Sitting in the dirt- the simplicity of (breastfeeding) support

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

I first noticed her as I knelt to read what one of the little students in my workshop had scratched into the dirt.  Exploring language together, we were using the immediate tools available to us and writing our favorite words in the earth around us, this particular boy had written love.  English isn’t his first language, he’s spoken Telegu for most of his life, only being introduced to English a few months before.  But he knew this word and he knew it well.

“Love?” I asked him.

“Yes miss” with the head bobble I was still getting accustomed to instead of nodding indicating he heard me.

I looked around for Shamma, the interpreter helping me but he was busy with another student.

“What is love?” I wasn’t sure he would understand me.  While many of the students were already quite competent with English, there were many that only understood and spoke a few words, love often being one of them.  A good number of the 83 students attending this rural school in South Eastern India had only been there a couple months.

He smiled shyly and looked away, whether to think about an answer or because he didn’t understand what I asked I couldn’t be sure.  After giving him some time I asked him if he understood me, again the head bobble.  I smiled and shifted to sit next to him on the ground and repeated my question.  Another shy smile as he looked away and thoughtfully said “love…” questioningly.  He didn’t have the words to say.  His voice trailed off and then, suddenly, his face lit up with a bright and confident smile.

“Love!”  His eyes were no longer searching and I followed his gaze.

Two women seated on the dirt quietly observing our little group.  Their colorful saris created a beautiful contrast against the dusty ground and trees around us and the women seemed perfectly comfortable.  From the lap of one, tiny legs kicked and a little arm waved absently.  I smiled.  Yes, love; a mother and her baby.  He knew exactly what the word meant.  The mother looked down at the infant in her lap and I noticed the baby was feeding.

Yes, this was love.  Not the only expression of love available to mothers but one the little boy next to me understood.  A mother feeding her child, a parent meeting their child’s needs.  Love.

I couldn’t wait for break time when the kids would scamper off to play.  This woman, sitting there in the dirt feeding her baby, drew me and she didn’t know it.  Her baby was younger than my nursling but she was the first woman I had seen breastfeeding since before we had arrived in India and I was ready to sit with her and just be.  When my students were occupied writing their words this time in bright colors in our sketch book, I braved the few steps away to say hi but as soon as she saw me approaching, she took her child off her breast and sat her up.  The baby cried, understandably upset that her meal had been interrupted.  The mother comforted her and I apologized, excusing myself.  Never wanting to get in the way of a child and their food, I headed back to my small workshop.

The women were stunning, completely comfortable sitting there in the dirt under the shade of a tree just feet away from the extra large pot over an open flame cooking the rice for lunch for the entire school.  Nobody was phased by their presence or the baby being fed.  When the break came, Sugarbaby had already joined me hanging out with my group of students and as soon as the students were released to escape their swarm of attention, she wanted to nurse.  Scooping her up, I headed back over to where the mom was still seated breastfeeding now chatting with her companion.  Once again, she went to remove her daughter from her breast as I approached but I indicated that I didn’t want to disrupt her baby’s meal, I just wanted to sit with her while I breastfed my nursling too.  She smiled and bobbled her head with a somewhat nervous expression.  Sugarbaby and I got comfortable on the ground and she hungrily latched quickly and sighed with contentment.  When I looked up from my contented toddler, the other mother was staring at me with a small smile and her friend seemed to approve.

Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

Photo by Abby Camarata of bump2baby Birth Photography, used with permission.

At first we just sat there quietly feeding our children.  Then we sat smiling and taking in the children playing around us.  After a moment she reached over and lightly brushed Sugarbaby’s arm and patted her head.  Following her cues, I reached out and gently stroked her daughter’s silky ebony hair.  I wanted to ask questions but had been teaching and was grateful for the break from talking.  Plus I strongly suspected neither of the women spoke any English and I certainly didn’t speak Telegu.  Finally breaking our silence, I ventured to ask if they spoke English and though they were friendly, it was clear they didn’t understand me.  So we sat for a bit smiling and occasionally affectionally touching each other’s baby.

Our moment together was brief and I did eventually ask an interpreter to join us so we could communicate but just being there in the dirt together was powerful.  In spite of a lack of words, we understood some things about each other.  Our tongues couldn’t form words the other would understand yet we spoke the language of motherhood.  The challenges we each faced may be different and in many ways we couldn’t imagine each others’ struggles but still, we care for our children, feed them, sacrificed for them, and seek education and opportunity for them.  Outside of my usual cultural context, even as experienced as I am in breastfeeding, I found comfort in their presence.  A simple support of understanding in the dirt.

