It’s been a crazy few days. My Best for Babes co-founder Danielle and I were scheduled to fly out to Ohio on Tuesday morning to meet with a key player in the breastfeeding world. Monday afternoon we noticed the weather report calling for a major snowstorm to hit the area and spread to the East Coast, where I live. Should we go or should we call it off? Every hair on my head said it was a mistake, that we should reschedule. Various things started to go awry as if to prove that it was not meant to be; Danielle didn’t feel well, my printer kept fritzing as I was putting together our press packets, my daughter got a bad scrape under her eye while sledding with a friend . . . you know how it is. I texted Danielle that I thought we should postpone. An hour later I spoke to her husband who said she had gone to bed and was set to leave for the airport at 4:30 a.m. So I worked until 2:30 a.m. and got up at 4:30 to leave for the airport myself.
We got to Ohio, and then I got a message that my flight back to Newark that evening had been canceled. We went to our meeting, met some folks who are truly passionate about helping moms and babies breastfeed successfully and had a great time all around. But what to do about my flight? Danielle’s flight had not been canceled because she was flying into Atlanta on a larger jet. I was booked on a flight for early Wednesday morning, but what if that flight too, would be canceled? The likelihood was high because all the planes to the East Coast were smaller and more vulnerable to the weather. My husband had already taken Tuesday off from work for me to stay with the kids, and now had to take Wednesday off too because school was canceled due to the storm, but I knew I had to be back before he left for a business trip Thursday morning. I decided to drive.
Really, I should have my head examined. On two hours sleep, pumped up with excitement from a great meeting and more ideas on how to “beat the booby traps” so that more moms can achieve their personal breastfeeding goals, I headed east on I-70 on Tuesday afternoon. The streets were icy and snow was coming straight at me but I kept up a good pace until I hit a wall of exhaustion at midnight. I had driven eight hours to Harrisburg, PA. I pulled off, declined the seedy motels, and settled into a Howard Johnson, feeling a twinge of nostalgia from my youth.
When I woke up the streets looked really bad. The snow had really come down hard, and there was not a crumb to be had at HoJo’s “Country Oven,” which was missing its employees due to the weather. I cleaned 4 inches of snow off my rental car (with my bare hands, having not thought of gloves in the scramble to get to the airport the day before) and pulled out, figuring that at least the highways would be clear.
I have never driven in worse conditions in my life. I thought the highway would be clear, but spent the next 8 hours (which should have been 3) crawling along single file on two grayish tracks in the snow. The visibility was low, I sat hunched over, peering out my snow-encrusted windshield, sandwiched between two trucks, gripping the steering wheel so tight I now have blisters on my fingers. I saw quite a few cars in various ditches, and a few slammed into the divider rail with a crushed bumper. At one point in the Pennsylvania mountains, the road was so bad that a couple of jacknifed trucks were just stopped on the highway; traffic slowed to 5 miles an hour as we wove our way around them. Anybody who was on the road was either a fool or was driving some precious cargo.
So, what about me? What precious cargo was I driving in my bright blue Dodge Journey (aptly named for my trip from hell) from Alamo? What on earth would persuade Danielle and I to fly right into the eye of the storm against our better judgment, and then have to practically dig our way out? If I could have hunkered down in a hotel and waited for the storm to clear and the flights to stabilize I would have; but I simply could not let my husband miss his trip when he has done so much for me and for Best for Babes. Was it sheer insanity?
Nope, it was love. As I drove back, high on adrenaline, I was thinking about only two things: how badly I wanted to get back to my family and go sledding with my kids, and how much I want to help mothers and babies. These two loves are linked: never in a million years would I have ended up in this gig if it had not been for the awful time I had trying to breastfeed my son. My experience coincided with the stories of dozens of women that Danielle had been helping as a lactation counselor, and is what prompted us to found Best for Babes. We simply could not bear to see more women decide to nurse, only to have their hopes dashed by one booby trap after another. According to our contact at the CDC, 86% of expecting mothers say they want to breastfeed, yet only 74% even try once after giving birth, and the number of women breastfeeding exclusively as recommended drops precipitously during the first days and weeks, long before many mothers go back to work. Something is very, very wrong. If breastfeeding was really meant to be as hard as it is today the human race would have died out–hence our conviction that moms are not only not getting the proper support, but are actually being prevented from succeeding. A lot of moms are not as lucky as I was to be able to get excellent help and have women in my family who had breastfed and encouraged me.
I still don’t know exactly what possessed me to basically endanger my life and make that crazy trip, but since I was listening to 80s tunes I’ll go ahead and be corny and say it was the “wings of love” (it’s okay, you can roll your eyes). Love for my kids and my awesome husband, but also the love I have for transforming the breastfeeding movement into a true cause that cheers on, coaches and celebrates ALL moms, regardless of whether they breastfeed for 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years or not at all; love for my best friend and business partner Danielle who keeps going despite ongoing health problems stemming from her bout with breast cancer; love for all the moms and babies I meet. I do it because I know it can be done; we CAN create a culture where breastfeeding in public or pumping at work is not just barely tolerated but embraced and seen as the awesome power that it is, and where moms who can not or decide not to breastfeed are respected and cheered on and have access to the best substitute, screened, pasteurized donor milk from a registered donor milk bank.
I also do it because of the synergistic contagious energy that flies around when I meet people who care about making the world a better place. Every day I “meet” another mother who has gone above and beyond to help another mother, or a nurse that has gone the extra mile to help a new mom see an excellent lactation consultant. There is a lot of love out there, love and protection for moms and babies. I hope nobody else was nuts enough to drive in a blizzard, but I will bet that there are some incredible stories of the lengths friends and strangers have gone to help another mother navigate “the booby traps” and get the hang of breastfeeding her babe.
What have you done for love? In the spirit of upcoming Valentine’s Day, tell us your story of helping one or more moms breastfeed, or how you are changing the culture and “beating the booby traps“. We can’t wait to hear it!