A couple of weeks ago; a friend of mine, that happens to be an absolute gem of a human being, gave birth for the first time to a beautiful baby girl. Neither her pregnancy or her birth went according to her desired plan and she was now getting all sorts of varying advice about breastfeeding depending on which midwife was on duty at the time and it was overwhelming and confusing for both her and her very supportive husband. This made me so sad. What she needed was knowledge through non-judgemental information. She needed to feel confident to make her own choices, to make decisions based on facts. To make decisions about what would be best for her own mental health as well as the health and well being of her precious new bubba. Although she was interstate, I was able to send her through some of this information, hopefully allowing her the opportunity to feel empowered enough to stand tall in her choices. Both her and baby are doing really well.
This got me reminiscing about my own birth and breastfeeding adventures and I remembered that while studying at The Australian Doula College our homework often included reflecting upon our own personal experiences. One such time was when we were learning about breastfeeding. There was ALOT of reading and research involved in this segment of the course, we also had to write a short piece about our own breastfeeding experience and my teacher found my little essay pretty amusing so I thought I would share it with you all tonight.
So here is my short reflection on my own breastfeeding experience:
My experience was entangled with all kinds of emotions and physical variants. With each child I felt more comfortable in my ability to breastfeed well, yet I never felt entirely comfortable with having to feed from my breasts! The first round was full of awkward, uncomfortable moments with a shocking revelation that my breasts would leak 24/7 from here until forever (or so it seemed).
I hated feeding in public or wherever people may have ever existed and with the ever increasing drive to “normalise” breastfeeding in public, I felt less and less normal everyday.
I was annoyed to say the least, and then as an abrupt opposition to that emotion I also felt incredibly proud of myself, that despite all my new insecurities that were flourishing I was overcoming myself every four hours (yes four!) to do what was right for my baby’s well being.
Lastly I was grateful, not for the experience or bonding or nurturing I had done, but that it was over!! He officially preferred food in his hands and milk in a bottle and I was all ” Hallelujah” for that!
Subsequently the next three experiences with breastfeeding were far less dramatic. No cracked nipples or bleeding, no mastitis beyond relief or misunderstanding with how to attach. Bras were getting more sophisticated, even sexy on occasion, although the yellow stained breast pads soon shut any sexy feelings down pronto.
Post natal contractions were beyond ignorable but were over soon enough, so now, I could cope with the whole scenario with a lot more grace and less tears.
Forever jealous of that effortless, doll holding mother that could discreetly and comfortably feed wherever she found herself. That was not a fortune I was blessed with, BUT I was clever and creative with my misfortune none the less and with each new baby I became master of awkward organisation. My ‘milking’ chair was constantly armed with snacks and refreshment, remotes for tvs and dvds, clothes, cloths, wipes, nappies and creams and I was queen of clever cloaks for the inevitable public feeding spectacle and so now I too could be cool and effortless, calm and collective and champion in my own race for breast feeding glory!
I’m neither fussed or unfussed about breast feeding now. I am mostly just glad to have my some what deflated and wrinkly breasts back at all.
(written May 2016)
So there it is. My honest evaluation on how I personally handled breast feeding. Maybe not what everyone expects from a Doula. I am definitely pro breastfeeding, I am also pro bottle feeding, controversial one might say, but actually its because I am pro choice. Choice of a mother to do what is best for her own personal situation, her own personal mental health and well being which ultimately is what is also best for her babies health and well being. That is what being a Doula is all about. Supporting women to make their OWN choices. There are so many reasons women choose to breastfeed, there is also so many reasons women choose not to.
Before signing off, I would like to share another little piece of our learning.
“All women can breast feed; we have just complicated it for women!!!! “ : We were told to “Briefly discuss this statement and how this sits with you.”
This was my answer:
Well, we have been designed to breastfeed so in some senses that statement is true, BUT, we have also been designed to make and carry and deliver babies and yet it doesn’t always work out that way for every woman. So it is not that “we” have complicated it, its just that for some women “it” is more complicated. What “we” have done, is given women who struggle with breastfeeding, a complex.
I am proud of all mothers who lovingly nurture their babies.