I totally believe that breastfeeding saved my son and I.
My breastfeeding journey as a mother has been varied. At times it’s been a little like travelling one of those perilous roads on a mountain side; you think you might slip but you just manage to keep going. At other times it’s been like a drive on a Sunday afternoon, along the sea front with the wind in your hair and the world at your baby’s feet. Just now, I’m pootling along quite happily. No, scratch that. I’m cruising. It’s never been like this before.
I was only 26 when my eldest was born. That seems so young! Stop laughing back there, you blasted young ‘uns… So I was only 26 and easily embarrassed so my breastfeeding journey was a little bumpy at times. I used to feel resentment at having to hide away feeding for such long periods. I hated listening to people having SO MUCH fun without me, while I was stuck with a baby clamped to my chest. My eldest, however, loved breastfeeding. So much so that any attempt at introducing a bottle was met with shrill cries and severe back arching. She was all about the real thing, that child.
When I fell pregnant with my son, I was determined to introduce a bottle a little sooner. I still wanted to breastfeed, but I wanted the choice to give a bottle if need be. How was I to know that other things were going to get in the way of all my carefully laid plans?
My son’s birth left me tattered. He was placed into my numb arms just moments after I awoke from surgery and he felt like nothing but a dead weight. He was pushed towards my breast and they helped him to latch on. He screamed. I cried. And this went on. They insisted he would feed from me and all the time, I was like a robot. He would cry, I would put him to the breast. But it felt so different. It hurt. Physically and emotionally. It was a pain I just cannot describe.
You can bet we introduced that bottle. And then the guilt set in. I had to bond with this baby they were saying was mine. I had to give him the same love I had given his sister. I had to hold him to my breast and smell the top of his head and enjoy being with him.
But I couldn’t.
Each time we sat in the half light of the night, my son and I, we cried. He cried with frustration- perhaps- and I cried with pain. Oh, the nipples had long since ‘toughened up’. It was a different pain. Guilt. Remembering how special it had been with my eldest. Remembering how close we had felt. Wondering why it wasn’t like that this time.
I’m not sure how it happened.
Each time we sat in the half light of the night, my son and I, we became stronger. As I held him to my breast and he clutched onto my skin like I might disappear… we bonded. Slowly. One night he smiled at me.
We only lasted four months, for reasons beyond my control. But we did it. And it saved us.
Today I am 13 weeks into breastfeeding my youngest and that is all thanks to my son.
Breastfeeding and birth trauma don’t often go together in a sentence. But breastfeeding helped me to make the first step towards overcoming my birth trauma. Breastfeeding is still helping me to overcome my birth trauma.