The 2017 Breastfeeding Symposium was titled First Coast Neonatal Symposium, and it discussed an essential neonatal-related topic today, which is insufficient breastfeeding. I am a social worker who manages a center for homeless teenagers that are either pregnant or with a baby/child in tow.
We house these teenagers and young mothers so that they, both the mother and the baby, can have a chance at life. It is not a permanent place to reside, but it is a home for them up until they can get back on their feet, and be ready to face life with hope – availability of decent housing and a job for the mother.
I was in that motherhood symposium because, believe it or not, I may be taking care of 49 mothers and 13 babies at the moment, but I have never given birth. And I do not know how breastfeeding feels like. But in my heart, I know, I am a mother. I am their momma, and I have been for the past ten years of my social working life. Waking up each morning hearing the cries of the babies and the catfights of these teenagers, “who took my brush,” “who got my lipstick,” “who stole my bra,” kind-of-thing, it gives me purpose. I know why I am put in this world, and that’s to be a mother. I am a mother to them all.
Is it difficult? Oh, yes, it is very challenging. Most of these teenagers are lost; some were druggies and hookers, runaways, delinquents, and now they have a baby. They do not know what to do with their sons or daughters, which is why in this center, we teach them how to become responsible mothers. We teach them how to become what they are supposed to be, and that is living their lives accordingly, and be a responsible adult in the future.
The symposium that I attended was viewable online, and I let them watch. You could hear some of them gasp, with the “ooohhh’s” and the “aaahhh’s” – it is such a fulfilling experience. At least now they know how important breastfeeding is for them and their young ones. And I am blessed to be a part of their learning.