Last Saturday I was very lucky to have a front row seat to an interview with Chimamanda Ngozie Adchie about feminism and her new book ‘The Feminist Manifesto & 15 suggestions.’ It was a superb talk that created many light bulb moments for me. Adichie, much like a literary rock star, held the floor through wit and wisdom. Of course, having my own little girl I was now thinking about the lessons I would pass onto her, and so I had begun to revisit the lessons I had learnt growing up. There were many, many important things she said but I’m still mulling over her words that girls are brought up to be liked and in doing so, reduced themselves so their intelligence,, creativity, passion didn’t offend. This spoke volumes to me, and transported me back to many instances where I had not just been told to be this way but had consequently chosen to be this way. A thousand fires had been lit in me and I wanted my daughter to have her voice, to be strong. But how could I focus on my daughter when I hadn’t addressed any of this with my sons. Feminism doesn’t just belong in the realms of the female – men – my sons also had to understand and want equality. Would I have expected my son to do more housework if he was a 16 year old girl instead? Would I have expected to him spend more time with the family? I like to think not but I don’t know. So, I decided I must to take action and create a plan. I told them both I wanted them to think about Feminism because it was really important to me I raised sons who treated women as equals. I told them I had a plan – we were going to watch Adichie’s Ted Talk – We should All be Feminists, watch Emma Watson’s speech ‘He for She’ speech and then I was going to read them a suggestion from Adichie’s manifesto each day for us to reflect on. They thought this was all unnecessary and were only appeased by the fact that I said we would do this all over dinner, and not in one day!
Yesterday we watched Adichie’s Ted Talk. My 16 year old laughed at the jokes and only attempted one escape. My 13 year old got distracted half way but did stay until the end. And, my one year old yelled throughout demonstrating that she was always going to make sure her voice was heard. I don’t think it was their light bulb moment but I thought an important point was made. We were going to think about a better world for men and women together, and we were going to start with us.
My relationship with breastfeeding this last year has been difficult. I breastfed my first son until he was 9 months and then I exclusively breastfed my second son for 14 months. So, of course I was going to do it again for my daughter. I’d done it twice before, I was prepared for the leaking milk, painful nipples and night time feed marathons. I was going to be just fine. Right? Wrong.
A traumatic birth meant my daughter was delivered through C-Section whilst I was under general anaesthetic. I nearly died, she almost didn’t make it so when everything turned out ok I expected my body to do what it had done before and produce milk. Except it didn’t because my body was confused. One minute I had been pregnant and literally the next minute I wasn’t. When I woke up my body wasn’t flooded with hormones like it should have been, and my milk didn’t come in. That was a shock but irrationally I felt like my body had already failed me by being unable to birth my child and now I wasn’t going to let it fail my baby by being unable to nourish her. Yes, I was kinda angry with myself. Many people advised me not to put this pressure on me, and move her onto formula. To be honest, I would have advised anyone the same. I had lost almost 3 litres of blood, replaced by blood transfusions. I was exhausted even before I’d come round from the anaesthetic. But I insisted I was going to feed her and kept her on my breast night and day until my milk did come in. We did top her up with formula but mainly she was breastfed. My milk never came in like it did in my 20s. Then, I had breasts bursting with milk and nipples that leaked every time I looked at a baby. But I was doing just fine. However, my method to bring milk in meant that she became dependent on nursing to sleep, for comfort and generally stayed on my nipple all night. I am VERY sleep deprived! Anyway, after a rubbish week at work last week (generally highlighting I couldn’t carry on, on so little sleep) I decided to stop breastfeeding through the day and for now, only when she wakes up at night. It’s taken me a while to do this because actually I didn’t really want to give it up, I wasn’t sure how I would put her to sleep, how I would comfort her and the list goes on! Since Saturday I have only fed her after 11pm and you know, I’ve had more energy through the day. She still on my breast most of the night but I thought if I can carry on like this for a whole week then maybe I’ll be able to give up the night feed without punishing myself with the bad mother stick.
This morning was tough though. I have Wednesdays off work and for the first time I didn’t put her to sleep during the by nursing her. She drank from her bottle fine and then couldn’t get herself to sleep. Poor little baby …but I persevered and so did she with her crying. I sang her nursery rhymes and whispered to her how glad she was so good at making her voice heard. There’s no silencing this girl’s voice:) Eventually, I took her out for a walk and as the sun rays kissed her soft cheeks she closed her eyes and nodded off.