Without even saying a word, these women reminded me that support, breastfeeding or otherwise, isn’t always about sharing all the same experiences, speaking the same language, or even being able to help each other with information and answers.  Sometimes, it’s just about sitting together in the dirt, as we live our own realities of the mundane but important.  Sometimes, it’s that we’re not alone.

If you are interested in ways you can sit in the dirt with other parents in India through a financial donation, consider sponsoring a child with a school scholarship at $40/month.  More information on child sponsorship can be found here.

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Community and sex

Beyond Moi Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber

Community and sex.

Those 2 really don’t sound like they go together.  They don’t.  Not really.  But I’m talking about them on May 19th at MommyCon Austin anyway, just not at the same time.

Well, I’m not planning to talk about them at the same time.  We’ll see what happens.  You never really know.  Because when you’re talking about finding your parenting community talking about what made you a parent in the first place may just come up.

I had a great time at MommyCon Las Vegas even though I got asked to cover at the lunch by someone unaffiliated with MommyCon in a kind of bizarre turn of events.  That incident aside, the whole experience was a lot of fun.  Getting to meet the companies sponsoring, connecting with the moms and other presenters, making new friends, and talking about parenting… and sex.  In that space of 24 hours, I saw moms (and dads) connect, broadening and deepening their community while educating themselves and finding encouragement along the parenting journey.

Personally, I’ve never really been a fan of “mom” events.  They tend to scare me.  Like an extension of high school I always seem to be wearing the wrong brands, sporting the wrong hair style, and blundering into the wrong topics in conversation.  Between laughing at the wrong things at times and not getting why everyone else was laughing at other times, I have typically felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb at mom events.  Instead of leaving encouraged and with friends, I tended to leave feeling more alone than when I came.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to speak at MommyCon.  Like being the awkward kid stuck standing up naked in front of everyone in a crazy nightmare, I figured speaking at a mom centered event could only be worse than attending one.  Even better, I was talking about being an imperfect parent and sex, because what could be more awkward than that?  But if The Leaky Boob has taught me anything, it’s that we all need community and having someone be openly honest about the struggles they’re having can be all it takes to unleash a torrent of support from those that have been in that same place.  Every time I see a Leaky open up and share vulnerably I am amazed at how powerful it is not only for them but for those that were quietly struggling and feeling alone.  So I went, opened up, and found my own connections with others, some that have had similar journeys and some that have had wildly different ones.

And it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected.  In fact, I’ve signed up to go again this time sponsored by Kanga Care and talking about finding our parenting community and why we need it.

But this time I get to go with my family and The Piano Man is joining me from our joint blog Beyond Moi, to have the sex talk.  I’m really looking forward to our session sharing in a relaxed setting what 16 years of marriage, several years as marriage mentors, and books and counselors have taught us when it comes to sex.  Honest and forthcoming, we’re not ones to sugar coat or pretend nor pander to stereotypes.  We will, however, be sharing some Milk Maker Cookies at our session on sex.  And going beyond the grown up sex talk for couples, we’ll share how we approach the topic with our own children and encourage dialogue about how our own attitudes, experiences, and perspectives of sex as parents can influence our children.  We can move beyond ourselves and our fear of having “the talk” with our children and into developing a healthy perspective on sex for ourselves and our children.

Community and sex.  There’s no avoiding these issues in real life and as moms and dads, recognizing the value of both and coming to terms with their place in our lives helps us guide our children.  We need each other and we need to be bold enough to talk about these realities.

If you’re going to be at MommyCon Austin, Jeremy and I will be around and we’ll have some goodies with us to share thanks to the great companies we felt comfortable partnering with to sponsor our sessions at MommyCon Austin.  Find me (Jessica) and let me know just how RUMPTASTIC MommyCon is and the first 20 I talk to that say so will receive a free Rumparooz cloth diaper from Kanga Care and a fun something for anyone after that.  Talk to Jeremy and tell him how much you enjoy cookies and milk because he’s giving out Milk Makers Cookies and not just to breastfeeding moms.

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Joining us at MommyCon in Austin on the 19th?  We’d love to meet you.  There’s a code just for TLB readers to get $10 off their registration, just use Leakyboob when you buy your tickets.  Need a better deal than that?  Enter to win a pair of tickets as a couple!  Along with a pair of tickets to MommyCon Austin, this prize bundle includes a Beco Soleil with drool pads in the winner’s choice of Micah or Stella, a Kanga Care Rumparooz in the new print Dexter and one in crimson, and a $50 gift certificate to Milk Makers Cookies!  Use the widget below to be entered.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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