The Greatest Gift in the World…

… is a holiday. At least, it is at the moment, for me. I am utterly exhausted, wiped out, end-of-tethered, squishmazzled. It is even official. Medically certified. I saw a doctor on Friday who confirmed that I am not going crazy for feeling so knackered, that it is normal for a mother of two little non-sleepers/big-breast-feeders (as in, big on feeding, not big breasts, although once upon a time they were indeed quite big… sniff) to feel this way and that I am probably anaemic, de-mineralised, lacking in vitamins and oligo-elements and losing brain cells fast. The latter is almost certainly true as I recently noticed I can no longer do basic addition whereas I used to be a whizz at maths. 77 + 77? I came up with 144. The Post Office lady looked at me with pity. I pretended it was a language thing and that I was merely on holiday here in France, not a full-time inhabitant and garlic obsessive since 1995. But anyway, my entire body and brain is worn out and I need a break. Not the sort of break when you go away with your children and end up doing pretty much what you do at home but with the added danger of drowning, sunstroke and not having the right sort if breakfast cereal, no, I mean a real break from round-the-clock childcare, child protection and child entertainment. One where you get up when you want, go to bed when you want and fill your days with just doing what you want, generally involving a lot of lying horizontally, swimming, reading books, eating good food and messing about with friends you’ve known long enough to not care what you look like.
And this, Dear Reader, is exactly the sort of holiday I’m about to have.

About a month ago L’Homme announced that he had changed my summer plans. “Look on the fridge” he said, which was not down to his dodgy English but because our calendar is on the fridge. Pencilled across the 21st of August was “Claire – Italie”. Return date : the 28th. He had borrowed some money and booked plane tickets for Puglia where we holidayed last year. my heart leapt with excitement and then plummeted straight back down as panic struck me at the idea of being away from Léonie for a whole week. I mumbled “erm, without Léonie?”. I was worried I might not seem very grateful nor appreciative of his generous, thoughtful gesture. “No Léonie. Just you.” he replied, “tu as besoin des vraies vacances.” Oh. A real holiday. Just me. With friends. In one of my favourite places in the world.

I am sitting in Orly airport, just outside Paris. I have spent the last few weeks looking forward to this. I have also spent the last few weeks agonising over the thought of leaving Léonie, and even Tommy, for 8 whole days. A few days ago I felt so guilty about going that I went a bit mad and angrily declared that I would NOT leave my baby girl and would be booking her onto the flight with me. I sulked with everyone that day and breastfed Léonie whenever she signed ‘milk’ at me, which meant every 30 minutes. I slept in her room and consequently was woken up twice and then far too early. In the morning I was a wreck. I did the maths: 2 x 9 months of pregnancy + 18 months of breastfeeding Tommy + 20 months of breastfeeding Léonie + nearly 4 years of broken sleep In the last 5 years = mother’s body and mind totally and utterly frazzled. I’m surprised I can even write this. In fact, I’m going to stop, buy myself a coffee and go back to my book. My holiday has already started and I’m going to make the most of each second. The kids are perfectly fine with L’Homme, I’m not indispensable to their survival, this week is going to be good for all of us. So off I fly, with just one bag, a phone full of photos of the kids and the reassuring knowledge that a week away doesn’t mean the end of breastfeeding… unless Léonie doesn’t ask when I get back. This time tomorrow I will be covered in sea salt from my morning swim in the Adriatic sea, full of lunch and Italian coffee, asleep in the hammock.

THANK YOU L’HOMME.

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On My Own

I am in a train. I am on my own. Well, there are other passengers in the train but what I mean is, I am travelling unaccompanied. No Léonie. No Tommy. No nappy bag sippy cup biscuits banana apples crayons dinosaurs pirates playmobil figures spare babygro wipes tissues cuddly toys dog or donkey. Just me, a tiny suitcase on wheels and a nearly empty handbag. This is a new experience. Not brand new, but one I haven’t had for a year and a half, when Léonie was born. I was really looking forward to it but now I’m here, in a comfortable train on my own with loads of time to read, doze, listen to music, phone friends, I’m not doing any of those things and instead am feeling a little lost.

Hum ho.

