I think of myself as pretty independent and strong-minded. I tend to do what I want regardless of others’ views. Growing up in a different religion with a strange last name and a foreign look definitely help. All the same, lately I’ve seen the value of being around those who can support you in what you do.
Example #1: After my 3rd La Leche League meeting, it finally clicked for me that they are a community that fits for me. The support of breastfeeding, while bittersweet, resonates with my understanding of the facts of human biology and bonding, and with my beliefs about connecting with and supporting your children. And so many other shared priorities make it a place to feel at home. Even though I know I will continue breastfeeding Alya as long as I can, even in my partial state, I feel regularly affirmed and reinvigorated by being with others who think similarly.
Example #2: At a recent story time at the library I ran into a woman I’ve met before who is doing elimination communication with her girl. They’re doing a lot better job than we are and are further along in the process. We had a brief conversation about it when she “caught” me peeing Alya in the bathroom. Maybe 1 minute max. And the next day, Alya & I had our longest-ever dry stretch: caught all pees and poops from 8 – 2:30! Then another long stretch after that, and much better timing in general. I’m hearing her more, connecting better, reading her signals. All because of the reinforcement of an incredibly brief conversation.
Potential Example #3: I heard today at lunch about a woman who’s having trouble breastfeeding her 1-month old. And my heart goes out to her. And I want to support her. But she’s a friend of a friend of a friend – not exactly in my circle, and I don’t want to be presumptuous and impose myself on someone. But I want to offer in some way to be of support if I can. I am going to think about it and see if I can find a way. Of course, what that support looks like, I have no idea! Nonetheless.
And then there are the times I’m not supportive. Such as a recent conversation with a new mom who has switched to formula after a month. She’s found breastfeeding far too painful – for the second time – and just can’t do it. And I had to ask if she’s talked with anyone in La Leche League and got the support to see if she can resolve the problem. So she explained why, and the unhelpful help she had sought, because I had put her on the defensive. And I’ve been there, and it’s not great. But how could I have asked or offered support not just for “whatever you do is good!” but to help someone who potentially doesn’t know that there is help out there?
I have no idea how to do this. But simply nodding and agreeing and “that’s too bad, you did the best you could” in situations where more could be done: not what I want to do anymore.
But also: judging others’ actions – whether or not I know the details – also not something I want to do.