Community Outreach: Helping Teen Mothers
Yorktown VA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 3, June-July 2003, p. 58.
As a Leader Applicant, I was asked to attend a breastfeeding talk at a local pregnancy crisis center. Two Leaders from my Group would be providing information about breastfeeding to these young mothers. Most of the mothers were unwed teenagers. This is what I saw as I entered the room.
About 10 pregnant teens attended, some accompanied by their mothers, some by friends. Two had their partners with them. Everyone looked a little tense. The room was very crowded and very small.
My first impression was one of skepticism. How in the world were we going to help these mothers-to-be breastfeed when most of them seemed so young? They were still in school, they couldn’t support themselves, and they looked terrified.
Nan Vollette and Waller Thompson, both Leaders with the Peninsula Group, Virginia, USA, introduced themselves and demonstrated with grace and compassion the power we all have as Leaders. They got these young women talking, laughing, and crying despite their differences in age, socioeconomic status, and life experience. At the beginning of the discussion not all of the young women planned to nurse, but by the end some were willing to try. I was amazed! (Editor’s note: as a Leader Applicant at the time, the author was introduced as an LLL Group member.)
Six months later it was time for another visit to the pregnancy crisis center. The scene was very much the same, only my perception had changed. This time I could truly appreciate the opportunity we had to make a difference in the lives of the mothers and their babies. I felt privileged to say the least. Emotions were shared and breastfeeding information was offered as a way to connect with this new baby. By the end of the meeting these mothers seemed to be sitting higher in their seats. We saw them gain confidence in their bodies and their mothering instincts. This meeting yielded several mothers who wanted to nurse, including one young woman who had previously had a breast reduction. The center purchased a copy of DEFINING YOUR OWN SUCCESS: BREASTFEEDING AFTER BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY, by Diana West, for her. She came to our monthly Series Meetings while pregnant, and is still nursing her baby who will be one year old this fall.
Last month I made my fourth visit to the center. This time, I was leading the discussion along with Rachel Nowak, Leader from the Peninsula Group, Virginia, USA. Words cannot express how nervous I felt. I had only been a Leader for six months and did not have the experience of the Leaders whom I had accompanied in the past. I wondered if these young women were going to talk, let alone listen to me. But they did. They shared concerns about being aroused while nursing, being used as a human pacifier, when to start solids, losing pregnancy weight, and all the other common concerns of breastfeeding mothers.
Once we got them talking they didn’t stop. They asked some really deep questions and seemed to really absorb our answers. Then the partner of one of the women spoke up. This couple had slipped into the room about 15 minutes into the discussion and had been very quiet until this young man asked to speak.
He had dreadlocks, big gold chains around his neck, tattoos on his arms, and was wearing a sleeveless basketball jersey (it was freezing outside!). I had been a little afraid of him when I first saw him. In a very comforting and soothing voice he said, "You don’t have to listen to me because I’m not in your shoes, but you girls should nurse your babies. My mother nursed me until I was two, and my sister until she was two, and we’re all tight! Your babies will be so healthy and you will look back later in life and be glad you breastfed."
After the meeting ended I spoke with him a little about his experience and told his partner how lucky she was. With support like his, she could handle anything. Out of seven mothers that evening, four were going to breastfeed. One even came to our next Series Meeting and bought a copy of THE WOMANY ART OF BREASTFEEDING. She is due this month and I can’t wait to see her at the next meeting with babe-in-arms.
As Leaders, we answer breastfeeding questions on a regular basis. There are monthly meetings, helping calls, and let’s not forget questions from friends, family members, and friends of friends. As mothers, we dream of reaching out to everyone in our community. If only we could share our enthusiasm and knowledge for breastfeeding with every pregnant mother, so they, too, may discover the bond every baby deserves.
Reaching out twice a year to the young women who go through the center gives us the chance to make this dream a reality. It was many years after Nan Vollette’s initial visit to the center before a mother came to an LLL Series Meeting, but it happened! Several mothers from the center have nursed their babies and I can’t help but wonder, would they have nursed had we not reached out to them?
Who could your Group reach out to?
Lindsay Daly lives in Yorktown, Virginia, USA with her husband, Jordan, and daughter, Morgan, 3. She has been involved in LLL since 2000 and was accredited in July 2002. Lindsay is also the Area Walk Coordinator for Virginia/West Virginia. Nan Vollette is the Contributing Editor for "Helping Mothers."