And this is just the beginning. I’ll be On My Own until Thursday evening when I get home. Blimey, I’m already thinking about getting home. This is ridiculous. Hopefully I’ll get used to this feeling of lightness and freedom fast. My yearning to be back with Léonie and Tommy should fade when I get to Paris and see friends. Tomorrow I’ll be working in a recording studio all day (sounds very glamourous but it isn’t really, I promise) so that should keep me occupied, and in the evening I’m going to the theatre. Thursday I’ll be busy doing more recording work, having a drink at Gare de Lyon with @Rosbif and then jumping on the evening train home. If I stay busy maybe I won’t miss the kids too much. Just one hitch. The Milk Thing.

Léonie is still breastfeeding. Quite a lot. She is going to have to make do without me and my milk for a couple of days, which she might not like but it won’t harm her. However, it might harm me. Or anyone sitting within spurting distance around about this time tomorrow which is when I reckon things are going to get out of hand, and out of nipple. I could take someone’s eye out if I’m not careful. By Thursday morning I could probably hit the top of the Eiffel Tower if I aim well. And by the evening when I get the train home I may well flood the Gare de Lyon. Parisians, beware. Colleagues in the recording studio, do not be surprised if you get milky coffee from the expresso machine. Just me expressing myself. If you see what I mean.

Hum ho. Still here. In the train. On my own. Oh for goodness sake, I should make the most of this and sit back for a snooze. Or daydream as I watch the countryside roll by. Off I go.

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Should I go for the chop? (again)?

While searching for photos of me breastfeeding, I  just stumbled across this photo taken last summer.

This comes at a moment when my growing-out hair is so painfully ugly and ridiculous that I have taken to wearing a scarf on my head. Which technically means I am wearing a “headscarf”. The other evening while out seeing a show a friend remarked I look like Lara from Doctor Zhivago. Julie Christie that is. I just googled “Lara Doctor Zhivago” but all the photos of her show her wearing a chapka. So I dunno what my friend was on about. I wish I DID look like Julie Christie. Alas, all we have in common is some blondness, blue eyes and a clear vertical frown line between our eyebrows.

I in fact look more like Kurt Cobain on a bad day. A day following 550 consecutive sleep-interrupted-by-baby nights, which is what I have just tallied up. But without the fun and glamour and rock’n’rollishness of playing concerts, taking drugs and partying non-stop. Oh well. Never mind. She’ll sleep one day. Look at Tommy – he started sleeping through the night when he was 22 months old and now he is a World Champion Sleeper.

But in my exhausted state I am seriously side-tracking. Dribbling even. All this is just to say, should I give up growing my hair out and go for the chop? Or should I see this thing out? With the aid of my headscarf of course. I’m going to Paris in two days time goddammit – I can’t go wearing a headscarf! Or can I? Maybe I will start a new super chic-hippy trend. Hmmm. It’s worth a try. And if I don’t pull it off I can always hitch up with some Ukrainian musicians in the metro and help them busk. Maybe my Kurt look will even come in useful…

WOOAAARRRGH! GIVE ME MY HEADSCAAAAARRRF!

Wet Nurse for a Lunchtime

Another breastfeeding post. There are now so many I have created a new category. Which is slightly ironic as I feel that all this writing about breastfeeding is unconsciously linked to the feeling that it might all be coming to an end in the next few months.

Anyway, as promised (about 2 weeks ago but then I broke my promise as we went to Spain where I suffered from a week of Temporary Out-Of-Order Phone Internet Access, or T.O.O.O.P.I.A), here is my story about how I became a Wet Nurse for a lunchtime.

