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Honoring the Journey


Rachel feeding Sparrow within minutes of her birth.
Rachel feeding Sparrow within minutes of her birth.


Honoring The Journey

Written by Rachel Brown:

Last month I shared this wonderful poem with a friend who was honored at a blessingway. It has become the anthem and credo of my conceptualization of sisterhood, and the support and respect I hope to give the women in my life.

Last spring at a conference on maternal health disparities, I attended a breakout session directed by Claudia Booker (CPM, JD), the keynote speaker of the conference. She spoke about cultural competency and posited that there are no “diverse” populations of women, just “women.” She said, “You think they’re so different from you? They have somebody that loves them, I have somebody that loves me. They feel the exact same way about the war, about breast cancer. They worry, what happens when I die? Will my child turn out all right?”She urged us to ask questions when we don’t understand, and stated, “I just tell people, I’m old, I’m ignorant, but my heart is pure, and my hands are open.” She told us, “Every mother wants to be a good mother. Every mother wants what’s best for her child. Anything else, is when we let other stuff get in the way.”

Someone raised her hand and shared her story of her sister, who was estranged from the family due to personal choices that conflicted with the family values. This woman stated that she missed her sister and wanted to make amends, but wasn’t sure how to approach her. Claudia responded, “Let me tell you something. First, you’ve gotta go get your sister!” she exclaimed. “Once you fix that, the rest won’t matter as much. Go find your sister.” 

Her words were simple, but deeply resonated with me. When I think my Claudia’s comments in the context of the breastfeeding journey, it is heartbreaking to think of the divisiveness and criticism women encounter while navigating one of the most vulnerable and intimate relationships of their lives. Everyone seems to feel judged; everyone seems to feel “other.” It occurred to me that despite how we present ourselves, no matter how confident and passionate; the insecurities are there beneath the surface. Sometimes, as we grapple for identity and struggle to reassure ourselves that we’re okay, we sacrifice our sisters to the gods of our causes. However fair and bright they may be; it’s not worth the cost of a relationship, or of becoming someone who brings enmity rather than empathy when we come in the room. All women deserve access to the best information, resources, and social support as they make decisions, but they also deserve for someone to listen to their story and honor their path.

When you see a woman out on the street or across the room who is feeding her baby, remember that they didn’t just appear out of the void. That mama and baby have already been through a lot together. They are already on a hero’s journey. Whatever that mother has been through—and she has been through something—a difficult pregnancy, disappointment in herself, loss and grief, postpartum anxiety or depression, birth trauma, in-law trauma, relationship trauma, whatever it be—she has survived it and she is caring for her child. That is something to applaud.

That’s my sister, I accept her as my sister and know there’s a place for me to learn from her as well as to share what I know. Sometimes in our enthusiasm to preach the enlightenment we’ve found, we find ourselves less eager to listen. Honoring her path is accepting that she is doing it right. She is feeding her child. She loves her child, she is holding her child. She feels that sweet ache when baby is finally sleeping, no matter how much they drove her crazy during the day, she knows this time is precious. She knows it won’t last.

You really want to save the world from bad habits and misinformation and deception and lies and misogyny and cruelty? Don’t paint your banner with the colors of absolutes, with conditions and expectations. Wave the banner of “Come as you are, there is a place for you.” Make yourself a safe place. Make your home and heart a space where exploration is encouraged and nurturing your baby, however that looks for you, is celebrated and honored.

There is so much I want to change about the world. I want to break chains, tear down structures that deceive and oppress. I want to facilitate healing. But first, I want to go find my sister.

In that spirit, here is my slightly altered version of Helen Ramoutski’s lovely poem:

I Honor You

In circle gathered
In circle breast
In circle nourishing
In circle One

She whose milk came in quickly and whose baby latched gracefully,
Fortunate Woman, I honor you

She who gritted her teeth through pinches of pain
Rocked back and forth to calm babe and herself
Determined Woman, I honor you

She who pumped milk from a broken heart for her tiny NICU baby,
Precious milk given by others through a dropper
She who drove away grieving after the visit,
Courageous Woman, I honor you

She who still used a nipple shield after months
She who felt desperate rejoicing in the brief moments of connection
Faithful Woman, I honor you

She who shudders with silent horror before let-down
and holds steady until the hollow feeling fades
D-MER Woman, I honor you

She who gives of her abundance
To a nest of hungry baby birds
Milk-Sharing Woman, I honor you

She who nurtures one at breast and one in belly,
whose arms fold around tiny limbs and long
Tandem-Nursing Woman, I honor you

She who cradles child long longed-for, fresh and warm from another’s arms
They feed one another with hope and healing
Adoptive, Foster, Intended Mother, I honor you
She to whom nature was both kind and cruel
Who sacrificed flesh for more time to stay,
Survivor Woman, I honor you

She who feels that aching swell during meetings and in classrooms
Who endures the latch of a pump each day
Resilient Woman, I honor you
She who learned her limits and listened to her body’s cries
Who made a change to save what was needed most
Wise Woman, I honor you

She who greets the indignant strangers boldly
in all her beauty uncovered
Free Woman, I honor you

She who withstands pain and sustains life,
doubts and hopes,
weeps and laughs,
fills and empties,
pumps and freezes,
rocks and sings,
gives and keeps giving,

And feeds her child with the best of herself,
Sister, I Honor You.