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Generations of Breastfeeding Women

Monica Southard
Findlay OH USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 3, May-June 2007, p. 133

My husband is in the military, so I have spent most of my married life away from my family. I have always been close with my family, especially my mom, so being separated has been rough. We manage with pictures in emails, plenty of phone calls, and visits whenever possible.

I think it is the love and security that my family have provided in the years before I was married that has allowed our separation to be tolerable now. I always know that however far away we are stationed, my family is still a part of me that can never really be separated.

Recently, my husband and I became the lucky parents of one spirited baby, Bella Pearl. At a time in my life when I could most relate to my mother, it was almost painful to be so far away from her. Often I wished that she were near to watch my amazing Bella grow. We make do with daily "Bella reports" on the phone and weekly pictures.

When I was planning a visit home to California for my sister, Ava's, high school graduation, my mother and I realized that the timeline we were considering would also fall close to the dates of a La Leche League of Southern California/Nevada Area Conference, and so the planning began.

My mom is an LLL Leader and has been to many Conferences, both local and international. Ava usually accompanies her, and they have great bonding experiences each time. I was eager to finally be able to share in this experience. It was not lost on us how special our situation was -- an LLL Leader, her two daughters, and her granddaughter participating in such a meaningful event.

We were happy have the weekend together at the Conference. Personally, I was thrilled to attend a function where my baby was welcomed and my mom and sister could be eager helpers if the need arose. I felt so close to my family, and was surprised to find this closeness extending to others at the Conference. The feeling of togetherness was palpable. Women shared stories and related to each other as a family, not just as members of an organization.

When we sat down for meals, we laughed and joked as though we were at the family dinner table at home. I enjoyed hearing stories of breastfeeding triumph, and I was brought to tears several times because I could relate so well with what was being shared.

I was humbled from the start of the Conference when Dr. Audrey Naylor was speaking about breastfeeding being the "modern miracle" and her research. It was an honor to meet Chele Marmet, who is quoted in many of my favorite breastfeeding books and whose writings I have read. I was also riveted listening to Nancy Williams talk about the psychological hazards of artificial infant feeding. Later, I was invited to sit at the Founders table for lunch. Listening to Marian Tompson, one of the Founders of La Leche League, speak about her current research with AIDS and human milk, how LLL started 50 years ago, and where she sees it going was also a special treat.

Another highlight of my Conference experience was when my sister read her winning scholarship essay on how La Leche League has affected her life. In a room full of LLL Leaders, members, health care providers, and mothers, Ava spoke about how proud she is of my mother for being an LLL Leader. It brought tears to my eyes when she said that I "looked like a superhero" when I breastfed my daughter during her first few hours of life. In that moment, I realized that Ava had been in awe of me, just as much as I was in awe of the Founders, doctors, and Leaders at the Conference. That felt amazing!

My mother, my sister, my daughter and I are all breastfeeding advocates in one form or another and to share that passion with others was amazing.

I left California with many wonderful Conference memories, including napping on fluffy hotel beds with my sister on one side, me on the other, and my baby in the middle. Sharing a room service breakfast meal with my mom and sister while all of us gave tidbits of eggs, ham, and toast to Bella. I will think about how funny it was that Ava became the "Conference pack mule," carrying diaper bags, slings, purses, and anything else we needed.

Another one of my favorite memories was watching my mom and sister play with Bella on the floor during a session and giving me a thumbs up for reassurance that everything was okay.

I left California with my heart fuller than I could have imagined. To squelch the sadness of being separated again, we immediately started planning for the LLLI Conference in Chicago in July 2007. My mother and sister have reassured me that if I thought the Area Conference was great, just wait until we get to the 50th Anniversary Conference. What a wonderful tradition we have begun!

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