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Treasure from a Yard Sale

Leah A.
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 9, July-August, p. 134

Four years ago, I chanced upon a neighborhood yard sale of a family that was moving to Israel. Among the stuff they were discarding I found a treasure: three years worth of New Beginnings and several classic breastfeeding books. Those old issues have been a constant source of inspiration for me as I've made the gradual and often challenging transition from appellate litigator to at-home mother. On those days when I'm drowning in laundry and find myself wondering how years of negotiating legal settlements and rebutting opposing counsel could leave me so unprepared to handle a two-year-old's tantrum, I've learned to reach for a well-worn copy of NEW BEGINNINGS. In a few minutes my mood lifts, and I'm able to return to my job with warmth in my voice, a tender hug for my little ones, and renewed gratefulness for being able to be home with them.

Two years after I bought those magazines and books, our family also moved to Israel. I ran into that old neighbor on the bus one day. I got such a kick out of telling her that her old copies of NEW BEGINNINGS had followed her to Israel after all!

Still, I didn't think I'd be writing to NEW BEGINNINGS myself, one day. Although I owe LLL much appreciation, the story of my breastfeeding career was very ordinary, both in what went wrong as well as what went right.

When my first child was born, I wanted to breastfeed. I had no clue what I was doing, and neither did the nurses at the hospital. Because my baby was thriving on my milk, I assumed that my bleeding, cracked nipples and excruciating pain were normal. Fortunately my husband told a friend about my pain. The friend promptly told his wife, a mother of eight. She came to visit, bringing LLL pamphlets and some ideas she had learned through LLL meetings. She listened to me and helped me realize that I was not alone. Since the day I discovered that I didn't have to shed tears of pain every time I breastfed my baby, I've been one of the biggest fans of breastfeeding, mother-to-mother support, and, of course, LLL.

My baby and I went on to nurse until just before her third birthday, when she suddenly weaned herself. I'm touched that to this day, she uses the same word she once used for nursing to describe her bedtime ritual of sucking her thumb while holding a piece of my clothing. It shows me that her memories of breastfeeding are associated with love and comfort. These days, I'm nursing my two-year-old and I've often wondered how mothers who aren't nursing can possibly handle a toddler! There's nothing like nursing for a calming, soothing break to reconnect and get back in synch when the going gets a little hairy.

But never have I been so grateful for my nursing relationship with my toddler as I am now. A month ago, my children and I were riding the bus into town to buy them winter shoes. As the bus was stopped at a red light, a man suddenly began shooting at the passengers with an automatic rifle. Two teenagers were killed and 50 people wounded, many very seriously. Through a series of miracles, my children and I survived unhurt and are now recovering from the ordeal.

A child psychiatrist was among the first to greet us when we arrived at the hospital. The sights and sounds of that day had terrified all of us, particularly the children. My five-year-old is very verbal and I'm amazed sometimes at how well she's been handling the experience and learning to integrate it into her life. But my little one is just on the threshold of verbal communication and isn't able to draw well enough to use pictures to communicate with the psychiatrist.

The one thing she can do is nurse. Though she used to be an "efficiency" nurser, she now clearly nurses for more than a quick refill. We've nursed through night terrors, which have now passed. We spend the night together, with her sleeping on top of me, her cheek on mine. She nurses many times before dawn. When she falls asleep, her hand stays close to her source of comfort. I'm immensely grateful to be able to offer her a sense of safety, normalcy, and nurturing in the circle of my arms. In an unpredictable world, there's at least one thing I can do to reassure her. And when, after a night of intense holding and nursing, she wakes up with a smile and happily starts her day as any normal two-year-old, I can only give thanks for our great blessings.

Had it not been for the companionship of those back issues of NEW BEGINNINGS, and for my friend's passing along what she learned from LLL, I don't think I would still have been nursing a toddler when trauma struck us. So though they're only two small words, they come from the bottom of my heart: LLL, thank you.

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