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Choices

Juliet S. Curran
Seabrook NH USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 2, March -- April 2007, pp. 64-65

As my nursing years are starting to become faded memories, I wanted to write for two reasons: to thank La Leche League, without whom my children and I would never have had the sweet experience of breastfeeding, and to write for other mothers who may be having similar experiences and need support and encouragement.

Breastfeeding was not a common experience for me to see as a child. I only have one memory of a family friend breastfeeding her baby. This was all that more memorable for having been the only one. Breastfeeding was something I viewed with curiosity and discomfort. Whenever I saw someone breastfeeding in public, I viewed her with mild disgust.

As an adult, I joined in with the office crowd, putting down a fellow co-worker who pumped in the office, the hum of her machine "interfering" with our ability to concentrate. It is still with shame that I recall being the designated delegate who asked her to use the bathroom for pumping, as it was intrusive for the rest of us.

Growing up as a survivor of sexual abuse, I was uncomfortable and disgusted by my own body and had no plans or even thoughts that my breasts would be a part of the child-raising process. As I grew in healing from the abuse (but still hugely ignorant about the whole nursing process), I told myself that if any future babies of mine were sick or premature, I would breastfeed them if needed, and in those cases only.

My outlook changed when I became pregnant. I was married for a year to a man who seemed like the true partner for whom I had searched for almost 40 years. What a joy to find my "soul mate" and to be having a child, when I had worried that I would end my life single. Unfortunately, the beginning of my pregnancy marked the beginning of the end of my marriage. I had married a man who had to be the center of attention; adding a baby into the mix whose needs came first enraged him.

I read books about pregnancy and babyhood. Almost every book said breast was best! Of course, I wanted the best for my baby, and there seemed to be no other choice. This was the first argument I had with my husband after almost two years of almost no conflict. He was set against breastfeeding; his children from his first marriage had been bottle-fed, it was more convenient, he would be able to feed our child, too, and he wouldn't have to share me. All I heard about was his needs.

Finding no support at home and wanting so much to do the best thing, I looked around for La Leche League Groups and found one close by. What an experience! I saw more babies and, to my surprise, toddlers, nursing in front of me than I had seen in my entire life. They were all comfortable, relaxed, and happy. The LLL Leaders offered tips to help me enlist the support of my husband (they didn't work because he wasn't interested), and they also provided the most wonderful knowledge and support. I continued to feel sad that it appeared only my husband was unsupportive, but I went to the monthly meetings in spite of his attempts to stop my attendance.

My marriage seemed to improve, and then flounder over the next three years. Breastfeeding my first and second child continued to be an issue with my husband, even one that he brought up in marriage counseling. But I found breastfeeding to be a loving, nurturing experience to bond with my children.

I nursed my son for 21 months until I became pregnant with my daughter. I longed to tandem nurse, but with night nursing, carrying out all of the home responsibilities, being the primary earner, and dealing with issues with my husband, I didn't know how I would be able to do it. I weaned my son gently and slowly and cried when we were done. I stopped seeing the therapist who suggested I should be like other mothers who were glad for a little time to themselves. Through everything, there was La Leche League.

I continued to attend meetings, read the literature, and call my Leaders. I was convinced that I was doing what was right for my children. I was able to develop a close, loving, bond with them that I had lacked with my own parents, and did not have in my marriage.

My children are now five and three, and my nursing days are over. I nursed my daughter until she was 27 months old. My marriage has since ended. I am so glad that I chose what was best for my children over a marriage that was doomed to end.

I wanted so much to write to share my story. Often, I read other mothers' experiences in NEW BEGINNINGS and all of their partners seemed to be supportive. When I was going through such a difficult time, I wondered, "Are there others like me?"

I hope that my story can reach women whose partners, family, or friends may not be supportive of breastfeeding, or other parenting choices. Sometimes the decisions are difficult, but looking at my two sweet children, both healthy and happy, I am glad I made the choices that I did, and am thankful for La Leche League for helping me along the way.

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