First, I have to skip us back a couple of months to the 22nd of April (yes I am very slow and erratic with writing this blog), when I went to Marseille for a night and a day to do an audition. I assumed that going away for such a short period would not be a problem where breasts-filling-up-with-milk would be concerned, seeing as Léonie was only feeding 2 or 3 times over 24hrs. I was very wrong. My breasts were already at bursting point when I woke up the next morning in Marseille and I couldn’t do my dress up properly. I had to ignore the problem all morning throughout the audition but when I had finished and they released me onto the streets of Marseille, the reality hit me hard (as hard as my breasts were by then) – I had a problem and I needed to find a solution FAST. My first thought was to jump in my car and drive back home to my baby Léonie as fast as possible, home being 2 hours away. But I had promised to have lunch with my friends and seeing as they were due to leave France for Montréal a few weeks later, it was probably the last time I would see them for a year or two. I stood there in the street not knowing what decison to take. My breasts hurt. I needed to do something fast. I decided to go to their house and lock myself in the loo for fifteen minutes of breast milking with just my hands as equipment. I cursed myself for not having brought my Avent manual breastpump with me. I walked the 20 minutes to their house, rang the bell, it didn’t work, phoned them up, they threw the keys down off  their 4th floor balcony (in Marseille landlords never repair anything, it’s a basic rule of thumb), I retrieved them, let myself in and hiked up the steep, winding staircase in the dark (landlord hadn’t bothered to repair the automatic lighting system). As I walked into their flat I was greeted by my lovely friends and their 2 month old baby. Baby. My breasts suddenly hurt even more. I tried to ignore the feeling and said my hellos and began to answer their questions about the audition, but I couldn’t concentrate and had to explain the situation to them. And then baby began crying. I could feel milk start to seep into my bra, a sensation I hadn’t experienced for over 6 months as my little Léonie was 15 months at the time and milk seepage was no longer an issue. Baby crying = milk rush. I was about to run into their bathroom when baby’s mummy had an idea. “It seems crazy that here you are with a real, physical, milky-breasty problem, and here is our baby hungry and crying for milk with me heating up formula milk for her … why don’t we put both needs together?” I couldn’t believe my ears. It sounded so odd so wierd so unconventional yet so perfect. My breasts were screaming out for a baby to suckle, the baby was screaming out for some milk. But I knew my friend had wanted to breastfeed her baby, yet couldn’t because she was on some serious , unavoidable medication which is totally incompatible with breastfeeding. I knew this was one of her regrets. So wouldn’t it upset her if I breastfed her daughter? I asked her. “No, I’m absolutely fine about it” she replied. “I’m actually quite curious to see if she will even manage to breastfeed, seeing as she is now used to the bottle.” I looked at her and she seemed very sincere about what she was saying, very sure of herself, so I picked up her beautiful little baby girl and put her to my left breast (which was the one hurting the most).

She sniffled about a bit, not sure whether this was the same sort of thing as a rubber teat, but seeing as milk was already abound she soon understood and latched on like a baby who had been breastfeeding since she was born. A pro. I thought she might not suck hard enough seeing as the milk flow from a bottle is so much faster, but she had no problem whatsoever. We all stared at her in awe. Her mummy was grinning, her daddy looked a little perturbed but was totally fascinated by what was going on. And I felt SO RELIEVED. After ten minutes or so she stopped feeding. I thought that might be it, but I offered her Breast Two and she was quite happy to have some more milk, latching on straight away and immediately giving me double relief as both breasts were now supple and soft again. I stroked her hair while she fed and even kissed her forehead, just like I do with Léonie. Maternal instinct kicked in big time. And then she fell asleep in my arms. To me this is quite normal, my babies have both tended to fall asleep at the end of a feed, but her parents could not believe it. “She usually cries and writhes around in pain for 20 minutes after each bottle feed” said her mummy. “She has never fed so peacefully. She has never fallen asleep like that.”

“What are you doing around 3 a.m. in the morning?” her daddy asked me. “Fancy coming by and doing the same thing?”

We talked about it and I said she sucks very hard so maybe the bottle teats are too easy, too “fast” for her which would mean she’s getting too much milk flow resulting in wind and colic. Or maybe it’s just that breast milk is so much easier to digest. Her mummy decided she would try different teats with smaller holes. She said she was really pleased her baby girl had had at least one hit of breast milk.

Their beautiful baby slept for the hour I spent with them. I took some photos of her. I feel a strange kind of bond with her. I have now breastfed three babies in my life. It sounds so strange and yet it felt so natural. I think it helped that this baby’s parents are very close friends of mine; if I didn’t know them so well and if there wasn’t that deep trust between us I doubt it would have happened. But I am very pleased it did.

