Tuesday, 28 July 2020

labouring through

It's took a year to write this, i am still not 100% sure i am ready but, with Albie turning 1 this week it felt the process of attempting to make sense of what happened would be good and allow me some reflection on that time one year ago. 

If your pregnant i would say this may not be the best thing for you to read, if you like all the details then go ahead but remember this was my journey and all journeys are not the same. If you had your own traumatic experience of labour then be aware this could bring triggers, just make sure your looking after yourself as this is my honest and detailed account of what happened to me. I also want to share that although there were things that went wrong our midwife care was beyond exceptional and we felt cared for by those looking after us, things happen, decisions are made we understand that but the 5 midwifes who cared for us looked after us with unbelievable care, understanding and honesty and without them we couldn't have done it.

After taking so long to fall pregnant my two wishes were that we would make it to full term and that our labour would happen 'naturally' and induction wouldn't be the route we had to go down. I spoke openly about how this wasn't the type of labour i agreed with and how i knew the outcome would lead to assistance due to the fast pace of contractions, and my body not being totally ready for what would be occurring. However, it's what happened and after two weeks of waiting i knew my baby wasn't coming naturally, i spoke to my midwife and induction was booked, on the 28th July 2019 we walked into that induction suite with little idea what was to happen next but filled with excitement the time had come to meet our baby.

For those who don't know about induction it happens in many ways, mostly in the form of a pessarie or gel that's inserted into your vulva then if that starts to work and your cervix dilates into 'active labour' (which i think is around 6cms) your good to go. If you don't get to this stage you get put on a drip, which is like a pace maker for the womb, the drip is filled with a drug that forces contractions and throughout your labour your given larger doses, making the contractions bigger and hopefully your cervix begins to open more and your baby starts to move, active labour begins. 

I went into the induction suite for 5pm on Sunday 28th, they settled me into a room with 4 other 'inductees' and throughout the evening everyone was given the gels to start labour moving, one by one women moved out as they progressed. At around 1am the midwifes shared i was contracting well and showing good signs, however when they did their internal check i sadly wasn't dilating and sadly was still only 1cm, not even enough to break my waters, this carried on for a few hours, we walked around and around the RVI and bounced and bounced but sadly things weren't moving as fast as they would like. They finally managed to break my waters on Monday morning, around 7am, 11hrs into the beginning stages of labour, the period style pain contractions. Things started to feel slightly out of my control of my own body at this stage, i was in discomfort and pain and felt powerless as to what was being prodded in me. Now, i am aware this happens to A LOT of women, however for me, this area of my body had experienced this prodding for 4yrs now, many investigations into my fertility, with ivf you always have some 'wand' being inserted to check for follicles, embryos, eggs etc etc so for this now to be happening throughout birth also was just adding to the trauma of feeling it was someone else's to do as they wanted. 

At this point we spoke with the midwife and informed them i didn't want any sweeps, i didn't want to be prodded unless needed, and requested any checks that could be delayed until actual labour fully started would be. They were so understanding, asked what would help and offered me a bath, i remember so clearly getting in the bath with some clary sage and listening to the archers, it felt warm and comforting on my body and i lay there in this tiny bath, waters broken but feeling more at ease. 
The next few hours turned into a blur as sadly i moved into a more pressing labour but there wasn't room for me in the delivery suite until 3pm Monday, 21hrs into first stage labour. I tried not to feel frustrated and knew i needed all my good hormones to flow but sadly this insane procedure they had in place for induction women meant my labour soon came to a stop as there was nowhere for me to move to and the 'holding rooms' were not the most relaxing. 

When we finally moved into an available room the drip was waiting and any form of moving, swaying labour was heading out the door. After flapping and huffing for a bit, Sam calmed me down, he made the room lovely, diffuser, affirmation cards, music and massaged my back helping me guide back into the space, it felt good and i was happy to just be present with him. 

