Sunday, 27 June 2010

Getting it off my chest

There has been a lot of talk online this week about breastfeeding as it has been National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, and it got me thinking about my experiences of feeding my two girls.

When I got pregnant I had no strong feeling about the subject either way. I accepted that breast was most probably best and knew I wanted to give it a go, but beyond that I was fairly relaxed. Maybe because I felt like that we took to it pretty easily. We had some initial clumsiness, mainly down to me not being used to holding a baby, nevermind in a feeding position - but I had help from the midwives in the maternity ward and managed to get the hang of things, with the aid of a cushion or two for support.

Any problems I had with feeding were down to my general ignorance about babies, rather than any physiological. When Annie was feeding constantly near the beginning I rang the NCT and a La Leche Telephone Support Lines and the ladies I spoke to were brilliant - saying yes, babies do have periods of pretty much constant feeding but to ride these periods and my supply would soon match her demand.

Along with all this, I was also expressing. I hated expressing. It was the one thing that made me feel like a cow at a milking parlour. But I wanted Annie to get used to drinking from a bottle, so I persevered.

At about 12 weeks I introduced 1 bottle of formula at bedtime, as I had read that formula sustains a baby for longer and may help them sleep through the night. I really struggled with this, but I was also extremely precious about my sleep, so I caved in. I finally stopped feeding Annie at 9 months.

By the time Molly came along I was even more passionate about breastfeeding, albeit a little worried how I would cope with feeding a newborn when I had a 19 month toddler to look after too. I need not have worried. Molly took to it like a duck to water and it was as though, second time around, my body knew instinctively what to do and went into milk-producing overdrive!

Second time I was adamant I was not going to express. I decided if she wanted feeding I would rather quickly feed her myself for 20mins than spend hours trying to harvest a few pathetic drops to put in a bottle. It made for less stress for me, but it did come back to bite me on the bum a bit, as Molly never took to a bottle, which meant I ended up feeding her for 14 months. But it was she who decided when to stop. The day before we went on holiday she point blank refused to feed. Several attemnpts later, with boobs like bricks, I resigned myself to an abrupt cessation of feeding and spent the whole holiday in boob-related agony, having to surreptiously hand express to give myself some relief!

In the end, despite not really caring either way, breastfeeding became a defining part of me being a mum. Don't get me wrong - I was never outspoken about the subject and was actually very shy and uncomfortbale feeding in public. But to me, the experience of having a baby just wouldn't be complete without this fundametal element. At the end of the day, the responsibility was all down to me. Sometimes this was a huge burden and some days I would cry at my lack of freedom, feeling resentful and used - but most of the time it was a joy, a priviledge and a huge sense of achievement.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

If in doubt......

I'm worried enough about meeting so many new people at Cybermummy next week and putting the right name to the right blog to the right Twitter name.

And to complicate matters further I am turning up wearing 2 blogging hats myself. On the one hand there is mine & Helen's professional blog supporting & informing mums in business.

On the other hand there's this blog where I'm a Tory hating, overweight, food obsessed, vampire-loving 40 year old who can't decide what contraception to use and who's cat has just died.

If we end up bumping into each other next weekend, and there is an awkward silence to fill, just ask me about cake!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Matter of Life & Death

Last week my lovely old cat Poppy was put to sleep. She was wasting away because of chronic kidney failure and had lost half her body weight within a few months.

I adopted Poppy, and her son Monty, over 13 years ago, during a previous relationship. We had just bought a house together and thought a pet would make it a home. I had not been brought up with pets and for months I wasn't even confident enough to pick them up. In less than a year, the relationship had broken down and I was left with a house and 2 cats to look after.

Over the next 12 years there were good times, bad times, and downright crazy times. Good times like watching her sunning herself in the garden, prowling through the lawn or curled up by the fire. Bad times like when she was hit by a car and crushed her pelvis - and we had to take her to a specialist veterinary college where they put in pins & plates and pieced her back together. And in the latter years there was the inconvenience of her having lots of accidents in the house, ruining carpets & flooring in the process. Downright crazy times like when she attacked Monty in a case of redirected agression, and we had to keep them separated in the house for 16 months, with wallpaper covering our glass interior doors, and during which time she was on antidepressants and went to see a Pet Psychologist.

The day before Poppy died I had a massive row with my sister. Names were called, mud was slung and I ended the day thinking there was no going back and no future for our relationship. Within the next 24 hours I was faced with a life or death decision, and found myself holding my frail cat tightly while she was put to sleep. I then had to break the news to the girls and console my heartbroken 4 year old, whilst trying to answer the torrent of questions she fired at me about death, without worrying or confusing her.

And I just thought 'You know what, there is enough shit and pain to deal with in this world that is out of my control, without me adding to it'. So the next day I rang my sister, apologised, and we talked properly for the first time in years, in a quiet, accepting way, instead of an accusatory or defensive way.

Since having children the cats had drifted somewhat into the background of my consciousness but I'm going to spoil Monty rotten now, because I know I'm really going to miss him when he's gone.

Call it coincidence, or fate, but the sadness I'm feeling at the loss of Poppy is tempered by the feeling that her leaving has taught me some lessons I really needed to learn. Like we don't have all the time we think we have. And that matters of life and death really do put the rest of life's trivia into sharp perspective.

For such a small animal she certainly had a big impact on my life and the house doesn't half feel empty without her.