The Lactivist

February 4, 2015


Chloe nursing at the World Walk for Breastfeeding NYC 2002

The word was accusatory. I felt her anger over the internet.

What had I done to her? I did not say anything about formula feeding. I did make the case against the unethical marketing of formula. That is distinctly different from condemning moms who formula feed.

There is a formula campaign going around social media under the guise of making the “Mommy Wars” go away. In actuality most of the conflict of motherhood, parenthood really, is sparked by media and advertising.

The line between marketing and entertainment is becoming more and more murky. I have learned for the most part to discern what is being sold to me as opposed to what is there to entertain me.

This is the comment I made:

This is not about breastfeeding vs formula feeding, it is about the nefarious marketing of the pharmaceutical industry that undermines all families. Formula has its place. This is about using guilt to promote their product and to make us divisive – are we really? At the heart of it on the playground I can say that most moms get along. The images in the media create fear and defensiveness. I work professionally to support all mothers, I know when formula is needed and wanted. People are not always given the opportunity to make an informed choice.

Why was she angry with me? Why did she think I was attacking her?

I started thinking about it. She was directing her anger at me because I am safe. She does not know me – I am just that breastfeeding advocate. What had happened to her? Was she really experiencing grief and anger over her baby feeding experience?

I have many friends who did not breastfeed and they are not angry at me. They made informed decisions or at least dealt with what they were handed and they have made peace with it.


I thought about the times I get angry at people. I moved to New York for many reasons but one of the big ones was for an acting career. I am not a Broadway or TV or movie star. I could list all of the obstacles that prevented me from becoming famous but it doesn’t matter. I still get jealous and angry sometimes when I see actors my age who have made it. I also wrote and performed stand-up comedy. I loved watching the Golden Globes but I felt little jolts of envy watching Tina and Amy up there.

These feelings are far overshadowed by my happy life. I have a loving husband whom I love hanging out with – he really is my best friend and I am looking forward to growing old with him. We have three awesome children who are smart, healthy and beautiful.



I have moved on. (Casting directors – I can still provide a resume!)

I am also a bit envious of the moms who have had babies at home. Complications prevented that from happening with my babies and me. Still, I ache a bit about some of the birth experiences my babies and I went through. In the end they are all healthy and we made it through.

I have worked out the things in my life that got in the way of some of my goals. I have accomplished many of my goals and I am a happy woman.

So, going back to the name caller, I think she is angry and sad that she is not breastfeeding. I do not know if her birth interfered with her plans. I do not know if her family gave her a hard time about breastfeeding. I do not know if she is taking a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding. I do not know if her body never made milk. I do not know what experiences she may have had in her past that makes it uncomfortable for her to have anyone touch her breasts.

I sure as hell bet she loves her baby immensely. I hope she can find some peace. I will be the brunt of many a new mom’s anger and frustration.

That is a role I can play.


Right outside the Earth School, Tuesday morning October 28, just after 8:30am drop off. I was chatting with another mom and we were startled into silence.

Was it two cars that slammed into each other?

I peered into the street. Oh my god! The young woman splayed out on the intersection of Avenue B and 5th Street had been on a bike. I thought to myself “call 911.” Even if others are calling I will still call. I needed to do something.

I began to shake. The windshield of the mini van was shattered and dented.

photo 1

Thank God she was wearing a helmet. She was conscious. People gathered around. I spoke to the dispatcher. “It is on Avenue B and 5th street in Manhattan,” I told him.

“Is there an address?”

“Is there an address?” I repeated out loud so others could help.

“There is a big school. The other businesses are closed and their gates are down.”

Sirens are heard in the distance. The thirty-something Asian couple from the van is stunned. Had he sped up to make the light?

One of the dads from school said he saw the women fly through the air.

“He was SPEEDING – GOING TOO FAST,” he said in slow motion staccato.

He saw the impact where I only heard it. I could see the impact on his face. Why am I crying?

The fire department paramedics came. The police came. The ambulance came.

I searched online to see if I could find out how she is. None of us outside the school recognized her.

This morning, Wednesday October 29 as I walked my son to school I noticed a bit of a commotion outside St. Brigid’s church on Avenue B. Could it be a funeral? I saw no hearse. The boy in the green polo shirt and khaki pants, the uniform of St. Brigid’s School, sat on the church steps holding his socked foot, crying.

“What happened?” a passerby asked.

“A cab hit his foot.”

