Conference Memories

For many of us, the conferences were places to form strong connections. Enjoy the conference memories of others--and add your own.

Mary Emma Middleton, Waldorf, Maryland, United States:

Story submitted August 10, 2011

I attended the 1977 LLLI Conference held in Toronto and was privileged to be on the panel, "Breastfeeding the Premature Infant," with Dr. Gregory White. I was so nervous but Dr. White reminded me that it was my story and that other mothers needed to hear how I managed to breastfeed in spite of the naysayers. As soon as I finished speaking, my oldest daughter (11) came in with her three-year-old baby sister for all to see. And yes, her younger sister was still nursing at the time--not often but for comfort. Today she is a new mother with her own baby and for many reasons, is needing to supplement him with formula. However, baby Lucas knows the peace and comfort of her mother's breast and eagerly nurses at times for comfort and to fall asleep. I am so proud of my daughters and my two daughters-in-law who have breastfed my grandchildren. I am still amazed at how many mothers remember me from the LLL meetings I led. Even though my time as an LLL volunteer was followed by my involvement with hospice care and later as an oncology nurse practitioner, many of the basic principles have never left me. I am so glad you are all still around! I am battling my second round of ovarian cancer but facing it as I have faced obstacles--trusting in God, the prayer of friends and the support of family. La Leche League always just felt right. I am so proud to have been a part of the organization and equally glad you are still there.

Patricia A. Shenofsky, Ohio, United States:

1998 Conference Memories: I hadn't even thought that LLLI had a Web site. How wonderful to find that it is one of the most visited sites related to health information with a natural bent. I have wonderful memories of both nursing my children and the friendship and support I received from my dear sisters in "League." Most cherished are the 1978 International Conference in Atlanta. Dr. Ross Campbell was one of the speakers as well as Dr. Crook and the author of "Maternal Infant Bonding." LLL was a springboard for me. I went to college and became a registered nurse. My two-year program stretched into four years because I put my family first. I only attended classes when the children were in school. I worked the graveyard shift to be home with my children in the evenings. My girls have all nursed their children, some with more success than others. The one thing I would like to say to young mothers is: feed your children well and exercise regularly.

Susan Switzer , Georgia, United States:

Conference Memories of Made of This

This article by Susan Switzer is reprinted from Continuum, No. 1, 2003.

While they all offer the joy of being immersed for a few days in a culture of breastfeeding and responsive parenting, there is: the awe of meeting the LLL Founders, LLLI Board Members and LLLI Office staff; the excitement of hearing famous speakers; and the fun of reuniting with old friends. For me each La Leche League International Conference has its own unique flavor. I've attended nine out of ten over the past twenty years and have come away from each with a special feeling and host of memories that set it apart from the others.

I remember my first conference in 1981 for three things: it was the first time I'd been away overnight from my three young children, the seven Founders were real women in the flesh, and I'd spent a significant part of my time lost in the huge, elegant, and confusing hotel (Chicago Hilton, pre-renovation). I came away with the clear awareness that there was a lot to La Leche League beyond my local Area and I was hooked on International Conferences.

For various reasons I missed the 1983 Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, and by 1985, I was ready for the Conference in Washington, D.C.. I remember attending while I was pregnant with our fourth child, and convincing my entire family to go with me so they could experience this remarkable organization that was such a big part of our family life. They were duly impressed and I was so proud. David Elkind's opening night session on the hurried child and Tine Thevenin's "Family Bed" session made lasting impressions on me and lasting contributions to our family life. In addition, I was becoming aware of the international flavor of the organization.

In 1987 we were back in Chicago in a newly renovated Hilton and I was attending with my oldest daughter, toddler son, and my co-Leader with her oldest son and toddler daughter. I remember being spellbound by Elliot Barker of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children speaking at one of the luncheons on the "Critical Importance of Mothering." It was such validation for my choices. This was the first conference at which I dared to approach the Founders to autograph my copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I was really beginning to feel a part of this "family." I also remember missing large parts of sessions when: my son lost patience with his big sister and the playroom; when he needed mom's undivided attention; and being torn among technical sessions, parenting sessions, breastfeeding management sessions, and politics sessions. I came to see LLLI as the authority on breastfeeding that it is and went home empowered to sit the IBCLC exam the next year.