Labour started to take hold around 8pm, around 26hrs in, i was starting to understand contractions and breathing through them with my yoga breathing, i felt in control of my body and was sniffing my lavender hanky like there was no tomorrow. I got to 12pm, 30hrs into labour and realised i needed something more, the gas and air was making me sick and my breath wasn't cutting it, after another hour of discussing and looking at the pluses and negatives we decided to opt for an epidural, the antitheist came, placed the site and administered the drug, i waited and expected that calm to come where i would get some sleep and contractions could move through me more freely. I waited and waited and as the drip was pushed higher i realised nothing was happening, it wasn't working, something was wrong, the epidural had failed me, i was now contracting big, but my cervix was only at 2.5cms (not classed as active labour) however my contractions were that of active labour, my midwife was confused and the look on Sam's face was of worry, and this is where it all just started to go wrong. 

So i am aware that women have traumatic births every day, i am not saying mine is the worst ever but for me my birth was traumatic, it was everything i didn't want it to be and everything they didn't want it to be, it was raw and brutal and the journey it took was everything i did not want it to be, it lives with me still and i remember it daily, the trauma is held in my body, in my c section scar and although i have processed a lot of it its hard to forget something so monumental, the day my son came into the world, the most wonderful day ever is also the day my body and mind was slightly broken. 

For the next 6hrs a number of things went wrong, they couldn't place any epidural so i was contracting strong every 2mins, not even in active labour with no pain relief, i was screaming for a c section at one point as i felt my body was about to explode, we were left alone for an hour when the 2nd epidural was placed, which again we were assured would work and it didn't, Sam actually walked out into the labour ward asking anyone for help, to be told we had to wait for our midwife to come back from lunch, which she deserved and needed but at that point we also needed someone to help. After 6hrs of no clue how i was going to do it they called the big leads in and the consultant visited me at 7am, horrified at what she found. The hierarchy of midwifes and antitheist played it's part and the consultant shared she should have been rung earlier, i was given pethidine and finally an epidural that worked, i finally found some calm and my drug fuelled haze set in to allow me some sleep, 49hrs after arriving at hospital. 

52hrs after we first arrived they made the decision we needed to move to a c-section, i wasn't in immediate danger and Albie was fine but they knew he wasn't coming out, i didn't know at the time but he was back to back which basically means he was snug as a bug and not in the right position to push on the cervix properly to dilate it. As we entered theatre i remember i just needed Sam to hold my face, the drugs were hard at that point and my jaw wouldn't stay still, i remember thinking i can't bring my baby into the world like this and imagined how my Mum would have to look after him until i was well enough. I realise now i needed physical contact, everything felt so out of control i needed that touch from my husband to hold me and tell me it was all going to be okay.

 Albie was born at 10.54am, 52hrs and 54mins later, he came out fully 'cooked' with not an ounce of amniotic fluid on him and was a strapping 9lb 30z and a face that made our world shine. 

Those after hours feel a blur of drug tripping hazy waves, at times i didn't feel able to hold Albie as i was scared of dropping him, i was hearing voices of friends that weren't there and both Sam and I were falling asleep as hadn't slept properly since Sunday and it was now Tuesday afternoon. It was the most intense but powerful few hours having this new life in our arms, Sam did most of the skin to skin due to me not being well enough too. Our midwifes came and helped us soothe him to sleep, giving us a few hours to close our eyes before my Mum and Ron came to meet him. 

When everyone left that evening and it was just me and him, i lay next to him watching him, not believing he was mine and we were one, he scared me but made me whole and this new chapter was about to begin. 

Labour, she's a beast in many forms and i still don't know the exact words i use to describe her, i struggled to just forget what happened like others say you do, i couldn't forget the face of my husband as he watched me agonising in pain totally helpless and i couldn't forget the face of my midwife as she questioned what was going on, however i do remember the squidginess of my boy as he entered this world and for that it was worth it but i knew i wouldn't be putting myself through it again, he was here and now we were done. 

Saturday, 2 May 2020

9 months of reflections!