I held tight to Finn’s hand.

After I dropped Finn to his class I passed Donna.

“I am so glad you wear a helmet.” I showed her the image of the smashed minivan windshield I captured with my phone. I heard sirens heading toward St. Brigid’s.

“You need to show that to Carol, she sometimes rides her bike without her helmet.”

I marched to Carol’s class.

“Only because I love you am I showing you this. This is where her head impacted the van. Without a helmet she would be dead. Please, please always wear a helmet.”

“I will,” she promised.

I walked around all day my body tense, my muscles tightened every time I saw a bare head on a bike.

Yesterday I baked Rob a red velvet cake for his birthday – it softened my muscles, it gave me joy.

photo 2

And then seeing the Catholic boy’s foot stiffened me up again.

We need to have speed bumps. We need crossing guards at every school intersection. We need to ticket speeding drivers.

Change and Magic

June 26, 2014


Yesterday was my birthday. Today was the last day of school for NYC Public School children. This weekend all three of my children will begin their summer at camp in the Berkshires and Rob and I will be alone for four weeks.

My oldest child has one year of college under her belt. My second child will be researching high schools in the fall. My youngest will begin fourth grade.

This summer many friends are leaving New York. They are going to Portugal, Massachusetts, Portland (both East and West) Israel, and Phoenix. The list goes on.

Change is hard. I have trouble with change. I have a hard time packing. I am challenged to move things around like furniture and art on my walls. I am a creature of habit.

But I also have change envy. I am envious of all those friends starting out on new adventures. I feel a little left behind.

Working with breastfeeding moms and babies I get to relive those early challenges of motherhood, the dramatic changes in the body and the heart. As someone who advises about weaning I get to relive the emotions of that milestone.

I was talking to Finn on the way to school this morning and he told me he wishes he could perform magic. The first thing I imagined I would do if I was magic would be to bring back my mother. This year in October it will be ten years since she died.

If I was magic . . .

Oh, the possibilities.

For now, I will remain in New York. I will continue to mother my children through all of the changes they experience. I will nurture my relationship with Rob. And I shall seek change that is positive. I will embrace each day, each challenge, each wrinkle and gray hair.

You see, this is about getting older. Yesterday was my 49th birthday and I am thinking deeply about 50. It is such a milestone. When I was a kid I used to imagine a grownup being 35 years old. I am past that quite a bit. I have to consider what this means.

I walk down the street and I look at other women. I try to figure out how old they are. I try to analyze their state of mind. I try to figure out if they are happy and healthy.

I will take in this final year of my forties. I am happy and I am healthy. And I know deep down I do possess some magic!

I love baking. It relaxes me. It chills me out.

I tried knitting. I would go to conferences and see the Zen aura haloing the knitting needled goddesses as the sticks gently clacked together as soft sweaters and scarves emerged. I tried it. It totally freaked me out! I wanted to scream. I wanted to impale those needles into the eyes of those sweater-making freaks. I could not sit still and make sure I counted those stitches and the rows. What if I fell short a stitch. I could not go back. If I unrolled it I would cry. Eventually my daughter finished the scarf I started years ago. She wrapped it up in beautiful Christmas wrap and placed it under the tree.



So, I went back to the kitchen. Baking is honest, straightforward.  There are rules but they are bendable. There is creativity. Before I was a lactation consultant I had a little baking business called Leigh Anne’s Southern Sweet Tooth. I baked for a local café and I baked for a restaurant in SoHo. I also baked for private events including a couple of weddings.

About three years ago I discovered I was allergic to wheat! Yikes! I have toyed with gluten-free flours and flour-free baking. Some has been great while some has turned out disastrous.

Nonetheless I still bake with beautiful, silky, binding flour. Nothing holds a cake or cookies together the same as good old-fashioned wheat flour – not whole wheat, just regular flour. Go get some, run your hands through it. It is dreamy.

One of my popular cakes is my lemon cake. No one makes the way I do – until now. I am going to share this recipe. This is a dense, moist, sweet and tart cake.



Leigh Anne’s Luscious Lemon Cake



1 ½ cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice (6-8 lemons)


Zest of 2 lemons (some will be used for the frosting)

2 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350. I like to put wax paper on my pans and use butter to prep the cake pans. I use two eight-inch pans.




Beat together the eggs and sugar for 30 seconds.


Add the remaining ingredients and beat on high for a minute and a half. Pour into the baking pans. Bake for about 20 minutes. Use a cake tester, knife or fork to test for doneness.

