A Mother and Daughter-in-Law Share Their Story
Joan Short and Catriana McKee share their experiences of being a mother and daughter-in-law who are both Leaders. Joan was a Leader in Ottawa, Canada, when her children were small, and Catriana has been a Leader in Oxfordshire, England, since 2013.
I first heard about La Leche League (LLL) from my husband Evan. As I was getting to know him, Evan told me his memories of families calling his home, and sometimes appearing at the door, looking for breastfeeding help from his mother Joan who was a Leader. Many years later, when our eldest child was born, it was the 7th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding that Joan gave me, along with the LLL International website, that helped me figure out that our son was tongue-tied. When she and her husband Roger came over from Canada to meet Milo, she showed me how to feed him lying down (such a gift!), and they have supported me as I have mothered our three children ever since.
Problem solving for myself was empowering, and overcoming those early difficulties made me very determined to continue. When we moved to a place with local LLL meetings I went to my first Toddler Meeting. The way the Leaders listened so well and held space for everyone’s worries kept me coming back month after month. At some point, I realized I was going more to support others than for my own support. It was, and still is, so rewarding to watch other parents take the sympathy, encouragement, information and practical tips from meetings and online discussion, and find their own way through the challenges they face. It was no surprise to Joan when I was invited to consider becoming a Leader myself. She encouraged me and often talked about how the work must fit around your family. It took me years to finish my application, and I was accredited in 2013. Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, I ran monthly meetings in my home for years, something I never imagined I would do.
It is wonderful to have the support of a like-minded LLL Granny, and our children have benefited hugely from it
Beyond helping individual families to reach their feeding goals, being a Leader has led me to work in support of implementing Baby Friendly Initiative standards locally, to both volunteer and find paid work with another local breastfeeding support charity, to work on the LLL Great Britain social media team, to attend many breastfeeding conferences and even to go to a meeting in the UK Parliament about infant feeding. It has also led me to some of the best friendships of my life, and, as many of those friends would want me to point out, some of the best food too.
Joan and I have lived in different countries since I became a mother, which has been especially hard for the whole family during the pandemic. We both treasure the times we have supported family and friends together, hosted meetings at my house while Joan was visiting, and attended breastfeeding conferences together, where she and Roger helped look after my small people. It is wonderful to have the support of a like-minded LLL Granny, and our children have benefited hugely from it. I am very grateful to Joan for the tremendous gift of LLL.
~Catriana McKee, Oxfordshire, Great Britain
I became a mother in January 1974 to Evan and became a grandmother in February 2007 to Milo, Evan’s son. That is a journey of almost half a century! La Leche League (LLL) set me off on a path, with Evan and two more sons, that has enriched my life and my family’s in all the ways that all Leaders know. But having a daughter-in-law like Catriana and being able to watch her grow as a mother and to become a Leader herself (even getting to go to conferences and workshops with her over the last few years, getting to have lunch with Marian Tompson, wow!, as well as watching their family grow up of course!) has been an incredible blessing and has brought me so much delight. I’m so proud!
It was almost like pioneer times in Canada 46 years ago, with handwritten meeting notes and quite a lot of skepticism about LLL, which now of course is so respected and undisputed. But Catriana still faces many of the same issues as she helps mothers, and these days has taken on with such proficiency, technology and social policies… Different but with the same ground rules: family first.
LLL is such important work, and such lifelong friends are made during the years working as Leaders in one capacity or another. Having grandchildren who might be far away but who have Cat and Evan as parents had made the distance easier to bear. I am so fortunate that we can look forward to seeing these three cherished grandchildren soon, and to know that the philosophy that has underpinned their lives started with the help I received 47 years ago, and continues with that baby’s wife today.
Hot off the press! Since writing my last words, a new granddaughter has arrived in Jasper, where mountain names are the norm. Delivered by C-section after a long difficult labour, wee Juniper was put to the breast immediately, and enjoyed skin-to-skin contact with both her parents, who were allowed to stay together with good advice from the medical staff about frequent nursing to avoid engorgement. Forty-seven years ago, I had to fight even to have my husband there at the birth. LLL is clearly still needed and relevant, as is evidenced by the poor breastfeeding rates in the UK, and the same old problems resulting from unhelpful (and worse!) advice from health professionals with poor breastfeeding knowledge and experience. I am so proud that Cat and her fellow Leaders are so committed to the ongoing task of supporting and advocating for families… And that she is my daughter-in-law!
~Joan Short, Ottawa, Canada