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What Are the Odds?

Angela and Todd Leonhardt
Cincinnati OH USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, pp. 157-158

You never know when someone from La Leche League will cross your path, encourage you, and impact your life forever. It happened to me during a trip on an airplane to La Vegas, Nevada, USA. It was the day after Christmas and we were going to visit my husband's family.

We were prepared for the trip. We had books, crayons, games, tissue, water, and snacks. When the announcement was made to board the plane, we were ready. It was our 22-month-old daughter Maria's first time on a plane. It was the second plane trip for our four-year-old son, Benjamin. He was quite excited and ready to have fun. Maria, on the other hand, wasn't doing very well at first.

Since she was just under two years old, she sat on my lap. Bejanmin was in the aisle seat behind me and my husband, Todd, was in the seat across the aisle from him. Either I am getting larger or seats on airplanes are getting smaller. Maria must have thought something didn't seem right, either, because she suddenly didn't want anything to do with flying in an airplane. My worst mothering nightmare was about to come true. Just as the stewardesses were beginning their airline safety routine, Maria launched into hysterics. She began crying and yelling and was beyond consolation. It escalated to her screaming, "I want out!" She was kicking and trying to get over or under the seat in front of her.

If you've ever flown to Las Vegas, you know that there is never an empty flight, day or night. The airplane was crowded and quiet (passengers were trying to hear where the escape exits were!) and all attempts to calm Maria didn't work. She was way beyond consoling with cookies or crackers. I was sure that the two men sitting on either side of me, and all the passengers on the flight, wanted me to jump off the airplane. At that moment, had they asked, I just might have!

I didn't know what to do. In her short life, my daughter had never been this hysterical. I tried almost everything: holding, soft talking, rocking, singing, a stern voice, and offering everything in my bag. Since we taught her sign language, I started desperately squeezing my hands together to sign "milk," hoping it would make her relax enough to accept the only thing I knew that would comfort her at that point. I was frantically saying, "Das stillen" over and over, trying to get her to connect with me to know that everything would be okay. I knew Maria was trying to make sense of what was happening around her, but she just couldn't calm down. Instead, she vomited. My hands were shaking as I tried to smile and thank the man next to me, who was holding our antibacterial wipes. Maria caught her breath and continued to cry and scream.

I think at some point during the mothering journey, every woman reaches a desperate point. With my mind frantic and tears running down my cheeks, different thoughts were racing through my head. "What should I do?" "How do I solve this?" "How far am I willing to go to do what I know is right for my child?" And then I thought, "I don't care who sees me. I don't care what they think. I don't care what they will say. I'm going to nurse my daughter to help her." I lifted my shirt and tried for what seemed like two years to get Maria to nurse. She finally realized what I was offering and began to nurse and calm down.

The man next to me chuckled. I have to admit that, in my very upset state, I thought of a not-so-nice way of asking him what he was laughing at. Instead of saying anything, I decided to just focus on my daughter when I heard the man say, "You know, there is nothing that breastfeeding won't comfort and soothe." I looked at him in disbelief. He continued, "My wife was involved in La Leche League for over 30 years and was chairman of the Board of Directors at one time." I could have kissed him.

As this man and I talked, I found myself relaxing completely. Ten minutes earlier I never would have imagined I would feel so at peace. What started out as the longest flight of my life turned out to be the most relaxing flight. I knew the rest of our time in the plane would be just fine. All of this on a trip to Las Vegas. What are the odds?

From the bottom of my heart, Mike Smith, thank you for reaching out and encouraging a very distraught mother. You did more for me than you can ever imagine. You reaffirmed my breastfeeding and parenting beliefs when I needed it most. And thank you, Cindy Smith. I have never met you, but I'm grateful for your life's work of helping breastfeeding mothers. You may be "retired," but we are still reaping the benefits. From my heart, I send a sincere thanks and the biggest hug to you both!

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