#MyStoryMatters

“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”

The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.

Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.

And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.

Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.

All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.

Enough.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your highs, your lows.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The moments of pride, the moments of shame.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your hurt and your joy.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

And #YourStoryMatters.

#MyStoryMatters too.

Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?

Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?

Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?

Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.

But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.

#IAmEnough

 

TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.

And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.

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The Leaky Boob, responsibility, India, sex trafficking, hand sewing, and transforming communities

In the rural south east agricultural area of A.Konduru, Andhra Pradesh, India, a group of women came together and decided to change their community.  They started simply doing something they already knew they could do well, enlisted the help of a woman with experience starting and running a business, and launched an endeavor called a.ku designs.  Their goal?  Start a school for their children.  One that was in their community, that wouldn’t require sending their children away and would include English language instruction, the business language of India.  A school that could help stop the cycle of poverty their community has been steeped in for generations.  A school that could offer their sons options instead of being bonded to the brick factories.  A school that could step in the gap as a way of preventing the sex trafficking of their daughters into brothels in the cities of India.  This school was their dream.  Their hope.

With the average income at $2.00 a day, job creation would break the cycle of poverty and provide hope for the future.  For these low caste families, many live in a round mud hut with a thatched roof and a dirt floor. The caste system has been banned but people still practice it. This prejudice holds people back from reaching their social and economic potential.

The women created a 5 year business plan for a.ku designs and got to work sewing and selling.  Their product made it to the other side of the world and with it their desired goal to the ears and hearts of a few people.  And instead of 5 years it took just one.  The A. Konduru village school opened on June 10, 2013 for grades 1-3 with 50 students, 30 of which were on full sponsorships.

Ride for Refuge International Teams

When a group of determined mothers come together amazing things happen.

Every once in a while I have to awkwardly look at The Leaky Boob and ask “is this really what I want it to be?  Am I being responsible with what I’ve been entrusted with?  Can I do better?”

More often than not I’m unsettled by the answers to these questions.

It is an incredible honor and a privilege to be a part of any aspect of your life and your journey, even if for just a moment, one article, or one Facebook post.  There are times where this is overwhelming and I want to run away and shut it all down.  Not only is it time consuming, it can be completely intimidating and at times, exhausting.  I have been attacked, mocked, questioned, and have discovered a political side to all this I had never anticipated.  I’ve even been accused of distributing child porn (AKA breastfeeding images) and called a pedophile (for breastfeeding my daughter past 12 months).  Sometimes I really want to quit.  But The Leaky Boob is also deeply satisfying and when I step back from my own insecurities and headache I see something I believe in and love.  I even think it’s important.  There’s no way I could walk away.  No way.

But can I do better?  Oh yeah, much better and I am grateful to have wise counsel and good friends that have become a team advising me how to do so.  Am I being responsible with it?  To an extent, yes but not enough.

I believe The Leaky Boob can make a difference, in fact, I believe that in the 3 years since starting TLB, it has made a difference.  Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have imagined the impact the little blog I started would have in encouraging and supporting families starting out or in being a voice to normalize breastfeeding.  Now, even I can’t deny that is the case.  I have no idea why and I’m an unlikely candidate to be in this position yet here I am.  With you.

This isn’t about changes coming to TLB, though there are some on the horizon.  This is about something else close to my heart because while I love supporting breastfeeding moms and the people that support them, I’m also very passionate about making a difference in the world as a voice for the voiceless and I want to use the voice I have here to invite you to join me.  Outside of The Leaky Boob I work with an organization leading a global movement to bring artists together to speak up for the oppressed.  As part of that movement I share these stories and opportunities with you because I know first hand just how much influence a determined group of mothers can have.  As a mother I unite myself with these mothers because I know their heart and just as I’m deeply connected with the community of TLB because of breastfeeding, I’m connected to these women as their desires and determination resonate in my mother’s heart.

a.ku designs women at sewing machines

The mothers of A. Konduru inspire and humble me.  When two of my children were sexually assaulted I wanted to run away and hide with my children forever, getting through each day was overwhelming.  These women come together, risk it all, and make their world a better place in the face of oppression that would crush me.  They are my heroes.  They are not cowering, they are changing their world.

What does it look like?

Today with the help of supporting organizations, A. Konduru has a plan to transform their community even beyond the school.  This transformation will come from the community itself by intentionally working with government leaders, social workers and pastors in the community. Developing local business opportunities and education opportunities; bringing jobs to the community, lifting many from the oppression and poverty they live under daily. These efforts are enabling families to obtain proper food, receive needed health services and to live farther from the marginalized edge of hunger, sickness, slavery, and prostitution. a.ku designs will put back into the community using their profits for education in Grace School, taking a lead role and model community transformation.  Change will also come through community education in vocational, business and wellness training.

I have no doubt they will continue to succeed.

I want to be a part of it.

Do you?

__________________________

In January, 2014, The Piano Man, Earth Baby, Sugarbaby, and I are going to see first hand with a group of artists the transformation happening in A. Konduru.  With a group of artists we are going to celebrate the school, encourage the faculty, connect with the community, and gather stories to share.

To support these efforts and help raise awareness and funds to support these inspiring mothers on the other side of the world, I’m joining them as I can right now by getting on a bike and riding to raise funds and awareness, as I shared before.  Come join me outside of Chicago on October 5, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. with your bike (or stroller and walking shoes) at International Teams, 411 W River Road, Elgin, IL 60123 and ride with me then hang out for lunch after.  If you can’t join me you can ride where you are that same day and time, share this post with others, and/or contribute and help me reach my goal of raising $18,000 as part of the Initiative 31.8 Ride for Refuge team.  Go HERE to sponsor me in the ride.  All funds raised go to support the work of International Teams bringing people together to help the oppressed.

__________________________

 a.ku designs model

a.ku designs brown bag

a.ku designs two bags

a.ku designs green and black floral bag

To help me reach my goal of raising $18,000 with the Initiative 31.8 Ride for Refuge team (and hopefully surpass it), The Leaky Boob is giving away 3 a.ku designs bags.  (Please note, items are handmade, each unique and imperfect.  The bags pictured in this post are just a representation of the work, the bag each winner receive will be unique.)  Use the widget below to be entered and hurry, this giveaway ends the night of Monday, October 8th.  Sorry, at this time, entries only available to those within the USA and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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