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Making Time When Opportunity Rings

Beverly Morgan
San Jose, California, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34, No. 2, April-May 1998 pp. 37-38

Time-so little is available. I never seem to have enough time to do a job perfectly, and if the truth be told, having to do a job perfectly scares me to death! Yet we all must do the best with whatever we have available at the time. So it was on the day I gave my first TV interview.

It was a few minutes after 7 AM when the telephone's ring woke me with a start. It was a desperate mother of a hospitalized infant in need of a breast pump. No time to wash my hair before she arrived within fifteen minutes. I rushed to the closet jumped into a shirt and sweat pants and ran a comb through my hair. The day was off and running and continued at this pace.

When I picked up my messages at 4 PM I was still on the run. It was just that sort of day. Ah, Channel 11 news! I decided to return this call first. It was likely that I would reach a recording and could move quickly on to the rest of the calls. To my surprise, reporter Arlene Sison answered. She spoke about Governor Wilson signing legislation assuring women of their right to breastfeed their babies in any place in California where the mother is authorized to be. While breastfeeding was not specifically illegal, this law removes barriers of embarrassment, harassment and charges of indecent exposure when a mother breastfeeds her child in public. "We would like to interview you because, as a lactation consultant, you work with breastfeeding women in California," Sison said.

Before I was off the phone I had committed to an "in person" interview. The camera crew would arrive on my doorstep in about 45 minutes. The other calls would have to wait.

We all know that feeling of having surprise visitors drop in. Suddenly you notice the dust on the mantle, the streaks and fingerprints on the windows, the papers scattered on the table. Need I go on? And I was inviting a camera crew in to get all of this on film-to broadcast all over the greater San Jose area!

My first "on air" interview was not at all as I would have hoped. I had visions of spending hours on my appearance, weeks framing my answers to a list of prepared questions, and at least a few minutes making my home camera-ready. This was not to be that kind of interview. No time to prepare my appearance, my statement or my home! Gulp.

What were my alternatives? I could say no, I had changed my mind. They might have found someone else to do the interview or they might not have covered the story at all. I wanted the news to be broadcast far and wide, promoting breastfeeding as a cultural norm. I would do the interview!

I am a Toastmaster and I have been doing impromptu speeches as part of my training. I know the subject; I have been an LLL Leader for nearly 20 years. I have also been speaking in public for years. I could do this!

I took a deep breath, looked around and asked myself, how can I best use the time I have. First on the list: phone a breastfeeding mother of a young infant who would be willing to talk on camera about breastfeeding. I would allow myself about 15 minutes for this and move on even if I can't find a willing mother.

Next I pulled together some information from my files:

  • A copy of the proclamation declaring August 1-7 Breastfeeding Awareness Week by the county board of supervisors;
  • A copy of Breastfeeding: Investing in California's Future, the Breastfeeding Promotion Committee Report to the California Department of Health Services Primary Care and Family Health
  • The new 1997 WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING that I brought back from the LLLI Conference in Washington DC.

I spread them out on the coffee table, hastily wiping away the dust. So much for my visual aids.

There was no time for a makeover, but I changed my clothes, put on shoes and combed my hair.

Next the house. Too late! The camera crew arrived even before the mother and her family! There was no time to pull the garden hose from across the sidewalk. I hoped no one would trip.

The lipstick I had put on hastily about half an hour ago had worn off. I decided not to replenish it. I didn't want to rush and give the interview with lipstick on my teeth!

As the camera focused on me, I heard a voice in my head: "Keep it short and to the point. The less you ramble the harder it will be to quote you out of context." At the same time I heard a river of words, a virtual flood of verbiage, gush from my mouth.

By 6 PM the promo for the story was already on the air. The news story, about three minutes long, was aired within the first 11 minutes of the 11 o'clock news. I wasn't quoted out of context and the breastfeeding mother of a six-week-old, the real star of the show, did a great job. Her vulnerability showed through loud and clear as did her commitment to provide her baby with the milk nature had intended.

The two young men they found to give the "other side of the story" (that women shouldn't breastfeed in public because it is, after all, "private") only highlighted the importance of the legislation that would go into effect on January 1, 1998.

In the words of Governor Wilson as quoted in the San Jose (California, USA) Mercury News on Tuesday, July 15, 1997, "Breastfeeding, whether in public or private, is a normal, healthy way of nourishing infants." The bill's author, Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa, is quoted in the same news story: "This measure will make sure that everyone knows it's okay for babies to be fed in public."

I'm glad I made time when the opportunity to promote and normalize breastfeeding came my way. There's a saying that "If you don't have time to do it right, where will you find the time to do it over?" There is truth to this proverb, but I would say, "If you don't do something because you don't have time to do it perfectly, you may miss many perfectly good opportunities"!

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