I am now wondering which close friends in Paris have a baby whom I could breastfeed next week. I am going up on Tuesday afternoon, back late on Thursday. It’s work, something I can’t say no to as it’s very nicely paid, but I am now going to find myself in a similar dilemma breastwise. Léonie has been feeding even more often lately, thanks to colds and teething, so I seem to have even more milk. My Avent pump is already in my handbag but I tried it the other day and got pretty much nowt out. Maybe it will work better once my breasts are overflowing with milk. I hope so. Otherwise I shall be on the lookout for babies and their mothers willing to welcome a short-term wet nurse into their home.

I am thinking of changing career and becoming a wet nurse. It may be my vocation.

(Coincidentally I started writing this post the day before Time magazine covered the “controversial” story about a young American mum still breastfeeding her nearly 4 year old, and lo, out of the woodwork came many blogging mums writing about their experience of extended breastfeeding. This has encouraged me to keep going until Léonie leaves for university.)

Breastfeeding stre e e e e t c h e d out.

The next few posts are going to be about breastfeeding, so those of you who couldn’t care less can just skip a few days. Or you can read them anyway in the hope I slip in something funny, erotic or catastrophic, depending on what your reasons are for reading my blog.

Léonie is 17 months old. I am still breastfeeding her. And more frequently than a couple of months ago as she has realised how effective the combination of signing “milk” at me with big, pleading eyes can be. So she feeds when she wakes up, at coffee break (mine – hers is a milk break but less frothy), when she goes for a nap after lunch, when she goes to sleep in the evening, and more often than not sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. That’s a lot of breastfeeding for a 17 month old. I fed Tommy until he was 18 months old but it gradually tailed off naturally until he was just having a little feed in the mornings for the last couple of months and then nowt. This doesn’t look like it’s going to happen with Léonie. I can’t imagine her being weaned a month from now at this rate. She enjoys it too much, and so do I. She is my last baby and I have always loved breastfeeding my kids. The idea that it is all coming to an end makes me feel quite sad. Which is why I give in to her milk signing clenchy fists so easily.

There isn’t really a problem with her still feeding, I mean it’s not a problem for me or for her. Or for L’Homme, Tommy or the dog in fact. It seems to sometimes be a problem for total strangers when they ask me “but how old is she?” and I tell them she’s coming up for a year and a half, and they raise their eyebrows so high that they come off their head. More often than not they immediately ask the bloody stupid question “Does she eat proper food yet?” and I choose between replying “of course she does, she is as I just TOLD YOU, nearly 18 months old” and simply smashing them across the face with a rough plank. Why does the fact I am still breastfeeding my baby trouble them so much? Do they lose sleep at night over this fact? Couldn’t they worry about other, more pressing issues, such as child poverty, the euro turning into dried peas, developing nations kitting themselves out with functional nuclear weapons? Does Léonie breastfeeding make an ounce of difference to their lives? No.

Another friend said, “you fed Tommy for 18 months, you’ve got to do the same with Léonie, otherwise when they’re older and ask you how long you breastfed them, they’ll accuse you of favouritism.” I sincerely hope I manage to raise my children so that they can understand why I might feed my last baby for a marginally longer period than my first. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe my friend is right. But I don’t think Tommy will bawl himself to sleep at the age of 15 when he discovers I breastfed Léonie for a few months more than I breastfed him. He will be far too busy restringing his guitar and finding a surefire hiding place for his porn magazines.

But there is a slight hitch. I am going to Paris at the end of the month for two days recording work. I leave on a Tuesday afternoon and get back late Thursday night. Without Léonie. L’Homme will have finished touring and will be home ready to get a taste of what it’s like to be a single parent (although 2 days doesn’t really count as you can let the household turn into a pigsty and just concentrate on feeding and clothing the small ones which is easy but I digress), so I’m going to Paris ON MY OWN.

So yesterday I dug out my old breast pump, an Avent manual one which I used for a short while when Tommy was 3 months old and I was performing at the Odéon National Theatre in Paris (yes, I’m showing off). It worked really well back then, although Tommy didn’t like my milk being in a bottle so he ended up coming with me and living in my dressing room with L’Homme playing finger-puppets for hours on end while I dashed back in the intervals to feed him (Tommy, not L’Homme, poor bloke – he soon learned that my breasts now belonged to my baby). Well, yesterday I tried and tried and tried again, taking the thing apart and putting it back together, leaning forward, leaning back … but not a drop did flow. Or even drop. Whereas when I used my fingers milk came squirting out. So instead I sat there with a bottle on my breast and squirted milk into it but that takes absolutely ages so after ten minutes and 20ml of milk I gave up. I don’t think it will be such a catastrophe for Léonie not to have breastmilk for 2 days. She eats well, she can have some goat’s milk if she wants something milky, and before she knows it I’ll be back. So I don’t need to express milk for her before I go. But I do need to find a solution to milk-laden breasts which will swell and eventually pop, drenching a confused Paris in the stuff of life.

