I've chosen not to partake in a blog march about National Breastfeeding Week this year, nor did I last year. The simple fact is that I'm "over" it. It's not a fad or a passing phase in my life, it IS my life. I've been breastfeeding continuously for a 7th of my life, 5 years and 3 months. It's like loading the dishwasher or brushing my teeth. It's a chore sometimes. It's non-negotiable, nobody's gonna do it for me, I'm not paid to do it, nobody thanks me for it. More notice is taken of my mac and cheese for God's sake.
And that's exactly how it should be. I should not be making a song and dance out of it. It should be as unremarkable as dressing my kids each morning, as brushing their hair... and it is. Until I step outside my front door and have to wonder who's going to witness me breastfeeding my child, is what I'm wearing "discreet" enough, can I stall my child until the vibe improves. .. this pisses me off no end.
You can say "get over it", " don't mind them", "ignore them" until the cows come home, but the reality is that I've been told off and insulted while breastfeeding my children. I've had looks and stares as if I have two heads. I've been laughed at, sniggered at and I've felt so uncomfortable on so many occasions I've been reduced to tears.
I'm not even talking about breastfeeding a toddler or an older child, most of these encounters happened while my kids were infants, under one year old. And the hostility came not just from strangers, but from family members too.
Ireland is not a welcoming place for breastfeeding mothers. There are fantastic voluntary groups doing amazing support for mothers, notably La Leche League, Cuidiu, and Friends of Breastfeeding. They are chipping away at a huge glacier of mistrust and disgust at the female body. I don't envy them. I could never do what they do. I could never answer my phone and give unjudgmental support to a mother who is trying to breastfeed despite being told by her family that she needn't/shouldn't/won't. I'd want to run round there and bash their heads together, then whisk her off to an island where boobs are honoured and babies are cherished and not put in their own rooms at one week old.
I can't cope with all that. It brings me to a horrible place where I feel like children are treated like second-class citizens, their needs unvalued, their wishes unheard. When I go there I just want to run away, shut the door on all the ignorance and misinformation and sing "lalala" while I go about my merry business.
So National Breastfeeding Week will come and go again, the converted will preach to the converted . Possibly a few more mothers will feel more empowered, and then it'll be back to business as usual, pointing mums to a feeding room, increased use of nursing covers, and more and more formula ads on my tv.
It's sad, but this is how I feel. I've gone from "epiphany-trying-to-spread-the-word" mama to jaded mama in 5 years, beaten down by the mass-mentality of the general public. Meet me now and tell me your breastfeeding woes and I'll nod and commiserate, and accept that sometimes things just don't work out. I used to be the one proclaiming how things can be different, just read this article, trust in nature etc. This little corner of the internet and a couple of close friends are the last "safe" places for me and my nursing children. I am truly sick of being a breastfeeding mother in Ireland. Heck, even the supposed "safe haven" of an online breastfeeding support group turned nasty on my family so I left it. And my husband got kicked off it. Petty. Bitchy. That's the unfortunate reality.
So there you have it. I may have ruffled a few feathers with this post, but this is how I'm feeling at the moment, and I wanted to share it.