Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
María Carrasquilla Ospina, Mexico (translated by Angélica Torres & Soledad Etchemendy)
Image: Joshua Raven
My story of birth and breastfeeding after breast cancer
Becoming pregnant at 44 years old after having breast cancer was the most beautiful thing that could have happened to me. Seeing a cell of life developing within my body after having seen abnormal cancer cells restored my faith in many ways. It was then, however, that my worries started about how I would fully breastfeed my son.
I was never a breastfeeding fanatic. I have an older son whom I breastfed for four months and a daughter whom I breastfed for seven months. In both cases, I mixed-fed using formula. I wasn’t into breastfeeding, as I only did it because I considered it my duty. I never looked for information, nor investigated further on this practice, and I did not enjoy it. Nobody encouraged me on this issue, not even those working in health care. One person even responded, when I asked how long I should breastfeed my daughter, that it depended on how far I wanted my breasts to sag.
I had heard of La Leche League (LLL) but had the idea that it was a group of women who were too involved with motherhood. I had always felt I was a strong feminist, an independent woman. I loved to work and saw the issues of raising children as another bondage imposed by a patriarchal society. But life is a great teacher and puts us where we need to be to learn something that we require. It is true that I had a lot to learn about breastfeeding, about my body and its value, about being a woman in this world and in this era. I was almost a graduate as a mother, yet, in breastfeeding, I saw myself as a novice, just like other first-time mothers.
The support that LLL has given me is invaluable. When I approached them, worried that I would not be able to feed my baby with only one breast, they showed me with patience and love that it was possible. Today my son Eliam Santiago and I have been breastfeeding for 15 months, mostly without using formula (except for a brief period of mixed breastfeeding between the second and the third month, which we overcame thanks to the LLL Leaders). We are going for more, I wish to wean him naturally. The oncologists I am still seeing during my checkups have never seen “a child this big” still breastfeeding. However, I hope to breastfeed my son as long as he needs. I hope my (one and) only breast continues to fill with honey, magic, and life.
I have learnt a lot more than just breastfeeding. I have found a new meaning to being a mother. I have left myths behind and I am strengthened as a woman. Finally, the cancer that took away one breast gave me better insight and a new understanding of life, which I hope will stay with me through the obstacles I have yet to face. I am deeply thankful for the support that the Leaders Angélica and Alejandra and those like them gave to me. Without them, none of this would be possible.