Dear Alma, You Belong With Love

If you are not familiar with the story of Habiba and Alma, please read this article to understand the situation of this mother/daughter pair in Spain.

Dear Alma,

The words you usually hear around you are in a language I don’t speak.  The words you are beginning formulate to express yourself are words I would not understand.  You will probably never see this, never read it or have it read to you.  Still, I have something to say to you.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

Around the world there are millions of women tasting the salt of your mother’s tears on their own cheeks.  There are mommies and daddies that walk very different paths whose arms feel the lonely ache your absence brings to your mother’s arms.  Little girls and boys who hug their mommies tight when they hear your story.  Voices that speak “I love you baby” in thousands of different languages sing lullabies of comfort in your name.  So many pairs of breast tighten as your mama’s breasts tighten at a feeding you are missing.  Families tossing and turning on mats, beds, cots, pallets and hammocks with the loss of warmth your mother experiences with you not snuggled safely next to her.  Where you belong.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

Around the world names are being signed, letters sent, articles written, people gathering, signs made and held all because we feel your mommy’s hurt.  We feel the forced abandonment you and your mother are having to endure.  We’re angry.  But not at you.  At those who don’t understand and are so concerned with appearing to be right they won’t admit they were wrong and so inflict more harm upon you and your mother.  For their pride.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

How do I know this?  Because even though we pray differently, even though my skin is a different color, even though there is a different language on my tongue, even though my clothes are a different style, when it comes to loving you, I know your mothers heart.  It’s like my own.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

I have a little girl, just 2 months older than you.  She walks and she speaks a few words but she’s still so much a baby.  She finds comfort and nourishment at my breast, sometimes she eats big girl food and other times just throws it on the ground preferring the soft warmth of me.  Her favorite place to sleep is curled up to my side where she can smell me, feel me, sense my breath and hear my heartbeat.  I call her Smunchie.  These days she likes to explore but often comes back to me with unsteady steps and arms raised to be close again.  Together we do what comes naturally.  Some people call it a style of parenting but for us it’s just called love.  It’s how we are together.  Not everyone understands it but that’s ok, they don’t have to, she and I understand it.  Like you and your mama understand it.  It’s what comes naturally to us, part of being mama and bebe.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

But nobody has torn Smunchie and me apart.  Nobody has taken her from me, she has not experienced me suddenly gone from her life.  Her favorite food, comfort and person in the world remain with her.  She lives in love.  She knows security.  If someone took her from me I wouldn’t be able to sleep, to eat, I’m not sure I could breathe.  Oh sweet Alma, how I ache for your mother but how I weep for you.  I have seen my children suffer and been helpless to stop it and it is a pain more agonizing than any I have endured.  Your mother has a goal, something to do to keep her focused and pushing through the suffering not having you brings.  But you, dear one, all you know is she is gone.  All you know is in this moment everything that has been your truth is no longer there.  Your cruel reality is no hope, you don’t even know what hope is.  She is not there.  Period.  Her breath, her arms, her heartbeat, her voice, her breast, her milk, her smell all gone.  Love, gone.  From what I understand you have brief moments together but under the watchful eye of someone that doesn’t understand your love and your communication.  Someone that prevents what comes so naturally to you and your mother.  These bittersweet moments must confuse you and hurt so much yet give you a glimpse of the love you know.  Why did she leave?  Why doesn’t she stay?  Is she going to leave again?  Fear has replaced love.  You may not know hope but you now know fear.

How I pray that one day soon again you will know love freely again.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

The people that did this are wrong.  They are people that are supposed to help, people that you are supposed to trust.  But this time they are wrong.  Very wrong.  And their pride is keeping them from fixing their wrong.  They don’t understand when they are faced with something different from what they’ve come to accept as normal.  Or someone different from them.  The world is like this sometimes.  I wish you did not need to experience this harsh reality so soon in your life.  And now that you have you should be able to find security in your anchor, your mother.  Your truth.  But they have taken that away because they don’t understand.  They are wrong.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

We’re fighting for you too.  To fight for you we are telling your story.  We’re signing our names.  We’re standing outside Spanish Embassies and sending letters demanding you and your mother be reunited.  That they rectify the wrong they’ve made.  We’re sharing articles, making phone calls, sending faxes, making t-shirts, identifying with your mama and doing what we can where we are. To honor you and your mother we’re hugging our babies closer.  Offering our breasts with gratitude.  Laying down at night saying a prayer.  It doesn’t feel like enough.  Nothing will until you are where you belong.  You belong with your mother, home.  You belong with Love.

