Rose & Autumn
"My eldest daughter Katie was stillborn in 2000. She would have been eighteen this December. I could not breastfeed Katie, although I had a strong desire to, and have dreamt about it many times. I produced milk for some time after the funeral. It seemed to leak faster when I was crying, as though I was offering her my tears in the way I would have offered her my breast. My whole body was crying for her. I wish someone had suggested donating but I was not aware that this was an option at the time. In 2007 our daughter Amelie was born at home. I tried to breastfeed her in the pool a few minutes after she was born, an idea from an impatient midwife who was far too hands on. She was like a big slippery fish and I could not manage to keep her body submerged and warm in the water as directed. Fifteen minutes later I had delivered the placenta and was tucked up in bed. I breastfed her sitting up, with cushions supporting her body. My husband was by my side and my Mum arrived a few minutes before her first feed, just in time to take a few photographs. Breaking the two week ‘agony barrier’ was a challenge, but the reassuring texts from my sister in law and other friends with babies told me to persevere. I found it so much easier to breastfeed lying down, mainly because my large breasts were pointed downwards. By four months I was only breastfeeding mainly lying down, and feeds sitting up were harder and more angst-ridden. I sought out support and travelled to Coventry (a 23 mile round trip) once a week, where I was welcomed by the Sure Start breastfeeding café and the Peer Supporters who worked there. They saw me struggling, sat cross-legged on the floor and surrounded me with cushions (and love). By the time Amelie was 7 months I could breastfeed her sat up just about anywhere. I realised that confidence was my biggest problem, but that with patience and support I became an upright mum again. We had a biting crisis at 5 months old when Amelie cut her first tooth. Someone said ‘maybe it is time for you to give up’. This was exactly what I needed to hear because I was so disgusted at the thought of stopping breastfeeding that I found a way to communicate with Amelie that biting and clamping was not acceptable. I would take her off the breast each time it happened, calmly say ‘no biting’ and walk away. A few seconds later I would return, but the message was clear and within 2 weeks she had stopped biting. If I had not have had the confidence to look for support I might have stopped breastfeeding. This made me very angry, as I knew there were going to be other parents in the same position who did not have the luxury of their own transport. So when Amelie was 14 months old my husband and I opened a breastfeeding café where we lived at the time, which is still going strong. We later created a breastfeeding calendar which was such fun and so rewarding. I coslept and breast fed Amelie until she was four and a half. When Amelie was 8 her sister Autumn was born at home. I birthed her in the bathroom then sat on the toilet waiting for the placenta whilst I fed her for the first time. I’ve still fed a lot lying down again but it’s not become something which isolated me this time round. I’ve not had many problems but have had to watch my mental health much more this time, with regards to getting rest, and pacing myself. I always found it easier feeding on the left side than the right. I’ve experienced aversion in the last few years, particularly when feeding from the right side. I found I was only using the right side once a day eventually, and by the time she was 18 months I stopped using the right side altogether. This has not affected her pattern or anything else about our nursing relationship. Autumn is now three. I’ve returned to work with both children, around the 13 month mark. Being away 4 days a week means that the re-connection on return is so important. Breastfeeding is still a big part of our lives. I still offer peer support via a local parenting group. Being around other nursing mothers is still really important despite some confidence that comes with experience. It’s important to me that we provide a space where nursing parents can come to share, vent, discuss, question, etc, and that no one will ever suggest stopping breastfeeding as an answer to how challenging parenting can be."
Mother Nurture is an ongoing portrait series created to celebrate breastfeeding Mothers. If you would like to take part drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org