The week leading up to this tour location was insane. My children switched schools because of changes in the district so spent my last couple of days at home cleaning and getting things in order. I also started a new workout regimen and my metabolism has shot way up so I wake up everyday at 5 am without an alarm clock! So needless to say, I was exhausted coming into Chicago, yet no less excited than all of my previous wonderful tour stops.
I flew into Midway and hopped on a shuttle to the Chicago Grand Sheraton to catch the LEAC Global Forum at the ILCA Conference. It was pretty amazing to see breastfeeding images that I have captured over the past two years right there on the screen as part of such an extensive and significant presentation. I felt very proud and took a moment to thank all of the IBCLCs who were present for their dedication to the profession. If it wasn’t for my (now retired) IBCLC, Ann Russell in San Diego County, I never would have come this far as a breastfeeding mom and become such an inspired photographer.
I met up with Shlonda, a Georgia State WIC Representative and co-host of Mocha Milkies Cafe. We walked the length of the Navy Pier and circled back to Giordano’s near the Children’s Museum for some Chicago deep-dish pizza. It was delicious! All of a sudden a storm came in and we were rushed inside before 2 inches of rain fell in a matter of 45 minutes!! It was crazy! Instead of walking back to the hotel in the storm, we were rescued by the one and only Chicago-based, Badass Breastfeeder! We made it back to the hotel, dropped off Shlonda, I collected my bags and rode to Abby’s house!
I must admit I was geekin out over it, especially since Abby came to pick me up in her pajamas! She’s a very sweet, and humble person and is only truly “badass” when she needs to be. We sat down and enjoyed some wine and talked until her baby woke up around 1 a.m. – about social justice, persistent racism and privilege in the US, and the need for all moms to take a stand and support for Black Breastfeeding Week in an effort to increase breastfeeding rates among the women with the lowest rates in the country. I was truly honored to be in her presence and my respect for her as a person has only multiplied as I conversed with her about the recent traumatic events that have occurred recently in the United States.
On Friday, shortly after I woke up, I joined Abby and her boys for breakfast. Her youngest spiked a fever. It was unexpected and without any other symptoms for about 2 hours. Then he began to vomit. Abby was unsure about what to do. She reminded me that her whole family had recently gotten over a bad flu only a few weeks ago. I suggested lots of skin to skin for the high temperature. She wore him around the house in her carrier. Then I decided to just give them some space so that she could focus on him getting better. When her husband arrived home from work her son had “perked up” a bit so her husband fed the baby, but due to heir son’s huge appetite after hardly eating or nursing all day he vomited again! We had planned a dinner date into my “on-the-ground” itinerary and didn’t want to cancel since it was right around the corner. We took about an hour and a half to have a nice outdoor, relaxing dinner. It was AWESOME. We had so much to talk about outside of breastfeeding. At the same time, Abby expressed her want to focus more time on the personal aspects of her blog, in order to reach her goal of wanting to simply have more time with her boys. I shared with her my recent distractions with WHO Code Compliance and how we are in such a bad place in the US regarding transparency from formula companies who attempt to enhance their brand by playing on mothers emotions claiming to support breastfeeding and breast cancer research. It is an unfortunate situation for mothers who want to reach their breastfeeding goals, for mothers who don’t have access to compliant products, and for initiatives that are seeking financial assistance to keep their projects going. When we returned home with wine from the corner store, we knew it was going to be a rough night ahead especially since we had an 8 a.m. call time for the #NBFtour event the following day.
I technically woke up at 430 a.m. on Saturday morning; traveling from the west coast is rough! When I was ready to go Abby suggested that she drop me off on time and then return home to get ready. She decided it would be best to bring her oldest son to the group session since he was feeling fine, and still nursing. She dropped me off at 7:55 a.m. at Millennium Park. Abby returned with her oldest right on time for us to snap a quick photo in front the Bean!
Next, we headed to the Chicago Cultural Center. On the way there, we experienced a very mild variation of the “wind tunnels” that occur between the buildings in downtown. It was so interesting to hear that some of these moms had actually been blown to the ground during the winter seasons to only confirm that Chicago is properly nicknamed, “the windy city.” Once inside we were immediately relieved by the air conditioning! We made our way up to the Tiffany Dome for a another group photograph. This location was absolutely stunning!
The next morning something really amazing happened!! The mama behind Free Soul Designs actually missed the group session on Saturday due to lack of sleep (I know nothing about that lol), so she met me at Abby’s and we took a walk around the neighborhood to find a good place to shoot. Abby suggested a church down the street, when we go there we were invited inside. This mama instantly became emotional and began to cry. We shot there for bit then went outside for some pretty shots in the street. Ironically, when she returned home, she told her mother about the beautiful church and her mother confirmed that this was the same church where this mama’s great grandparents were married!! What a very special memory to have as part of her story to normalize breastfeeding.
The day didn’t end there. Abby’s youngest was feeling better and ready to be photographed so we took another walk around this lovely Chicago neighborhood to capture some images of them breastfeeding. And it was pretty badass! The Badass Breastfeeder graciously sponsored two other mothers to participate in this Chicago event. Abby is now 40 years old nursing her two boys who are full of energy, incredibly well spoken, and a joy to be around.
After packing up, I was taken downtown to Lurie Children’s Hospital where my last, but definitely not least mama was awaiting my arrival. She’s a mother of four who’s twins have been in the NICU for two whole months. She is a on the pathway to becoming an IBCLC and I simply couldn’t be more proud of the joy that she exudes in the presence of her children, simply breathtaking. Her mother, a now retired RN, offers her a large amount of support caring for the older children when she is available and offering breastfeeding help when necessary.
Thank you Chicago mamas for nursing in public and helping to normalize breastfeeding!
Special thanks to all of the #NBFtour collaborators for helping to make this tour great!
SPONSORS: Sarah Carp, 1st grade Teacher (3) Kristyna Cleek, Studying for IBLCE (1) Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition (1) Nurse Nikki, LLC (1)