Going back to work after 9 months off is a strange thing in itself, without the added depths of leaving your baby, overcoming mental health needs, a worldwide pandemic and feeling trapped in your home. When the lock down began we all felt certain elements of worry and stress but what struck me was my sense of loss, my loss of the end of my maternity leave. I sat crying as guidelines were imposed about the ending of groups, the ending of support and the ending of a time i had started to enjoy.

As i have documented in other blogs sadly maternity leave didn't start as planned, Albie didn't show up for some time and when he did i spent my first 3 months in a postnatal haze feeling low, tearful and really confused at how i should care for my baby and if i had the ability to. I couldn't feed him, the midwife made me feel i wasn't caring for his needs and my own mental health went into nose dive at the expectations i felt i wasn't meeting. It changed at 6 months, properly anyway, i suddenly got it, i knew him, he knew me and i had friends, networks, groups, family and knew what i needed to do at certain times of the day to make the day easier. We got into a flow and it suddenly felt natural, i still missed work, i missed that part of me, but life didn't feel as lost as it once had. We had around 2 months of this, then it changed and my process of moving into lock down was definitely of grief, that the end of maternity was starting to look like the start, a hazy mess feeling slightly lost. I felt bad for feeling this, i felt guilt at my selfishness but i felt it important to recognise and understand why lock down was feeling more of a struggle and why i couldn't accept what was happening.

I also was coming to the end of my counselling and this stopped (my choice) due to it moving to online, again something i was working on that i felt was taken away. Then i was going back to work at my old job and i was starting a new job one day a week for another charity, something i was looking forward to for so long, being with my work peeps and engaging with incredible young people, again this all changed when i was told i would be working from my spare room. I have adjusted, i have had to, i have processed, i have had to, i am not the only one feeling so many losses right now, my losses feel insignificant to the reality of what is happening, but there mine and they feel important to voice as it also feels were not allowed to talk about the smaller things anymore, small things that can feel big things in a already complex world.

Maternity leave hasn't been the sabbatical i thought it would be, it wasn't the dreamy days of lying feeding my baby with the sun shining in and a relaxed playlist in the background. It was hard, so fricken hard, it was exhausting and more confusing then i ever imagined. It was beautiful in a whole host of ways and it was confusing, all the things i expected didn't happen, all the things i hoped for didn't happen, i had to adjust and change and keep alive a new small being, whilst being so mixed up about what my feelings were for this new life. I had to be open and raw and admit i sometimes wanted him back inside as he was safe there, my body knew how to care for him, i had to be open i wasn't in my own mind at times and i had to cry, i cried a river there were so many tears but i had to trust in love, that it would grow, that it would allow my heart to open and be vulnerable and i had to understand there was no running, i was staying put however hard that felt at times and still does, my home was my boy, my beautiful boy.

The naivety i felt pre pregnancy sits with me and i love it, i love the beauty of believing so much can happen, i love the realism i held vanished due to this life growing in me and this exciting new adventure to come. What i learnt was you have no control at times and that's okay, the minute i accepted he was in control of what happened next i started to understand and the adventure changed but not always in a bad way. That acceptance sits with me and the learning's i have had over the last 9 months are some of my strongest lessons. I have realised that i can be so insecure at my own abilities as a women, wife and mother, i am not forgiven on myself and have unearthed a part of me i don't like, it's negative and struggles to see optimism, but i am working on it and i am aware of it and that is the only way change can be made. I have learnt i am selfish, which i don't feel is a bad thing, i miss my old life, it will never be how it was but i hope it can have resemblances, i wanted to be a mother for so long and when the time came i questioned if it was something i had always wanted, which also made me feel such guilt that i was questioning something i had worked so hard to get. I also realised how strong i am, that i spent 3 days in labour and 8hrs in pain without help, they didn't know how to help when nothing else was working, the midwife shared after she had never experienced what happened to me, at the time i didn't know how to react but when i look back now i am so thankful i survived as at one point i wasn't sure i would. I understand my job more, i understand flashbacks and trauma more, so although i wished i had never gone through what i had in labour it has led me to be able to understand when someone talks of the impact of flashback's as 9 months on i still experience them now, i manage them but a song, a smell, a programme with labour in it brings it all back. I learnt that fertility treatment is traumatic and will never leave me, that process of 3.5yrs of appointments, prodding, poking and loss has burnt a place in my heart and when it was all over i was so happy but i was also lost, the feelings fertility treatment leaves you with is so complex and the only people who understand are those also going through it, were sisters and warriors, we survive the battle and keep throwing ourselves in to get what comes so easily to others.

