6 Aug 2012

the womanly art


 
Maternidad Aurelio Arteta, Mother Rose Nursing Her Child by Marry Cassat, Reu at two weeks, Reu at five months,

Did you know that its World Breastfeeding Week

It just happens to coincide with my milestone of exclusively breastfeeding my little one for six months. This many not seem like a big deal to you, but it feels immense to me. Partly because of the sheer determination I had to muster to move through the first two or three months of difficulties (namely tongue-tie, painful shallow latching, excruciating and persistent thrush, a fever-inducing blocked milk duct, clumsily moving into positions). But also because for half a year of Reuben's life he has been sustained and nourished by me; no bottles, no supplements, no solids - just, as our doctor remarked, "the magic potion"....

I do feel proud, empowered even, that I persevered through the pain because I knew I had to - that it wasn't just about me, or my peace of mind, it was about my child getting the milk specifically made for him and his body. But I am also humbled, completely and utterly, because I know how hard it can be. I can't judge women who don't or stop breastfeeding as perhaps (if I am being honest) I once might have. I can't take the high-ground because I think all mums want the same thing; healthy, nourished children, however we can.

There have been other obstacles too. Mostly my own personal self-consciosness about breastfeeding in public especially in a country where breastfeeding is not the norm, but also learning to nurse while wearing Reuben in a sling, or in a parked car, or discreetly on a crowded train, or in pitch-black darkness. Finding comfortable positions also took time - I remember the joy of finally being able to comfortably breastfeed Reu lying down - which now makes night-feeding a lot more relaxing and uneventful.

I have always known and loved this womanly art. I knew I wanted to breastfeed my future children because my mum breastfed me, and her mum her, and her mum her... I thought, because it was natural, physiological; part of a beautiful design it would be so easy, so simple. But I know now it is different for every woman; and it takes time to feel natural, to be simple. 

All that said, one thing that does come immediately is this overwhelming sense of being close and connected with that tiny person who grew in your womb. I remember fresh the moment Reuben was placed in my arms, his head against my skin for the first time, and instinctively I gave him my breast to latch on to. He suckled for a little while, placed his hand against me, his body relaxing into stillness. Even now when he nurses, he will place a hand on my skin, somewhere, and I remember that moment. 

I am so thankful for the help of La Leche Leaguefor that mother-to-mother support, a home visit in those early days, and now for the monthly meetings where we can let out hair down, share a meal, advice, insights, struggles and of course, breastfeed our little ones.

Thanks be to you dear friends who gave encouragement, shared similar struggles, prayed, emailed... Thanks also to my beautiful, inspiring mum and to the encouragements of my step-mum and my mum-in-law.

Lastly, my deepest gratitude is to my husband Alex
who never says no when I desperately need a shoulder massage, glass of water, myriad of pillows,
and who from the very beginning has encouraged me -
and understood the preciousness of breastfeeding.

Here's to the last six months,
may there be another six,
and another... 

11 comments:

  1. Six months of breastfeeding is definitely a cause for celebration! ...Especially since it was a difficult process for you those first few months!

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    1. Thank you! It is so worth the initial difficulties :)

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  2. my thoughts on breastfeeding EXACTLY. We had hard times in the beginning as well, and it's not always easy (or fun) day to day, but 99% of the time I love the way nursing allows me to connect with E and relax a little, too. At 18 months (almost 19 now!!) he's not nursing nearly as much anymore, but still enough to get what he needs emotionally and biologically I think. He's a healthy little guy and I think a lot of that has to do with being nursed! Good for you for committing so strongly - and I love that you're a LLL member - it's my favourite night out every month as well. Must end the comment now as E has climbed into my lap asking for 'moties' (milkies). love you you!
    j

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    1. Ah Jordan, its amazing how it does relax me even in the midst of sleep deprivation or frustration or pain even! So encouraging to hear you're apart of LLL too; and that you're still nursing at 18 months (woo hoo). I am certain your little man has profited from it greatly, but more than that, he's got an amazing mama regardless!

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  3. What Jordan said!!! Isn't it the most amazing thing? These chubby boys from our milk? I joke with Anthony that it's like he came out and deflated a bit as newborns do and I pumped him up like a bicycle tire with milk. And you're right; it takes time but man is it ever glorious when you are in synch :) xoxo

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    1. Hehe, milky drunked smiles are my favourite :) I love that image of Orion being pumped up like a bicycle tire, hehe. I do feel so encouraged by you too. Lots of love xx

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  4. I am so proud of you, beautiful daughter.

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  5. What a wonderful milestone to reach! It's so encouraging and inspiring to hear your breastfeeding story. Unfortunately, with my Eli, I was only able to breastfeed for 4 months. I don't know if it was because of an infection early on, or if it's just the way the Lord made me, but try as I may- I couldn't produce enough milk to fully sustain my boy. It was (and still is) one of the hardest parts of motherhood for me. I was crushed and disappointed. But here we are 5 months later and I have a healthy and happy baby. Being pregnant again, I fully plan on breastfeeding babe #2 (if it's possible) and am so encouraged to hear about other mamas. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. To Megan - be encouraged by the fact that many women who have trouble producing enough milk with the first babe have an easier time the second time through - we produce more milk glands with each pregnancy so the potential for production expands every time. And if you don't have it, get your hands on a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding - it is such fantastic reading, and gives a lot of great tips for optimizing production, especially in the early days when it's most important. All the best!

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  7. Thank you for putting this so well and for sharing your experiences of it so far. I am nursing my 19 month old and we also had a rocky start but that makes it all the more satisfying to have made it this far!

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Thank you for reading! I do so love and appreciate every one of your comments even if I don't get a chance to reply.