She didn’t leave you Alma.  She’s hurting too.  She’s fighting for you.

We all are.

Sending all my love,

Jessica, The Leaky Boob.  A mommy.

___________________________

If you have any articles/blog posts/news coverage/documents to add to this list, please post them in the comments below.  I know I’m missing a lot right now so please help me collect them.  Thanks!

Petitions:

Spanish

English

News Articles:

La fiscalía impugnará la retirada de la tutela a Habiba (Span.)

Elpais Habiba (Span.)

When Breastfeeding Brings You Separation from Your Child (Eng.)

Allaitement: une fillette retirée à sa mère (Fr.)

Mother and child separated due to extended breastfeeding; protesters to gather (Eng.)

Documents:

Letter from Carlos González Rodríguez, pediatric doctor (Span.)

Report On Maternal Behavior of Habiba With Her Daughter Alma (Eng)

Blogs:

We Are All Habiba Blog (Eng.)

We Are All Habiba- Standing up for a mother’s right to her baby. (Eng.)

Is Habiba A Hoax? (Eng.)

Habiba Hits The News: Doctors Speak Out (Eng.)

Habiba and the Indictment of Attachment Parenting (Eng.)

Lessons from Habiba (Eng.)

I am Habiba (Eng.)

Spanish government authorities removed 15 month old nursling from mother’s care due to her refusal to wean her child by force. (Eng.)

IMMF Give Back Habiba’s Baby! (Eng.)

You’d Take My Child From Me? (Eng.)

Other:

Ibone, the psychiatrist of the case (Span.)

Worldwide Mothers Support Habiba!  IMMF Give her baby back! Facebook Page (Eng.)

Que el IMMF permita que Habiba amamante a su niña YA (Span.)

Belated Blogiversary Post

March 25, 2011 marked 1 year of The Leaky Boob.  One year!  So much has happened in the past year, a lot of exciting developments and most importantly, supporting a lot of breastfeeding moms.  I feel honored and blessed to help support women and families.

When I started The Leaky Boob it was really just kind of on a whim.  I had read some disparaging comments on a news article about breastfeeding in public and for days it bothered me.  Eventually I sat down and wrote this post as a satirical response.  I posted it on my now terribly neglected personal blog and got an interesting and enthusiastic response.  An idea began to simmer of a blog that would be primarily about breastfeeding but open to other topics related to parenting, a place to support and find support.  Thinking of a pub as a spot where friends meet and swap stories, dispense advice, hand down local bits of wisdom and where travelers find safe haven and refreshment along the way I began to envision a community as an online pub for breastfeeding moms and the people that support them.  Where the good, the bad and the ugly would be shared equally.  Where the reality that we’re all in need of support meant condemnation and arrogance were left at the door.  Where someone could “cry into their beer” and someone was always around to listen.  Where humor was an important part of relaxing. Where disagreements could be had but friendships remain intact.  Where what we had in common brought us together more than what we didn’t could drive us apart.   And where the sounds of laughter, the aroma of honesty and the comfort of good friends made everyone welcome and called out to those passing by.  A place where everybody knows your name…

It wasn’t long before I was humming the Cheers theme song and coming up with ridiculous booby puns as I went about my day.  I’m pretty sure my family thought I was crazy.

Eventually, after celebrating The Storyteller’s birthday on that March 25th I decided to do it, to make it happen.  The name had been bouncing around my head for weeks at that point, a story in and of itself that I have to credit my children for, and it was just a matter of creating the blog and making the first post.

