Our blog is about our family, and about celebrating parenthood. I write about the happy times in our lives as a scrapbook for our boys when they’re older. I don’t enjoy courting negativity on here, and in truth I find it very difficult to write when I’m low emotionally. This week though, I’m going to be as completely honest and transparent as I can be about my feelings surrounding one of the biggest minefields in motherhood. It’s the one which, wherever you perch on the fence with it, you’re going to get a splinter in your bottom from.
Therefore, this year we’re very proud to be joining in with the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. This week, companies and bloggers are joining together to promote and support breastfeeding, with the added fun of a scavenger hunt for some amazing prizes, like the Breastfeeding Survival Kit from The Natural Birthing Company. The week starts at 10am today, and by visiting the sites of those involved (like us!) and finding the #KBBF2014 logo, you can enter for your chance to win!
So here begins my week of what will probably be at times an uncomfortable honesty. Because if you’d mentioned breastfeeding to me at any point in my life more than four years ago I’d have gone red, felt disgusted and tried to change the subject. Breastfeeding just wasn’t something I was at all comfortable with, in any form. Seeing it, talking about it, hearing about it. Not. For. Me. Taboo.
My third bundle of blue is due in just over a week’s time now. At the moment, I don’t want to breastfeed him. I can imagine there are those of you now who know me personally, who know how I parent, and who are deeply confused about that sentence coming from me.
When the time comes and our baby is born, I will be ready to breastfeed my little one though, until he’s ready to wean, and I’ll look back on our memories of bonding together with great fondness, deep love and pride.
So why did I decide to I breastfeed?
It’s been over four years since I first brought life into the world, and I have four very different years of breastfeeding experience tucked into my super momma tool belt. I gained 19 months with my firstborn and 21 months with my second. Our first self weaned but our second was extremely reluctant.
Selfishly I needed a little break from the feeding (which by this point was only at night) as I was three months pregnant at the time with our third baby and completely exhausted. I say selfishly because Momma guilt creeps in with any decision made over the health or wellbeing of our little ones, and although I’m grateful that I had a break, I do feel guilty that I helped him make the break rather than let him decide by himself as Jensen did.
Perhaps I Breastfeed Because It’s Natural…
No, no. no. Breastfeeding did not come at all naturally to me. In the beginning, it was a truly horrible, painful and highly stressful experience for the first three months. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, even the day before I gave birth to my first born. In fact, truthfully, I had more than planned NOT to do it. I’ve thought long and hard about my feelings back then, pre-parenthood, and finally come to terms with the way I felt.
The thought of feeding a baby with a liquid created by and expelled from my body revolted me. I primarily viewed breasts as sexual objects and yet oddly was rather prudish about the whole idea of breastfeeding.
I grew up as an engineer’s daughter and so the sight of breasts on Page 3 calendars around the toolroom and shop floor were second nature to me…breasts were perky, pretty things that attracted men…and it seemed perverse to have a baby sucking on them. Something seemed very sexual and wrong about the whole affair. I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin if I saw any woman discreetly feeding her child. I had no idea where to look.
I married my husband at 32, and at 33, I fell pregnant…and my feelings did not alter one bit. I researched the pretty bottles and teats with various flows, and planned my picture perfect days of snuggling on the sofa with my little one nestled in a beautiful blanket whilst we adored each other. It was beautiful. No nipples in sight.
My husband and I had had one discussion over breastfeeding prior to my giving birth, which had ended badly. He had assumed I would, and I had decided I wouldn’t.
Then my water was broken and my bubble popped. Out came a vulnerable, loving, hopeful little (nearly 10lb) baby after four days of pacing the floor. Brand new, untouched, untainted, and mine.
Lay in the blood sodden bed, with my own creation lay helplessly gazing up at me from my chest, I just decided to try. I was embarrassed, yet seemed like the right thing to do…like I was expected to…but it didn’t work. It took months of pain and tears to get it to work, and despite wanting constantly to give up, I succeeded out of stubborn determination, because I didn’t want to let my baby down.
And that’s the reason why.
My primary motivation for beginning my breastfeeding journey lay right there. Physically capable of breastfeeding my babies, and with my head filled with scientific and evolutionary knowledge of our species, I knew it was the best that I could do for my children. I knew within both my head and my heart that the only reason I wouldn’t breastfeed my children would be because I was too selfish to learn. Nothing else was holding me back.
Four years on, the selfish part of me, who isn’t holding a baby in her arms again quite yet, would probably love to daydream about bottle feeding. Back in my idyllic daydream setting, a bottle would mean that I wouldn’t be their exhausted primary caregiver 24/7, I could go out with friends for more than an hour at a time, drink if I wanted to, hand our babies over to relatives for nights away, and just get some sleep when I felt like it. There would have been no cracked and bleeding nipples in my life, no bouts of mastitis, no humiliation feeding my baby perched in a public toilet. No sagging, no damage, no change.
Yet none of the pure happiness and secure attachment that our breastfeeding relationships created.
The milk drunk smiles, giggles, cuddles, and the knowledge that whatever sadness engulfed their tiny minds, nursing could soothe it away. I am their complete security, surety, their rock. I love that. I can’t imagine the loss I would feel had I not had this time with them. Even though guilt might have been my initial motivation to feed them, it isn’t my driving force. Once the initial martyrdom is over, I can’t imagine feeding them any other way and I truly cherish the times I’m bound to the sofa with tiny eyes gazing at me, tiny fingers grasping for me.
Now, as I look at my boys four years on, I feel an immense pride in myself. The years I’ve given so far to nourish their bodies from egg to baby to toddler and preschooler have been the best and most worthwhile years I’ve spent in my life and no matter what my initial motivation, I have no regrets. I regret not being able to get the right support and struggling for so long, but ultimately my choices have been right for me. I am their mother. I have dedicated my body to physically developing them from conception until weaning and fulfilled every need that they have had. The relationship that has developed through breastfeeding has filled many of my emotional and health needs too. I look in the mirror and see a mother who has given her all, no excuses, and I am proud.