Let cool.



1 box of confectioners sugar

1 block of cream cheese

1 stick of unsalted butter

Zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla






Let the cream cheese reach room temperature, combine all the ingredients until smooth.

Frost the cake and enjoy!





A Reunion

June 20, 2013

I am heading to my high school reunion this weekend. It has been thirty years. It is amazing how fast it has come. It is equally amazing to see how much has occurred in my life in this thirty years. This is me then.


I went to school for four years in Greensboro.

Then with some kind of bravery or foolishness or both I moved to New York City. I was going to try it for a year. I got hooked. I almost left after a drab summer and dark winter but I fell in love with my neighbor a week before boarding a plane to Los Angeles. I think I am more of an East Coaster anyway.

Besides, that neighbor is my husband of twenty years



and the father of our three amazing children.


It has been both wonderful and humbling to share parenting with him. We have a good life. We live in tight quarters in Manhattan but we like it this way.

In my years in New York I have performed in theatres, in stand-up comedy venues. I have worked in law firms and department stores. I have worked as a location scout.  I have been a personal assistant to a wealthy woman.

When I became a mother I decided to become a La Leche League Leader, a volunteer breastfeeding support counselor. Then I went pro!


I now have a thriving Private Practice as a Lactation Consultant. That I get to empower mothers to use their bodies to nourish and grow their babies is inspiring everyday. And, from time to time I talk to the media about breastfeeding.

Going home to Fayetteville has become bittersweet. Mama died from lung cancer in 2004. I miss her but I also have her inside of me. She impacts most everything in my life.


When I do go home I get to be with my dad,


my sister and brother-in-law and my wonderful niece and three nephews.







And, I still have some solid friends at home. These friends are always there for me. Sometimes we go months or even years without talking but I know they are there.

I am excited to go to this reunion to see some old friends that maybe I have lost touch with. It will be a quick visit but it will be good to go and let my voice slow down a bit and let a drawl slide in. It will be good to sip some sweet tea.

See y’all in Fayetteville!



My Right Foot

March 13, 2013

The humbling reality of my situation is beginning to kick in. The Percocet is being replaced by Acetaminophen and my fog is wearing off. Last Thursday my foot was sort of reconstructed. I went to the doctor yesterday for my post-op follow-up and saw the hardware store that is my foot. There are 4 screws and my foot is swollen and bruised. In the half second that I could bare to look I saw Frankenstein. Rob was disappointed that I did not photograph the gore.

It was fascinating to see the before and after x-rays. My foot was previously at a right angle and now it is a straight line. If I was a home-schooler this could be a fun lesson in geometry.


My foot cannot touch the ground for six weeks. This is hard for an independent New Yorker and mother of three. And, it puts me out of work. As a Lactation Consultant in Private Practice offering home visits in Manhattan I cannot carry my equipment as I hobble on crutches. I am open to Skype and phone consults as well as visits in my home but most new moms prefer a home visit in their homes. I do not blame them.



When breastfeeding my third child was so challenging I saw it as an opportunity to be a better Lactation Consultant. This convalescent period will make me more sympathetic to the moms who have had a very difficult birth and have to ask for help and to rely on the kindness of others.

I am giving space for my family to get angry and frustrated. They really have to do so much for me. Rob has to get the kids ready in the morning and he makes me tea and breakfast. This, from the man who typically is out the door before the kids wake up. Phoebe has helped me bathe – remember baths? You have to have a sense of humor when you find yourself in a bathtub with your leg wrapped up to the knee in plastic hanging over the side of the tub and your children all staring down at you arguing over who will wash your hair.

Chloe comes home from school and makes me tea. I am filled with guilt at the prospect of not being able to attend her performance in the Middle School production of Bye Bye Birdie.

Finn cuddles me and throws things in the hamper and garbage for me. He gets himself dressed and ready for bed with less arguing.

I have metal water bottles placed strategically in my home.



I have had to ask friends to drive me to doctor’s appointments – thanks Julia! I have told my mother-in-law pointblank which of her delicious foods I want her to make for me. I have blatantly posted a photo of my foot on social media, which alerted my friend Liz, a Reiki Master to come work on me.

I am planning the time to work on more writing and putting together a presentation for the Museum of Motherhood Conference in May.

Look for more blog posts and come visit me if you are in the ‘hood. I like chocolate and gluten-free foods!