Many years ago, I was a young mother-to-be living in Seattle, Washington. I knew no one except for my then husband, mother-in-law and my obstetrician. I would faithfully go to the library once a week, on my daily walks and it was there that I found a book that I found to have a very funny title, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” Really? I thought to myself. Womanly, yes, as I couldn't think of a single man who had conquered that feat, but, an art? It is the handbook to La Leche League, International, and soon after became the handbook to my mothering philosophies.
I started reading about this so-called art, and felt drawn to it. I read about a group of women who were at a picnic together talking about their children and how they wanted to nurse them, but had faced some challenges. They wondered if they could help each other and also help other women in the process. The first La Leche League (LLL) meeting was held in Franklin Park, Illinois in 1956 with what resulted in the seven founding members.: Marian Thompson, Mary White, Edwina Froehlich, Mary Ann Kerwin, Betty Wagner, Viola Lennon and Mary Ann Cahill.
They got their name from a shrine in St. Augustine, Florida, dedicated to the mother of Christ, titled “Nuestro Senora de la Leche y Buen Parto,” which translates freely, “Out Lady of Happy Delivery and Plentiful Milk.” Wow! This was the group for me! I liked their sense of humor, and appreciation for the beauty in the simple things in life. I decided I must connect with a local chapter.
I found a local group via the very library I found their handbook. There were flyers on the bulletin board and I saw them as a sign, that I was meant to find them. I can still remember my first Lal Leche League
group - amazingly gentle women and children. Quiet, even with all of the babies and children running around.
I do not remember any shouting, no scolding of the children to get them to behave and the most wonderful thing of all – the room was filled with a warm love. Even though, I found out later that nursing mothers are naturally blissed out on oxytocin (the hormone released wh
en breastfeeding, also called the “cuddle chemical”), I personally was swept away by this mellow group of women.
The La Leche League group that I attended was practical, kind, supportive, intelligent and quietly wove their way into my heart with every month's meeting. I wanted my motherhood experience to be like theirs. I wanted the warmth and the support from other mothers, to make this new adventure work for me and my growing family. So I got more and more involved. We held playgroups, exchanged names of doctors, midwives, birthing coaches and classes on parenting held various doctors who had authored books to come and speak to us.
I had my first son at the hospital in a birthing room (the first of it's kind in Seattle at time). After a natural birth, we came home to home-made dinners delivered to our home by troops of LLL members. They made themselves available to me any time of the day or night. I had a minor infection when my infant son decided to sleep through the night at 3 months old, and they told me to put warm wash cloths on my breasts and don't worry if they leak a little right now, as it would provide relief. I got through it within hours and it turned out to be a very minor bump in the journey. Many times, a bump like that might have meant someone would stop nursing their infant, but with their help, that was not necessary.
Through my continued connections with La Leche League, I founded my first home-based business. One of the members had a chocolate business that she ran out of her kitchen. Several members would show up with our children and their lunch boxes in tow and and we would work. She showed me how to do it. How to balance having children and running a business – at home. She mentored me and helped me get a business license and we worked together like that for four years.
My second son was born, and this time I was completely immersed in LLL. I attended classes by Dr. Bradley (founder of the Bradley method), and my son was birthed at home by a Danish midwife, named Kirsten. While I was in heavy labor, my older son was playing with friends in the living room while being babysat by my LLL sisters. They made pizza, played and had a birthday cake with a 0 (zero) candle for the older kids to enjoy as this was my newborn son's zero birthday. They brought presents for my oldest son to open, to celebrate him being a big brother. It was a wonderful time. A time for which I will be eternally grateful.
My newborn son was a little bit jaundiced when he was born, and my pediatrician (who made house calls), came over to do his newborn check-up. His recommendation? He called in my husband and told him to wrap up his new son and take him for a few walks today – in the sun. Natural sunlight was the recommendation, isn't simple thinking grand? It turned out to be healing to my son and a way for him to bond with his father. A father for whom he works for today.
My life's journey brought me back to Tucson, Arizona (where I have lived three times in my life), and the first group I sought out was La Leche League. I had one more child under their guidance – my daughter and she, too, was a healthy child – inside and out, which I mostly attributed to breastfeeding.
La Leche League was my constant, my sounding board, my guide to being the best, kindest, gentlest mother I could be. LLL is also the best example I can site for teaching me sisterly support. Without judgment, without competition, they supported me in my journey. Through divorce, through working at home, through raising three children, their encouraging arm was draped on my shoulder. It is this model of support that I believe we, at Women on the Verge encapsulate. We are here every single day, in support of each other in our life's trials and triumphs and, for this, I have La Leche League to thank as my teacher, my guides, my heroines.
Happy International Womens Day!
Founder of WomenontheVerge.net
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