,” wrote someone who appreciated what the waitress did for Johnson-Smith.
“I have breastfed three children. I have breastfed them in countless places both pleasant and unpleasant, discreetly and out in the open. I have gotten many looks and stares,” wrote Johnson-Smith at the top of her viral Facebook post.
She then went on to say that “tonight erases any negativity I have ever received.” Given that women have been shamed in the past for breastfeeding in a public place, Johnson-Smith’s positive experience at Fong’s pizza restaurant was a breath of fresh air.
When KCCI 8 News spoke to the waitress in question, a woman named Bodi Kinney, she explained the need for people to “come together and support each other when it comes to nursing our children.” Especially given recent stories regarding the hot topic of public breastfeeding.
For example, there was one woman who went to Disneyland in November 2017, with her husband and 10-month-old child. But she received backlash for nursing her son in public. They had been waiting in line for a ride when her baby got hungry, so she did the natural thing and fed him.
Some women nearby made “snarky comments” about the breastfeeding mom rather than supporting her. So, she got her husband to take a photograph with the women in the background, and then she shared it online to turn the shame back onto her.
The perceived stigma around public breastfeeding is not just confined to the U.S. either. A recent survey in the U.K. revealed that 85 percent of moms are ashamed to nurse in public, despite it being a natural human behaviour.
Public breastfeeding is clearly not yet a fully normalized part of society. But perhaps the thoughtful pizza waitress behind Johnson-Smith’s viral story can serve to remind us all that it’s kinder to support instead of shame nursing moms.
Rather incredibly, though, Johnson-Smith’s story is far from unique. In fact, when a waitress saw that a first-time mom from Colorado was having a difficult time while breastfeeding her baby, she, too, handed her a note. But this time, the message moved the new mother to tears.
While out to breakfast one day, Isabelle Ames did something that some might consider shocking: she started breastfeeding her baby in full view of the restaurant’s other patrons. And while the mom juggled a ten-month-old and her breakfast, that task turned into a struggle. After a waitress sensed a potentially uncomfortable situation, though, she handed Isabelle a note. And when Isabelle read it, she started to cry.
Isabelle describes herself on Instagram as simply “wife to Alexander” and “momma to Charlotte.” The new mom has also admitted on the social media site that she had struggled to breastfeed her daughter since the day that she was born. For weeks after she gave birth, in fact, she was unable to get her daughter to latch.
For many new moms, it’s a personal choice as to whether they breastfeed or not. Some want to, in order to form a strong bond with their babies; others choose not to at all. However, for those who want to but whose babies refuse – like Isabelle – it can be heartbreaking.
“Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I have done, next to labor,” Isabelle has confessed on Instagram. “No one prepares you for it, but everyone expects you to be excellent at it. You feel like a complete failure when it doesn’t happen right away.”
“For the first two weeks after Charlotte was born, I could only pump and cry because I was so brokenhearted that I couldn’t get her to latch,” Isabelle added. “Then for the next four weeks, I could only breastfeed with a nipple shield. It was better than pumping but still not the same.”
Nevertheless, Isabelle continued to try. Then, around a month and a half in, she had a breakthrough. “It was not until about six weeks after she was born that she latched for [the] first time and I was able to successfully breastfeed,” she wrote. Her persistence had paid off.
Understandably, that was an emotional moment for Isabelle. Indeed, on Instagram, she revealed that at that moment, she “cried tears of relief and ecstatic joy.” However, despite the progress, breastfeeding her newborn would continue to be problematic. And almost a year later, the process would remain a difficult one.
Meanwhile, in late February 2017, Charlotte had gotten sick. And while caring for her poorly infant, Isabelle wasn’t sleeping well. Add that to the daily stresses of being a mom, and it’s no surprise that she was exhausted and irritable at the time. Isabelle would even go on to admit, “Yesterday I got so frustrated I screamed 50 curse words into a pillow.”
However, Isabelle takes such frustrations in her #momlife stride, and she went about her business as usual. One day, that would include breakfast with her family at a local Snooze restaurant in Gilbert, Arizona. And when Charlotte got hungry, Isabelle naturally started to breastfeed her.
The situation, however, was a tricky one. There Isabelle was, trying to juggle her lively ten-month-old and her own breakfast, all while exhausted and trying to shake off an illness. It was a situation not improved by the fact that Charlotte was teething. In fact, a total of six teeth had broken through.
What’s more, breastfeeding in public can be hard enough even when a mother is having a good day. It can draw uncomfortable glances from those nearby or inspire disapproving comments; some moms have stories of being told to cover up or, worse still, to leave. Watching Isabelle’s struggle, though, was her waitress, Erica Chambers.
Perhaps Erica could sense discomfort from the other diners. Whatever she felt, though, it inspired her to write Isabelle a note. And when Isabelle read what her server had written, she began to cry. For Erica, moreover, seeing what Isabelle had been doing was a very personal issue.
Erica wrote, “Thank you for breastfeeding here! Much love and respect!!!” Reading these few words had overwhelmed Isabelle with emotion. In fact, she promptly gave Erica a hug. As Isabelle recalled to Fox 10, “She just told me we have to support each other and have each other’s backs.”
What’s more, Erica is entitled as a restaurant staff member to gift three complimentary pancakes each day to customers of her choice, whether for birthdays or anniversaries or any other celebratory situation. When she saw Isabelle breastfeeding her daughter, though, the public display touched Erica, and she gave Isabelle a pancake along with the note.
Telling Fox 10 about the note, Erica said, “I just wanted to pat another mom on the back.” The waitress knows firsthand how difficult nursing a child can be, particularly in public. With an infant of her own, she too has experienced hostility while breastfeeding in public.
“I’ve been asked to leave establishments or to cover up,” Erica explained to Fox 10. “There’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding your child in public. All kids need to eat. We all need to eat, and there’s no difference between someone sitting down here and giving their child a bottle or someone sitting down breastfeeding their child.”
However, for some there is a taboo surrounding breastfeeding. A common complaint is that the practice is deemed “indecent” and should take place out of public sight. Some people even believe that breastfeeding in public is illegal.
In 49 states, however, breastfeeding is every woman’s right, wherever she is – be it in public or in private. Due to the oversexualization of women’s bodies, though, the natural function of breasts can often be forgotten. They are designed to provide food for babies, of course.
And Erica’s note had a huge impact on Isabelle and provided some much-needed positive reinforcement. “I’ve been so worried throughout my breastfeeding experience that someone would have a negative reaction and come up to me,” Isabelle told Fox 10. “So, to have a positive reaction and have that face-to-face was really cool.”
“I felt like she was there on my journey the whole time, and she knew how many times I wanted to give up but I didn’t,” Isabelle wrote on Instagram. “So often, before I feed Charlotte in public, I get a twinge of fear. ‘Okay, this is the time. Someone is going to harass me. They are going to yell at me. Someone is going to tell me I can’t do this here.’ But not today. Today, I got love, respect and a free pancake. Thank you to my fellow momma, Erica.”