Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breastfeeding? Not for me, thanks.

That's what I thought. Breastfeeding, not for me thank you.

When I had Marie, I was a young 24 year old woman. The thought of breastfeeding hadn't even entered my mind. I don't even think that it was presented as an option in the hospital. I wasn't really aware of it. For me, a baby was fed with a bottle, end of.

By the time I had Noelie, breastfeeding revival was well on its way. A bit too much if you ask me. I felt like breastfeeding was pushed down my throat. It felt as if every midwife, nurse and doctor I met wanted me to breastfeed. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who will do exactly the opposite of what people try to get me to do if they push too hard. Telling me that I must read such a book, will only result in creating a very strong aversion of said book in me and ensure that I will never, I repeat never, pick up that book, ever. Same goes for breastfeeding, talk to me too much about it, try and push me too much in that direction and I will not even consider it.

I think that I saw breastfeeding as a bit of a hippy, new age thing to do and something that didn't really fit in with my corporate, busy working mother image. The whole feeding on demand thing didn't seem to make for a great routine that fit in with the lifestyle I had at the time (poor excuse I know since being on maternity leave the whole corporate, working mum image didn't exist anymore).

This time around, when I was asked during my first visit in hospital if I intended to breastfeed and I answered no, nothing else was said about it. No disapproving look, no lecture, nothing. I didn't think anymore about it until during the last couple of months of my pregnancy. My breasts started leaking, quite profusely at night and I joked with Mr Foodie on a few occasions that maybe I could breastfeed this baby. It was never really serious and I never read up on it or anything (apart from what I read in the blogosphere). We bought our bottles etc (we still had the steriliser from Noelie) and were all set for another round of bottle feeding.

Until after the birth that is. When the nurse came around, a few hours after the birth and said it was time to feed this little man, she asked me how I wanted to feed him. Automatically, I answered bottle. Mr Foodie looked at me and mentioned the fact that I'd said I might give breastfeeding a try. I looked at him and at the nurse and said OK, I'm going to try it. Mr Foodie and I had never really discussed it, well, not very seriously anyway so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised. The nurse helped Little Man to latch on and off we were on our breastfeeding journey. I had no idea what to expect having never really given it serious thought and never researched it. It just felt like the natural thing to do at the time.

It surprised everybody around us, I think. Having bottle-fed Noelie, people expected us to do the same with Little Man. We don't come from backgrounds where breastfeeding is common and we had never mentioned it before. My only experience with breastfeeding was that of  my aunt who was advised by her pediatrician to switch to bottle feeding as she managed to overfeed her baby while breastfeeding. That being said, she also managed to over feed him on the bottle and the poor child was wearing 2 year old clothes at the age of 8 months. Despite being surprised, nobody had anything negative to say about it. I know that some of them felt rather uncomfortable at the idea of me taking my boobs out to feed Little Man. I think others felt a tad disappointed too (and still are) at the exclusivity of the whole breastfeeding experience as they wouldn't get to feed Little Man for a little while. But if they do think anything negative about it, they certainly never mentioned it to me or to Mr Foodie. The nurse later said to us that she had never met a couple that made the decision between breast or bottle in such a natural, easy going, spur of the moment kind of way.

Maybe it is because we made a natural decision, with no expectations or pressure (self inflicted or otherwise) that breastfeeding has worked out so well for us. Maybe it was because I knew I could give up whenever I wanted if it didn't feel right, or if it wasn't working out without feeling guilty but rather proud that I gave it a go. Maybe it is because we did approach the whole thing with no knowledge whatsoever. We have since spent hours reading up on it but I think that if I had read about it too much beforehand, I probably would never have given it a go. If I had been told of cracked and sore nipples, of toe curling pain (and, yes, you literally do curl your toes), of no feeding schedule as such, of times of cluster feeds, I wouldn't have given it a go. And I am so glad that I never did read about all that, because, despite the hard times and the pain, despite the tiredness, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful things I have experienced with a baby. It is not easy and there were times where I was close to tears with the pain and the tiredness. Little Man didn't latch on properly until a couple of weeks ago and I had terribly cracked nipples (it looked like a quarter of my nipple had been peeled off at some stage) and the pain was near unbearable  for a few seconds but once it stopped, it was fine.

Mr Foodie has been extremely supportive through the whole thing and has become very knowledgeable on the subject. I know he is proud of me for giving it a go and for sticking to it. And I am very grateful that he has been so supportive. He will tell anybody who will listen (people like the other blokes at work) how great breastfeeding is. He, too, is a convert. We love the fact that there are no bottles to wash and sterilise, that there is no paraphernalia to carry around when out and about. You don't need to worry about heating up bottles or having enough formula. You don't need to remember to buy it in the supermarket. It is there, at the right temperature, in the right amount and free.