I have also learnt new ways to love in my relationship, it's true if you survive the first year of having a baby you can survive anything, the amount you have to give up is commitment beyond belief. Sam has literally saved me on so many occasions, he has been 100% and has had his own challenges but has always been present and available and when it comes to parenting, he is by us every step. A new love developed when i watched him feed our new born baby with teeny cups in the midst of the night, when he encouraged me to feed in other ways and never told me not to cry when i needed too, i saw he was willing to do anything to help us survive in those first few weeks even at times when he himself was breaking.

The main thing i have learnt though is a love so strong it makes me gush with emotion, at times Sam even laughs at me as every day this small human makes my heart explode, explode with pride, happiness and pure greatness at my achievement as he is my greatest achievement.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

When does the whirlwind end.

Motherhood, it's ups and downs forever knocking me of my feet and making it a struggle to get back up. 7 months have passed by and over those 7 months I don't think I have ever felt so overwhelmed, shocked, alone or bewildered in my whole life. The unknown of this new path I have taken and what the right way to turn is forever mind boggling and I know they say the first is the hardest but I still have no idea what makes people go on to have more. My babe is a beauty, he's calm, chilled, sleeps but the amount of mental exhaustion and ups and downs I go through on a daily basis are not good for my mental health and in return are not good for Albie or my little family.I have never felt so disconnected from the life I was living only recently realising I have been in survival mode for so long, survival from the experience of infertility, IVF, pregnancy and labour then the newborn days. This journey I had  to get my baby developed a fight in me, one I thought would end when he arrived., but I am soon learning hasn't fully. My Counsellor commented yesterday on my 'warrior' mentality and I shared how in the IVF community we call ourselves IVF warriors, madness to think this is the mentality we have to take on, of a solider surviving battle. I don't think at the time we realise the trauma of infertility and IVF, I don't think anyone does or can until the process comes to an end and sometimes that's with more trauma of not having the outcome we wished for or we get what we want but then can't understand why we still feel so lost. That was my outcome, I got my babe, my beautiful boy, my beautiful son but I was so lost and suddenly felt so lost in motherhood, as mentioned before something I never expected. I have come to understand recently what this loss is about and recognise it's around identity, an identity I have lost over the years and am slowly finding but it's taking time. It feels as women trying to conceive or new mothers we all go through this in some way, how can we not a little person has entered or is trying to enter our lives and this changes the dynamic of it all, the dynamic for me, with my husband, dogs, friends and work and it won't be the same as before as it can't be, but it can be different and different doesn't need to be a bad thing.
One thing I am exploring at the moment is my role in my life, the identity that has been given to me by others and the one I have taken on myself. I am looking at what feels right and what doesn't and how this has impacted on me over the years. Its helping me look at the two identities I have developed at this time and how I bring them together or will they always feel quite separate, as Mums do we always have two sides of us we perform/work with. The old you and the new you.

Mum guilt, the continuous feeling of feeling guilty I shouldn't want elements of my old life back. I am human though and all the things and freedom I once had are gone and its okay to miss them, it doesn't mean I don't want my babe, it just means I want elements of what I had as I liked that, I loved my life pre motherhood and post motherhood can be a bit shit at times.

This blog was called 'just a mum' but I changed the title as that's what I am learning, I am more than just a mum and I think the last 16 months through pregnancy and Albie I felt I became 'just a mum' maybe people made me feel that, maybe I made myself feel that but what I am understanding is I can change that as I am so much more than that, I am Albie's Mum and I love being that, but I also love who I was before and underneath these layers of first baby shock I am slowly unearthing myself and finding this new (and possibly improved) me.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Where's the balance?

