Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Ángeles Tavárez, Bry-sur-Marne, France
Translated from Spanish into English by Hanny Ghazi, Saint-Cloud, France
My name is Ángeles and I love to breastfeed. To me the word means “the way a mother loves” (word play in Spanish: amamantar = to breastfeed, amar= to love). I place breastfeeding among the most sublime things one can do. When I have my baby attached to my breast I feel that the world has stopped moving and it is a moment of shared tenderness. It is not always easy, love hurts, and in my particular case, breastfeeding has been painful. I have bled, sometimes I can’t even stand the touch of my clothes. But, then again, I have my baby next to my heart and those small annoyances are worth it. Love hurts but breastfeeding shouldn’t.
On the other hand, breastfeeding has a painful meaning in my family history since my mother died of breast cancer 16 years ago. I know today that breastfeeding had nothing to do with it. There was a wrong diagnosis. The doctors said that she had a lump and it was a tumor. Because of this sad experience, I am particularly vigilant with my breasts.
With my first baby, I had to stop breastfeeding when a painful lump appeared that immediately made me think of my mother’s story. I was hospitalized and given antibiotics that were not compatible with breastfeeding. No one even asked or offered me alternatives. That was the end of my first breastfeeding story.
With my second baby, I told myself that story would not be repeated and that I wouldn’t allow anyone to interfere with my way to love my baby. I contacted the Spanish-speaking LLL Leader when I was crying with pain. My gynecologist had already suggested that I stop breastfeeding (my baby was three months old) but the LLL Leader explained to me that there were home remedies I could try and that it was up to me to decide when I would stop breastfeeding.
In addition to the physical obstacles to breastfeeding, there is the outside world to contend with every single day. At my workplace it was difficult to find a room where I might be able to express my breast milk until I was given the keys to the nurse’s office. At day care they refused to take my breast milk once my baby turned six months old, throwing all my efforts in the trash can.
I live in France, and in this country public daycare management makes us believe they are doing us a favor by accepting our children. Places are limited and you must consider yourself lucky if you get one. I was no longer interested in fighting. I must admit that some part of me was relieved because it is exhausting to have to fight against everyone in order to mother my baby. I don’t want the dialog of love between us two to go through the scrutiny of moral judgment everywhere I go. I decided then that it might be easier to give my baby a bottle from time to time. I think that it is okay. My way to mother my child by breastfeeding is no longer an obligation, it is the best way I have found to love her.
My baby just turned seven months old, and even in France it is a luxury to breastfeed, one I think I am entitled to.