I’m old … a year away from 50 in fact. I’m a first time mother. I have an 18-month-old daughter. I drive along singing, “The Wheels on the Bus” even when she’s not in the car with me. I secretly love it when she wakes up needing me in the night, however tired I am. I am still breastfeeding her.
Right then, it would appear that, certainly according to much of the tabloid press, I’m practically the devil incarnate. A crazy breastfeeding, sagging old loon that a poor child has to put up with as a mother, a veritable harridan. Personally I don’t think I’m that bad.
I’ve surprised myself by taking to motherhood with joy and zeal I never really imagined. For me it’s not just about being a mother, and being the best mother I possibly can be, it’s also about mothering. About love and about nurture … and for me that is where the breastfeeding comes in.
When she was first born she was blue, ‘grunting’ poorly. She was taken off to the Special Care Baby Unit and came back to me with a tiny tube up her nose. I was told to express milk, “liquid gold,” precious colostrum to put into the tube and into my girl. I found it so, so hard. Manual expressing was a total disaster for me – maybe my aged breasts, or perhaps the fact that she was almost a month early and delivered by Cesarean section … who knows. But I struggled. I wept bitter frustrated exhausted tears as I tried to encourage her to fit her tiny mouth around my seeming huge nipples, to suckle, to nurse like all new born babies are supposed to do. I tried so many different holds. I recited over and over again, “nose to nipple,” “tummy to Mummy,” and I felt endlessly disheartened as I sat with the gently sighing double breast pump trying to extract its illusive elixir.
I found breastfeeding extremely difficult, during those early weeks I did frequently give her formula milk through the little nose tube when I didn’t have the energy to pump or just couldn’t manage getting her to feed from me. We found she had a tongue tie, we got it cut. Our confidence and ability grew and then she pulled out her own nose tube … and there we were, alone and breastfeeding. On the day of her christening, when she was 4 months old, she suddenly stopped drinking from a bottle. That was it – cold turkey – just pushed the bottle away. It lasted until she was 10 months old. From then on it was just the two of us. I breastfed her as she slowly started onto “real food.” It was easy, and it became more and more meaningful to me.
As Hope started to become more agile she would clamber over me and giggle as she latched on. Breast feeding (I now find) is a time when you are in a bubble with your small person; the world recedes and the elemental feeling of life nurturing life is so powerful. I am so lucky we’ve been able to feed at all. Especially with me being so old, in new mother terms, positively geriatric.
Nobody has ever commented when I’ve been feeding her in public. Only a close family member and friend have wondered at the fact that we’ve carried on so long. “Are you going to be one of those women … like on the cover of Time magazine?” The answer is a resounding, “I hope so.” If that’s what Hope wants and what’s right for us both…. and just think, by then I’ll be over 50 and breastfeeding. Shock and awe!!
So, there we are. Not only did I manage by a series of utter miracles and against all the odds to have a child – a beautiful, happy perfect baby girl. But I was able to breastfeed her – long may it continue.
Happy World Breastfeeding week from a very contented older mother, about to go to bed after a day singing about Scarecrows and Black Sheep, and looking forward to being woken up bright and early by a hungry little girl… in the meantime where are my bedsocks?