I’m taking my milk pump with me. And my fingers too. I’m hoping these will be enough to relieve my breasts when they get too full and start going “Oi! Where’s the baby? We’re ready down here, we’re ram-packed to bursting point! WHERE’S THE BABY?” And if my methods don’t work, then I shall have to find a baby. Just like I did last time I went away for a night…

TUNE IN to tomorrow’s exciting episode : “Wet Nurse For A Lunchtime”

(PS: 12/05/21012 Pure coincidence, but today’s Time magazine’s cover story* is about a mother still breastfeeding her nearly 4 year old. America is up in arms about it and other mothers still breastfeeding older children are all of a sudden getting attacked. Here’s another mother’s experience of long-term breastfeeding stre e e e e e e e t c h e d out.)

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Breastfeeding Extremely

Following on from LadyCurd’s Letter to Extreme Breastfeeding, here are my moments of Breastfeeding In Extremely Unusual/Uncomfortable Circumstances:

1/ Hiking up a steep, rocky hill, Tommy in a Kari-Me/Patapum baby carrier (not sure which), both of us steaming ahead of everyone else (Harrison family genetics means you always have to be at least ten paces ahead of any other human you’re walking with).

2/ Backstage at the Odéon National Theatre in Paris, in between scenes from Tartuffe, me playing ‘Marianne’, the young virgin bride-to-be, with huge great milk-laden boobs, dressed in a white dress, sometimes forgetting to put my breast pads back in after feeding Tommy. That deserves a post in itself.

3/In the Paris metro at rush hour, shouting at anyone who dared even vaguely brush against us. I managed to get a whole 2 seats to myself.

4/ In the Jardins de Luxembourg in Paris where breastfeeding is frowned upon in a terribly French manner (they flick their croissants crumbs at you).

5/ in a Carrefour supermarket, sitting on a pack of 6 Volvic bottles.

6/ for every take-off and landing in a plane I’ve ever done with either baby (mostly, and unfortunately with Ryanair, which is why this ranks as extreme breastfeeding).

7/ kayaking naked down the Gorges of the Ardèche.

(NB: one of these is not true. Guess which and you could win a holiday in the hills of southern France …)

(the babies never seem to notice when their breastfeeding session is Extreme – they fall asleep as usual …)

The Audition !

I had my audition on Monday morning, in La Timone children’s hospital, Marseille. For those of you not tuned in to my every breath and burp, here’s what I’m on about (Hopi-clowns), and for those who are, IT WENT WELL. It went really well. I arrived well on time via the Marseille metro, losing about a kilo at every stop from sheer nervousness, or should I say shit-scared stagefright. Not that there was to be any sort of stage in sight; I was to be clowning in the hospital corridors, bedrooms, entrance hall, lifts, everywhere and anywhere, but not on a stage. As I drank coffee with Caroline Simonds (the lovely Big Boss) and her soft-hearted assistant J-L in the hospital café, I could feel myself breaking into a cold sweat as the minutes ticked by and the moment to get up and get auditioning approached. One huge comfort was that I knew the two clowns accompanying me, Alfredo and Molette, although Alfredo walked in and said “Wow! You’re all skinny now! With short hair! I hardly recognise you!” Molette reminded him that the last time we met it had been during a crazed pasta cabaret when we were playing an Italian family, getting the entire audience (100 people) to make tagliatelle with 5 pasta machines, and I was 8 months pregnant, running about in fishnet tights, heeled boots and a pink dress that made me look like a blancmange. I even did the splits, repeatedly, which may be why Léonie was born 2 weeks early. Once Alfredo had been acquainted with the after-effects of giving birth (losing the huge belly, hair falling out forcing you to hack it all off) I realised he was talking to my tits when he adressed me, which wasn’t surprising, as it had been over 18 hours since I had fed Léonie. I had driven down to Marseille and slept over at a friend’s house, thinking “oh, Léonie is 15 months old now, she’s feeding less, my breasts will be fine without her for a day.” Alas, I was wrong. I had woken up that morning with huge tits, firm and full of milk. If only they could look like that all the time. But I am side-tracking … back to the hospital cafeteria and me with the physical problem of very possibly squirting a doctor in the eye with milk or at least having a “special effect” costume which ends up soaking wet from the waist up. As I got changed in the little Rire Médecin dressing room I discovered I couldn’t even do my dress up. I was going to have to put this problem to the back of my mind and concentrate on being a crazy little clown, rather than a lactating Mummy.