Today is one of those days where I woke this morning, smiling at life, I fed my babe, I prepped tonight's tea, I made the babes lunch, I packed the change bag and tidied the house, I was winning. When I went out at 12pm to my music class I was mum bossing it, I was on that high of this mum stuff is well easy, if this is how it is, keep it coming. Then the day ends with a huge glass of wine, my diary and a text to Sam with a blow your head emoji. I suddenly remember how quickly it all can change. So where is the balance, how can a day go so awol so quickly, I constantly go back to 'it's just a phase' but sometimes 'just a phase' is bloody hard!  I then remember the Monday's were I wasn't working out the needs of a 6 month old and my biggest challenge at home was what time to walk the dogs or what was the okay time to open the wine (with a baby it seems anytime after 4pm is okay).

The highs are so high, when those highs hit I am skipping with joy at my life, my love, my babe and my hounds. I look at that little brood and my heart melts, I look at that wee baby and remember how much we yearned, cried, pained and challenged ourselves for him. His beauty and innocence and forever smiling face of how pleased he is to be here.  I then feel that pang of guilt in that I miss my old ways and 'easy' life.  I feel bad that I sometimes wish he was older to communicate and allow me a sense of freedom, a sense of who I am. I then get an ounce of freedom and all I want is to be with my babe, the balance is so screwed in my own mind, how do I get it right or make sense of what it is I actually want.

The days feel easier the older he gets, as my hormones in some way calm down and a light shines as in 9wks I go back to work and work is part of my identity, however I then feel sad to be leaving this little beam of smiles and knowing I won't get this time again. However I can't deny I am looking forward to be part of a team again, a team that uses my brain, my knowledge and my expertise, bigger than the team I live in daily at the moment, just me and my babe where my brain is used minimally and it feels very repetitive.

 It's a crazy balance, maybe its winter that shifts these rhythms, maybe it's the newness of life with a small human, maybe it's the wild change I am going through and wanting to make sense of but really can't, maybe it's the change in my relationship I didn't expect or want but trying to reset and make sense of as these two different people, who whatever, are different to who they were 6 months ago.
One thing I do know is that it is a phase, it will change, I will look back and ask where has the time gone, I hold on to the magic of each day, like when Albie laughs at me for making a silly face, or he does something for the first time. I remember the want for this tiny human and although time has changed and I have changed, I am growing and that's not a bad thing, we are always developing and changing and although change can feel so unknown it can be good.

This whole process is unknown but I am trying to make sense of it and as each day passes I hope I am doing the best I can and hold on to myself in the best way possible.

I don't think finding the balance will every come easily but trying to adjust will and one thing I have learnt about myself in the last 6 months if you can raise a baby, you can do anything!

Monday, 13 January 2020

and then we hit 6 months.

Not yet, but nearly, its like another point in the many milestones of motherhood, my niece was born this weekend and it left me with all the feels, thinking about Albie's arrival into this world and those special moments straight after. Sam and I have spent a lot of this weekend talking about those first few hours and the difference in what we remember and chose to remember, there's a lot both of us have put in that box of 'things we don't like to think about' but there's real special moments of just us and Albie that warm my heart and make me feel such great love.

I thought Sam going back to work after Christmas was going to be hell,  i believed my anxiety monster would be back in full force and everything would feel so overwhelming, but surprisingly i have shocked myself (and Sam, i think) as it's not been too bad. I have a little pattern now of classes we go to, friends we see, popping into my Mum and Ron's, walking the dogs and suddenly being at home (alone) isn't such a challenge. I don't know what's changed, if it's me, Albie or both of us, but i suddenly feel like i know my little guy and i know what he enjoys and what noises means he wants change. He kind of naps, but those 20-30mins give me time to eat, drink tea, sometimes catch an episode of something and maintain my me time, which felt so lost at the start of this journey.

