By: Annette Cooper
The phone rang on a Sunday afternoon. “Your baby has come a month early”, our doctor announced. We were so thankful to have a fully supportive OB/GYN who knew how important it was for me to breast feed our adopted baby girl.
He arranged for us to pick Rachelle up early from the hospital, as she weighed under 5 pounds. He said: “When you come, don’t tell the nurses you are going to breast feed her, because they may not let you take her home. Listen to the formula instructions and take the free kit with you.” So at five days old, we carried our tiny Rachelle home to meet her new sister, leaving the formula kit in the hospital waiting room on our way out.
I was still toddler nursing Renee who was almost two and a half. The success of breastfeeding my preemie was spending the next few weeks nursing both children, drinking lots of liquid to build up my milk supply, and resting more than usual. I knew that breast feeding was more than just ‘healthy nourishment’ for a baby. It also involved the whole person with skin to skin touching, gentle holding, one on one time where you gazed into each others eyes without rushing away to do something else. It is nourishment of body, soul and spirit. During this season of life, priorities of life might change. Laundry and cleaning sometimes takes second place for a while, but the investment of this bonding time pays off in the end. I was able to continue nursing Rachelle, which was a wonderful bonding time for all of us as a family.
I also breastfed some of my friends babies, and they mine, so we could go out on dates with our husbands. A ‘boob was a boob’ to the babies. I would cover up with a blanket or shawl, and the baby would pull it off to see whose face was connected to their breakfast, lunch or dinner! We had lots of smiles over that.
Having been born and raised in West Africa, breastfeeding was very common. My husband and I have also had the privilege of being in over 40 countries around the world. I have coached new moms through labor, delivery and postnatal care, in many different cultural settings and under varied circumstances. I love the warm, creative wonder of breastfeeding. There is something magical yet intimate, nourishing yet extremely personal for mommy, daddy, baby and siblings.
I am so thrilled that our children have chosen to use midwives, and breastfeed their children. They have invited me to coach them during labor and delivery. Regan has had three wonderful homebirths. Renee had Halton midwives deliver her babies. Renee had breast cancer after the birth of her first child. She has had two children since her cancer. When Cole was three months old, she had a heart attack due to the chemo and radiation. She ‘pumped and dumped’ while in the hospital. Regan and her new baby came up from Windsor and she also fed Cole until Renee recuperated. Now that is sisterly love.
We have five children and ten grandchildren. What wonderful treasures they are. I am a very proud Mom and Grandma! As a photographer, my passion is to capture life-giving moments within families. Documenting life lived to the fullest whether in a quiet – solitude moment, or in a celebrating crowd, is what memory building and generational story telling is all about, even when it comes to breastfeeding.