Monday, 5 October 2015

At the Aras

The First Lady of Ireland, Sabina Higgins
This morning I was delighted to attend a reception at the President's residence, Aras an Uachtarain in the Phoenix Park. It was to celebrate National Breastfeeding Week 2015. I was in attendance as a member of La Leche League Ireland, along with about 100 other breastfeeding mothers from other voluntary groups like Cuidiu - Irish Childbirth Trust, Lactation Consultants and members of the health service. As well as being a fairytale experience getting to see inside this impressive building and meet the First Lady, it was a fantastic networking morning for us all. I met friends from all over Ireland, and some ladies who I had only known on Facebook until now. Nearly every mother brought a baby, toddler or child, and there was a warm welcoming atmosphere, with breastfeeding being actively encouraged, such a joy to be part of it.

My Vanessa dress from Lindybop.co.uk
The outfit planning began a few days ago, as I didn't want to be stressed out on the morning looking for something that fit and looked suitable. I chose to wear my pastel green Vanessa dress from www.lindybop.co.uk which comes with a contrasting patent belt. I wore it with nude patent court shoes and a beige cardigan, and in the absence of a suitable bag I wore a tan leather one. The dress is really comfortable and washes well, and the ruched bust is perfect for breastfeeding.


The gates are open!
Driving in the gates was a great experience, I've only ever seen them closed before. A long driveway surrounded with trees leads to the Aras itself, below.

Outside Aras an Uachtarain
Minibuses took us from the visitors carpark to the Aras, a lovely touch as we all had babies in arms/slings and heels on! We stood outside chatting for a while before wandering into the beautiful entrance hall and hanging up our coats/slings to have hands free for the morning. I met a few lovely blog readers, it always makes my day when they tell me they enjoy reading about my experiences. Thank you ladies for approaching me, it gives me a real boost and is lovely to put faces to the names on your comments too. The glamour of the morning was just gorgeous to see, moms I usually see in jeans were looking fabulous in dresses and heels, and the children all looked beautifully turned out too.

Chatting with my bestie the First Lady
There was tea and coffee, with lots of water for us breastfeeders, along with mini chocolate canapes, strawberry shortcakes, carrot cake, finger sandwiches, cheese and figs, and even gluten-free sandwiches and cakes. I loved the china with the Irish emblem, the harp on it, seen below:

Strawberry shortcakes and tea
Then it was selfie time, cuz you can't get enough photos of yourself in the Irish White House!

Selfie time as you do
We then went into the reception room for a wonderfully inspiring speech by the president's wife, Sabina Higgins. She is a great breastfeeding advocate and told us how she breastfed her four children (including twins) in the 1970s when it wasn't the "done thing" in Ireland and there was very little public support. She said there is nothing more important than children and children's health, and as a stay-at-home mom I found that very validating. The speakers from Cuidiu and La Leche League all thanked Sabina for being such a great ambassador for breastfeeding. We are still working hard to have breastfeeding publicly accepted and today showed us that the news from the top is that "breastfeeding is great".

The First Lady's speech
Then there came an address from the President, Michael D. Higgins, first as gaeilge (in Irish) welcoming us to Aras an Uachtarain. He went on to compliment us as breastfeeding mothers, saying we are doing a wonderful thing for our children, and that breastfeeding gives our children "a fantastic grounding in happiness and security". This again was a wonderful compliment to all of us, and does a lot to undo negative experiences we all have had with unknowing health care workers who tell us that breastfeeding past a certain age is pointless, or dangerous in some way.

The President's address
The Higginses then posed for a group photograph with the attendees, and we applauded the President as he left for another engagement. Sabina stayed around to have more photos taken with us and chatted to all the children as much as the mothers. She was delighted to hear I have had three home births, and mentioned she has been reading the reviews of my husband's play in the Abbey theatre. She is a former actor herself and told me about one of her previous productions in the 60s.
I found her warm and engaging, a real people person and a really elegant lady, very inspiring to be in her company!

A fabulous end to the morning
We stayed around chatting (and eating) for a while before catching a minibus back to our cars. The whole morning was a gorgeous experience, and I'd like to thank my La Leche League group Dublin East for including me and baby in this event. 

It wasn't straight back to housework thankfully, that would have been a bummer. Instead I went out for lunch with my mom and my kids and we extended the glamour a little further. Though the dishwasher is calling me now, time for the apron and rubber gloves methinks. 

Are you enjoying National Breastfeeding week?
Nee x

8 comments:

  1. Hi Niamh,
    What an amazing experience today was...you've summed it up perfectly in your post.
    Lovely to chatting to you too.
    Aoife x

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    1. Great to see you again Aoife and your baba is delicious! Please FB me the details of your popup bakery, I'll definitely come out some weekend xx

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  2. Looks and sounds really wonderful! Very glad you got to experience that. The more I find out about our 'first family' the more I like them :-)

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    1. It really was Emily! They are a really sweet and affectionate couple too, very inspiring to see. Thanks for taking the time to comment xx

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  3. What an uplifting morning supportive of Breastfeeding. Lovely to meet you Niamh and how great to see so many Mums abd Babies there. Thanks to Sabina and Michael helping women to be confident in feeding. Catherine Wells, Cuidiu President

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    1. Thanks Catherine, it was lovely meeting you and the other Cuidiu members too. Congratulations on a wonderful event, I was honoured to be part of it.
      Niamh

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  4. I enjoyed reading this - a lovely reminder of a very special day. I'm a long-time reader of your blog so it was great to meet you & your very sweet baby there. All the best, Caroline

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    1. Thank you Caroline, it was so great to meet you and your delicious baba too! Hope our paths cross again soon,
      Niamh xx

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