It may not come as a complete surprise that after my third child I went totally do-lally, had a bit of a mental breakdown and ended up on a double dose of that well loved anti-depressant Citalopram. "Oh that, I hand that out like Smarties" my GP friend once told me.
The final straw was after a long weekend in which my in-laws were visiting. We had all gone out for a pub lunch for a nice Sunday family meal so that I didn't have to bother cooking, and they were well fed for their car journey back up to York. It was a lovely idea in theory, except I was still struggling with breast feeding. That's an understatement, I was finding breast feeding so hard that even to attempt sticking my boob in the little blighter's face I had to be in my arm chair by my bedroom window (the one with the comfy arms), baby stripped down to her nappy (to avoid her falling asleep) and propped on my Breast Friend. 10 deep breaths ...... and then the latch on. Toes curled in agony.... wait for it, 10 more deep breaths.... and relax the shoulders, release the grip on the back of my poor baby's neck! Just a minute. Back up. Did you say....?
Yes I did, my Breast Friend. A large piece of foam that clips around your middle (I wouldn't call it a waist for at least another 18 months) and all for the small sum of £45 of your finest pounds. Day light robbery I hear you cry, but this baby's life depended on it. If I didn't have my Breast Friend, the baby wasn't being fed. With baby no.2, it came on holiday to France with me. Once I had packed it into my suitcase I could fit very little around it, just a few size 18 maternity vests stuffed into the whole in the middle. And some bottoms, I wouldn't have gone around in a vest only, showing the French and his wife my vagine (my French for vagina). We were a large group of 6 couples, all with children. All of the mother's could whop out their boobs anywhere and everywhere to feed their babies of course. But dammit, I struggled on much to the cruel amusement of my so called buddies. They would wait for me to go to bed (at about 9pm!) and then take turns to wear my Breast Friend balancing their beers on it. The bastards. If I hadn't have been so hormonal I might have found it funny too. In a kind act of solidarity my husband Ben decided that he would wear it every time he cuddled the baby "to support his back". Kind act my arse, he was taking the Mickey just like the rest of them.
On learning from this and other similar experiences of how unportable my Breast Friend was, I'd decided that the pub gastro dining room was no place to take it even if I could bear the conspicuous nature of it. 2 hours later we were dangerously close to feeding time. Little did my boobs know that the service would be slow, the in-laws would linger for coffee and the time would tick by so quickly that as soon as my daughter's eyes pinged opened I knew we were on a countdown to melt down. Hers and mine. We said our goodbyes as quickly as we could, bundled the 3 girls into the car and drove home at break neck speed. OK, so we didn't. You can't really do stuff like that with 3 kids in the car. You can't even get into the car at break neck speed with 3 sets of seat-belts, various teddies, arguments and 'I'm hungry' comments (despite the fact that they were just leaving a restaurant - on a full stomach).
As we pulled into our driveway the baby was screaming her little lungs off. My boobs were on the point of explosion and my anxiety level was through the roof. "We are minutes away from feed time my little bird", I pictured myself running indoors, stripping off and clipping on my dear old Breast Friend.
Just then I noticed the other car in our driveway. Friends. Getting out of the car now. The mocking friends we'd holidayed with in France. The exact friends who were so apt at feeding, one of those lucky cows who had no difficulty what so ever feeding. She could even strap on her baby in a papoose and wander round chatting at parties with a cocktail in one hand and a canape in the other, whilst the baby noshed happily away at her boob.
That was it. The breaking point. Where I felt I just couldn't cope any more. The tears fell. Actually some of them got stuck in the lines of snot that came pouring out of my face. I was a wet and snotty emotional wreck, with burning hot boobs. I refused to get out of the car until everyone (except the baby had gone away). So heads hung, they all trooped off in the direction of the park.
That evening I apologised to the friends. They'd come bearing gifts, good wishes and even better - my favourite lemon drizzle cake. Home-made and absolutely delicious. I fed the little one with a rock hard ball of a tit and fell asleep exhausted, as did she. When I woke, my bed was drenched in sweat, I could barely move my limbs and my busta was burning hotter than ever. Mastitis. Dear old mastitis. The nasty bitch. Just when you think you can't struggle with breast feeding any more, mother nature knocks you out with one final left hook. Mother nature? Surely something like this wouldn't come from one of the sisters? It has to be Father nature, this one.
I would never wish mastitis on my worst enemy. It's the closest I've felt to death. Over the phone the doctor diagnosed me and said a prescription for antibiotics would be waiting for me first thing in the morning. My mum was going to collect it, as I physically couldn't get out of bed. That night Ben slept in with the baby and I was told to rest. I was so weak and cold that I couldn't call out for help to put extra blankets on. It took me 2 hours to summon up the strength to crawl to pull up the quilt from the bottom of the bed.
My Breast Friend was redundant after that as I could never really work up the quantity of milk back into my mammies that my little girl needed so I abandoned the boob altogether. I don't mean I left it behind in Tesco car park and drove off, I just left them both in my bra to shrink down and down to the floppy spaniel's ears they are today. Instead the kitchen surfaces became cluttered with sterilizers and bottles and formula milk cartons and my doctor diagnosed me with a hefty dose of post-natal depression and so here I am. I've enjoyed a warped sense of reality ever since. I've always been a little odd, eccentric some might say batty, but the great thing about selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors... is you don't really give a shit either.