I Wish I’d Known

Someone asked me a few months after I had him, what’s the one thing about childbirth I wish I’d known before hand?

God, there are so many things I wish I’d known. And not just about childbirth, but the after effects too. 

For the actual childbirth part, I wish I’d known to ask more questions. I was induced, which was briefly explained, but little did I realise I would start having pains immediately. Or that my partner would be sent home. 

I wish I’d known that our hospital has a ‘no overnight guests’ policy. I was induced at 8pm on a Sunday evening, he was sent away around 10pm. I spent two nights alone and in pain, my partner only able to be with me during the day. Then on Tuesday night at about 9.30pm our little man arrived, and a few hours later my partner was again sent away. I wish I’d known this sooner as I found it very emotional having to say goodbye to him. In such an emotional, painful situation, the one person who could calm me, keep me level, the person who would be my voice when I couldn’t speak, was not by my side. 

I wish I’d known how scared I would feel. When the midwife leaned her head out of the door to yell, and I mean yell, for another midwife to come, I was briefly terrified. Suddenly there were 6 doctors and midwives in the room all looking at monitors and talking back and forth in what felt like code and I was spread out between them all. It felt calm and panicked at the same time. 

I wish I’d known how scary it was going to be for my partner. He was sitting on a chair, watching this unfold, feeling like he was in the way. Sitting watching me in pain, watching the monitors and hearing our baby’s heartbeat drop. Feeling helpless in that moment, being unable to provide any help to me or our soon to be baby. 

I wish I’d known my son was going to be quite lazy about coming into the world, he definitely wanted to do it on his terms. A character trait that has merely gotten stronger as he has gotten older. And he didn’t seem to like being rushed. The medication they gave me to speed up the labour only annoyed him and caused his heart rate to drop. Which was the cause of the yelling and the multiple doctors. He did this twice over the course of a few hours, the second time giving the doctor cause enough to decide to perform an emergency c-section.

I wish I’d know how quick an emergency c-section can be. From making the decision to cut, to me holding my son was 45 minutes, maybe an hour? And it all moved so quickly and felt so blurred.

I did know how many people to expect to be in the room for a c-section (thank you antenatal class) but I was still surprised at the number of people in masks (before they were fashionable)  that were floating around me. I sat and moved as directed, leaning forward and holding on as they injected my lower back, all the while thinking ‘my son’s birthday is April 23rd’. I repeated that statement in my mind over and over as they moved me, lay me down. ‘My son’s birthday is April 23rd.’ As my partner was brought into me. As he held my hand and I could feel, well, nothing honestly ‘cause the epidural was doing its job amazingly. Honestly, nothing from the boobs down. My head, neck and arms were all I could feel. It was freakish and tremendous.

I wish I’d known how little all of the before would matter once he was lying on my chest. 

Afterwards, I wish I’d known not to google or research every little thing. Especially not in the darkest hours of the night. I wound up down some dark rabbit holes on google, which only led to me feeling even more terrified and incompetent.

What I did know, is that my family and friends are amazing, but I didn’t know just how amazing. They called with food for the freezer, or to take baby for half an hour so I could shower. They did the washing up while I fed him. They ignored the mess of me, the state of our house and the torrent of swearing that was coming from me as he fed. They were simply there to be there, to support us and be an extra pair of hands once my partner had to go back to work.

What I did know, is that all my baby needed was to be safe and loved and fed. Like us all really, but at a very base level. And so long as we could give him that and can continue to give him that, the rest of it can all fade away.

Breastfeeding Trials & Tourettes

It can’t just be me, surely? Other women feel this too, right?

When I was pregnant, I never really made a conscious decision to breastfeed. I did some research but I didn’t go excessively down the rabbit hole of breastfeeding forums and infographics and all the other stuff you can find if you start looking. I didn’t want to be too prepared. In actuality, I was like that with most areas of my pregnancy. I would read the minimum, the bare edges, the headlines. I think I was scared to delve too deeply. My brain was already on overdrive with what if’s and I didn’t need the internet giving me more fuel for the fire.

When the day came and my son was born, the nurse placed him on my chest as they sewed me up beyond the curtain. He managed to wriggle his way up my chest until he was practically on my neck. They took him away for all the checks they do. His dad went with him, I couldn’t bare for him to be without one of us when he was mere minutes old. And then there he was, back on my chest, cuddling into me. A nurse? Midwife? I’m really not sure. Someone guided him towards my breast and he started to nurse and I remember thinking ‘Wow, that was easy.’ Oh how wrong I was! 

Because I had a caesarean I had to spend 5 days — 5 long days — in hospital. Every evening someone would pop into the room and check in to see if you had enough milk for the baby. If you’re not breastfeeding, they give you small bottles of pre-made formula with twist off tops and plastic wrapped sanitised teets that twist onto the bottle. I was given advice from family and friends who recently had babies to say I wanted the bottles, even if I was planning to feed him myself. So I ended up with a stash of them in my bedside locker. But we tried to nurse. And failed. And tried. And failed.

That first night, the midwife took him away — both fearful and thankful I let him go — and she fed him a bottle. And he was happy. For a time. I resorted to giving him the bottles, but some dogged determination in me wanted to keep trying to Do It Myself! He’s my son, surely I should be able to provide for him in this basic way?

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it could take time. So after a very long night the midwife on duty the following day offered to help; to give me a lesson in how to use my own boobs. She grasped his head in one hand, my boob in the other and shoved us together, wiggling my nipple in his mouth. And yeah, it was about as comfortable and dignified as it sounds. While this was going on, the grandparents arrived which gave the midwife the excuse she needed to leave. ‘I don’t perform in front of an audience’ she said. She promised to come back later. 

