Single, Working, and Breastfeeding
Darcey Lynn Muhammad
Ossining New York USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 6, November-December 2003, pp. 210
Being a single mother was not something that I had ever planned on. When my son was 18 months old, I found myself in the middle of a less than amicable divorce, moving 1,000 miles back to my home state in the Northeast, locating child care for my son, and returning to work. It was probably one of the scariest times in my life.
Before this, I had been an at-home mother to my very happy, healthy, vibrant son, Morgan. Despite a rough start with breastfeeding, help from La Leche League Leaders in Atlanta, Georgia, USA got things back on track for us early on. Our breastfeeding relationship flourished. I loved the support from the Leaders so much that I quickly became a member of LLL. When Morgan was 10 months old, I began the Leader Accreditation process. I became a Leader in April 2002, just two months before my move.
Morgan was a happy baby and is an energetic toddler. We have a close relationship, and I attribute this to breastfeeding. Through La Leche League, I learned to watch my baby and follow his cues regarding nursing. I learned to meet his needs as his mother. As Morgan rounded out his first year of life, I felt so proud that I had nourished him as nature intended and that he was a healthy, secure, and happy individual.
When I began to see changes taking place in my life that were leading to the dissolution of my marriage, a major move, and my return to the workforce, I did initially worry. Separating from my spouse wasn't easy and the change in life responsibilities was tremendous. I had been living in a situation where I stayed at home caring for my family and switched to working in Manhattan with a daily two-hour commute each way. Luckily, Morgan was able to be in a toddler program at a school where his father was working so they could see each other on a regular basis.
Managing breastfeeding while balancing the needs of my son, myself, and my career was a daunting task. In addition, the impending divorce was equally stressful. Morgan was already eating solids when I returned to work, and our breastfeeding relationship was still going strong. Both of his classroom teachers were so nice and supported my decision to nurse Morgan each morning when I arrived to drop him off and each afternoon when I arrived to pick him up. This was a wonderful send-off for him (and me) every morning and provided a nice time for us to reconnect after my long day away from him.
When I arrived in New York, I joined a well-established LLL Group in Westchester County as the sixth Leader. The changes in my life proved to be quite time-consuming. The Leaders in the Group truly lived out the meaning of "family first" when they encouraged me to focus on myself and Morgan and getting us on a solid foundation first. One Leader even went out of her way to check in on me regularly even though I was new in town and she really did not know me. The love and acceptance that I felt from these women was tremendous!
Through all of the rough times, it was the support of my family and the bond that I have with my son that truly helped at the roughest moments. I sometimes wonder what things might have been like if we had not been breastfeeding and we had not been able to share that familiar closeness. The very thought of not having this loving, well-established relationship with my son is heartbreaking!
Three months after moving to New York, I was "downsized" from my job in Manhattan. Through all of the hectic, stressful days, the one consistency in my life seemed to center around Morgan, our relationship, and the La Leche League philosophy of "mothering through breastfeeding." Our breastfeeding relationship allowed me to relax with my son in a peaceful, bonding way on a regular basis. While my body was giving to him, I was receiving the much needed love just from his glances, smiles, and hugs.
Nine months later, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Each night Morgan and I sit in our rocking chair and nurse until he drifts off to sleep. I look at him and see a wonderfully sweet, innocent child who, at two-and-a-half, still needs and desires the closeness of his mother as his protector. From my vantage point, I am a mother who now has 100 percent responsibility for maintaining my family. The breastfeeding relationship I have established with Morgan gives me the daily reminder of how important I am to him as his mother and he to me as my son.
I know that difficulties in life can be overcome and that working, single parenting, and breastfeeding can all work hand-in-hand. In an ideal world, every mother could breastfeed her baby with no challenges and be with her baby as often as she desired. I realize now that we do not live in an ideal world. But, each night as I watch Morgan cuddle up to my breast to nurse off to sleep, I cannot imagine anything more ideal than this.