While we were changing and putting our make-up on we messed about and the boys told me to keep things simple, to take their lead in the beginning, and bit by bit they would let me take more initiative and start up games and songs. “Ready?” “Erm … yes … I mean no, I mean yes, okay, let’s go.” We opened the door to the dressing room and tumbled out into the corridor, and that was it, we were off, non-stop for two hours of clowning in the children’s oncology ward (cancer ward), the day hospital and all the lifts and corridors linking the two. It went by in a flash. We began by singing La Llega Crescera in harmony with Alfredo on the ukelele, which was great because it filled me with confidence and got us messing about until we knew who was the boss (Molette) and who were the total idiots. I can’t remember what order things happened in but I do know we went from playing musical red-nose puppets in a doorway for a one year old with Down’s Syndrome to me blasting out an improvised rap in French for a teenaged lad with a broken arm. We tried to steal a little girl’s crisps, we rocked out with a four year old who had his own little guitar, we managed to persuade a moody 17 year old cancer patient to let us in his room and mess about until he got his phone out and started filming us, Alfredo tried to start a fight with a bloke eight times his size, Molette kept us singing and dancing and moving on to the next room (and washing our hands every five minutes), a little girl ran up to me to tell me I looked like Little Red Riding Hood which was BRILLIANT because I had a Red Riding Hood puppet in my basket which changed into granny and the wolf, we blew bubbles and sang ‘Pirouette Cacahuète’ for another little baby, leaving his mummy wearing a foam red nose, we sang “When the Saints come Marching in” in 12 different languages, we bounced up and down past the rooms with high windows … we kept going, full of energy, and all of a sudden we were back at the Rire Médecin dressing room door and it was all over. We piled in, along with Caroline and J-L, thirsty and laughing. I felt very happy.

As we got changed back into our everyday clothes they gave me a ton of feedback. Apparently it had gone really well for me and they were very pleased with what I had done. But there were 7 more people to audition over the next four days, and they were all great candidates for the job. Today is Thursday – the last of the hopefuls finished their audition this afternoon. Tomorrow all the clowns who accompanied we “learners” will sit down around a table with Caroline and J-L and choose two of us to join the company. Apparently there was another girl the day after me who was also great and another bloke auditioning today who has already done a year of Rire Médecin school … so I’m feeling less sure of myself now. I wake up in the middle of the night sweating from dreams where I am chosen/not chosen/fly out of the window wearing nothing but a red nose. I think about the outcome every 4 seconds (that’s more then a teenaged boy thinks about sex). I CANNOT WAIT to find out but I am going to have to wait … until tomorrow evening.

Oh readers, please pray to the Clown Gods for me and cross your fingers and everything crossable (toes, legs, eyes, bra straps) that they choose me. I so want to do this job, I know I would be really good at it, I would be so motivated and so happy to join the crazy band of generous hopi-clowns that makes up Le Rire Médecin. KEEP IT ALL CROSSED. GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND OFFER UP OFFERINGS – chocolate, beetles, goats – whatever makes those gods feel like consenting to my wishes. At least until tomorrow, when I will let you know if your efforts have reaped ripe rosy-nosed fruits.

This is a photo of me, as Teapot, in our shower. It’s the only place in our home where you can take flattering photos. Pardon. Did I say flattering?

