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...