The F Word

October 24, 2009

My baby is 12 weeks old today. He is bottle fed.

There have been a lot of babies appearing in blog and twitter land the past few weeks and even a couple in real life too (well my real life if you know what I mean). It is lovely, who doesn’t love to hear about a new baby but there has been a flip side to it for me. Feelings of jealousy and anger that people got to have the birth experience that I wanted, people that have found breastfeeding easy, those that have persevered and have found their way. Please do not misunderstand me. I am filled with wonder and joy and love for these people and I do not wish to take anything away from their experiences but I have found myself in tears on many occasions over the past few weeks and I need to do something positive about it. So I have decided to write about what happened after Piran was born, and my struggles with breastfeeding. I am also going to go and talk about my induction and labour with a midwife at the hospital (although I have to wait for an appointment).

This will be a long post I am afraid. Hope you can stay with me.

Piran was born at 5.19pm. Due to the fact I was on the drip for induce me I had to sit and wait four hours for it to finish before I was allowed to leave the delivery suite. I remember the sending of messages, getting onto twitter to tell the world. Seeing Mr C dress and cuddle the baby. We had a couple goes at breastfeeding but Piran seemed content to doze. Finally I was cleaned up and everything except the catheter was removed and they wheeled me on the bed to the ward. Piran had quite a lot of mucus and was bringing it up quite a lot. Mr C was exhausted and went home and I was left with my baby. He fell asleep on my chest then I called the midwife to put him in his cot. He was still being sick and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get to him if he was choking (I was bed bound) so the midwife offered to watch him while I got a couple hours sleep.

A hour later she came back to say that he had started to posset green bile and she was going to get the doctor to have a look. The doctor came and told me that they were a little worried so they would take him to SCBU and give him an xray. I was in bed on a ward full of mums and new babies and mine was somewhere else, alone. I kept it together for 30 minutes then called the midwife. All I could think was that he was by himself, so little and helpless and poorly. She rang SCBU and they let me go round in a wheelchair and see him in the big incubator for five minutes before I had to leave while they xrayed him. They came to see me 2 hours later to tell me that it had been inconclusive, that he still had bile that they were removing by a tube from his tummy and they would keep an eye on him. I decided not to call Mr C as I knew that one of us needed a good night of sleep.

At 6am, I asked them to remove my catheter and then I was mobile and could go and sit with my baby. Unfortunately though, I was not well, I had lost quite a lot of blood had a high pulse and kept feeling sick and feint. I text Mr C and tried to ask him to come straight in without panicking! When he arrived I explained what had happened and he took over talking to the doctors and finding out what was happening. I think, when he arrived I just shut down. I went to see Piran a couple of times, but until I knew he was okay I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything. They said that I should try to hand express but it was a waiting game. Piran would have repeated tests and we would not feed him for at least 24 hours. We then had a day of waiting to find out of Piran would need to go to Brighton for a surgical consult or an operation. I was not well enough to do anything and had to lie down most of the time. I would not be able to go with him if they had to move him.

The rest is a 4 day story of how he got better and better but I wanted to write about the breastfeeding really. A breastfeeding lady came and saw me late in the afternoon and showed me how to hand express. I started doing it every hour that I could manage and collecting the colostrum in syringes, storing it to give to the baby when he was allowed to eat again. Each hour I was getting 0.2ml to 0.4ml (a teaspoon is 5ml). Such tiny tiny amounts. God, it was hard and soul destroying and I would just sit and do it. I was on the ward, hiding behind the curtain feeling horribly exposed at visiting hours while people showed off their new babies to their family and I quietly cried and expressed. In the end Mr C said something and I was moved to a private room.

After two days I was allowed to try and feed him. I was in SCBU and each time I tried there was someone else trying to help me. So hard. No privacy, there were up to 5 other babies on the ward at any time. By now I was expressing using the electric pump as well. In the end I made the decision along with the doctor that we would give Piran all the breast milk from a bottle topped up with formula so we knew what he was getting. That way he would be allowed off the drip. The first real feed he had he slept for six hours for the first time since he was born. He looked so happy and full. To be honest this time is all a jumble of memories, getting up in the night and walking out the ward round to SCBU to change nappies and express and just sit and stare at him. I was on some sort of auto pilot. I had my midwife checks when they were quiet at 5am. I missed the food and drugs cart so just used to ask for my pain relief when I knew it was due. I made sure I ate as much as possible, kept drinking and showered when he was asleep. I had to be as well as I could to look after him.

