Ok, this week is going to be emotional. Mother’s day is approaching and this year I want to celebrate it properly. I want to celebrate Motherhood by empowering women and mothers. You don't want much Ana! I hear you say.
I know we all have different stories to tell. I am going to tell you mine, hoping I can help you, or that if you know somebody in a similar situation, you can share this and help others too.
I became a mother for the first time 8 years ago. During pregnancy, I was a little worried about the pain of giving birth; about labour; about sleeping; about looking after the baby; a million things. But I never really thought about how would I feed the baby. I probably thought at one stage I would try to breastfeed, but I didn’t give it much importance. Until my baby was born.
I remember wanting to feed my baby the minute he was born. I was embarrassed to ask if I could, and I was so relieved when my (female) doctor simply asked ‘do you want to feed your baby?” and I did. It was a wonderful feeling. From that moment on I felt this instinct of wanting and needing to feed my baby. But this instinct was challenged and questioned daily for years to come. By midwives, doctors, nurses, family members, friends, and sometimes even myself.
It all started in the hospital. I was asked if I wanted to use bottles; your baby needs top ups; write down every time you feed. 15 minutes on each side, only feed every three hours said the doctor. This baby lost 100grs, you may not have enough milk. Do this, don't do that. It was a constant and confusing.
After a few days at home, I suffered mastitis, which was extremely painful, and I had a high fever. I had to go see the doctor, take antibiotics and I lost the support at home. You are making yourself sick; just give him a bottle. Go to bed and we will give him a bottle. The health nurse came to the house for a regular visit and told me I needed to rush to the pharmacy and buy formula because the baby was losing weight. I was terrified, tired, in pain, hormonal, and so I got dressed and went to the shop and bought bottles and formula and I gave him one bottle sobbing because IT FELT like the WRONG thing to do, for me.
I felt people were approving though. Finally, she came to reason and switched to bottle-feed! But I just couldn’t do it. I threw everything away and I kept at it. It was so painful. I had massive cracks. There was blood as I fed. I was anxious about nights because the pain when I fed was so intense I cried. And I had to keep some of it to myself, or else I would hear the dreaded ‘just give him a bottle’.
I argued with my mother, my husband, the health nurse told me she wouldn’t take responsibility for the baby if I continued...but I knew I was doing a good job. The baby was happy, and alert, the nappies clearly showed he was feeding. In the middle of this misery I decided to trust my body and my instinct. I felt so isolated with the lack of support. And I understand they meant well. They were concerned for me because I was in pain. They didn't really know better and were desperate trying to help me.
So I read. I read everything that was there to read. Why does this hurt so much. What am I doing wrong? By the time my baby was 5 months old I couldn’t take it anymore. Yes. I did say 5 months old. I rang a local group and asked them for help! I went to one of their meetings, 5 mns away from my house and one of the ladies said to me ‘hun, you are not doing anything wrong. This pain you experience is because you have thrush in your breast, it is normal after having mastitis. There is a cream and drops you can get to solve this. It is simple’. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know one could get thrush in the breast!! You cannot see it, it is all internal in the milk conducts and it feels like FIRE. I went to see a (female) GP and this was her reaction: ‘what are you doing to yourself. Do you know what you need? You need a day off, go and get your hair done; Meet a friend. And just give the baby a bottle and forget about this’. I was so angry and frustrated. At the time I just said, ‘But I still need to be treated for this infection’. It turns out what I needed was something I could get over the counter. Double frustration.
I can honestly say that breastfeeding was one of the hardest things I have ever done (which later became one of the easiest thing I have ever done), and unfortunately, I didn’t need to be like that. All I needed was support. Support from people who knew more about breastfeeding, from other experienced mums, from my own family and circle of friends. I was very lucky that my husband happened to have a conversation in work with a mother of four who breastfed for years and she educated him. Told him to go home and stand by my side; 'make sure she is fed', she said. 'Make sure she is comfortable'. And he came home that day with the biggest bunch of flowers and said ‘I am sorry, I didn’t know. You are doing an amazing job and I am here to support you’. I could never thank that woman enough for what she did for me that day.
This week, I want to be that woman. I am opening a platform for all you who are pregnant and considering breastfeeding. All of you who are having a hard time and feel like I did. All of you who know somebody that may need support right now. Breastfeeding can be, AND IS, an easy, enjoyable journey. I ended up doing it for 6 years!
I asked my dear friend Lisa O’Leary to join me this week and talk about some of the myths and facts about breastfeeding. Lisa is a busy mum of 3 children aged 8, 6 and 2 months. She is currently on maternity leave from her job as a community pharmacist. She has trained with the Irish Childbirth Trust, Cuidiú, to become a breastfeeding counsellor and runs support groups. She has amazing supportive advice in store for us this week. We also want you to know where the resources are (websites, links, books, support groups, contact numbers) so you don’t have to struggle like I did, and so many other women do.
Join me on the blog this week, and send us any questions, or even share your story if you feel like it.
Frank&Nora is an independent growing brand run by Stephanie. A creative, a designer, a wife & a mother. Using 100% organic cotton, they provide affordable quality with a unique customer engagement ethos.