I didn’t think it would go anywhere.  While I had been blogging for years on my own various blogs, I knew nothing about promoting or marketing and I wasn’t sure how much I even had to say on the topic of breastfeeding.  Originally I thought I’d have 2 or 3 blog partners and hoped we’d get to the point where we’d be doing reviews and maybe a few giveaways and sharing cute stories.  I never thought it would do much more than that if it even got there.  Plus, I wondered how much I could possibly have to say on the subject of breastfeeding.  I was pretty certain I’d run out of ideas for material in 6 months and would be reduced to sharing those terrible booby puns I was coming up with.

But friends shared it and one helped me create the Facebook page right around my birthday, two weeks after creating the blog.  I can’t remember how fast it happened but I was shocked to see 300 people had fanned our page.  Shocked and excited.  Then 500.  Then 900.  Then 1,000.  It hit me, people needed this.  Really, really needed it.

So I decided then to see what I could do with it.  How The Leaky Boob could help more and more women.  I didn’t know what I was doing and had no idea how to go about what I thought I wanted to do but I knew one thing for sure: building up women and developing community is something I’m passionate about.  I could do that.  Whatever The Leaky Boob could be or would be as long as it did those 2 things I would be happy.

And so here we are.  A little over a year later now and over 19,000 “Leakies” on Facebook and a global community supporting women and families.  I started The Leaky Boob but it’s the community that made it.  Every time I think I’m in over my head and am overwhelmed with all that I can’t get done, someone shares on The Leaky Facebook page how this community saved their breastfeeding journey or helped them develop confidence in their parenting and I am encouraged to keep figuring it out.

Today things continue to grow and change and breastfeeding moms and the people that support them continue to find support and encouragement through The Leaky Boob.  I’m proud to say we’ve been through a lot already this 1st year but in demonstrating the power of community and the strength of women, we’re better for it.  I’m better for it.  My deepest gratitude to so many that have helped along the way; Sheri Wallace from Organic PR, her husband Chuck with Core Data Recovery, Silencia and Kathryn from Motherlove Herbal Company and the Nurturing Life Foundation, countless twitter and Facebook friends, encouragement from Bettina Forbes, so many amazing blogging friends, Dandelion, and all of the incredible sponsors that support The Leaky Boob.  Most especially to the volunteer admins that go above and beyond helping to run the forums and the Facebook page, my husband Jeremy who endures me talking about TLB constantly, my children for giving me great material to write about and above all the 19,000+ breastfeeding women and the people that support them that make TLB what it is.

I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

P.S.  You know what I think would be a great way to celebrate TLB’s 1st birthday?  Follow us on the Google friend connect and/or Networked Blogs, thanks!  Then, share with a friend so they can find support as well.  Thanks!

The Problem Continues

Hi XiLan,

I again apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. The Page was disabled initially disabled in error and appears to have been affected by some sort of glitch.

We are currently looking into the matter that you reported, and will respond as soon as possible. Please be assured that Facebook takes users’ concerns around content very seriously. We apologize for any inconvenience this delay might present.

Your Page has again been reactivated and you should be able to use it shortly.

Thanks for your understanding,

Lysander
User Operations
Facebook

(XiLan is the username of Jessi, the person that originally helped me set up The Leaky Boob on Facebook.)

The thing is I don’t understand.  It sounds like he just said: “I’m sorry, we here at Facebook don’t know what we’re doing.  It must be some sort of computer thing, it’s completely out of our hands.”

Mark Zuckerberg, get someone who knows what they are doing STAT!  As TIMES man of the year, surely you understand the importance of hiring people who are not only experienced and trained but also give a damn when they screw up.

The thing is, this “glitch” he speaks of continues to disable the accounts of women, other pages and groups that have shared breastfeeding photos.  Additionally users and pages deactivated receive little to no response to their inquires as to why.  I got some sort of an apology and an excuse but most do not.  It’s starting to feel like we’re living with an abusive partner.  Many of us that share breastfeeding photos are on edge now, there has been a rash of deletions and more coming out and saying they would share breastfeeding photos but they are afraid of getting pulled.

