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An Olympic Journey

Cara Isdell Lee
USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 6, 2008-09, pp. 10-11

Before I had my son I never thought that breastfeeding him could have created the bond that we will now share forever. I could not have imagined the satisfaction that I would receive from this magical relationship. I began breastfeeding because it was best for my baby, not because it was best for me. Along the way, and through some difficulties, I have realized that our bond grew not only physically, but very much emotionally. I have nourished a human being. I did it and no one else!

When I was pregnant my husband and I decided we would go to the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. We booked flights, hotels, and made the other necessary arrangements. I made sure that his parents would look after our son, as I would need a break from him, right? I would be away from him for 16 days. It was no big deal I told myself. I would either wean him, or pump and get my husband's parents to give him my milk.

I gave birth to my son, Rory, on November 22, 2007. I remember looking into his eyes and being so nervous about feeding him. What would happen if he did not latch on? We had a lot of ups and downs, but we made it through the early months. I joined the La Leche League Group in my area to get through my breastfeeding issues and to get support for my trip to China. The meetings were powerful and provided a way to find guidance and meet like-minded individuals. I received an incredible amount of support from my Leader and great advice from other participants.

When Rory was four months old, I knew I could not end this relationship, nor did I need a break from him. I could not leave my baby. I wanted him to wean himself when he was ready. I then promptly added him to the flight arrangements. Lots of people -- not those in the LLL Group -- thought I was crazy to bring an eight-month-old to China, let alone the Olympics. People said, "Do you have any idea how hard it will be on you, the jetlag, the time change, the flights, and the stress of traveling with a little one?" I smiled. I knew there would be hard times ahead, but I also knew that we would be connected through my love for him and through breastfeeding.

The six-hour, the 14-hour, and the two-hour flights to Beijing were long and hard but we got through them with patience, feeding, and listening to each other. The time change was hard initially, but we adjusted quickly. To share my sense of accomplishment, here is a picture of my son and me at the Great Wall of China and my journal entry for that day reads:

We had 20 more huge steps to make it to the top. Can we make it? We finally climbed up to the Great Wall and it felt magical. How did they build this without modern technology? It was breathtaking. It was huge and went on for miles. I then took out my breast and fed my son on the Great Wall of China! I felt accomplished. I thought back to the day when he was a newborn and I did not know how to feed this tiny baby when he first came out of my body…to sore cracked nipples...to blisters…to exhaustion...to not wanting him to feed again...to needing more sleep. Our journey had its ups and downs…but here we are triumphant. Feeding together on the Great Wall. I did it! No, we did it. We are a team and we did it!

The wall was not built in a day or a year. Our relationship is always changing and we are always on this journey together through the good and the bad. This is how we make a difference. He might never remember this trip or what I had to do to get us there, but I will always remember it and will tell him about it when he gets older. I hope one day to share this story with his wife and children and then we will have come full circle. Right now, I need to go nurse my son and, as I gaze down on him, I think: this is my gift to you, my legacy, the gift that no one else can give you but me.

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