The week before last, Doug and I headed up to the Olympics to see the Women’s Volleyball at Earl’s Court on Friday night and then two sessions of Women’s Hockey on Super Saturday out at Olympic Park.
I had purchased tickets while Chips (Freya) was still a sailing boat adrift on the Amniotic Sea. At the start of this year there was a lot of kerfuffle because it seemed that LOCOG had forgotten to develop a policy about tickets for infants and children – they were saying that (in sports which didn’t offer ‘Pay Your Age’ tickets), everyone who already had tickets would have to buy full priced tickets for children and infants attending the games (many of whom weren’t even conceived at the time of ticket purchase). Thankfully LOCOG eventually came to their senses and made ‘babes in arms’ tickets available, just as I was about to don my placard and get protesting about their discrimination towards breastfeeding mothers, and the incredible irony which would have been dripping from their ‘Inspire A Generation’ slogan.
But so that we didn’t have to wait for Seb Coe to get his act together, we made the decision to spend Friday and Saturday night away from Gammon and Chips, and shipped them off to Grandma and Grandad in Bedford. This was the first time we had left them overnight, so I was definitely a little anxious, and spent the hours before we set off in the car packing every conceivable baby and toddler product that I thought they might need – from an extra sunhat for Chips just in case a blackbird flew away with her existing one, to a kiddy seat for the toilet, in case Gammon (Callum) didn’t want to use his potty.
What I should have remembered to pack, however, was a breast pump.
It was on my alphabetised mental list, but kind of somehow got forgotten somewhere between packing the Bickiepegs, the dermalogically tested Botty Wipes, and the Buggy.
“Oh well… she’ll be right”, I thought, channeling the Aussie laid-backness that I had been practicing for whenever anyone asked me about Australia’s position on the Olympic Medal Tally.
But it wasn’t alright. It was just like listening to Trevor Nelson commentating over the Olympic Opening Ceremony. It was uncomfortable and downright painful.
Friday night at the Volleyball was OK in the chesticals department – nothing really to report back on. But by the time we got to the Hockey the next morning, it had become an issue. Let’s just say, it certainly didn’t help to be sat two rows in front of a crying baby for the first two matches. I was almost as leaky as a Chicken and Leek Pie. Bloody Seb Coe and his ‘babes in arms’ policy!
Thankfully Australia beat South Africa 1-0, so I was able to be distracted for a bit, and was then basking in the warm sunshiney Olympic celebration watching Sophie Hosking and a disbelieving Kat Copeland win Gold in the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls on the big screen in the wildflower meadow.
By the time we had taken our seats for our second session of Hockey, my funbags were rock hard – properly giving Jessica Ennis’ abs a run for their money. We left the Germany Vs Argentina game early to watch Team Jennis win the 800m, and subsequently the Heptathlon Gold medal, on the big screen – goosebumpery on a major scale.
Anyone who knows me knows that, even before I had two children and started breastfeeding, I’ve always had an Olympic sized serving of boobiture. But this was really getting beyond silly.
When we walked past the Olympic Stadium on our way to Stratford Station at the end of the evening, I felt an overwhelming tingling feeling throughout my whole body. But it wasn’t at all related to my swelling glands. It was the whole of London going effervescently wild for Mo Farrah winning Gold in the Men’s 10,000 metres. The atmosphere was sizzlingly electric… and we weren’t even inside the stadium.
People must have been looking at me strangely as I rubbed my boobs like a Buddhist rubs the belly of the ‘Laughing Buddha’ for good luck. It seemed to work, though, because Team GB won 6 Gold medals that day.
I went back to the home of our gracious hosts, Serge and Luisa, for a long, well-needed shower to let the hot water help to relieve my pain, and to give myself a stern talking to, because on a serious note, I had been really stupid to forget my pump.
Stopping breastfeeding suddenly can interfere with milk production, as it works on a principle of supply and demand – the more you feed, the more that is produced. If I’d remembered my breast pump, then I could have helped to regulate my milk supply while I was away from my daughter, but as it stood, without the pump I could only inefficiently express enough to ease the pain. Breast engorgement can cause mastitis (inflammation of the breast), which can cause women to experience flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, aches, fever, shivering and chills, and will need to be treated immediately, so I was very lucky that it didn’t go this far.
I returned home to my daughter after 3 days away, but the damage had already been done. My milk supply had already decreased which meant that I had to start substituting formula in order to give Chips as much as she needed, and with another weekend away coming up in a fortnight, that was the end of that.
So, with Chips I’ve ended up starting to wind down on breastfeeding at 8.5 months, where as with Gammon, I continued to do it until he could take cow’s milk at 12 months old. I feel guilty, not because I’m stopping earlier than I planned, but because this all could have been easily avoided if I’d just remembered that one item… I feel annoyed because I’ve taken the choice away from myself. And I suppose it just goes to show that sometimes in order to give your children what they really need, you need to think about yourself first.
So, there you go. Chips will be fine – she’s already making enthusiastic whimpering sounds whenever she sees a bottle. And me… I’m feeling a lot happier about it all now that the pain has subsided. The moral? Well, there isn’t one really. Apart from maybe this: feel free to forget your toothbrush ladies, but whatever you do, don’t forget your breast pump.
Not unless you want to win a Gold medal in breast engorgement, super heavyweight division, like I did.