So why do we stay?  I’ve addressed before why The Leak Boob is needed on Facebook and why we choose to carry on our little community there.  But still, wouldn’t we feel safer if we moved on to some place where accounts don’t just suddenly disappear?

Of course we would.  However, I’m refusing to accept being told to hide to feed my babies, virtually or otherwise.  The easy access on Facebook makes it such a simple step for women and those that support breastfeeding to participate in The Leaky B@@b community, providing a wealth of information and resources in a place where they are already active and connected.  Beyond that though having an active presence on Facebook does something else:  normalize breastfeeding.  Shunning breastfeeding moms to “discreet” (read: obscure) corners of the internet does nothing to encourage accepting breastfeeding as a normal and beneficial piece of family life.  We have to stop communicating one thing (i.e. “breast is best”) and doing another (i.e “but I don’t want to see it“).

Facebook told the ABC 13 reporter that they are not against breastfeeding and that breastfeeding photos are permitted on the site.  In an email response to her inquiry regarding the deletion of The Leaky Boob they invited her to search the site stating she would see many breastfeeding materials pop up.  She did and yes, there were other groups and materials related to breastfeeding including photos.  They restated their terms of service regarding nudity, obscenity, hateful content, etc. and maintained that they are pro-breastfeeding.

Yet just as recently as yesterday another page was deleted for breastfeeding photos and another just a few days before that.  Several participants on The Leaky B@@b have had photos removed and a warning issued that they posted a photo that violated the TOS.  There are at least 7 others that I know of that have had their accounts deactivated, 1 after posting just 1 breastfeeding photo within just the last week.  Historic Photos and Prints of Breastfeeding had a good chunk of their photos and art prints removed this week as well.  Personally I had 5 photos deleted and warnings issued last week and am surprised my account has not been deactivated.  This just a sampling and it continues to grow.   Groups and pages like Removed: The List, Stop Deleting Mother’s Support Groups F. B., Breastfeeding and Birth Pics that were deleted by bots, and more  dedicated to keeping tract of who was removed and petitioning to bring back users are being created almost as quickly as breastfeeding photos are being removed.

When these individuals and groups request information as to why they receive the same form email I did.  Upon appeal they receive yet another form email.  If they hear anything at all.  Facebook may claim to the media that they support breastfeeding and women but their actions and lack of communication with the users they’ve deactivated indicate something entirely different.  If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck…

Hello Lysander,

Thank you for your personal response regarding the deactivation and request for reinstatement for The Leaky B@@b page.  I genuinely appreciate your apology and having the page reinstated again.

As excited as we are to have The Leaky B@@b back, the situation has not changed.  Any page, individual, or photo is at risk of being deleted when related to breast health.  Because of message size constraints, I will send the list of pages and profiles still deleted to you under separate cover.

Facebook has a responsibility to its customers to clearly communicate that they are pro-women by creating a new way to moderate materials flagged as obscene and providing protection for pages that register as breast health or breastfeeding related.

By reinstating The Leaky B@@b page, twice, Facebook indicates that you are aware there is a significant problem with your current system and it appears this has been an ongoing problem since 2007.

I respect that you need a system to maintain a site free of inappropriate groups and pornographic images and I appreciate the efforts to keep Facebook safe.  However, when images, pages and user accounts are deleted it is nearly impossible for these to reinstated without the involvement of the media.  The lack of response for requests to appeal disabled accounts or at least to receive an explanation for the action communicates you do not support breastfeeding or breast health which means you do not support women.

Lysander, I know you are not personally responsible for this flaw with Facebook, however, you are the only person that has attempted to contact me personally.  I would appreciate your attention to the list of names and pages I’ve included that are currently deactivated for posting breastfeeding photos.

I would love to report in my next round of media interviews that Facebook has a solution to this problem, can you tell me how you plan to make this situation permanently better?  Also, when can the deleted pages/profiles expect to be reinstated?

Thank you for your time and quick response on this matter.