My co-Leader and I flew across the country with her infant daughter to attend the 1989 International Conference in Anaheim, California and I mustered the courage to approach Dr. Gregory White to thank him personally for his very important support in a breastfeeding crisis eleven years earlier. His response was to give me a phone number and send me up to my room to pass the help along to a young mother he knew of. I was honored and a little intimidated. This was the conference where I met Dr. Jay Gordon, Dr. William Sears, Chele Marmet, Marsha Walker, and Maureen Minchin and soaked up their technical expertise to bolster my new certification as a lactation consultant. This was also the conference where I was inspired by Don Aslett's luncheon session and book, Clutter's Last Stand, to go home and dejunk my life. And most memorably this was the conference where we joined together singing "Love in Any Language" and I dissolved in tears.

By 1991 when I attended the 35th anniversary International Conference in Miami Beach, Florida with two thirteen-year-olds and a five-year-old, I was eagerly looking forward to meeting and celebrating with old friends from around the world. This was the year that I attended my first rap session with the LLLI Board of Directors and was introduced to the politics of the organization, causing me to begin to consider how I could contribute beyond the local Area. Thanks to a session by Barb Heiser, I was also introduced to the politics of breastfeeding which became a passion for me. This, then, was my "politics" conference.

In 1993 the International Conference scheduled for Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas was cancelled and I was so disappointed. This conference thing had become a wonderful habit. So this was the conference that wasn't.

The 1995 International Conference in Chicago felt like coming home. I'd figured out the lay of the hotel! It also felt very global in scope as I enjoyed sessions on the Baby Friendly Initiative, the WHO code and WABA, and heard Anwar Fazal speak on the "Rebirth of Breastfeeding Worldwide." I attended this conference alone, yet never felt alone. In fact there was so much to do and so many people to enjoy that I wished for more hours in the day. A partial solution was my discovery of the conference tapes as a way to bring some of the information and excitement home with me for later enjoyment.

1997 in Washington, D.C., celebrated the 40th anniversary of La Leche League and was the first conference to be held over the Fourth of July. I remember celebrating the seven Founders as they shared their personal stories; watching the fireworks from the hotel windows with my husband, son and friends from LLL of Georgia; bursting with pride as my husband, Hugh, received the LLL Award of Appreciation; and attending lots of Leader Accreditation Department sessions and later the International Management Symposium as an administrator. This was the conference when I expanded my appreciation of the organization that is La Leche League.

My memories of the 1999 International Conference in Orlando, Florida conference were of sessions that nurtured me as a woman and a mother, of letting go of trying to do it all (knowing I could purchase tapes of sessions I might miss) and revisiting Don Aslett's decluttering session (I'd made very little progress in ten years and needed inspiration to try again). This was my laid back conference, one spent enjoying old and new friends - most notably the Leaders from Ireland.

My memories of the 2001 Conference in Chicago are of being taken care of. While I know LLL people to be most caring and supportive, I was deeply moved by the response I encountered when I came down with Lyme disease immediately after arriving. I found loving concern and exactly the help I needed at every turn. From the first night when Sandey Stayanoff, an acquaintance from Georgia, got out of bed and left her husband to come take pictures of my bull's eye rash and help me brainstorm (with my fever fogged brain) my course of action; to Carol Kolar taking time out from orchestrating the conference the next day to help me decide what to do and direct me to Dr. Eisenstein; to Mary Bird, my Leader friend from Ireland, who overheard and insisted on skipping her session to babysit me, feeding me breakfast and keeping me focused while I waited for Dr. Eisenstein's session to end; to the good doctor himself who listened to my description of symptoms, trusted my assessment, and agreed to call me in the appropriate antibiotic; to Barbara Wexler, a mother from my local LLL Group, who guided me to my next session. As I started to feel better, I realized how unable to take care of myself I'd been and how naturally and firmly my LLL friends had stepped in to meet my needs. While the sessions, the luncheons, the World Assembly, and the afternoon tea were all special, it's this feeling of being cared for that stays with me as the flavor of the 2001 Conference in Chicago.

With the 2003 Conference in San Francisco, California just around the corner, I am eagerly anticipating another familiar but new experience. This one already has a unique flavor for me as I have had the opportunity to help with some of the Alumnae Association's plans for events that will make it special for everyone. The rejuvenation activities are calling to me and the chance to help out is deeply satisfying. Knowing what's in store adds to my excitement and being part of a dynamic fun-loving group of Alums leads me to believe that I will be remembering this as my "fun" conference. See you in San Francisco!