It’s been a little while since my last The Shape of Us collaboration blogs so I’m thrilled to be writing this today! This is a topic that is close to my heart as I breastfed both my daughters, Deryn until she was around 9 months old and Lunar until she was around 13 months, I feel I could have gone for much longer with Lunar but unfortunately I needed to up my anxiety medication so I made the tricky decision to stop. Weening her took a while though she wasn’t happy about it either! Breastfeeding is powerful also sometimes tricky… my advice enjoy it, have loads of skin to skin, also take lot’s of selfie (I’m totally missing my breastfeeding boobs).
This was a really lovely blog to write, however most the words in this blog do not belong to me, I’m just borrowing then, giving then a small platform, the words belong to many women, all with similar but different experiences. We all hold our own stories, they are a part of us so sharing them is opening ourselves up. I don’t take this lightly, i’m always grateful for the words I get to borrow.
I was in work on my break enjoying a cuppa and chatting, because that’s where all the meaningful conversations and ideas happen right! In an office, with women, supporting each other through the day, sharing our stories, stresses and laughter while we work, one of my colleagues shared a thought provokingly beautiful post with me belonging and written by her friend. The post was honest and really resonated with me, as at the time I was still breastfeeding my youngest daughter but knew the time would come for me to stop very soon. The words took their place in my mind, making themselves a space as they circulated for a few days. It’s amazing isn’t it, how we can read words from someone we don’t even know and become inspired, like a seed the words grew, becoming more prominent and I decided to reach out and asked if I could use the beautifully writing piece in my blog, I was of course thrilled when it was a yes.
Below are the words belonging to Lily that inspired me to write this blog-
I met Lily for a cuppa and I asked some questions, we talked about motherhood and how we both celebrated ending our breastfeeding journey by getting tattoos, Lily decided to get a tattoo on her chest designed by her best friend, a beautiful tribute that i’m sure will forever inspired gratitude and memories of growth. Below are Lily’s words prompted by my questions, first I asked her to introduce herself and then tell the reader about her own personal experiences.
I’m a writer and poet, as well as a senior marketing & communications consultant at Oracle, working from my home in Brecon. Sustainability has always been one of my passions and I feel like having a baby has really accelerated that – I’m mother to Lennon who is eighteen months old now.
I’m extremely lucky to have had a very positive breastfeeding experience. It was not always easy, but we had no major problems on our journey and I had an amazing support system around me. Even though the gentle home-birth I had envisioned didn’t go to plan and I ended up in hospital, on reflection I think being around medical staff while I got the hang of nursing was a huge help. I have always felt comfortable and valued when breastfeeding around family or friends, which definitely built up my confidence, and I’m privileged to have been surrounded by incredible breastfeeding mothers.
While I knew as soon as I fell pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed, I was aware that it might not be possible. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and just go with the flow (pardon the pun) either way. The importance for me was mainly around connecting and bonding with my baby as well as the health benefits, but honestly it was also about saving money and the ease of not having to bottle feed! I’m a firm believer that as long as your baby is getting fed then you are doing it the best way.
I would say not to stress about feeding too much where possible. I think society puts a lot of pressure on breastfeeding without actually providing structures to nurture this. Other than that, it would be to invest in a decent breastfeeding bra and reusable pads (I bought so many Myrtle and Maud ones) and do whatever you need to make you feel comfortable – don’t worry about anyone else.
I feel like motherhood advice is hard to navigate because everyone is so different in terms of personality and situation. I’m terrible for comparing myself with other mums and falling down the Instagram hole, especially when I’m struggling with a loss of self. But I think I’m a lot better at being kind to myself and knowing when I need a break. I’ve channelled a lot of my emotions through writing, so I guess my one piece of advice would be to take some time every day, even just five minutes (if you can) to do something to express your feelings or complete an activity for yourself. I used to write most of my poems on my iPhone notes while breastfeeding because Lennon would be there for hours! I have less time to do that now we’ve stopped but I always endeavour to have that one daily act – from yoga to a bath or a walk – so I can work towards being the mum I aspire to be.
Thank you Lily! Great words, raw, honest and genuinely helpful!
Here are some photos that I captured of Lily and her beautiful Son, I joined them on a little walk where we again chatted and I was able to take some natural images of them at a location they both loved, we are truly lucky to live in such a scenic place! even in the cusp of spring when it’s still quite chilly! Thank you Lily! I’m sure your words will inspire many women going forward as they did myself.
It seamed right next to reach out and try and do a breastfeeding photoshoot, again the power of social media helped me with this… After I posted Louise kindly offered to take part! We decided to meet in Theatr Brycheiniog before the start of the parent group they attended, we had a coffee and chatted while I took some documentary styled photographs of her daughter being fed. It was lovely to catch up with them both, Louise and myself swapped our experiences and stories while I got lots of adorable baby smiles in return for some quick snaps. I asked Louise a few questions to get a little background to accompany the photos, below are her own words-
I’m Louise, I’m 42 this July! I didn’t meet my husband until I was 34 before I knew it I was 36 and began a very tricky fertility journey, which ended up with 2 years of nhs ivf and ending up in a clinic on London. Blessed with a positive on our 3rd round the week the first lockdown was announced.
That’s a very brief recounting…but it was a very fraught fight to become a mum.
With all the science I had to go through I was desperate to feed.
After all the medical interventions and emergency c section, when my baby boy Llywelyn latched and knew what to do it was my claim to nature. I felt complete.
So proud I was able to exclusively feed him, but I know that was due to my fight to bring him into the world.
And so when Baby Gweni came along naturally I was really able to relax more into it knowing I’d been blessed to do it before.
My only advice is for mums to be able to listen to their heart and instincts in a time that is very scary and shattering.
I think out of the 3 events becoming a mum, the fertility, the birth and feeding I truly feel blessed I was and a able to feed my babies.
Thank you Louise, a beautiful and inspirational piece of writing!
Here are the set of images we got! They are in my opinion (which is always right, well most of the time, or maybe half at least) super cute and natural, and thats what I wanted to capture. The lovely and playful moments shared between mother and baby while feeding, all that love and energy.
All the mums!
I began to think about all the mothers feeding their babies, or the ones getting ready to stop, but not just breastfeeding mothers, ALL the mothers, the night feeds, the pumping milk, making up bottles, tired blurry eyes, tears, sore boobs, waking up in a milk soaked top, it’s exhausting and beautiful, however a baby is fed it can also come with challenges. I felt inspired, I thought there must be so many stories that just need sharing, whether you skim through this blog post, or you read it word for word at 3am while you do a night feed I hope you find it helpful, it’s a collective of powerful and honest women all sharing their truth, motherhood is the greatest adventure and we all need to support each other along the way so no one get’s left behind.
Here are a collection of experiences, thank you everyone who took part, i'm thrilled I could share your stories I'm not only grateful i'm also amazed at the strength, honesty and beautiful way you have all articulated your journeys.
Get involved I really like blogging, It feels very 'me' and it's great to do something we love right!? I've wanted to do this style of work for years but I really wasn't ready to open up about my art work as I am now. I'm really finding my voice and this has given me a deeper reason for creating! However having my own voice doesn't feel like enough. We all have stories and struggles that are all different. Art for me is about connection, awareness and story telling, and I believe that together there is so much awareness to be spread.
Sound like something you may be interested in? Great! Let’s tell some stories together! Email me:firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanks for reading... sorry about the typos!