Sincerely,

Jessica Martin-Weber

A Letter to the World about Public Breastfeeding.

Dear World,

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Please stop sending mixed signals. We tell women that “breastfeeding is best“, we tell them to do it but then we ask them to hide like it is shameful, kick them out of places for breastfeeding and say stupid things like “I don’t want to see THAT” or “plan ahead and pump.” Cut it out.  Stop the double speak. Get over your fear/sexual obsession with breasts and let a mother care for her child as nature intended because, I’ve got to break it to you, feeding babies is what boobs are for and everything else is just a nice bonus. Just think about it, if you wouldn’t think it inappropriate for a woman to give a bottle then it isn’t inappropriate for her to be breastfeeding with or without a cover. Mothering is hard enough without you projecting your issues onto moms and their babies. 

Get over yourselves please.

Even Sesame Street gets that breastfeeding a baby isn’t a big deal, sometimes I feel like a lot of you need to go back to preschool.

Again, get over yourselves please and let a woman take care of her baby giving that “best” you’re so into.

That’s all I have to say about this. Today anyway.  I just had to get that off my chest.   Now I’m going to go whip my boob out and feed my baby.

Love,

The Leaky B@@b

P.S. Breastfeeding moms will not be bullied. We’re educated, fierce women that WILL protect our children and meet their needs. Thank you.

Breaking up

Dear Vintage Style Beautiful Green Tweed Pumps,

I’m afraid this is good bye. I never intended to part like this, if ever at all but sadly, I suppose all good things must come to an end and seeing as my toes now press uncomfortably against you, this is the end. A sad and tragic parting of what was once a beautiful relationship.


It’s not you, it’s me. Things change, people change, feet change. Particularly after pregnancy. I was warned but I didn’t heed the advice of all those naysayers telling me it wouldn’t work, that my feet would probably get bigger and be too much for you to handle. My feet are now bigger than you and I know you don’t mean to but you’re hurting me, stifling me and crowding my freedom to run and dance. You can’t help it, it’s just the way you are. So it’s over, we’re done. I’m so sorry, you just can’t stop change. And I’ve changed but you haven’t.

We had 7 good years, the first 4 were really great and you and I went through a lot together: office drama, fundraising dinners, date nights at cute little bistros, so many memories. I will never forget spotting you in that chic little boutique consignment shop in Montrose. Love at first sight. Adorable and vintage, you seduced me with a great price and classic style. I pictured myself the crisp librarian type, coquette and studiously fun. Flirting with you for a while I knew almost instantly you’d be coming home with me. Even though it was obvious that you had a few flaws and would be inflexible to a fault perhaps in your structure, it all just added to your charm. So I brought you home and our love affair began. How I loved you. It became clear over time that we couldn’t shop together, that always ended in disaster and dancing was such drama from you that I always made sure to choose a different partner. But we made it work. Compromise was the name of the game, I knew your strengths and weaknesses and you knew mine. Eventually though, specially after baby #4, we just started growing apart. I admit it, I used you only for work, to get something done. If I wanted fun I reached for another pair, never you. I’m sorry, it was just that I couldn’t enjoy myself with you like I once could. Flip flops understand casual, sneakers know what I need for support, and strappy sandals totally get being cool and having a good time.


I tried to make it work even when we both had to admit things were awkward and uncomfortable when we were together. Really, I tried. It just didn’t work. Then came totally sexy, amazing killer heels and I just stopped trying. I know that is what killed us. But I couldn’t help it, they are a full size bigger and were $2 at a yard sale and made my heart go pitter-patter. How can you compete with those curves? That height? The alluring toe cleavage? That bling? Call me a cheap hussy, fine, but I have to be true to myself. I’m in love even if I know they aren’t good for me. Today I went out with you for nostalgia’s sake but it was then that I realized we really are over. I’m sorry.


You’ll get over it, you’ll move on, I know you’ll be fine. There happens to be an 11 year old I know that I think could be ready for her first real relationship with an amazing pair of shoes. We’ll get to see each other once in a while, I hope we can still be friends. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

Sincerely,

Jessica