These first 6 months have been a rollercoaster, one i haven't always enjoyed, one i wouldn't change but one i wouldn't chose to repeat either. Having a baby is an amazing new chapter but it also closes an old one that when i reflect i wasn't fully ready to close. Maybe if the start of our journey with Albie had been smoother it may have been different but it wasn't and that i am coming to terms with slowly. I am recognising that the first part of our journey still impacts me, brand new babies are now not all squishy to me, there new, fragile and something im okay with not fully interacting with. I still feel tearful when i listen to my favourite playlist which was also our labour playlist, when i hear the song Skinny Love, by Bon Iver i could be back in that labour room, wishing something they did would help stop the pain, sadly i still remember nothing did until 5am that morning, 5hrs after they first administered the first epidural, it took for the 3rd one to make any impact. I have my birth reflection on Thursday which is where you go through your birth with a midwife, it helps process but also make sense of what happened and how traumatic it all was. I have chose to access counselling privately as i feel guilt at not enjoying my so longed for baby. I feel guilt that for 4/5 months i sometimes wondered what had i done and if i could survive the rest of my maternity leave. I feel guilty at one point i wanted to go back to work, i wanted to be away from this world i had just created and spent 6yrs trying to create.

What's changed i do recognise is i am ready to talk about this and i recognise those feelings i felt weren't only mine but so many others too, we just don't like talking about it.

Maybe this is why this 6 month mark feels easier now as i recognise i don't want to go back to work right now, yes in time when my maternity ends but right now i want to squeeze and giggle with Albie, i want to be present here with him. Sometimes days are boring, dull, repetitive but i am now starting to recognise i will never have this time again and i want to appreciate every minute as come April i am back at work and not with my babe every day.

I have realised i need to talk about what happened and i am ready to, it's painful and hard but it can't be locked in as it's not healthy for me, Sam and even more Albie. I want to grow him into a child who knows truth, speaks about his feelings, open's up and isn't misguided from the truth. How can i grow a child into all this things if i don't look after myself and support myself with what i have been through and what my mental health has.

We have so many words for those feelings after birth... baby blues, post natal depression, post traumatic stress... who knows what name i  have experienced, does it need a name? i just know making a baby, pregnancy, labour, birth then having a baby is a a massive assault of shock on the body, mind and life, everything has changed and people who say it's all okay i sadly just don't believe as how can anyone be that ready for such an attack of hormones and just take it in their stride. I read somewhere it takes eighteen months for those pesky hormones to calm down, well only another year left.

Whether my playlist always makes me cry, whether Albie's birth always brings back sadness, maybe i will always feel the guilt around how i felt when he first arrived, maybe the truth of Albie never having a sibling is because of how crazy this journey has been to bring him, whatever i know i am doing my best to adjust, make sense and enjoy the final stages of maternity leave. It's nice to know another rainbow appears and the journey feels somewhat brighter after such a storm.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

2019 a year of reflection.

As my babe has his early morning nap and I drink my morning coffee it feels a perfect time to jot some words down and reflect on 2019 and what's to come in 2020.

It's been a wonderful year in many ways, the stream of texts I have received sharing nothing will beat this year as Albie was born, it's a strange one as although it was a year of greatness due to the birth of my long awaited boy there's a deep part of me that is definitely ready to say goodbye to 2019 and welcome 2020 with open arms.

2019 did bring us Albie but it also brought us 7 months of worry before he was born, questions of would we be lucky enough to get to 9 months, was this really happening for us, learning to understanding a new world of pregnancy and saying goodbye to an old world of fertility treatment (which yes is great but it's also all we have known for 6yrs and had defined part of me in a lot of ways). I also held and still do guilt that we got our rainbow baby and all my friends still in the struggle of fertility hadn't. I also wasn't ready to forget the journey to get Albie as much as others had, it is and was part of our journey and it isn't easy to just forget it.

