Birthing and breastfeeding - a journey
This is long post that has been wanting to be written for a long time.
A release, I guess.
I hope that you find some insight or inspiration in my journey.
My mother had two children. I was born in 1978. My brother was born ten years later in 1988. She delivered both her children naturally, with no pain relief. She was induced to have me. My brother was a very big baby and she ended up with problems with her bladder subsequent to his birth. Before she died, she was talking about having an operation to lift her bladder up again.
She would often lament about how terrible these birth experiences were. That she had no choice to have a caesarean, or pain relief. I would often hear how lucky I was that I lived in a time where I had the choice.
She did not breastfeed either of us. She had no milk.
I had colic. My brother was an angel baby - he just ate and slept.
This is all I know about those early years for my mother with small children. I have so many other questions, but she died when Annie was eight months old. I can only guess, I cannot ask her.
This is my maternal legacy in a nutshell. For those early years.
I fell pregnant with Annie very easily. I had a blissful pregnancy. I was so so happy that I was going to be a mother. I had always wanted to be a mother.
My obstetrician asked me what kind of birth I was hoping to have. I wanted an elective caesarean. I was terrified of going through natural childbirth. I did not want to endure the pain, the lack of control, the possible tearing, the pooping on the doctor. And because my mother didn’t have it, I wanted to have a choice as to what kind of birth I wanted.
I was so relieved when Annie was in breech. I had to have a caesarean. They say that babies who stay in breech position do that to be closer to their mother’s heart. I don’t think my heart was very open then. It makes sense that Annie wanted to be as close to it as possible.
I did very well in the surgery. I was not scared of surgery. I was up and walking around that night. I always recover well from things like that. It’s my Polish blood, we are tough stock!
My milk came in. My breasts were sore. My baby wouldn’t latch. My poor mother did not know how to support me through it. By the time we got home, Sohail was in a panic because Annie was screaming so much. He went out and bought me a breast pump. I expressed my milk and gave it to her in a bottle.
It suited us two accountants very well. She was getting the best form of food AND we could measure how much she was getting. We were so scientific in our parenting back then.
I managed it for six weeks. I was exhausted. She went onto formula. She had colic. I went back to work when she was four months old. I got postnatal depression once I went back to work. My mother died four months later.
What a start to motherhood.
Three and a half years later, Xavier was born. I was living in a new country. I was not working. I could see how well Annie was doing by being at home with me. So I started developing some guilt for the horrid start I had given her.
It was my fault that she was in breech because my heart was not open. It was my fault for not persevering with the breastfeeding. She had colic and wouldn’t latch because I was so highly strung at the time. And I had done her the biggest injustice of her life by going back to work when she was so little.
How could I have done this to my poor child?
I could have had a VBAC with Xavier. But, I was too scared. We had no family here and my doctor was giving me six hours to push him out before she wanted to operate. And she wanted to monitor me all the time, I would not be able to be as mobile as I would like. We were in Australia for just over a year when he was born.
I had a lot on my plate.
After a lot of soul searching, I decided to have another elective caesarean. I am at peace with it. I have never experienced natural labour.
That is ok.
The caesarean with Xavier went really well. I was also really determined to breastfeed feed him. He came out and when they put him on my stomach, he crawled up to my breast and immediately started breastfeeding.
I was in love.
I struggled through mastitis for eight weeks, but after that, it was smooth sailing. I was in awe of my body. My body was able to sustain a human life. It was nurturing him. It was also nurturing me. It was truly blissful.
Xavier was an angel baby. He just ate and slept.
We reached a year of breastfeeding and I did not see any end in sight. People stared asking me when I was planning to stop. I said that I didn’t know.
By this stage, I had changed so many of my views on parenting. I was reading a lot of blogs about attachment parenting, co sleeping, extended breastfeeding. I was a natural mother. Carrying my baby in a sling and sleeping in his bed at night while he breastfed all night long.
I was also overcompensating for all the things I had not given Annie and carried a bit more guilt about what a horrible mother I was to her.
He was not eating very well. He was getting his fill from my breast milk.
But, a few months ago, I started feeling like it was enough. But, the attachment parents would say that I was a horrible mother, I had to keep breastfeeding until he was ready to stop. I dreamed of the day that he would just decide that he had had enough and that I would write a blog about being so sad that he had stopped before I was ready.
It was not happening. He had now started asking for his drink. The dynamic was different. He was no longer a little baby. He was a little boy demanding his drink.
It was not nurturing me anymore.
Shame also started creeping in. There were family comments about him having teeth and that it was no longer appropriate to feed him. It was getting to the point where society was getting creeped out by a child that big still breastfeeding from his mother.
And there was shame that I was not a so-called natural mother who could blissfully breastfeed her child until he was ready to stop, even if it was at the age of four or five. Rudolf Steiner was breastfed until he was four, why was I not “natural” enough to do the same?
Shame on both sides. And me in the middle.
In the end, I had to stop listening to all the outside voices. Anyway, they were all figments of my imagination. Who knows what people say or think? Besides, it’s none of my business, is it?
I had to listen to my heart. I had to do what was right for my situation. Not anyone else’s.
I was a good mother to Annie. I did the best I could in the circumstances that I had. I have always loved her unconditionally. I could not carry the guilt of her colic or her not breastfeeding. We all come into the world with our own lessons to learn. She chose us as her parents. She wanted to learn her own lessons in life. Her situation was perfect for her and for us as her parents. It has brought us to this situation.
That is that. Guilt for any of it is a useless emotion. It wastes precious energy.
Yes, I am a good mother to my daughter.
I had loved breastfeeding Xavier up until that point. It had been a really nurturing act for me and for him. But, it was no longer nurturing. I had to redefine what nurturing meant. He had grown up. He was a little person. I was holding onto something that was gone.
Everything in life is transient. It was time to embrace all I had done for him. I had given my body to this person for two years. It was time to let it go.
I was holding him back from his growth by trying to hold onto something that was no longer serving us.
I was scared. I had to just do it anyway.
I was prepared for the tantrums. For the tears. I had to stand in my power.
I did a lot of yoga. I did the tree pose. Mountain pose. Earth sequence. All designed to ground me. To give me strength within myself.
I stopped the night time breastfeeding.
We had one night of screaming. And now he sleeps through the night.
This weekend, I went to yoga. We did the warrior pose. We were heartfelt warriors. I had so much support from my fellow yogis. I was ready to once again, lovingly stand in my power and tell my child no.
I had told him that there would be no more milk when I got back from yoga.
He has asked for it a few times, but is has basically been a non-event for him. He was ready to move on too.
I was not prepared for the engorgement and painful breasts. I sit here with breasts bursting with milk. And hormones raging through my body. And eternal gratitude for this whole experience.
I am so proud that I have done what my own mother could not do. What so many women cannot, or will not do.
He is so centred and grounded. He is a happy child. I have done him no harm by stopping when I was ready. When he was ready, too.
Sometimes we have to uplift our children.
Sometimes we have to uplift our children.
It’s funny how these things never work out how we expect them to. But, they are always perfect.
I am claiming a bit of myself back now. I am a proud, loving warrior mother.
And that is the story of the early years with my children. It is their maternal legacy.
The events that are shaping their lives.
Blessings to you.