Social icons

I've been dodging this post for a few weeks now, but at 2 years and 11 months there is no denying the fact that Miss Olive is well on the way to self weaning.

It wasn't like she was nursing very much: For the last year we had been down to a single bed time feed, but then at some point, she decided that a cuddle was just as good and simply ... stopped asking.

Mind you, Olive hasn't fully committed to life after weaning - she is only too happy to fall back on the comfort of nursing when she has a sore puku or an especially irksome day - but the onus is usually on me to offer. 

This was a time I wasn't sure would ever come, and my boobs are officially in mourning. 

For the last five years they had found a real purpose in life - beyond looking stellar in a low cut top - and now it's on the verge of being taken away. In one fell swoop, they have gone from Angelina Jolie, directing Unbroken, and going on a humanitarian missions to Africa, to Angelina Jolie hacking on the 90s interwebs with Jonny Lee Miller, despite being acutely aware that the world has moved on from the days of "Zero Cool".

And it's not like I would claim to have been the world's most successful nurser. It would be a fair comment to say that the only measure by which my abilities could be called successful, would be if the measure of success were sheer bloody mindedness.

Nursing lying down with an SNS

But for all of that, I can't help but feel more than a twinge of sadness that my time as a nursing mama is coming to an end. And like some hackneyed, soft focus, emotionally sound-tracked, "let's look back at your best moments" TV segment, I'm going to take this moment to recap the three biggest achievements of our nursing journey.

1. Mastered a Supplemental Nursing System

When I first started using an SNS, I felt a like a one man band. Feeding at home required several sets of hands to juggle a soggy newborn, while unclipping tubes, poking bits in mouths, rubbing jaw lines, dealing with unexpected vacuums, clipping tubes back up before the baby got water-boarded, all while ignoring the damp cold cord round my neck, and the chilled milk resting on my chest.   

If we were out in public, add onto that list installing the SNS under my clothing and latching on the baby, without giving the old couple at the next table an eyeful.

I say that because the only time I have ever had a negative experience while using an SNS, was in the early days of feeding in public. I was sitting at a cafe, and had very impressively managed to hang the SNS round my neck, and tape on the tube entirely by feel. I was about to take Esme from Keith, to latch her on, when I looked over, to see the old lady at the next table, with a mouth like a bulldog chewing a wasp. To this day I have no idea what her complaint was, but I very much enjoyed flashing her my widest grin as I latched my baby on in expert style.    

Those were the days before I figured out how to feed lying down, which meant shivering through night time feeds, from the "comfort" of the bedroom chair, while my babies were toasty warm in their blankets. After that came the winter where I had nailed nursing in bed, but hadn't yet figured out that the way to avoid cold shoulders, was to invest in an old fashioned pyjama top, which came pre-installed with a perfect access system, known as buttons.

I've come a long way from there. Two children, two videos and several articles later, using an SNS feel like second nature to me now.

2. Survived a major nursing strike

If nursing has taught me anything, it's that the mechanics are the simple part; it's the emotion that gets you. I've had my fair share of emotions in feeding all of the children, and with Olive, the darkest times were during her five day nursing strike, at the age of ten months.

Five frickin days, man! I don't think I have ever pumped so hard in my entire life. I had to, it was the only thing that stopped me falling to the floor and wailing like a toddler who got triangle toast instead of squares. Besides the tears I admitted to at the time, there was a lot of self pity, and a metric fuck-ton of wobbly lips going round that week. 

I threw a full blown pity party and forget to send out the invites. I was Googling shit like "depression after weaning" and "mourning and grief after breastfeeding". I mention this now, not to mock my former self, but because when someone with a normally unshakable sense of purpose decides it's time to sit in a corner and eat worms, you know that person needs a warm hug and a stiff drink.

Well, former self, here's your Jameson and Ginger. And a hug.

But this is what I mean about breastfeeding being an emotional journey; when you have overcome a tough start, you reach a point where you feel like you can finally be proud of your body. I paid my dues to those tough newborn days, and I'm entitled: I've earned my stripes, I've proven my credentials, where's my damn Easy Street?!?

Of course looking back, it's no surprise that soon after the lows of that week came the excruciating lows of blocked milk ducts. If I had been in a slightly less emotional place, I would maybe have eased up on the pumping a little sooner, and saved myself several awkward conversations with colleagues about why there appeared to be foliage in my bra.

3. Normalised breastfeeding for my children 

I'm gonna skip straight past the part where I have to explain that I've only just managed to convince Alfie that he won't be required to step up to this particular parenting challenge. Hey, we have a non traditional set-up over here, I'll forgive him the confusion.

The girls, on the other hand, have got their technique nailed, and are turning into nursing pros. And not just their babies either, oh no, these days they have progressed to dinosaurs, puppies, ninja turtles, or anyone who stubs a toe.

And this is where I start using words like "legacy", because now that I am the official owner of a grey hair, I like to think about the way in which these parenting choices of ours will manifest as the children grow. 

I sometimes wonder whether any of them will have children of their own, and whether I will one day sit around our table watching Esme sneak a sip of tea while dodging her nursing toddler's foot, or pass Olive a piece of kitchen paper to wipe pasta sauce from her nursling's head.

If those things come to pass they will be a blessing. 

If they don't, I'll be content to know that none of my children will ever be that old bulldog-wasp lady when they see a mother nursing in public. I'll be happy knowing I was that mother who fed her children as best she could; imperfectly, with a ton of help, but passionately, and with love.

Post a comment

I am all about the friendly conversation so I would love you to leave me your thoughts. I will look after them, promise, and I will always reply because nobody wants a lonely comment.

If you want to have more occasionally amusing conversations in your life, you can always sign up to receive my posts direct to your mailbox.

Powered by Blogger.