Scotland and England are celebrating National Breastfeeding Weeks between 19th June and 2nd July 2017, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share this...
You arrived with your nose squished to one side like a wonky marshmallow. You had us waiting day after long day and then, without warning, you shot into your dad's arms like a rocket on steroids. He was in shock, I was high on Oxytocin and you were just hungry.
I held your pink, wrinkled body to my chest and your searching lips quickly found what you needed. For the first weeks, you were an extension of me, like the luminous yellow gorse to the Scottish hillside. Your constant demand for milk was so strong that I could barely separate myself for long enough to pee; the responsibility of sustaining life was weighing down on me.
The day my milk came in my breasts ballooned to the size of the Himalayas. Fit to burst, I tried everything to soothe the pain: a barrier cream smeared onto the nipple, thick like jelly; cold cabbage leaves that allegedly have medicinal properties; silver nipple shields that can heal broken skin. All so that I could feed you day and night.
A month in and we'd kind of gotten the hang of this thing. The two of us would go adventuring; I'd stride out while you looked up at me from your pouch, kissing your forehead as we went. Your food and drinks for the day sorted - no need to remember to pack my boobs!
When you were sick, my body became a pharmacy; your lips sending signals every time you fed so that my milk would deliver the antibodies you needed to make you better. When you were over-tired, it calmed you. When you needed a boost, it energised you.
You don't know it but the truth is - you're nourishing me too. Nursing you is the best diet out there! I wish I could bottle the hormones that make me instantly relax at the end of a busy day as I put my feet up and pull you in close. I know it will come to an end too soon, so let me say it's been a privilege. When the day comes that you nurse for the very last time, I hope that forever etched into my mind are these moments:
The look of contentment on your face, cheeks like forest flame in full bloom, and milk dribbling down your chin. The touch of your arm wagging rhythmically as you feed, tapping my face each time it lands. The sound of your giggles, as you wave your hand unsuspectingly in the air, and I pretend to nibble at your fingers.
I now understand why it's called the 'food of love'. It's not because it's more than just food: nourishment, communication, comfort, antibodies and pain reliever all rolled into one. It's not because of anything that can be portrayed in a shiny television advert. It's because when I pull you in close to me and you nurse, the look in your eyes tells me everything is going to be OK. And for that short moment, even though the skies are black, cloud fat with foreboding - somehow, the world makes sense.
This was written for the Scottish Book Trust writing campaign on the theme of "nourish". It is not intended as an opinion piece on the best way to feed a baby, it is simply an account of my personal experience of breastfeeding.