My combined roles of breastfeeding counsellor and MS peer support volunteer have brought together two key areas of my life - breastfeeding women and people living with Multiple Sclerosis. Given that MS is most common in women of child-bearing age, they cross paths for many women and I am asked to offer support and information on both fronts.
Through nothing more than good luck, my pregnancies and breastfeeding preceded the onset of MS symptoms in my life - just. The first episode I had, optic neuritis, occurred less than two years after I weaned my youngest child. I was never put in the situation of having to make choices between my health and that of my children, for which I am eternally grateful. But many women are.
My goal is to first research, then write, a book about pregnancy, breastfeeding and the first years of motherhood for women who are already living with multiple sclerosis and those who are diagnosed with it during this time.
I am inspired by the only book I have seen which addresses any of these issues:
Multiple Sclerosis and Having a Baby: Everything You Need to Know About Conception, Pregnancy, and Parenthood by Judy Graham (1999)
This book is now quite out of date, because the management and treatment of MS has changed so dramatically over the past decade, however it was wonderful for its time. Judy Graham was previously married to childbirth expert Michel Odent, so the book was written from a perspective of birth and parenting which resonate with me.
Rather than wait around for somebody else to create the book I want to refer women to, I thought I might as well have a go at creating it myself!
So here we are, at the beginning of that journey. One is which I hope to give a voice to women with MS who are mothers, who have faced the decisions and made the choices that will be addressed in the book.