In January 2013, my world became a little larger and my heart in turn grew in ways I never envisaged it being able to. I gave birth to a healthy baby, and became her mama. It was me and her against the world. Whilst I never planned the journey of solo parenthood it was one that ended up being for us. It was tough to learn to feed her as someone who is certified blind but we persevered. I never dreamed we’d still be feeding when I became pregnant again several years later.
I didn’t think much about feeding whilst pregnant
This little lady was perfect in every way, everything suddenly took on a new meaning and my world made more sense than it had previously, except, how do I feed her?
I naively didn’t do a great deal of reading up on feeding whilst pregnant as had other things occupying my mind. I contracted whooping cough whilst pregnant, I went through a divorce and I moved house. I was also, as of 3 years prior to her birth, living with rapid onset sight loss which had left me certified blind.
I naively didn’t do a great deal of reading up on feeding whilst pregnant as had other things occupying my mind.
Phone support was no help so I had to be resourceful
In my naivety I assumed “put baby to chest, baby will feed”. But with an extremely ample chest that was not as straightforward as it appeared. I quickly got on my phone and phoned countless numbers I found via google reaching out for support. Each time I was asked, “can you see her swallow? Can you see where her nose is? Can you see how her mouth is over your areola?”.
Time after time I had to repeat: “I am blind, no I can’t see, can you still help me?”. It rapidly became clear that there was next to no awareness out there let alone descriptive words to enable me through words alone “see” how to feed my baby. I, therefore, had to be resourceful and find my path.
We went to a feeding cafe and I learnt so much
When my daughter was 8 months old, by fluke I stumbled upon a feeding cafe held in a department store. I’d put my cane in my bag prior to taking a seat, and no one could “see” I was blind, no one actually had a clue.
Again I heard so many new parents offered the same words as I was over the phone, only this time as it was in person, a friendly person offered copious amounts of hot drinks, offered to hold the baby a moment. For the first time in 8 months I could nip to the bathroom without a small human watching my every moment.
I’d put my cane in my bag prior to taking a seat, and no one could “see” I was blind, no one actually had a clue.
Finally our world was making more sense
I learnt a lot at these meetups which we went to weekly. I gained so much insight into the world of lactation, to go along side all I had gained via google. I made some friends, and finally, our world was making a lot more cohesive sense to what it was prior.
As the months passed, we continued to feed, I was also expressing over 200oz of milk a week for 18 months which we shared via parent to parent donation with several families who were in need, it was such an enriching blessing to be able to share the gift of human milk with others and all the benefits which it contained.
My daughter was 7 when she decided to stop feeding
In June of 2020, I was in a stable relationship of a couple of years, and 7 and a bit months pregnant with my now (at the time of writing this) 16 month old son.
My daughter came and sat on my bed with me for milk (yes she was by now 7 years 4 months) and informed me “Mama I have made a decision, I have given this a lot of thought, this will be my last feed, please don’t be mad at me, but I worry there won’t be enough milk for the baby and I have had so much more milk than many have, thank you for all you have done for me” and with that said she had a feed from “leftie and rightie” as she nicknamed my chest, gave me a huge hug and kiss and asked me to promise to ensure the baby will also have Mama milk.
The weekly Zoom support groups became a lifeline
My son was born in August 2020, a lockdown baby, there were no face-to-face groups, no opportunities to meet and network. The local peer support group ran a weekly zoom and that became a lifeline as my son was born with Tortocolis, and he also battled colic and reflux. He was a mischief to feed, his tongue muscle also failed to fully mature resulting in him findint it tricky to transfer milk and swallow it. Subsequently weight gain was a concern, but easily remedied with the aid of topping him up with expressed milk. Once more a surplus so parent to donation begun once more.
The local peer support group ran a weekly zoom and that became a lifeline as my son was born with Tortocolis, and he also battled colic and reflux.
The zooms the peer support group ran, were different to those face-to-face meets with my daughter, as the lead knew of my sight loss. She made accommodations and no assumptions, ST thank you for giving me the confidence then as you did nearly 9 years ago, for treating me as a person, not a disabled person, but for believing in me to reach my feeding goals.
My partner is my biggest supporter and cheerleader
My partner C, you are oblivious to me writing this but you are my biggest supporter and cheerleader, you believe in my ability to nourish and feed our children, giving me the confidence to try alternative feeding positions. You don’t bat an eyelid when I feed in public, you laugh and take a photo when I fed our daughter under a concrete cow at Cadburys World when she was 5, taking a photo for the memories. You believe in us as a family unit, a team and that the world is here for us and our small people are very much a part of that world, thank you.
Feeding with sight loss is not an easy journey. Just today I have been squirted in the face when my son decided to unlatch with haste as something took his attention, before he relatched. Feeding is that it is a journey, not a destination. It is a challenge and rollercoaster, it is exhausting and rewarding, is has highs and lows, it has been exhausting and all-encompassing but it is also one of the proudest achievements. I have had the honour to be able to give both my small people the wonderful gift of my milk to help aid all aspects of their growth.
If you’re struggling, make noise until someone helps
If you happen to be reading this and are struggling, make noise, keep making noise until you are heard, someone will hear you, someone will help you, you can and will do this, your body is here to help you.
For years my body failed me in so many ways but with the ability to feed my small people my body has thrived and excelled and for that I will always be thankful.
For years my body failed me in so many ways but with the ability to feed my small people my body has thrived and excelled
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