Today is August 1st, which marks the first day of World Breastfeeding Week. For the first time in 5 years, I did not plan a big celebration or orchestrate a walk. I didn’t attend a single breastfeeding event, and I haven’t been to a La Leche League meeting in months.
Last summer, as my business began to ramp up, I realized that I had a decision to make. My lactation counselor certification was set to expired in December and during the hell year that was 2013 living in northeastern Wyoming, I had fallen horribly behind on my continuing education credits. With Chris pretty much living at his restaurant and me parenting Nora and Zara 98% of the time alone, there was no way I could have traveled to classes or workshops and there was very little time for me to do much of anything from home. Moving to Colorado brought me closer to the resources I would need to keep up my certification, but after some soul searching and conversations with Chris, I realized that it was not worth the time or expense.
When I initially became certified as a lactation counselor, I had two goals in mind: first, I wanted to pay forward help I received while struggling to nurse Nora; second, I had hopes that becoming a CLC was a step in the direction of opening a birth, family, and baby store on Nantucket.
Even after we left Nantucket, my goal to open the store remained. Gillette was small, but it had a young population and a clear need for products and services geared toward families. Papoose could have done well there. As Chris’ work environment began to deteriorate, we continued to discuss the business plan, and it remained on the table for a bit after we relocated to Fort Collins – until I did some research and realized that the birth/baby market was already pretty saturated here. By the this time last year, I knew that Papoose was off the table. The barrier to entry into brick & mortar retail was too high and I didn’t (and don’t) believe the market here could support another business of that type. With Papoose set aside, it became harder and harder to justify staying a CLC, especially because there is little to no chance of making income off lactation consultations as a stand alone service.
By this time last year, I had accepted that remaining a certified lactation counselor was not in my future, but was still active leading La Leche League.
For awhile, it seemed that just being a volunteer leader was enough. I could lead meetings and offer free phone support for mothers. But by late November, I realized I had another decision to make. Between sick kids and busy website development schedules, I was missing month after month of group meetings. Then, I began to feel jaded about the helping phone calls.
Our names were sorted alphabetically on the local LLL website and as an “A” I was the first person most mothers called. I love helping moms and babies, and genuinely wanted to make a difference in their lives, but with how little free time I had, I began to resent time spent talking to mothers who just didn’t seem like they were trying hard enough. I feel bad admitting that, but it was the truth. I was running a business full-time with only two “work days” per week (just 10 hours away from my toddler) and a variety of side projects, and I felt myself judging each phone call as they came in, wondering if the mother was really worth the time that she was taking away from the rest of my life. After multiple hour-long phone calls where mothers provided excuse after excuse for why they couldn’t try the simplest things, I was over it – and that’s when I knew it was time to retire from La Leche League.
In the years that I was honored to be let into mothers’ lives, I saw some amazing women struggle through incredibly challenging issues and manage to breastfeed successfully in the end. When faced with mothers who claimed to be having trouble but refused to try basic things like skin to skin or not using a pacifier for just 12 hours, I arrived at a place where I never thought I would be: thinking I had no advice to give aside from, “If you want to breastfeed, you’ll do it. If you don’t want to that’s fine, just let it go and move on (and stop calling me).” The moment I realized that’s where I was, was the moment I realized that I needed to retire from La Leche League. The last thing a mother needs when she’s calling for help is to feel judged in how legitimate her effort is. Calling is hard enough.
In January, I officially hung up my hat as a La Leche League leader and so, for the first time, I find myself a little adrift during World Breastfeeding Week. Zara’s nursing days are coming to a close and I have no official reason to celebrate or educate this week. I still have an interest in breastfeeding research and still strongly believe it is best for mother and baby, but my daily connection to that world has lessened as I focus my attention on my business and nonprofit, and as my baby leaves babyhood behind.
I have one or two other breastfeeding-related posts planned for this week, but after that it only seems right to retire the breastfeeding posts here as well. I’m still working out the direction my blog will go now that my life is shifting focus so much. The changing seasons of our lives can be so bittersweet, and as exciting as new things are, there’s always a nostalgia for the past or the way things might have been. Someday I may return to LLL or, perhaps, it will just be “a thing that I did once” – but either way, I’m thankful for the time that I did have as a leader and for the families I was able to help.