WARNING - Not suitable for the squeamish
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I believe breast-feeding is a personal choice and says absolutely nothing about oneís prowess as a mother nor does it establish a woman who exercises this option as superior in any regard.
I have the credentials to make such a statement and will, with some discomfort, present my position by elaborating on my own personal experiences. The reason Iím doing so is due to some comments made to me by dear friends who felt inadequate because they didnít breast-feed. One, in particular, is a life long friend who took decades to confide in me about her feelings on the subject. This article is dedicated to her.
My first experience with lactation was after returning home from an unpleasant hospital stay of a few days. Iíd had a still birth and was of an age, sixteen, where I knew absolutely nothing about the marvels of milk production. I lived sixteen miles out of town and had no means of traveling to the doctor other than when my husband was home.
The tribulations of having a still birth had left me rather shell shocked as Iíd coped with being told, by officious nurses, that I had to fill out a death certificate and name my baby. I was also required to make the decision on what I wanted done with my daughterís remains. All of this was dumped on me before my husband had made an appearance. Heíd returned home after a dayís work to be told, by our landlady, that Iíd been given a ride into town by some American tourists. I wonít delve into any more of the details of my hospital stay except to reveal that I was placed in the maternity ward amongst all the happy mothers and blissful babies.
You can imagine how I felt when I arrived back at our cabin and all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and retreat under the covers until Iíd regrouped. The next morning, after my husband had left for work, I was shocked to discover my breasts were filled to overflowing with milk. Iíd thought that milk production was prompted by suckling and nobody at the hospital bothered to inform me of the facts or give me any medication to address this. To this day, I feel as if I was just someone who needed to be discharged as fast as possible so they could get on with their happier duties.
Once again, Iím alone dealing with a crisis. I took a wide belt and bound my breasts hoping that this would deal with my problem. It didnít and it wasnít comfortable either. I wait until my husband gets home and he drives me back to town and to the hospital where they dispense a few red pills and send me on my way again. The pills took a day to work their magic and that was the end of my first encounter with the Ďmiracleí of breast milk.
Over the next couple of years I endured two miscarriages and each time I asked whether Iíd need meds to deal with milk production. Each time I was living out of town and I wasnít going to go through that ordeal again if I could avoid it. Each time I was assured that there was no way Iíd have any problems in that regard and each time the medical advice was accurate.
During my fourth pregnancy I was living in town and had access to an absolutely wonderful doctor who took the time to answer my questions and provide me with information even when I hadnít broached a subject. I was back living with my parents and on a limited income. I decided, seeing as I already knew I produced ample milk, that I would breast-feed my baby when it arrived. My doctor was advised and he warmly approved of my decision giving me all manner of reasons why it was a good choice.
My son was born a month early and only weighed five pounds. When the nurses discovered Iíd decided to breast-feed they approached my doctor with their concerns that my baby may be too weak to suckle. The doctor, bless him, told them that I should at least be given the chance and the nurses, grudgingly, allowed me to give it a try.
To declare it was painful is an understatement. It was like hugh voltage electric currents were shooting through me but I stuck to my choice. When my nipples cracked and bled I was provided with nipple shields and kept right on nursing my son. He thrived and I suffered silently because I believed I was doing the best thing I could for my child and also that the cost was nil. Money was a big factor in my decision. I canít, in good conscience, declare I would have nursed my child if Iíd had the funds to pay for formula. I continued to nurse my son until I got a job as a logging camp cook and he was of an age where he could digest whole milk. Iíll never forget the first time I gave him a bottle. He drained it so fast he almost choked on the flow. He was accustomed to having to work a lot harder for nourishment.
Some of the benefits of breast-feeding were revealed through his first couple of years. He slept through the night if he was fed at eleven pm. He didnít get sick until he was two years of age. Did I develop any special bond with him because I nursed? I donít believe so. After one still birth and two miscarriages I doubt anything would have made my son less precious to me. Did I ever feel warm and fuzzy when I was nursing? No! It was too damn painful. Do I think that nursing mothers are to be put on a pedestal? Nope. Do I think they should be encouraged to breast-feed? Yes, but not to the point where theyíre made to feel like less of a woman if they choose not to.
Far too often, women are lectured about what they should or shouldnít be doing in regards to their personal life. Breast feeding is just one on the long list of Mother Must Doís. When another dear friend, whoíd delayed having children, told me the women in her town were lecturing her on all sorts of pitfalls regarding her pregnancy, I got downright agitated. I told her to relax and be happy in the knowledge that children had survived pregnancy for thousands of years and the best thing she could do was to celebrate in any way she saw fit. She now is the happy mother of two gloriously healthy daughters which she chose to nurse.
I also consider breast-feeding to be an intimate act. I think itís wonderful that store outlets are providing nursing rooms for mothers and congratulate every one of them for exercising good business practices. Am I appalled when I see a mother nursing in public? Absolutely not! Itís just not something Iíd be comfortable doing.
As an addendum to this article. Another aspect of having these breast-feeding experiences is that itís made me less than appreciative of men wanting to stimulate me in that area. It may be something that they like which is fine by me but it doesnít ring any of my bells.
For M. H. with Love
April 26, 2011
"Tigers bloom where there's oodles of room." Zodiac Zoo