Written by Lorraine Taylor, LLLNZ Leader – Mana
My twin babies were four months old. They were sleeping and breastfeeding well, yet I was not getting the sleep I needed and was at the end of my own energy. It was a Wednesday, a series meeting day (before I was a Leader) and I was really struggling to find the motivation to go along. I was tired, on the verge of tears and I wasn’t sure how far through the day I’d get before those tears would tumble. I mustered the energy to bundle two babies in the car and drive to the meeting. When I arrived I even sat outside for a few minutes weighing up whether I had the social energy I needed to go inside. Finally, I went in. Someone met me at the door and helped me carry in my babies, car seats, and my bag. They were genuinely happy to see me and slowly I allowed myself to start to relax. I don’t think anyone you spoke to about that meeting would have known how much they impacted my journey, how they held much more for me that day than my bags and my babies. I was so low but very well-practiced at appearing ok, and that meeting was a lifeline of hope, reassurance, and friendship – a salve to my depleted well being and integral to my survival.
Those babies are now 18 years old. I did survive; thrive even with the support of family, wonderful friends and the amazing women in the LLL community, and continue to find these people a source of support, growth and wisdom.
According to the the Mental Health Foundation, these 5 key attributes are important to a healthy sense of wellbeing:
Connect: talk, listen, feel connected.
Give: your time, your words, your presence.
Be active: do what you can, love what you do.
Take notice: remember the simple things that give you joy.
Keep Learning: embrace new experiences and opportunities.
La Leche League can be a community that enables, enhances, and provides a space and place for many of these aspects of wellbeing to thrive.
A place to talk and connect: for many of us, having a place to talk about this new parenting adventure is invaluable – exploring our feelings of overwhelm, newness, concerns, fears, and anxieties along with the awe, joy, inspiration, and observations of every tiny little thing our babies do. While we might know our limits for personal emotional safety, many women find meetings a place of healing, with space to safely revisit birth and early breastfeeding experiences. Sharing from each person’s experience at meetings gives women and parents space to explore, revisit and heal as they connect with others who have perhaps been through similar experiences. LLL can provide a place to connect and feel less lonely. To get new ideas as we navigate this job of nurturing a new human, a toddler, a preschooler, and beyond. Many friends made at meetings become lifelong connections.
A place to share ideas about breastfeeding and parenting: there is so much to know. It’s reassuring to go along to a place of support, with others who have access to a world of information and can curate positive solutions for issues when we need it the most. I was always reassured that when I asked a question at LLL it would be answered in a way that valued breastfeeding and mother-baby relationships and aligned with my own parenting philosophies. I valued the gentle parenting vibe and embraced the parenting education that LLL had to offer. I felt nurtured, supported and surrounded by wisdom.
A place to learn about emotions and relationships: LLL was probably the first place that I participated in a facilitated session where we were encouraged to articulate and communicate feelings and emotions. This not only helped me process many of the emotions of parenthood but also gave me the language to help my children navigate their feelings, giving me the tools and strategies to scaffold their emotional development. I first came to LLL for breastfeeding support but stayed for the lifelong learning in human interactions and growth. I am now a Communication Skills tutor and love the opportunity to facilitate this learning for others.
A place to help others: LLL offers a unique circle of support. As parents grow in confidence with their babies, they become aware that they have something to offer other parents who are also looking for information. Finding our place in the world, giving back to the community and other people going through parenting struggles is incredibly rewarding and satisfying. This can be really good for our mental wellbeing. I have been involved in training new Leaders, and it is awe-inspiring watching new Leaders go through the accreditation process and grow in confidence and leadership skills.
There is so much information out there about self-care, how to support wellbeing and mental health, and promoting positive mental health. For me, being a member of this community has been such a source of support, love, information, and growth, that I can no longer imagine what my life might have been like without it. The people and organisation have provided the map to my whole parenting adventure.