Albie came with a huge bang and although my honesty is hard for others it wasn't the enjoyable few months I had imagined, he was our world but our world also felt like it had crashed down and shattered around us and my mental health plummeted. I never thought that would be the case for me as I firmly believed years of trying would only bring pure happiness. I didn't cry when he was born, I felt relief we had survived. I loved him but didn't know him and felt very confused by what I could provide and what others expected from me. I am still traumatised from the birth, something I so hoped wouldn't be the case.

Albie came along which was wonderful but the impact it had on me emotionally and physically and on our relationship hasn't been great. I move into 2020 with plans of how to take care of myself, I have started in the last few months writing more, swimming, making plans for adventures and even setting some exciting new projects up in my work ready for when I go back in April.

As Albie has become more 'human' and not a squirmy ball of squish I understand him, enjoy him and love him harder every day. I feel my fierce lioness protecting him but its took time and I am not ashamed to admit that.

I chose to write openly and honestly as I hate the lies that parents are forced or choose to give about parenting being this 'easy ride' this glow of perfect paternal beauty, maybe it is for some but from what I find, when your open and honest, you allow someone else to be too and that in itself is so empowering for Mum's but also women supporting women.

So 2020 brings me going back to work, a change in my hours meaning more time with Albie but also a good balance for me to find me, I have worked hard to specialise in what I do and I am not ready to lose that, I am more than Albie's Mum.

It brings a holiday to Malham, Portugal, Isle of Arran, Italy and Shambala festival and many more adhoc van adventures.

It brings Sam sharing maternity/paternity leave and having 3 months of with our wee boy.
Mostly it brings a year of focusing on us, the five of us, our little family, we are complete now, and I am ready to embrace us as a whole and start this year focusing on the beauty we have between us, putting 2019 to bed and moving forward with a year full of fun and adventure.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

The Big B’s

Were 3 months in and what a journey, it’s taken me till now to start finding the words to share our feeding journey, it’s also taking me 3 months to firmly accept where we are with it all and how feeding looks for us. I never realised the enormity of it all and pre pregnant me would have always said ‘if he needs a bottle then I am fine with that’ even looking at that statement makes me cringe as that’s where the root of the problem starts, I am already having to defend feeding with a bottle, why wouldn’t I be fine with that? Fed is fed right, after the years of trying to conceive the last thing I would chance was not feeding my baby, seems your head does crazy things when your placed in a challenging position where you feel you should be enough. 

Let’s roll back the years to 2006, when my boobs were HUGE and I made the decision to undergo breast reduction surgery i was informed the risk to breast feeding was there but as shared previously babies were the last thing on my mind. Therefore, when falling pregnant I always knew I may not be able to breastfeed, I told myself I was okay with that and stocked up on some bottles and pre-made formula to take in my bag. If the boobs didn’t work then at least the bottle was ready, i did however have some small hope as I had been showing signs of colostrum on my nipples, however I still told myself I was okay if it didn’t work for us, my midwife didn’t seem worried either so why would we. 

I have since found out I should have been referred to the specialist feeding workers for support in preparation to Albie being born. 

My labour was long, that’s for another blog but an element that’s important was my labour resulted in a c section, I am told a c section can interfere with breast feeding. I am also IVF and have been going through IVF for a number of years, meaning a hell of a lot of drugs have been pumped through my body, which again can cause problems in breast feeding and then to top it all off, I had my boobs lopped off, my nipples removed and stitched back on and more than likely my milk ducts damaged, so all in all things were looking bleak.

Albie came along with a hell of a bang, labour was traumatic, I was on a lot of drugs and my jaw was constantly heading west, meaning my brain was all over the place. When Albie went to latch the first thing I said was ‘are we allowed, Sam go ask the midwife’ to which my husband did and the lovely Rhian came and helped us latch him on and guess what, he fed, I wish I remember more of this feed but sadly I don’t, I have a photo and a blurry memory but what I do remember is something came out and they were happy with how he was feeding. This carried on into the night and the next day, we were checked a few times, and all seemed well, he was feeding, I was in shock and in all honesty wasn’t finding it too difficult. 

