I recently read an article about breastfeeding (you can see it here) that made me think of my sister. This is a natural progression of thought, given that my sister, K, is studying to be a Breastfeeding Counsellor.
K and I have always been close. We fought like, well, sisters, when we were younger, but grew to share and help each other through all the ups and downs in our lives. From concocting a series of secret knocking codes, enabling us to communicate from each of our bedrooms, to beating each other up (she'll tell you it was me who did the lashing out and, unfortunately, she's right), to speaking daily and sharing all our secrets, we've been there together our whole lives.
But sometimes I take her for granted.
When K asked me, I agreed to be at the births of each of her two children, offering support and help where needed. At the birth of my nephew five and a half years ago, I was so nervous. I had no idea what to do or what to expect, but I figured I'd just do whatever I was asked. So I did. Then the second time, two and a half years ago, I was still quite unsure, but this time for a different reason: I had been trying to fall pregnant for almost two years myself. I thought I'd find it overwhelmingly difficult to witness another birth that wasn't my own child. I was wrong; I fell in love with my tiny niece immediately and without reservation.
Being there with K and watching her over the last few years as a mother has taught me a lot. K's passion for breastfeeding, though, has been a point where I lost a little of how much I understood her. When it came my turn to have a baby, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to breastfeed. Not from anything she said; I just felt that I would be seen as a failure if I didn't do it. I knew K, with all her knowledge in the field, would be there to help me if I needed her, but I didn't want help; I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to not do it.
I've never spoken to K about it, not about the pressure I felt, nor about my stubborn independence in doing it alone.
Then, surprisingly, it came easily. Naturally. From the moment Abbey fed, she and I both knew what to do. The midwives all commented on how good I was with her, that I knew what I was doing. I brushed away their remarks, thinking I'd just 'fluked' it.
Then I read this article and came to an unexpected conclusion: I didn't need K's help because I'd already had it. Although I struggled to understand her passion for breastfeeding, I had taken in a lot of what I saw and heard. And so, when it came to feeding my baby, I knew what to do. I knew that it was okay to not force her to attach, to allow her to do so naturally. I used to let Abbey lie on my lap with her mouth open, desperate for some milk, eventually lifting her head, finding my breast and sighing contentedly, her eyes rolling back as she relaxed. I thought it was cute; in fact, it was a combination of my mothering instinct and knowledge. Knowledge that I would not have sought myself, having been in denial about the whole 'how-gross-milk-coming-out-of-my-body' thing.
K and I are so different - in personality, in our approach to life, to parenting, everything. But I really do love that she has found something she is passionate about and is volunteering her time to help others. Like she helped me.
So. Thanks, K. You're the best sister ever.