Articles published on this blog are my opinion only, and may not necessarily reflect the views of any organisations with which I am associated. Please be aware that articles posted on this blog are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have a medical problem relating to breastfeeding, please seek further advice from a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or trained Breastfeeding Counsellor.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

I can't rescue you, BUT...

When I read "Don't ask me to save you" by Kath Harbisher, the Singing Doula, I found the article struck a particular chord with me, in the voluntary work I do as a breastfeeding peer supporter. So, with Kath's kind permission, I echo her words here:

When I meet you after the birth of your baby, I don't want you to ask me to rescue you.

When I meet you, you might still be coping with the aftermath of a traumatic birth, or a birth which wasn't what you'd hoped for. You may recently have been discharged from the care of a health professional you have come to depend on for advice. Or your care before or during birth might have been fragmented. You may be struggling to bond with your baby, on top of all the other things you have to learn as a new parent. You might not have got off to a great start with breastfeeding. You might still be coming to terms with the loss of a previous breastfeeding relationship.

You might not even realise that you are asking me to rescue you. And I understand that - I've been there.

But please don't ask me to rescue you. Because I can't do that.

Because "when most women talk about birth trauma and bad birth experiences, when you dig down to the root of the emotions, more often than not, it's about loss of power and control [...]. It's about having your decisions and choices questioned, ignored and over-ruled. Sometimes it's about things, to which you never consented, being forcibly done to you against your will. It's about being made to feel stupid and insignificant for believing you had choices at all." (1)

I appreciate that you might not yet have had time to process your birth experience, or recognise that this may be how you're feeling. I can see that you might not be the happy, empowered, self-confident mother you could be. But I still cannot rescue you.

I cannot give you advice, because if I give you advice about your breastfeeding relationship, I become just another person who's telling you what to do. I become just another person making decisions for you which might be wrong for you or your baby, ignoring the fact that there may be more than one way forward, that you have choices. If I do that, I am disempowering you. If I do that, I am simply making you walk from one cage to another. Or trapping you even more in the prison you're already in. And even if your birth experience was everything you'd hoped for, I'd still run the risk of trapping you. And if I do that, I am failing you.

But what I can do is show you a way out of your prison.

I can offer you ideas, information and support so you can start making your own informed choices about your breastfeeding relationship. Every breastfeeding relationship is unique: I can show you where to find further information so you can evaluate it for yourself, and you can choose a way forward which feels right for you and your baby. And I can support you, because you are your baby's mother, and I have faith that you will make the best and safest feeding decisions on behalf of your baby.

I can show you the way along a different path: a path along which you might take ownership of your breastfeeding relationship, find empowerment through informed choice, and find your own voice to start speaking up for yourself and your baby. A path along which you can set yourself free.

Find support after a bad birth:
Birth Crisis (UK)
Solace for Mothers (USA)
The Birth Trauma Association (UK)

(1) Harbisher, K (2011) Don't ask me to save you
Many thanks to Kath Harbisher for her thoughts, input and kind permission to use her article.

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