By Clara F. Zapata Tarrés – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico
I was wandering around my Instagram when I came across a post: Meeting with Naomi Stadlen: “What Moms Learn Through Breastfeeding”. The opportunity to hear her speak piqued my curiosity – the same curiosity you have when you admire someone you have only read about and have never had the chance to meet or listen to. I immediately signed up, thinking that she would talk about what can be learned through her books. What a surprise I got!
The day of the meeting
The Zoom screens started to fill up. There were not many of us, about 15 people. A very kind Leader from La Leche League Waltham Forest, Elizabeth Owen, alongside two other Leaders, Eva Hughes and Sian Keller, welcomed us uttering some sweet and powerful words. She said that we would be the ones to build those two hours. We were in a support group led by Naomi Stadlen. And there, right at that moment, the magic began! What a privilege!
I will try to paraphrase as best I can some of Naomi’s words that have reached the deepest drawer of emotions in my heart and soul.
I will talk about what we learn from breastfeeding. And I’ll ask you: what connects you to your baby? Their smell, their skin, listening to their different moods through their little noises, through taste, perhaps by sucking a part of their skin… What could you say she/he smells like? What do you feel in that close contact? What does your skin or your heart feel?
After this unleashing of profound emotions, which start from our most intimate part – from our instinct, I would say – and connect us with our most animal and mammalian part, Naomi gave us the floor.
Motherhood: how we learn
We began to name our feelings and this allowed us to go deeper into them. What we discovered together through this dialogue is that we learn from our babies, but also from ourselves. We learn from our own bodies and our evocations. We learn from our experiences and how we place ourselves in our own story; we learn from our childhood that helps us reflect on our relationship with our own mother.
We also learn from the people who are around us because becoming parents makes us develop a new perception. We sense any gesture, grimace, sideways smile. We learn by watching others breastfeed, of course. And our daughters and sons learn in that way too.
Thus, trust is built, learned, unlearned, and rebuilt. The beginning of motherhood, but also the months or years after birth, become a period of constant awareness. It is a very vulnerable phase, a watershed.
What helps us trust, then?
When we become parents, trusting ourselves can be challenging, but we can just go one step at a time. It’s important to acknowledge to ourselves that we are learning and we don’t need to be perfect. As Naomi emphasized during the meeting, it is very good to question ourselves.
We need to slow down. Take a break by silencing the inner or outer voices that interrupt and break in. Observe, read, ask, and we’ll discover that we are different from all other mothers, that each of us is so unique and special. This does not mean that it will be easy. It is actually hard. It is not simple to stop listening to all the voices around us, because that might make us feel isolated.
Yet, if we look at our baby and really observe him, we will see how much we’ve accomplished as a parent. We’ll notice how much he has grown, the emotions on his face when we nurse him or when he gives us that first milk-filled smile, or just when he looks at us with a questioning face, with a wink, with a frown.
How wonderful our baby is!
Although our babies are very little, just a few days, weeks, or months old, we can already glimpse some characteristics and try to describe them. Sometimes they are so different from us or our family. They are so unique.
We were one, almost the same body, and little by little we realize we are two separate beings. Our baby is unexpectedly in charge of letting us know.
Step by step, that little human that lived in our belly is acquiring an individual personality and becoming another person. We can discover and perceive this separation in slow motion because we are very close, with their body glued to ours. We connect with all our senses and we need to be able to open our hearts to try to define our feelings. We will find ourselves so deeply moved.
After the meeting, a renewed awareness
Slowing down can fit perfectly in our ‘new’ life. Sometimes we feel compelled by our babies to stop. Have you ever experienced this? They remind us that it is not necessary to move constantly – working, going out, reading, looking at the cell phone, washing, cooking, etc.
Is it possible to move at our baby’s pace? Sometimes it can be so frustrating because life demands us to go faster! On the other hand, it can also be pleasant and very satisfying because you are empowering yourself to live in that exact moment and stop everything else.
Let the rational part rest and allow yourself to be carried away by that one moment. Let yourself flow.
All our senses, through the recognition of our emotions, will contribute to making us fall in love with our baby, with life, and with ourselves. Let us trust in all this, so the heart will be our guide, with all that implies.
Clara has been a La Leche League Leader since 2016 and has two daughters: Rebeca, 12 years old, and María José, 10 years old. Her partner, Joel, has always supported their breastfeeding journey with lots of love. Clara is an anthropologist. She is Mexican and has got Chilean roots. She lives with her family in northern Mexico.