I’m often torn between sharing my personal stories or not – torn from a professional perspective and torn from a personal perspective. From a professional perspective as doulas we are taught that in the name of providing non judgemental and unconditional support we must be cautious when sharing personal stories so as to keep things neutral and therefore to not form ideas in our clients’ or network’s minds as to “what kind of doula” we are. As a coach I am a firm believer in authenticity: as I am all about authentic and wholehearted loving and living, in both my role as a coach and as a doula. So from that perspective personal story sharing is up there as a foundation of authenticity.
Personally I also hate that feeling when you’re trying to share your truth and someone shares or “over” shares and kind of over looks your experience; and that is the last thing I would want to do intentionally; to friends and acquaintances and of course to clients. Of course sometimes some parts of our personal histories are just that: personal. Intimate. Things we don’t necessarily want to share.
So when I saw that the UN was promoting the sharing of ‘brelfies’ to support World Breastfeeding Week 2016, after an initial reaction of positivity and gratitude once again for social media and how wonderful it can be when used as a tool to promote awareness and positivity, then I got that torn feeling about what I was going to do with it “professionally”.
Without going into the ins and outs of what has been a hectic week, I pressed pause on the whole thought process and got on with life. But today I decided it was time.
I had a moment this afternoon to filter through all my photos from 2014 (the year my son was born – there are literally thousands!!!) and find my very first brelfie. It made me cry. Now admittedly – it’s not actually a brelfie, as my beautiful little sister took it for me – but it is also coincidentally a photo of the very first time I breastfed outside the rosy newborn cocoon of love which my beautiful apartment had become since my bouncing baby boy arrived earthside.
I can see on my face and my body remembers and feels all of this when I look at the photo:
pride love surprise nervousness gratitude
the newness the let down reflex the nipple shield
the sibling love
(my sister and brother had travelled to come and meet their nephew together)
trepidation my fuzzy new mum brain warm fuzzy feels
oxytocin the weight of his newborn self self conscious
the props to support feeding after my caesarean birth
my shiny sweaty skin as I was still having a huge hormonal temperature peak when I got the let down reflex
hope the rosy glow of new parenthood the smell of his milk drunk
tiredness the sleepy high of breastfeeding the relief of the silence as he drinks
the smell and taste of a deliciously naughty but nice sickly sweet starbucks coffee
Why did I decide to share in the end?
Because I am so proud of our breastfeeding journey; and because that photo is one of the first photos of our journey. For me, breastfeeding has been a rollercoaster of liking and loathing and triumph and tribulation and pride and shame.
Yes I said shame – and my most embarrassed moment in my breastfeeding journey came last week at the zoo here in Amsterdam. I continue to feed my son and for some that is confronting – we dont see toddlers breastfeeding often enough and different pockets of society have a lot to say on the topic. A woman and her friend were approaching, and one of them looked closer and realised that what could have easily been miscontrued for simply a cuddle, was in fact me breastfeeding my toddler. The first friend sniggered, and pointed out very cattily what was going on. The second woman blatantly threw a pointed look of disgust in our direction, not once, not twice, but three times in the space of the next 5 minutes. My friend sat next to me was ready to jump up and confront the woman, but I urged her not to as I was so taken aback and so upset. And yes – I felt ashamed.
So maybe it is also that experience which makes me boldly stand up and share the very first (public feeding) brelfie I have; because I look back on the whole journey and am very grateful, very proud, very happy, and because realise I am very privileged and lucky to have had the resources available to me to overcome the difficulties, to ensure that my breast milk and my own health remained the healthiest choice all this time, and to keep encouraging me through the moments when it was tempting to give up.
I would love to see your brelfies, and would love it if you would share your brelfies out and about in the virtual world to normalise the sight of breastfeeding and to support and encourage new mothers out there navigating the newness of breastfeeding or navigating the toe durling ouchy moments or navigating the sleepless torture of night time cluster feeding.
Disclaimer: As a doula in Amsterdam, I support you in whatever choice you make about feeding your baby. Your body, your baby: YOUR CHOICE.