The photo of me and my daughter Viola - two years old, clinging to my left breast - has created a misunderstanding. After seeing it, a friend thought it would be the perfect inspiration for a breastfeeding campaign. The reality: on the way out of the flat, while trying to take a quick selfie of the hairband I was wearing to send to my cousin who gave it to me as a birthday present, Viola remembered that she had to have a snack, climbed up, pulled my shirt up and latched on.
In the caption, therefore, was my renewed intention to stop breastfeeding, which I am trying to do - clearly without success - for four months now. Because, let me tell you, for as powerful as the female body is to breastfeed a child, you will need to be twice as powerful to stop breastfeeding, girl.
I have always had an extremely personal relationship with my boobs, never wanting to share them willingly. I would never have imagined breastfeeding one day, giving them up to two newborns - with early teething - for a total of three and a half years. If we add the fact that both of my daughters refused the right boob and only breastfed from the left, this makes me and my left breast twice martyrs.
By now, for heaven’s sake, I am a breastfeeding pro. I have nursed standing in line for Zara’s dressing rooms during sales, I took on almost comfortable contortionist positions to nurse my daughter while she was strapped in the car seat of a moving car, and hit the target of her face in the dark and without waking up when she claimed the boob at night. She is quite skilled too. She does headstands and other advanced yoga positions while she sucks, brings me my mobile phone when she wants to hang on to make sure I can entertain myself scrolling Instagram feed, she can talk, sing and count up to 15 with the tit in her mouth.
But I still remember the early days with my first daughter. Racing to cabins reserved for families at John Lewis with an engorged breast that once pulled out sprayed hydrant-style, drowning the baby and making a mess of the fake leather armchairs. I remember stuffing smelly cabbage leaves into my bra, the first two weeks of pain from tortured nipples, all the positions tried to make baby latch on. I remember the “Oh she’s got tongue tie!”, the midwife threatening the bottle as a top-up, the weighing, the wrong clothes I used to put on that meant, while out, I had to get completely undressed and shut myself in a public toilet to breastfeed.
Meanwhile I met mothers who were damned for not having enough milk or time to breastfeed their children. And others who let it get out of hand a bit, and embraced breastfeeding as a universal mission, nursing other people’s children with litres of their “homemade” milk donated to milk banks.
Me, from my part, I was always poised between love and “I-want-my-boob-back”, but love must have won if I’m still here talking about it. Perhaps because in those moments I powerfully feel to be the person that my daughter knows best. Perhaps because it forced me to discover time that I did not think I had. A time only for the two of us, hugging hands and feet, sweating at times, looking at each other closely. Giving each other mini cuddles. Sniffing one another in that animal closeness that makes us hug tighter, as if, every time, I keep giving birth to her, as if she keeps coming into the world.
What a struggle, what a wonder. Happy World Breastfeeding Week 2018!