(As for the milk-laden booby bother, I found an unexpected solution whilst visiting friends at lunchtime. To be continued …)

Sexy breastfeeding bras

The other day, I was having tea with my friend Sandrine, who had her baby boy a month after I had Léonie. Just as we sat down with our steaming cups and fiddley pancakes (just when you really need two hands to eat something…) both babies woke up and wanted feeding. Plop, out popped one milk-laden breast, boing, out popped another, lighter-skinned English one. Two little mouths latched onto their respective booby and for fifteen minutes or so the two babies were in warm, milky paradise. This gave us time to juggle a bit of pancake into our mouths and to check out each others’ breasts. Pretty much the same size and roundness, we agreed. But mine were enveloped in a simple, white, boring, cotton affair, whearas Sandrine’s “balcony” (I got that from the French) was framed in pretty lace with strappy straps, a low-cut, hello-boys number which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Moulin Rouge striptease. I stared at her cleavage. “A sexy breastfeeding bra?!” She smiled and replied, “yes, I know, I decided to treat myself. They cost a bomb but they’re pretty AND comfortable… and they help me to feel sexy again.” What a concept. Feeling sexy just 3 weeks after giving birth. Why? I thought. Surely she must be too exhausted? And her birth experience was a rough, ripping one, she couldn’t even walk for a week afterwards. How did she manage to even think about having sex so soon afterwards? And then I realised there’s a difference between having sex and feeling sexy. And I suddenly wanted to feel sexy too. So I got the name of the website and the next morning ordered 2 bras, a sort of camisole and a pair of knickers (to match one of the bras – I thought I might feel doubly sexy with a whole silky underwear outfit on, plus it was the sales, which makes it so much easier to go click, click, click, validate order, type in credit card number, click, wahaay!)

My goodies arrived two days later and I greedily ripped the parcel open and adorned myself in silk and lace, standing in front of our bathroom mirror to see just how sexy I looked. Well, they do a pretty good job, it has to be said. The knickers are really well cut, the camisole is very flattering and practical too, with little magnets replacing the little fiddly catches that allow you to pop a boob out, and the bras boost your breasts up, up, up and away. They’re all very pretty. So pretty in fact, that I couldn’t wait to breastfeed in public, flashing my upstairs-undies at all and sundry.

The next day I tried my “nude” bra out. “Nude” because you can supposedly wear a white t-shirt and no-one will guess you’ve got a bra on underneath… they forget the fact that your bra will be loaded with breastpads to catch the milk that flows out every time you think of your baby, which means people can see you’re wearing a bra a mile off. But never mind. I was feeling quite good about my new buy, about my new daring, racy outlook on life as a breastfeeding mummy, about my decision to feel “like a woman”, as the blurb stated (although when breastfeeding it’s very difficult to forget you’re a woman anyway – I wonder what they mean by that), and then I bent over to pick Léonie up and … POW! … PING! … my boobs popped out of the top of the very-low-cut bra, projected at high-speed by the high-tech underwiring system. Whoops. I squeezed them back in and readjusted the pads, lay Léonie down on her changing mat and … POP! … PAWOW! … out they popped again. I changed her nappy and threw the dirty one in the bin, missed, bent over to pick it up and … PAPOOM! … PA-TWING! … boobs ahoy. I lay Léonie down on her playmat on the living room floor … BOING! … BADOING!! … freedom! I realised the postman was out the front parping on his horn, so I ran downstairs and through the garden, took his clipboard and pen to sign for a parcel, bent over to lean on the post van window … BAJINGO!! … BABOOOM! … hello Mr. Postman! Hmm. I piled my now well-aired breasts back into what was supposed to be holding them and wondered if there might be a slight design fault somewhere. In wanting to create sexy breastfeeding bras they had cut daringly low, as if you would be wearing an evening gown over the top and tottering about all day eating canapés served to you by young Brazilian waiters, thus remaining stiffly vertical. They had forgotten that as a mummy you spend most of your day leaning over, bending down, picking up, putting down, in an eternal, maternal, horizontally-pulled disco jive.

I have sent one bra back but am keeping the other one as I remember that milk-laden breasts become a little less full around the 4 month mark. I continue to wear the pretty camisole as that does its job. The silky knickers too. But now I’m telling you what I wear as underwear, which means my blog is verging on the titillatingly erotic and could end up being listed in the porn pages. I was even going to take a photo but I think I shall decline. Especially seeing as most of my family members will be reading this in the next 48 hours. Just imagine the plain, cotton, practical bras and suckling babies latched on and your horns should stop parping illico presto.