A Breastfeeding Story.

Firstly let me start by saying that I believe that ‘Fed is Best’.  I feel that there is an inordinate amount of pressure on women to breastfeed.  I also believe that women are set up to fail.  We are scared that it’s not going to work before we have even given birth.  We are filled with stories of engorgement, thrush, tongue/lip ties etc.  A great disservice is being done.  Women need to be lifted up and supported (no pun intended!) We need to step back and tell ourselves that if we want to do it, then we can and if it doesn’t work out then we need to create a culture where we allow one another to walk away without guilt.

End of PSA.

Here is my story:

The best piece of advice I received while doing my hospital tour was this:

“Do whatever you can to avoid having visitors in the hospital.  Put off family and friends until you get home.  Focus on learning how to feed your baby and getting to know your baby without the constant interruption of people coming in and out of your room.  If you must have visitors set a 15 minute limit on them before they arrive.”

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My Ride or Die

I remember thinking to myself how this nurse should perhaps mind her own business a little.  I thought she was too harsh and jaded or maybe just sick of people coming in and out of a ward that has 24 hour visiting allowed?

Some part of what she said must have had an effect on me however.  I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone that the baby had arrived until 24 hours after his birth so that I could evaluate how I was feeling.   I also figured that as a single woman whose mother was going to be at the birth, it would be easy to not have visitors.

Fast forward to the day my son was born. I was in a euphoric blur after his first feed, my boobs were clearly going to be out all day and I was so grateful that nobody knew that my son had arrived.

Breastfeeding as a first time mother is no joke.  I say this as a person who had an incredibly easy, painless breastfeeding journey.  Even so, for the first 48 hours I was constantly wondering “how is a person supposed to achieve all this with just one set of hands?”

For the first 48 hours I had to enlist the help of a lactation consultant every.single.time my son wanted to feed.  C Section had rendered me incapable of shifting myself into position, rearranging my pillows and holding a baby at the same time.  Then working out how to hold his head and my boob simultaneously was it’s own special conundrum.  Don’t even talk to me about hand expressing!  I would try for a minute then just hit the buzzer and some wonder woman would come in and position him, squeeze my boob a little and away he would go.

Lactation consultants are amazing but they all have slightly different ways of doing things.  They have their ‘holds’ that they think are the easiest and I found that they were constantly putting my son in positions that felt unnatural to me.  I didn’t want to hold my baby like a football!! I wanted to cradle him and I made that clear.  Luckily I had a little confidence thanks to a book that a friend had given me – making me promise I would read it before giving birth.  I’m going to do the same for you…

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2 months old – his 2nd photoshoot.

If you are thinking of breastfeeding, I cannot recommend the book “Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy – A Photographic Guide for Mom and Those who Help Her” by Laura Keegan enough.  It’s mainly pictures with just a little text.  It gave me the confidence I needed to cancel out the worries I had about failing!  Just remember – Open Wide and Nipple to Nose.  The other great advice I was given was to use Earth Mama Organics nipple butter. I used it religiously and never had a chapped nipple… perhaps coincidence but maybe not.

2 days after his birth my sons little mouth started rooting.  I got him in position like I had every time before and this time, instead of having to hit the button for help, he latched on like a champ all by himself!!!  Oh my goodness, the elation I felt!

We were going to be able to master this.  We felt like an unstoppable team and I never looked back.

I was so grateful that I had followed the advice of that nurse and kept my room free from people.  The only exceptions had been a fifteen minute visit from my Grandfather (right after a feed!) and another short visit from a friend whose baby I had been the first person after her husband to hold. I also didn’t mind this friend seeing my giant exposed breasts!  It was just my Mother for much of the time, my newborn and me.

By the time I took my son home 2 days later we were like old pros at the nursing game.  I no longer needed my breasts to be constantly on display.  It still took a few attempts to latch him on but it no longer worried me, I knew we would get there.