When Piran was 4 days old he was no longer ill but they were adamant that I had to learn to breastfeed before leaving the hospital. They told me that because he had been sick the only thing he should have was breast milk, even though we had already given him formula to get him off the drip (one doctor did one thing, the next changed it). The pressure that created was horrific, I felt like if I couldn’t feed him then he would be sick forever. The only thing that was worse was when he first got sick and the only thing he had eaten was breast milk and I thought that it was my milk that made him sick (we never found out what it was).

By then I had been there for 8 days and was tired, battered and brusied and in pain from labour and I just couldn’t do it. There were a million things that made it harder, like each time I fed him there would be a different nurse giving me advice. I was in the SCBU, they were not midwives just normal nurses. There was very little privacy. Piran would scream and scream and arch his back and wouldn’t even go to my breast. I was fighting him and it was horrible. He would flail about and grab my already sore nipples. I was expressing as much as possible, and in the end they would give it to him in a cup first and then we would try and feed when he was calmer. This worked but I was never sure I had the positioning right and a lot of the time there was no one to really ask. I lost count of the number of women that grabbed my breasts.

In the end I begged to leave. I told them that I was sure that most of the problems that we had been having were due to me being stressed about being in hospital. He was a good weight and had only lost a couple ounces. They finally let us go and when we got home I breastfed well for three feeds. Then, in the middle of the night he was hungry and wouldn’t feed and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I gave him formula and he slept. The next day I expressed and gave him formula top ups, trying him on the breast but he would constantly fight me. In the end I found myself getting angry at him which made me feel beyond terrible. To have those feelings towards your own baby is scary, and unmentionable. I just gave up. He loved his bottles so I expressed as much as I could every day and gave him what I could. It lasted for about two weeks until my milk ran out. I had given him a good start, although not as much as I wanted to and because my milk went gradually my boobs coped better than just stopping. The day my milk stopped was the worst day. I cried and cried and I was sleep deprived and had not left the house for 7 days and in the end Paul just chucked me out for a hour. Best thing he could have done, I had a break then came home and went to sleep and he fed Piran and the next day the health visitor turned up and I was resigned to my decision and the fact that he was now solely bottle fed and that was that.

The worst part now is the ‘what ifs’. What if I had a normal, natural birth? What if he had not been ill?What if I was allowed to feed him in the first 48 hours instead of him being nil by mouth? What if one person had the time to spend with me consistently feeding him? What if we had done this in the comfort of our own home? What if I had not been so ill and tired and drained from being in hospital that long?

I want to scream at the universe “It’s just not fair” and then the guilt kicks in, I have a healthy happy baby. Who am I to complain???

It took me weeks to bond with my baby. Some days I wonder if I have yet. Those are the bad days, when I start to doubt myself. Stupid days. Of course I have. I love him so much. I wonder at my ability to leave him, as I am usually fine for a few hours. But that just means that I am able to look after my well being as well as his and I trust his Nanny to look after him, she has had more experience than me. His smile makes me cry I am so happy. Seeing him with his Dad makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world. When I see how much he has changed over the past few months it blows me away. Of course we have bonded. He is my world.

I will come out the other side of this, I will come to terms with the way things happened and the implications of that. I hope that he does not suffer from being given formula. I applaud every woman who manages to breastfeed but also every woman who formula feeds as I don’t think it is ever an easy decision. It wasn’t for me. Sometimes when I feed him when we are out in public I worry about what people think of me. I hope that they would try to understand before judging me.

The first time I held my baby after he got sick.

His first morning at home. Scoffing his bottle of breast milk!

31 Comments

  • Reply rosiescribble October 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    I can relate so much to this. My daughter was in special care for two weeks and it was grim. We were surrounded by babies who were very ill – some born at 24 weeks. I gave me breastfeeding after 3 weeks. I just couldn't do it and she was starving. With everything going on it took months to really bond. But we got there in the end.

  • Reply Liz (LivingwithKids) October 24, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Such an honest post. No 1 Son was in Special Care for a different reason. I bottle fed right from the start and he's as strong as an ox. Don't beat yourself up, you're obviously a fab mum xxx

  • Reply Amy October 24, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    such a brave honest post and i hope it makes you feel better getting it all off your chest. The most important thing is that he is well and happy and that you are happy too. If it's any consolation all my 4 have been bottle fed 🙂 xxxxx

  • Reply Victoria October 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    I breast fed all my children but I still had real trouble bonding with my eldest and was quite depressed for months I think. Whatever the circumstances (and you've had it harder than a lot of people ) it's hard having a baby. Don't beat yourself up about what might have been and try and concentrate on what you've got. It sounds like you are doing a brilliant job. Enjoy him. x

  • Reply Kat October 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    It is very difficult letting go of your own trauma/disappointment when you are constantly faced with other people's experiences which fit your ideal. I found that with my first child. Have you thought about birth afterthoughts or an NCT early days course? Talking about it and laying it to rest really helped me and from the NCT course I found a group of friends who had talked and listened without judgement.