On day 3 the midwife came out, weighed him and he had gone down 13%, babies generally lose weight but it’s normally 10% max, as we had tipped over it resulted in lots of hospital appointments, harsh conversation and general frustration. The next 4 weeks turned into hell, and sadly gave us a very negative and unenjoyable first few weeks with Albie, we didn’t understand what we were doing wrong, we were doing what they asked but Albie still seemed so upset and cried a lot. We knew it wasn’t wind, reflux, colic and we were feeding him what we were being told but still had an unsatisfied babe. 

The clinic had us topping Albie up with formula, at first, they wanted him topped up with breast milk, however there wasn’t enough coming out in a feed so to try and express was just draining what there was in there. The top up’s we had to give in these sippy cups which were so awful and are used with premature babies, Albie was frustrated with them and we were stressed when trying to feed him. We were giving one ‘schedule’ by the midwife, which was then scrapped by the feeding specialist, which then changed when we were giving an appointment with another woman, by week 3 we had been giving 3 different ‘schedules’ to feed our babe but a still had a very sad unhappy baby. All 3 of us were breaking, and had no idea what to do, who to listen to or what was best, we also didn’t understand what was happening and how to make it right. 

When I read this back now, I scream at myself ‘HE WAS HUNGRY’ but at that point, when in the midst of it all I couldn’t work that out, maybe there was an element of ignorance, selfishness or dam right stupidity but when it actually came down to it what I realised was I didn’t want his main feed to be from a bottle, I wanted to feed my baby, I wanted to be what he needed, his nourishment, his drink, what helped him grow, I didn’t want formula to be that, I even asked Sam to call it his other milk as the word formula broke me, I felt I had failed and that word reminded me of that. 
The day I knew it needed to change was when he screamed, he screamed so much, and I cried, I asked him not to cry, I begged him not to and he carried on. My Mum turned up and held us both, she asked me what I felt was wrong, I again shared I didn’t know, we were doing what the clinic was telling us but he still wasn’t happy, mother hen made me look at a number of different things, we talked, we wrote lists, we narrowed it down, we thought fuck the clinic and I made him a bottle, a big bottle and together we fed him and he stopped crying, he nestled in and he was happy, he just needed a big feed, his tummy needed to be full and sadly however hard it was to admit I hadn’t been filling him up. 

From there we attended the clinic again and we told them OUR plan, we wanted to combine feed, they weren’t clapping for us but were supportive if that was our decision. 

Combined feeding hasn’t worked exactly for us, but I am still booby feeding or as I call it booby snacking, it’s comfort for me and him and although there isn’t much in there there’s something for him to enjoy. Combined feeding has allowed me to have time and space, since having Albie my mental health has been like a wave and it’s not having Albie that has done that but the pressure, medical treatment and unwarranted stress that has been put on me though out our whole fertility journey. By combi feeding Sam can take over, he can feed our babe and I can do what I need to do to look after me, I reflected a lot when I struggled with the bottle and started to realise when I was happy, he was, the bottle allowed that. 

I also have thought a lot about the pressure placed on women to feed, I see myself giving reasoning for why I bottle feed, explaining why I have made this choice, I then see I become part of the problem by being ashamed, I am now trying to be more proud and an advocate of bottle feeding and the benefits it can give. When did we as women become so less invaluable in this journey, motherhood is already hard enough without this other pressure, as a friend said ‘isn’t breast feeding just another way to shout women down’ powerful hey? I totally agree, if we don’t feel the guilt enough then isn’t breast vs bottle just another load right onto us. 

I am 3 months into this journey now and I am proud of myself, I feel the journey of boobing will soon end and I will be sad as I do enjoy this calm feed at night, but my babe loves to sleep and due to that he misses the night time snack out. I have giving him what he needs though, and he is deciding when he wants to stop, and I will be okay with that as overall, I know I have done the best I can for him. 

It took a while for me to bottle feed Albie out in public, I still don’t love it but I am better at it now, I still see judgement in others eyes but I sit tall and remember I am doing what I need to keep my baby alive and isn’t that the most important part in this whole feeding journey.