20 months later and he is still going strong.  A milk fiend.  If you had told me that I would be nursing a toddler, I’d have laughed at you.  I used to say that if my child could pull at my top and ask for milk then that meant it was time to stop.  Well, my son can do both of those things now and I have no intentions of stopping until he is ready (Or I am done.)  I think I’m addicted to the endorphins (so long as they aren’t happening at 3am).  This child may well be my only child so it will be a bittersweet day that he no longer needs the comfort that he gets at my breast.  I’ll be grateful that he is grown and becoming more independent but I will dearly cherish the memories of the baby he was.

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C Section – a birth story.

I am sorry to say that I was one of those people who thought that a C Section birth was not a ‘real’ birth or a ‘natural’ birth.  I remember rolling my eyes at women who were ‘too posh to push’.

Not to say that I didn’t have respect for the existence of C Section as a practice.  Of course I realized that it was a necessary and life saving procedure.  I just didn’t feel like it should be the ‘go to’ for so many people.

There are so many things that I have sat in judgement of merely because I hadn’t experienced them and therefore didn’t truly understand.  Infertility is an equalizer and an educator.  It really does make you think about things in ways that you didn’t realize you were capable of thinking.  It has also made me a better, less judgmental person in all aspects of life.

As I have mentioned before, I was diagnosed with having a Unicornuate Uterus and therefore I spent a lot of my pregnancy concerned that I was going to run out of space and go into labor prematurely.  I joined a wonderful Facebook group and soon saw that the success rate of carrying to term was very good.  It made me feel a lot better but didn’t change the fact that once my LO reached a certain size the chance of his being able to go head down went to virtually zero.

Sure enough my son lounged in my uterus with his feet in his face and his bottom on my bladder for almost all of my pregnancy.  A very stubborn  breach baby!

Scheduled C Section it was.  And I did feel cheated out of the birth experience I had dreamed of.  I wanted the water birth, the doula and the self hypnosis, not the blue cloth, surgeons knife and spinal block.  Knowing that birth doesn’t often go according to plan, I resigned myself to my fate, learned a lesson about my prior judgey self and set about making an alternate birth plan.

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Day before C section with my first baby.

There is nothing more surreal than going to bed knowing that the next day you will be a Mother.  After all the pain, the procedures, the heartbreak and the longing, I was going to be a Mum!!  Of course I barely got a wink of sleep.

 

I remember the car journey to the hospital at 5.30am vividly.  It was a hot summer day and the sun was rising.  I was terrified of the surgery but so joyful that I would meet my son in a few short hours.

Prep for a C Section is intense.  Showers with disinfecting soap, IV line (which they couldn’t get in due to my tiny veins – ouch!), ultrasound to check baby was still breach then off to the OR where they did the Spinal.  Nobody is allowed in the room with you until after the spinal so that was scary for me.  The anesthesiologist was amazing and talked me through everything.  My surgeon (whom I had hand selected based on his reputation for being a perfectionist) was also wonderful and talked me through what was about to happen.  He even sang me a song!

Once the spinal was done my Mother was brought in.  The sensation of losing your legs is horrible.  I’m not gonna lie… I found the whole thing terrifying.  The tugging and pulling, each second felt like 5 minutes.  I had no idea how much sensation there would be.  There was no pain but I felt like a corpse.  My Mother talked me down and my anesthesiologist talked me through it.  Finally after what felt like 3 hours my son emerged and his high pitched screams filled the room!  He had what is known as a ‘gentle c section’ which means that he had pushed himself out of the incision rather than being tugged.  The cord clamping was slightly delayed too and my placenta was saved for me and encapsulated later that day.

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My Newborn Son, a few minutes old. Cutest Squish!

Unfortunately both of our temperatures had dropped significantly during the birth and he had to be placed under the heat lamp for a few minutes whilst we were both warmed up.  They held him up for a moment so I could see him under the heat lamp but I didn’t see his face again for an hour.  Once they put him on me, under blankets, I wasn’t allowed to look at him as we had to be kept warm.  I didn’t mind.  My son was on my chest and I could feel his little movements from the outside.  He was so familiar to me.  I was filled with endorphins and overwhelming, completing love.

It took a while to stitch me up, I went through the shakes (before my son was brought to me) but it was finally over and I left the OR one blissfully happy Mother!