As I write this I am currently 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant. So far so good, apart from having a poorly child at home who has had a nasty D&V bug for 7 days now, oh the joy! But so far no baby, no broken waters just a whole bunch of braxton hicks (typically between 1.30am and 7am, perfect time to annoy a heavily pregnant woman who needs to sleep!) and a sprinkling of impatience. Hence the raspberry leaf tea in my foxy mug…..
I was chatting with a new mummy friend this week and asking her how she was getting on with breast feeding, sleeping etc. Lewis our eldest is eight so I kind of feel like a 1st time parent all over again in so much as its been a LONG time since I had to think about night feeds, routines, broken sleep etc. Okay I lie about the last bit, broken sleep and pregnancy go hand in hand but you get my drift. She mentioned that she wasn’t putting as much pressure on herself this time around as she did with her eldest son and it made me think back to how I was when lewis was a baby and how hard I was on myself.
It wasn’t fun, those first few weeks. In fact it was horrible. And I was SO hard on myself I’m pretty sure I made it worse for myself.
Lewis is ten days old, both nipples are cracked and bleeding. He wants fed hourly and takes over an hour at a time. He has blood running from his mouth at every feed. It runs down my chest and belly and pools in my belly button. I wince with pain, my entire body tenses and I literally want to fling him off me like a frisbee. I cry. Every single feed. I don’t sleep. I am miserable. But this is why women have breasts I tell myself, this is the most basic of things I must be able to do as a mummy – feed my child! And I suck at it! And I hate it! It’s not a beautiful bonding experience, it doesn’t make me love him more, it doesnt make me feel amazing like “they” tell you it will. It makes me hurt and bleed and cry and swear. Every time.
Ten days in I am broken. I’ve barely scraped together a few hours sleep since he was born and I am a wreck. I call my midwife and ask for help. “Help” arrives in the form of a breastfeeding counsellor who was so rude to me and unkind that to this day I think if I saw her in Tesco I would want to tell her how awful and useless and belittled she made me feel, and it’s been eight years people! But she was SO unkind and basically told me I needed to toughen up and offered no support, kindness, encouragement or words of wisdom what so ever.
Back then I didn’t drive and the only breastfeeding clinic was at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, we lived on the opposite side of the city and it would take at least 2 busses and around 2 hours to get there. Each way. With a screaming baby and an exhausted, sore, demented mummy this just wasn’t going to happen. Now I am delighted to know there is a clinic within our local area in a local high school and they are dotted around the city, yay! Back then I felt completely isolated and alone and like THE biggest failure of a mum.
Half an hour after the breastfeeding counsellor left my lovely, supportive, kind and never judgemental husband Thomas was in Boots at Criagleith buying bottles, steriliser, formula (which one?! who cares! whatever they sell! just feed this screaming monster already!) the lot. And my god was Lewis a different baby once he was finally getting a decent feed. And boy did I feel better for having a chance to rest, not feel like someone was trying to chew my nipples off every hour and to see my baby actually happy and content at last and with a full tummy finally!
Looking back on those ten days now I know I will do so many things differently this time around. The biggest thing is that I wont beat myself up if its hard and not going to plan. I can’t do it all, none of us can. It’s not easy, it can and does hurt at times and I now have a tonne more experience and knowledge than I had then. My hospital bag is packed and in there are nipple shields, nipple cream and also disposable bottles of ready made formula just in case baby needs more than I can give to start with. If I mix feed then great, if it all goes to hell again and he ends up on formula only I wont feel like a failure and I’ll know Ive tried.
Because the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last eight years as a mummy is this – NOBODY will ever judge you as much as you judge yourself as a new mum! Nobody is thinking anything as unkind or harsh as you are thinking about yourself. So for any and all new mums out there who are having a bad day, have cracked nipples, feel like they suck or are a failure as a mum please take a minute and consider this: if your friend was in your shoes what would you think of her? What would you say to her? Chances are you would give her a hug, tell her she is doing brilliantly and so is baby, that they are both new to this and they’ll get there in the end. Because they will. You might then do the very typically British thing of making her a cup of tea and insisting on a biscuit or three. So do it for yourself. Take a step back, realise you’re NOT failing, you ARE doing your best and know that it will get easier. And your baby doesn’t have the worst mum out there, they have a mum who loves them and who is trying her best. So make sure those cupboards are well stocked with biscuits and sod the mummy tummy, sometimes a biscuit (or an entire pack) is an essential for survival!
And for my friends, please remind me of this blog post in the next few weeks and make me read it back to myself as I’m fairly sure I’ll have those moments again and will need a reminder. And also if you’re visiting, don’t forget the biscuits! 😉
My survival plan:
- Nipple shields (I have bought mine from boots there are a few different brands available, I just went with what was easily available locally and bought these)
- Lansinoh nipple cream which EVERYONE raves about!
- Medela swing breast pump – I plan to mix feed using expressed breast milk in bottles so that Daddy can help and to allow me to return to work within the first 6 months. I’m not a dairy cow, I’ve never done this before so it’ll be interesting!
- Mam self sterilising anti colic bottles – no need to buy a steriliser you can sterilise these in microwave on their own, so clever! If I manage to express or if we end up using formula these were recommended to me as being awesome
- Borders biscuits – my favourite by far, the only downside is that they go stale very fast so you have to eat the whole pack once opened. Oh wait did I say downside? Thats a bonus! Food wastage is bad! 😉 The white chocolate, pistachio and raspberry are immense
- Local support – there are breastfeeding support groups throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians run by the NHS and I will definitely be attending the one in my local area to meet other new mums. I believe they have tea and biscuits too, bonus!
- Private help – if I need it I am definitely going to be making use of the wonderful private support services available within the Edinburgh area including AC Maternity Services, Baby Matters and The Breastfeeding Company. I have met the ladies who run all three and can personally vouch they are lovely, highly experienced and NOT judgemental at all!
- Dads Rock – run by my wonderful husband Thomas, baby will be going along on Saturday mornings once we get feeding sorted and he can take a bottle so mummy can have a few hours baby free time, bliss! I strongly recommend you encourage your other half to go along so baby and daddy have some one to one bonding time and you get a bit of “me time” to either sleep in, get a massage or whatever you fancy really!