National Breastfeeding Week: My Journey (Part I)

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It’s National Breastfeeding Week next week.  This was me feeding my youngest son when he was less than two weeks old.  I love it.  My friend and photographer Cristina took this for me when we had our newborn shoot and I will always cherish it.  Some of you will be uncomfortable looking at it, some of you will smile.  It’s okay either way.

If you saw me feeding Lyoto when we’re out, I wouldn’t look like this; you would see no skin ~ well, maybe a peep if Lyoto decides you will.  In fact, you probably wouldn’t notice unless you stared at me.  I’m very proud to breastfeed.  I wasn’t always like this.

You won’t find any photographs of me feeding Jensen, and it hurts that I don’t have any to show you.  The reason I don’t have any is because when Cristina suggested it at our newborn shoot for Jensen, I declined.  I said I was a clumsy breastfeeder.  In truth the thought of me having photos breastfeeding horrified me.

I had never set out to breastfeed. I told my husband that my breasts were not going to be used like a cow’s and he thought I was joking. I wasn’t.  The thought of having a baby feeding off me repulsed me, I couldn’t imagine it.  My sister was breastfeeding her son of nearly three years and it disgusted me.  The idea that someone would be sucking on my nipple for nourishment turned my stomach and I found it perverse for some reason.

My husband didn’t push the issue, I’m not sure whether he knew I would come around like my Mum did when I used to tell her that I was going to be following Gina Ford’s books to the letter (my Mum would just smile).  I was sure.  I looked at the cute little bottles in the baby shops and dreamed of sitting on the sofa, feeding my baby with them and watching TV.  We would snuggle together and everything would be picture perfect. After all, I was bottle fed, and I turned out well.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Looking back to before Jensen was born, I put it down to my marvelous expertise of being a ‘pre-parent’.  I was an expert at raising a baby before he was born.  I knew it all.  I read the books, the articles, and I was quite, quite sure that my baby would follow a strict routine ~ not to fit into my life, but because as a teacher I know how important routine is for children.  I quite firmly believed that a baby would do as “the book” said.  My day would run smoothly.  I would breeze into our beautifully decorated nursery in the morning and pick up my gurgling baby from his beautiful mahogany cot with its soft brushed white cotton sheets after a peaceful night; we would spend the mornings adoring each other or taking strolls with the pram.  Then at the time stated in the book, he would be put down to nap in his half-dark nursery again whilst I watched Murder She Wrote or Poirot.  Everything would go so swimmingly…or so I thought.

At 06.39am on 15th February 2010, after four days of labour, my world was changed forever.  I was changed.  I became the Momma I never thought I would be.

What I hadn’t accounted for was love, I suppose.  Not just a “he’s so beautiful, I adore him” kind of love, but an all-consuming, soul-squeezing, I-can’t-ever-be-away-from-you kind of love that tore me apart inside.  It actually hurt how much I loved this little being. As soon as he was put into my arms, I felt it.  Love. I wanted everything for this little bundle of vulnerability and neediness.  He stared at me with his desperate eyes and pleaded for me to love him, to protect him, to be his Momma.  I drowned in those eyes and I knew I’d never again need to come to the surface for air.

I don’t know if it was because I had been de-sensitised to fear of feeding through giving birth and decided just to jump in and try it, or whether I just knew inside I would do it all along but was afraid to admit it to myself, instinctively I tried to feed my little one.  He wasn’t up to it. No latching, no sucking for more than a couple of attempted seconds.  Four days of labour can do that to a little body, but I didn’t know that ~ and no one told me either.  All I knew was that he needed me to feed him and I was going to do just that.  If only it was as easy as the book said…

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One Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading about your journey. It certainly is never "textbook" for anyone. Each of my children was a unique experience, with some more successful than others. Thank you for the lovely reminder of this sweet and precious time with our sweet babies.

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