I got lucky and he nursed for a good 15 minutes, so when she reappeared — as charming as ever – I informed her we were getting there and she left us to it. But what followed was another long night where I resorted to giving him bottles. No one wants their child to go hungry, and while I wanted to provide for him, giving him the bottle was doing just that. If we didn’t connect on the breastfeeding then so be it. 

The following day, we met a woman who changed our lives. The midwife on duty – if memory serves her name was Grace, and she was appropriately named — asked how we were getting on with the feeding and I was honest with her. We’d had more failure than success. She told me she was the lactation specialist on the ward so the next time he was due a feed to call her and she’d come sit with us.

The fifteen minutes she sat with me were life-changing. For both of us.

She explained clearly and calmly, she talked me through it. Talking about it later I said that before Grace’s attention, my son and I were on the same topic but not reading the same book. Afterwards, we were reading the same book and were even on the same chapter. Though maybe not quite the same page. 

Getting to the same chapter was only the beginning of the battle. And my god what a battle.

He latched well, but the pain, sweet Jesus! Going back to the hospital when he was seven days old to have my stitches checked and dressing changed, I asked the midwife about the pain in my boobs. Sore nipples? Check. Cracking? Check. Bleeding? Check. Pain when he latches? Searing shooting pains through your boob? Check, double check, left and right check!

Stick with it. Use the lanolin cream. Pump if you can. She told me to rub them with a rough towel. The thought of it still sends shivers down my spine, a mere 15 months later. I know, she said, last thing you want to do. But it will help.

I didn’t believe her. If I barely tapped a soft towel against them the pain was excruciating. And all the wonderful breastfeeding clothes I had eagerly purchased now felt restrictive. I was walking around the house in a button up pyjama top that was open most of the time, the cool air a blessing to the boob.

I started suffering what I lovingly referred to as Breastfeeding Tourettes. I would leave the room to feed him if we had visitors, not to spare them the sight of me feeding, to me that is perfectly natural, but to spare them the torrent of verbal abuse that spewed from me when he started to feed. I started writing down the random things that flowed freely from my mouth. Such as –

*Crap *Fuck *Jesus Christ *Holy Moly

Normal enough? I got more inventive.

*Fuck nuggets *Shizers *Buggeration *Crud Buckets

I also remember telling him ‘Good boy, reduce the pain in Mommy’s boob.’ Feeding was about the only thing that actually helped, even though it was painful to start. It always lessened after he fed for a couple of minutes. And gradually, over time, feeding got easier. We started reading from the same page of the same book. We enjoyed our time together. Breastfeeding got comfortable and easy. Well, easier. The pain comes back from time to time, we have our battles and moments still. But that’s a story for another day.

Seven Weeks In as a New Mum.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

During the first few months of my new life with a new life, I wrote random pieces and snippets. Small glimpses into the mind of a new mother, trying to deal with the realities and pain that is all part and parcel of the journey. I plan to edit, compile and share them. This is the first one.

Tuesday 11th June 2019.

I have a seven week old. This day, seven weeks ago, I was in hospital, in labour.

Nothing about those sentences seems real to me. As I write this, a little man in a lion coloured onesie is asleep on my chest and I still feel like this is a dream, or just a temporary arrangement. But no, he belongs to me. He is my responsibility. And that is scary.

Seven weeks ago, after two days of pre-labour pains, a doctor checked my baby’s heartbeat and decided it was safer for me and the baby to cut me open and remove him vertically, as opposed to pushing him out horizontally as had been the plan. Honestly, in hindsight, I am relieved I had to have a C-section as I can only imagine how drawn out my labour would have been, if the first few – read 12 – hours were anything to go by.

During the second half of my pregnancy I was diagnosed as borderline for gestational diabetes. That meant I had to watch my diet, exercise a bit more than a pregnant woman wants to, and stab myself multiple times a day to check my blood sugar levels. I say stab, it was a pin prick, seven times a day. My fingers actually started to bruise. It also meant I was brought in to see a diabetes consultant regularly alongside my pregnancy consultant, meaning I was spending more time inside the walls of the hospital than I spent at my desk in work.

The main fear for women with gestational diabetes is that the baby will be huge – massive – and cause all sorts of pain if left to find its own way into the world. My baby was within the normal parameters that the consultants like to see, but my doctor still felt a desire to not let me go over my due date. So three days before that date, I am sitting in a small room with a doctor who I’ve learned likes to joke a bit, trying to take in what he’s asking me. ‘Can you come in Sunday?’ baby’s due date was Easter Sunday, and this man in a sandy jacket was asking me to come to hospital and be induced on the day I had hoped to be drowning in chocolate.

As he calls through to the labour ward to see if they would have room for me that weekend I could just listen, slightly shell shocked. I knew women with GD are often induced, but I thought I’d have more time. At least a couple of days. What hospital was going to accept a pregnant woman on the eve of a bank holiday?

My one, it turns out.

But still, now I sit here wondering when this temporary arrangement will change. But no one is going to come and relieve me from these babysitting duties or tell me there’s been a mistake. Which is good, cause I kind of like him.

Think I might keep him.

My First Blog Post

A New Chapter

Here we go then…

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Its cheesey, but it’s true. And while I know that Mom Blogs are a dime a dozen out there, this is a space for me to air my thoughts and feelings on motherhood, and not dumbing them down or editing them to make others happy. A true and honest account of what goes into being a Mom.

I’m just getting this going, so check back often for more. The aim is to post at least once a week, but having a 15 month old and a full time job, well, we shall see. Bear with me, and hold me accountable.

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And as they say, if you like what you read, tell others. If you don’t like it, well who asked you?