It's very rewarding being on the front lines of breastfeeding support; to sit with another mother or parent and talk them through difficult times. To see them go from the early day wobbles to that confident parent they were unsure that they'd become. I love it and can't imagine not doing what I do. I feel so privileged to get to witness this private moment in people's lives. BUT, this blog isn't about me or the breastfeeding supporter that sits with the parent in that time of struggle. This blog is about the people that do all of the work and put in all of the effort, but get none of the reward and never have the opportunity to see all that they do to change lives.
As I write this I think of my husband. There was a time when we were those new parents and I didn't think I could manage the whole breastfeeding thing. We sat side by side on the edge of our bed, me crying that I couldn't do it anymore, and a 4 day old baby crying in my arms frantically trying to latch onto my bleeding nipples. I told him to go get formula, I couldn't breastfeed; I'd failed and I was done. He agreed. He would go get formula, but not now, tomorrow. We had a midwife coming in the morning and we would see what she said, and if I still wanted to then he'd go get formula. I agreed. It seemed reasonable and it was only one night I had to make it through. Now, this might sound mean and controlling, that I asked him for this one thing and he didn't do it, but he knew me. He knew I had it in me and he knew how badly I wanted this one thing, to feed our baby. He was present in that moment and saw the whole situation for what it was, a desperate call for help. He also knew that if I made it through another crappy night that I'd feel better the next day. This was my lowest point and it was the one night that I just had to get through, and I did. But not without his support, and I am forever grateful for this extra push, because it was the beginning of something in me. It still took me weeks to get to a point of not wanting to run and hide every time the baby cried for a feed, but it was never that bad again.
When I sit next to another mother, when I sit next to another parent, that is feeling at the end of the rope, I can empathise because I can understand what it feels like to desperately want that one thing that you feel like you'll never be able to achieve and to not be able to see past the unbelievably exhausting haze that is having a new baby. They eventually find their way through it and to witness it is reward enough for me. It motivates me to keep going. So I do.
However, not once has my husband had the opportunity to witness this. For more than five years now I've been picking up my phone at inconvenient times, ignoring him in the evenings to catch up on messages, walking out of my front door and leaving him with a house of chaos, so that I can help another family. I know that there is value in this, because I see the positive impact it has on that family, but my husband never sees that. He puts in all of the work to support families with breastfeeding, but he never gets any of the reward. I'm not sure he's ever seen the impact his support has had, so I'm dedicating an entire blog post to saying thank you to my husband and to all of the breastfeeding supporters out there who never see all that they do.
This man hasn't only been my biggest supporter, but he's been your biggest supporter, because I couldn't do anything I do without him. I wouldn't have reached my own breastfeeding goals without his support that night, and many more tough nights that followed. I also couldn't walk out of my house to walk into yours if he wasn't behind me picking up the slack.
I won't lie, there has been resentment at my walking out the door on days when everyone is stressed and tired and needing the mother in the house. There have been comments made about not helping my own family, and helping someone else's family instead. They're said in the heat of the moment and I know that if he saw the impact he was making he wouldn't entertain the anger and frustration. He is the man that sat next to me on the bed and he knew the importance of that feeding relationship; he knows the importance of your feeding relationship, but he's never been confronted with all that he does. He doesn't get the thank yous and grateful hugs, despite all that he does for other families. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to him, and to all of the breastfeeding support workers out there who don't get the opportunity to see first hand all that they do. Your positive impact on the lives of others is very much appreciated!