Jacci Sharkey, 25, Sunshine Coast, Qld
I walked into my university graduation ceremony to collect my degree. It hadn’t been easy juggling studies with being a mum to Ari, then 20 months, and little Alek, two months, but all my hard work had paid off.
My partner Chris, now 30, and I got engaged when I started my course at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2010, and we married soon after. When Ari and Alek came along, the uni was so understanding. I’d bring Ari to lectures when he began to walk and the tutors were really supportive.
When graduation day came around, I felt proud of myself. Except Alek chose that moment to get grizzly.
'I think he might need a feed,' Chris said.Finding a chair close by, I arranged my gown so I could breastfeed. As I gazed at my boy, my sister-in-law Becki, 24, took a snap. I was so distracted at the time, I didn't even notice and soon we were ushered into the hall.
Fortunately, Alek was as good as gold throughout the speeches, and collecting my degree in business and human resources management was such a proud moment.
A week later, I was flicking through my graduation pics and came across the snap of me breastfeeding Alek.
‘I should send it to the university to say thank you,’ I joked. And, thinking it would be funny, I did!
The uni loved it. They asked to share it on their Facebook page and we agreed.
‘Perhaps it will get 100 likes,’ Chris laughed.
Incredibly, the pic was much more popular than that. Within hours of USC sharing it, the photo had received over 100,000 likes! I couldn’t believe my breastfeeding pic had gone viral. It was surreal but for me it wasn’t a big deal.
As any breastfeeding mum will understand, I go through the process every two-and-a-half hours!
But 40 hours later, the photo had over 200,000 likes and over the next month it was shared more than 10,000 times.
Lots of women sent lovely messages – some said it was proof that it’s possible to juggle motherhood and studying. Other people said I had inspired them to apply to university.
But I felt attacked when I received abusive messages too. Spiteful trolls called me an attention seeker and said I needed to ‘cover up’.
Spiteful trolls called me an attention seeker...
One said that they were sick of breastfeeding mums taking pictures and ramming them down people’s throats.
It was so insulting. I had never gone out looking for attention.
My breastfeeding photo may have gone viral by mistake, but I’ve decided to focus on the positives. At the end of the day, my lovely picture shows the bond between mother and son. And what could be more important than that?
Originally published in that's life! Issue 3, 2014.