Sunday, January 20, 2008

Perseverence Pays Off

In her story, Wendy describes how her decision to persevere with breastfeeding through the difficulties and return to exclusive breastfeeding has been a great and rewarding triumph.

I write this as a very happy, breastfeeding mummy. In line with my upbringing, I always knew I would breastfeed, and even dreamt how wonderful it would be, but never imagined the difficulties which awaited me. Luckily, during pregnancy I read La Leche League’s book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, so I had an excellent reference in difficult times, and incentive to continue amidst the trials that were to follow.

Madeleine was born on the 25th January 2007, after being induced due to pre-eclampsia. Further complications meant surgery when my placenta didn’t deliver, so I wasn’t able to establish breastfeeding within the first hour after birth (as is recommended). Breastfeeding was very sore to begin with, and not quite the natural and instinctive process I had imagined. Before long my nipples became cracked and sore. The milk supply was also a problem due to factors such as being induced, and anaemia. I also suffered from a rare complication of spinal anaesthesia: a mind-numbing headache, which made sitting up to feed Maddy nigh on impossible! The final straw was when Maddy was crying continuously off the breast, was losing too much weight (more than 10%) and leaving me feeling disillusioned and stressed with breastfeeding. We decided we were going to have to use formula, which involved a shopping trip at 2am (don’t ask!)

Fortunately, the health visitor informed us the next morning that we could use formula as a top-up to breastfeeding, as Maddy required it, but to persevere with the breast. We realised that supplementing Maddy with formula milk in a beaker or bottle as a temporary measure did not have to mean excluding breastfeeding. Over the following weeks I began attending a breastfeeding support group in Kings Heath, run by very nice health workers. They showed me the correct techniques to use, and advised me about expressing breast-milk when it was too painful to feed, and the use of nipple cream containing Lanolin.

On difficult days Maddy would have three top ups throughout the day (of 90mls each), but gradually we reduced it down to just one in the evening (when Maddy had been breastfeeding for several hours, and was still hungry)! After roughly a month of mixed feeding, I decided to try hard to stop using the formula altogether. After four days without it, she had put on more weight that week than ever before (10oz) which thrilled us to bits!

Breastfeeding from this point on gradually became easier as my nipples were less and less sore. Thanks to being brought up to value the principle of breastfeeding a great deal, and with the help of supportive health workers, a wonderful husband (who supported me whatever I decided), and a perfect little girl who just loved breastfeeding, we got there in the end! A constant source of encouragement for us was the founding image of La Leche League: Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, tenderly breastfeeding the Baby Jesus in her arms in the perfect expression of motherly love. Our prayers would often be directed to Nuestra SeƱora de la Leche y Buen Parto (“Our Lady of happy childbirth and plentiful milk”), deriving wonderful comfort.*

Breastfeeding is now such a joy for us. During the night when Maddy stirs in her bed-side cot, I can pull her towards me and hold her tenderly, as she latches onto me all by herself, obtaining a perfect security and attachment from this instinctive act. It makes bleeding and cracked nipples seem like a distant memory! In conclusion, I cannot say how pleased I am, with the decision to persevere in the midst of the hardest and most painful moments of breastfeeding. If I had given up at these times I would be left with a bitter impression of what has now become an awesome mothering experience.

Published in LLLGB News - January/February 2008 (No. 163)
© La Leche League Great Britain

*Using the word "breastfeeding" in our organisation's name was not acceptable half a century ago in the US and this led in 1956 to the Founders choosing 'la leche' (the milk) from an inscription on a shrine dedicated to the Mother of Christ. None the less, LLL chose to be a non sectarian organisation from the start. The name's lofty origin reflected the importance the Founding Mothers attached to the work they were undertaking.

Oratory Media Frenzy!

A few commentators over the course of this blog have mentioned that the Birmingham Oratory's website is not updated enough.

I hope you will therefore be pleased to know that someone has developed a better, more updated site. (CLICK HERE)

It looks like it's still in development, but seems to contain all the previous articles in an easier to navigate, friendlier way. The front page also has the (always excellently written) weekly newsletter article.

The Birmingham Oratory has been in the press recently (see this BBC article, and video) regarding the expected beatification of Cardinal Newman, and the security of his site of burial. I'm pleased to say the story I saw on our local news covered the whole situation excellently, and sensitively. I have previously written a little about the sorts of prayers which have been offered in recent months, each Wednesday at 2.30pm.

Birmingham Oratory's Liturgy

The increasingly interesting and fiery Oliver Hayes (keep up the good work!) has recently posted an excellent article on the liturgy at the Birmingham Oratory, and the kind of people who criticise it. This is inspired by a post on the NLM blog which draws our attention to some general comments about an image of the classical form of Mass (on Amy Welborn's blog) and an American Priest's reply to much of the criticism.

Much of this sort of criticism I'm not familiar with, although I have caught the scent of it from time to time. I am sure that it is young people like Oliver, dedicating huge amounts of their time to the life of the Church, who represents its future. Rather than children of the 60's firmly intent on their own brand of spirituality.

I am wondering more in recent weeks, not simply what other Catholics think of classical, Divine Liturgy; but Protestant Christians, and indeed non-Christians. Would they appreciate perhaps the mere artistic beauty, precision, sublimity of it all? Or would they reject it along with all the other theological realities of what is going on? I wonder whether, to appreciate the Mass, do we need to begin with the articles of Faith themselves, which of course underpin it; or does the Mass have the power in itself to draw the uninitiated into the mystery of Redemption?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Via Crucis Repaired

My penitent journey, which I reproduced on the Blog in Lent 2007, has been out of action for a while due to the fall of However, I have come across a different file hosting site, and am now pleased to re-launch the Stations of the Cross meditation.

Journey with me to Calvary. Walk the Way of the Cross, and meditate upon the countless mysteries contained in Christ's sacrificial action.

In 1878 the composer Franz Liszt did just that; using his talent he set his meditations to organ and choir. The result is a beautiful piece of music, which I endeavour to present to you in its true context, using simple artistic representations as well as images from the Mel Gibson film The Passion. I originally compiled this in Microsoft Powerpoint, and have managed to convert it into Flash format (so you'll need a compatible browser to view it). This is only an abridged version due to the difficulty in porting over the complicated text animation in my original version, which displayed the Latin and German text when it was being sung, together with a translation.

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