Exceptional Breastfeeding Stories - Redemption and Healing
**Please note this article may trigger certain emotions and thoughts if you have experienced any of the following challenges. Do not read it if you feel you may be affected by the content of this mother's personal story. She wishes to remain anonymous but there are links and signposts for further support and information at the end of the article, should anyone need it. These topics are also discussed openly and supported in the aversion support group on Facebook, where any and all emotions and thoughts breastfeeding women have are able to be shared in a safe space with the understanding that secrecy makes nothing better and that you are not alone in your experiences as a mother. **
Growing up I felt ashamed of my body. It betrayed me over and over again. I developed eating disorders and depression. I am skilled at self-harm especially cutting. I have attempted suicide on a number of occasions. Planned it on more. I think we need to talk more about what breastfeeding is like for women who fear their bodies and ultimately how redemptive and healing breastfeeding can be.
I grew up in poverty. My mother is a Catholic and I went to convent schools. My father is an atheist and a dirty pervert. There were posters of page 3 girls on the walls of my house and a woman’s value lay in how sexually arousing she was. Unsurprisingly my parents hated each other. At best they didn’t communicate for months on end. Let’s not go into what it looked like at worst. My father wasn’t interested in being a father but that was ok because my mother and my aunts were loving. Inevitably though when I look back I realise that I felt somewhat lacking, somewhat faulty because my father by his own admission didn’t love me ‘that much’. I remember him very clearly telling me so. I also remember feeling in no way surprised.
When I was 11 my mother told me about periods. She said they were a secret and that men didn’t know about them. So we couldn’t talk about periods with other people. She meant well. When my period came at the age of 12 I was frightened. I cried. I didn’t want to go out. I was uncomfortable in the looped bulky Dr Whites sanitary towel that my mother gave me. I was nervous about going to school and where I could change it. How I would do PE and change into my PE kit in the communal changing area without other girls noticing it. Not a great start. My husband is Sri Lankan. He told me recently about his cousin’s daughter having a party with family members and friends. Because her periods had started. Her journey into womanhood had begun and this was to be celebrated. Oh how I wish we could incorporate this attitude into our culture.
Predictably when my breasts began developing I was horrified. I was self conscious and wished they would go away. At this time I had no concept of breasts existing for the purpose of lactation. My developing breasts drew appraising looks from my father and I hated them for it.
The eating disorders developed in my late teens. It started when I went to university. I was the first one in my family to attend a university and my mother disapproved. I was floundering and lost. Feeling the punishment of hunger felt good. Not eating more than I absolutely needed felt good. Vomiting after the weakness of succumbing to hunger felt good. I felt in control. Able to manipulate things other people couldn’t. I felt somewhat of a superhero. This is when things become a little hazy due to severe weight loss. I do remember feeling pleased when my periods stopped. When I continued to lose weight I would think pleasantly about how perfectly skinny my corpse would be. The less of me the better. Existing was painful. Being alive was painful. It was suffering. Cutting helped as a release especially when I managed to get the slashes of the blade perfectly symmetrical to each other on my forearm or my thigh.