"Don't ever make decisions based on fear"
From No to Yes.
I saw this quote by Michelle Obama and couldn't agree more. It compelled me to write a few things down...
I often start off being aware of something because I don't like what just happened. For me, it starts with a 'no'. Over the years, I've learned that the best thing I can do at that point is wonder what my 'yes' is in relation to the problem.
What DO I want to see happening? Then take the first small step towards setting that 'yes' in motion. Sometimes, it means walking away from the 'no' completely, however seductive it may be to stay and fight to be heard and to be right.
That's how the entire Human Milk project started. Not because I had any experience with breastfeeding beyond feeding my own son, not because I had any experience with helping other women with their feeding, not even because I had any previous experience in the business end of fashion or maternity products.
In fact, I struggled for years (I still do occasionally to be honest) with imposter syndrome, wondering who on Earth I think I am to believe I can bring anything to a table hosting so many highly qualified and experienced IBCLCs, Peer Supporters and Group Leaders who know a lot more than I do about helping women on the ground on a daily basis.
But when I became a mother and breastfed my son, I met so many women struggling, whether with physical challenges or with loneliness, having to justify their choice to breastfeed - or not struggling but just going about their day, committed to breastfeeding - and being dismissed as being obsessive, martyrs, over-doing it, not trying hard enough, needy, projecting their own needs on their babies, asked when they plan to stop because it's getting weird... And being handed an artificial alternative as the solution.
After decades in the music and modelling industries, where what you look like and what you do with your body is pretty much everything, I just couldn't wrap my head around that policing continuing into motherhood. I realised that what I assumed was industry specific, wasn't. That the policing of women's bodies *no matter what we're up to* was what I was experiencing.
And that was a 'No' from me. That's when I'd had enough.
So I wondered what skills I had that I could apply to changing the world for these mothers, including myself, and those who come after us. I went to Art school (hundreds of years ago), and by then I had been in the music industry for about 20 years. I knew how to tell a story that resonates through film, music, Art. I loved shapes and colours and textures...
And what we have now is a pure celebration of women's remarkable bodies. We've only just begun. And that is my 'yes'.
We never push our beliefs on others. Respecting women's bodies means also respecting women who don't want to breastfeed. We've not walked in their shoes. We have their backs as well.
We work for those mothers who do want to, often passionately, and too often against the odds. We work for the 820,000 infants who die globally each year because they're not being protected by human milk. We work for the 20,000 women who would survive breast cancer if breastfeeding rates were higher. (Reference).
We work for every girl and woman everywhere in the world who wants to breastfeed in peace, be physically safe no matter what she's doing, respected, honoured, or even just left alone. We work to reduce the cost of infant feeding and fashion to both parents and the planet.
I feel a constant flow of very strong 'No's in my belly. Rage motivates me often, there's no denying that. But that's mine to deal with, to rant at my ever patient partner, colleagues or my friends, or to pen an occasional blog with ;)
But 'Yes' is central to everything we actually do at Human Milk, every practical step we take. Because we know the problems. What we need is to craft the uplifting world we DO want to live in, one brick, one partnership, one phone call, one crazy idea, one day at a time.
So thank you Queen Obama. You inspire me and so many of us!