The Tenacious Breastfeeder

For years I dreamt of motherhood.
Everywhere I looked, there were pregnant women and mothers.

I was an aunty. Being an Aunty is great. Until you want to be a Mother.

My heart would wrench as I watched my beautiful nieces reach up to my sister and wrap their arms around her neck.

I longed to be “Mum”. For little arms to wrap around my neck.

It got to the point where I felt I was THE ONLY woman in the world without a child.

Eventually I gave up. I had been given a letter of referral to a fertility specialist. But I said dramatically to my husband, “if I can not conceive naturally, then I shall never be a mother!”. I gave up. I completely and utterly gave up.

I was resolved to my unexplained childless state. I would be the world’s best aunty.

The next month, I was pregnant.

Motherhood! Here I come!
Motherhood! Here I come!

The next blissful 9 months were all about getting ready for MY BABY!

I was going to be a MUM!

To me, motherhood meant breastfeeding. This was such an integral part of mothering.

It never occurred to me that it was a learned skill.

We had a rough start. When I say rough, I mean it was fucking awful.

I would much rather have given birth every day for 6 weeks!

The first 6 weeks of motherhood were torture.

I am not really sure what happened, perhaps it was one bad latch that I let go in sleep deprived haze, despite the pain. I knew I should detach her, but…

and the damage was done.

Cracked, bleeding nipples. Toe curling pain, shooting up my back. I would cry when my baby woke, so soon after her last feed…

At about the 3 week mark, I was told it can take 6 weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding…whilst that was great information, it was like being told “don’t worry, it will only take eternity”…still it gave me a goal.

NOT ONCE did anyone mention formula. And for that I am so grateful. Because NOT ONCE did I wish for it. Instead, they made me meals, they made sure I had water, and made sure I knew that it was okay to focus on getting the breastfeeding working.

I did not want to use a dummy. I had heard that it was a bad idea before a month, because of nipple confusion. So I just took deep breaths and wriggled my toes and counted to ten. BUT at the one month point. I got a dummy. Oh bliss.

It was at this point I also rang ABA. This was in the days before the very awesome breastfeeding helpline. I might not have waited so long otherwise.

The suggestion was to express, so my nipples could rest….as she was a long slow feeder. But this just added to my stress, I couldn’t get the hang of hand expressing, I don’t think it even crossed my mind to get a pump. I was determined that I would feed the baby!

At about the 5 1/2 week mark it was almost unbearable. I decided to try shields. The dummy was helping, but she fed so often and for so long, that there wasn’t time for healing. The shield was wonderful. A little fiddly, but seemed to help. I very quickly adapted and the shield became my most valued possession.

A few days later, during a middle of the night feed, I realised two things:

1. It did not hurt.
2. I had forgotten to put on the shield!

I was breastfeeding!

Go me!
Go me!

From that feed on, there was no fear of pain, no more bleeding, no more worry. My nipples healed and by 12 weeks I noticed the feeds were now shorter, the gaps between longer…we ventured out more, joined a walking group and a mother’s group, even went to playgroup!

The dummy stayed until 12 months, the shields retired after just 3 days.

Those 6 weeks were the longest of my life, but also the most triumphant.

I went on to feed that baby through a second pregnancy and then along side the new baby. She was 4 when she had her last breastfeed.

This! This is why!
This! This is why!
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