I can understand why some people do not want to try, or are not interested. I was one of them once. Some of the literature you can read feels a bit like german propaganda in the 1940s. Some people are way to pushy or judgemental if you say that you have no interest in breastfeeding. I think it takes a certain maturity and a certain confidence to attempt breastfeeding. It is demanding from a physical and mental point of view but it is also strangely extremely rewarding. I had never thought I would be a convert to breastfeeding but I am. I won't be joining the so-called breastapo soon as I believe that everybody is free to choose which way to feed their baby (and some people sadly have no choice in the matter). I didn't join any breastfeeding groups etc and I will not be criticizing or judge anybody who decides to bottle feed their baby. I bottle fed my 2 girls and don't regret doing it. It was what was right for me at the time. And at the end of the day, it's all about what's right for you and your baby at the time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The wedding part 1

A little over a week after giving birth to Little Man, Mr Foodie and I got married. Before I tell you all about my wedding day (I'm sure you are all dying to know about it!), I feel like I have to give a little background information as to why we did things the way we did.

We got engaged on my 30th birthday, a couple of years ago and had been talking about getting married  ever since. However, our circumstances were such that we never really got around to doing it or even planning it in any serious way.

However, the impending arrival of baby number 3 and the fact that by getting married we would get an extra 300 euros a month in our wallet (don't ask, it's just the way the stupid system works here in Ireland!) tipped us over the edge and we started thinking about it more seriously. One small problem though. We couldn't agree on how to do it.

Before any of you start thinking 'Here comes the bridezilla.', let me be clear: I am not the type of girl who has been dreaming about her wedding day since the tender age of 3. I have never dreamt of white horse drawn carriages or pink meringue wedding dresses. I couldn't tell the difference between satin and silk, have never thought of table centerpieces or grooms men outfits (I do quite like kilts though) and certainly never given any thought to what flavour I would like my wedding cake to be (that would have to be chocolate though). I have never bought a wedding magazine and do not intend to either. So don't start blaming me before I even start!

There were 2 obvious options: getting married in Ireland or getting married in France.

Unfortunately, getting married in France was not an option. Indeed, Mr Foodie's mum will never get on a plane and has recently decided that she wouldn't like to get on a boat either. There is also the small matter of food, that the Irish side wouldn't eat. And all the going back and forth that would be needed to organize everything incurring more cost.

The second option would be to get married in Ireland. It would definitely be easier to organize. However, it would mean that my family would have to travel and bearing in mind that wages are much lower in France than they are in Ireland it would mean quite a big expense. Also I would be rather embarassed to serve the kind of food that is served at weddings here to my French guests as for them it would amount to a normal, dare I say, everyday dinner and not a celebratory one. Finding the food served at French weddings here is near impossible, or at some ridiculous cost. There is also the small problem of having to invite half the neighbours off the road as well as the uncle that you haven't seen since you were 4 and the cousin that you hate, as seems to be tradition in Ireland. And that is without considering the cost of a wedding here (we know off people that have taken out loans to pay for their wedding!). So, Ireland was also struck out.

The easiest solution was to get married abroad. It would solve the problem of who has to travel as everybody would have to. It also solves the problem of who gets invited, what food to eat etc... It didn't solve the problem of Mr Foodie's mum not willing to get on a boat or a plane. I offered the solution of getting married by ourselves, just Mr Foodie, the kids and myself.

We spoke about our dilemna with friends who advised us to do what was best for us (not so helpful advice). Eventually, we spoke to my parents about it as well as Mr Foodie's parents. My parents have always said that they wouldn't travel for a wedding only (even if it was mine) and that at the end of the day, it is an affair between 2 people and that you don't need the world and its mother there with you. Mr Foodie's parents weren't as open minded. They were fine with a small wedding involving parents and brothers (as we have no sisters), they also said that they were ok with us getting married by ourselves although they would rather be present. We went around in circles over the next couple of months as Mr Foodie wanted his family there on the day and I didn't want to have his family and not mine there. There was also the problem of the 3 months notice you need to give to the registrar as well as the fee.

After looking into various options, we finally set a date that would solve the problem of my parents not willing to travel only for a wedding as they would be over on holidays. We also decided to get married ''abroad' although it didn't involve Mr Foodie's mum to get on either boat or plane since we were going to get married in Northern Ireland (cheaper fee and shorter notice period). We also decided that we wanted only our kids and parents present on the day. That decision proved to be the most controversial one...

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