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Welcome back to another installment of New Mum Stories. This time Laura from Adventures With J shares with us her story on becoming a mum and the struggles with breastfeeding.
Over to you Laura….
When I first became pregnant I found the idea of breastfeeding very uncomfortable. It wasn’t something I had really thought about before but my initial considerations were to bottle feed. However, within only a few weeks of being pregnant I was bonding with my baby. I had a strong instinct very early that my baby was a girl and I had a name for her very quickly. Breastfeeding started to feel like a great way to connect with her once she was born. Sadly, my baby’s heart stopped beating and I never had that opportunity.
In the following year, everywhere I looked women were either pregnant or breastfeeding babies. My broken heart ached with the loss I had experienced and I knew that if I was ever fortunate enough to fall pregnant again then breastfeeding would be one of the experiences I would cherish and look forward to the most. After all, as far as I knew at the time, only mothers breastfeed. I associated the idea of breastfeeding as officially being a mummy. After my baby loss I was left feeling like a mummy inside but certainly not an acknowledged one and for me nothing could make me more officially a mummy than breastfeeding my baby. It became a symbol to work towards; a symbol that my dreams had finally come true.
It took almost another two years before I fell pregnant again. This time it was after investigations that showed that the chances of me ever having a natural conception again was so slim it was almost impossible. So this time I fell pregnant with the help of IVF. I was a bit of anxious mess, especially in the first 20 weeks, but once I started to feel J move pregnancy became much more enjoyable for me. J never stopped moving so it was a constant reassurance and I couldn’t wait to meet him and have the chance to breastfeed him. It never even occurred to me to look at bottles, formula or sterilisers. I knew I had no intention of using them so what was the point?
I went into labour a few days before my due date and it wasn’t a straight forward delivery. I had been strongly advised against a c section due to internal scar tissue after previous abdominal surgery. J got very stuck though and after a few hours of labour I was taken into surgery and it took an hour to pull him out using forceps and ventouse. J was born healthy, however, I was hemorrhaging and my placenta was a mess. I felt something moving up near my ribs and panicked, to which the midwife calming informed me that my placenta was broken up and the doctor was trying to remove it. I looked at the doctor who was covered in red blood and the realisation that the blood was mine almost made me pass out. My anxiety went off the chart. Impressively, I’m guessing due to the fact that thankfully I was already in surgery and so the reaction from the medics was quick, I didn’t quite lose enough blood to be forced to have a blood transfusion. It was recommended but we chose not to have one. I had no idea at the time and in fact only recently realised just how big an impact these events would have on my ability to breastfeed J.
I first fed J in recovery. It was short, a little surreal and magical all at the same time. I was still shaking non stop but I looked down at J and the love and emotions in that moment were completely overwhelming. However, it soon became clear that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be the easy path. Firstly, J wasn’t interested in feeding for the rest of the day. The midwives reassured me that he was exhausted after a difficult birth and would be much hungrier tomorrow. This did prove to be the case but J struggled to feed all the same. He was on and off the breast and then screamed because he was hungry. As a first time mum I had no idea what was normal and to begin with I didn’t realise there was a problem. I had been discharged to post natal ward 36 hours post delivery and the midwives seemed happy when I asked them to check his latch. The following day we were to be discharged and I was desperate to get home. They weighed J and he had lost 9.5% of his birth weight. They still sent us home without any real concern though.
After a few hours at home, it became clear that breastfeeding was not going well. I realised that despite the midwives telling me that J’s latch was okay it really wasn’t. I called the support number at my local midwifery centre and they said that the breastfeeding counsellor wasn’t working today but she would call me tomorrow. Twenty minutes later, I was sat upstairs still trying to feed J when there was a knock at the door and the breastfeeding counsellor was stood there. She came upstairs and I burst into tears. She was absolutely amazing. She raised her eyebrows at my bleeding, cracked nipples and watched J feed in a variety of positions. She then asked me a series of questions about labour, breastfeeding so far and why we had needed IVF. She gave me a hug and told me calmly and kindly that J needed to see a chiropractor urgently as he had some post labour injuries including the inability to latch as his jaw wasn’t closing properly. With the amount of weight he had lost, she was appalled that the hospital had discharged us and wrote out a shopping list for my husband and sent him to Boots. She advised us that we should syringe feed J until we had seen the chiropractor. We should use a combination of hand expressing and formula. She carefully warned me that I may not have my milk come in because of the combined events. At the time I didn’t really take this fact in though.
The following day, we took J to the chiropractor and they were incredible. They treated his jaw and several other places on his head, neck and back. We went back for further treatment and a breastfeeding session with a midwife but my milk never appeared. I kept trying to breastfeed alongside formula syringe feeding J. However, one night it really came to a head when after five hours of cluster feeding J was still crying in great distress. I handed him to my husband in tears. “Give him formula.” He drunk so much that it was clear that the previous five hours of feeding had been futile.
The next day the hospital arranged for me to be loaned an electric breast pump and when over 24 hours absolutely no milk appeared it was clear that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be something I could do. This is the point that we started bottle feeding J formula milk. It was difficult for me because I had so desperately wanted to breastfeed J, however, it was also easy at this point because I knew that I had no milk and that I needed to do whatever was best for my child. Yes, I cried, but this was for the loss of what I wanted and for the fact that I felt that people would judge me negatively. However, I was happy that I was now giving my child what he needed and what was making him thrive and actually I then felt guilty for not making that choice earlier and instead tormenting him with trying to force him to breastfeed when it clearly wasn’t working.
What in hindsight I find difficult was that the midwives who saw me in the week after the breastfeeding counsellor had told me I may have a problem with my milk supply never once asked me if my milk had come in. I had no idea what my milk coming in would be like. It is only since these days that I realise that I should have known earlier and it should have been obvious to me that I had no milk. Thankfully, I was thrilled to find that bottle feeding my baby was a very bonding experience and I didn’t feel that we missed out emotionally.
Laura – Adventures with J
Thanks Laura for sharing with us your New Mum Stories. After reading this and your struggles it made me cry. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones. I have always been for breast is best but after reading this fed is best and so long as mum and baby are healthy it seems so insignificant.
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