  • Reply Vicki October 24, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Hi there

    Having had 3 children all very different births 2 c sections and 1 normal delivery the only advice I would ever be able to offer is as mum you know best for you and your baby and whatever choices you make for your little one you will be there to guide him through life not the experts!

  • Reply Sew Scrumptious October 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Please don't feel guilty about not breast feeding for longer. You did your absolute best in very very difficult circumstances. Breast feeding is difficult at the best of times let alone when you are worried and anxious about your baby, exhausted, in pain etc etc. You had a really stressful birth experience and it takes a while to get over that. I guarantee that when he is older neither of you will worry about the fact that you didn't breast feed. He was hungry so you gave him formula which made him happy and contented. That to me is all that matters. Its also ok to take a bit of time for yourself especially if you have doting grandparents around! Taking a break makes you a better mum I think as you get a chance to recharge your batteries. The most important thing is that you have a gorgeous healthy baby. x

  • Reply Josie October 24, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    My sweet Kelly – if I could reach out through Clive's big screen and give you a huge great big hug I would, and I would hug you hard and not let go.

    You are so brave to share your feelings and your experiences. I am so sad that breastfeeding didn't work out for you, but hope that you can come to find peace and acceptance with what happened. It sounds to me that you made brave decisions in a horribly tough situation. Your love for Piran and the bond you share overrides everything else – to him how he is fed is not going to make an ounce of difference as long as he feels loved and connected to you and you to him.

    I would echo what Victoria said too – I made it through with the breastfeeding eventually but that hasn't meant motherhood suddenly became a bed of roses. I struggle with so many things every day and envy those that have quiet, contented babies or that seem to take motherhood so much more in their stride.

    We're always going to feel slightly inferior to others in one way or another, however our babies are fed or whatever our situations are. So please don't beat yourself up.

    You are a fabulous mum and your boy is soooo lucky to have you.

    x

  • Reply Insomniac Mummy October 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I started writing a post about my experience too but haven't published it.

    I had problems with both my children. Both lost weight continually when they were breastfed. Little E had to be weighed every 2 to 3 days at one point.

    I was so determined to breastfeed both my babies but my body let me down. Little E was at mt breast almost 24 hours a day for nearly a month, had a good latch yet was not getting milk. When I decided to top her up with formula she drank like she'd never been fed and for the first time in weeks stopped crying.

    I feel jealousy too when people speak of how they managed to conquer it. I wish I could've too.

    My babies are pefect just as they are as is Piran.

    Thanks again.

    🙂

  • Reply Liz@Violet Posy October 24, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Oh l'm so sorry you had to go throught this, it's so close to my birth story x Bottle fed is not the end of the world, you have a gorgeous little boy who loves you so much no matter how you feed him. My DD is a bright, healthy little
    6yo bundle bottle fed from about day 4 because she was in SCBU and I wasn't producing any milk (27hr labour emergency csection). Please, please don't blame yourself this part lasts for such a short time, enjoy it and make the most of your beautiful baby xx please mail or tweet me if you ever want a chat xxx

  • Reply clareybabble October 24, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Such an honest post. You have done so well and DO NOT feel guilty for making the decisions you have. Although I could breastfeed, I found the first 18 mths with S incredibly hard. Even with Baby B it took us a while to bond properly.
    I think all mums feel like they're inadequate because there is so much pressure on us to be 'perfect'. It's not realistic. Being able to bring up a child, run the house, earn money – it's all expected but hard to achieve.
    I think you have done brilliantly hun. Do what is best for you and you and Piran will be happy which is the most important thing xxx

  • Reply Dad Who Writes October 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Great post – I do feel very uncomfortable about the whole 'moral pressure' for mothers to breastfeed. Supermum always mixed breast and formula and formula would often be the only way we could get him to sleep in the first few months (the birth was a bit of a 'mare as well). Also, supermum found pumping grimly difficult and formula was the only way I could feed dudelet myself.

  • Reply Noble Savage October 24, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Fantastic, heartfelt post. Kelly, your experience and your feelings are not uncommon and they are not abnormal. It just sucks that the system is not set up to better support mothers with having a birth that gives both them and the baby the best chance at early bonding, breastfeeding success, etc.. The way it is running now is really an abomination and we all deserve so much better. I'm sorry you feel disappointed and angry and sad, you have every right to be. But you have absolutely nothing to feel bad about, you did all you could in such a difficult situation.

    I second the idea to talk to someone though, maybe a postnatal support group or NCT group or similar to talk to other mums who have had similar experiences and who can empathize with you. Even just writing it down in your blog, as you've done now, is therapeutic.

  • Reply Bec October 25, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Amazing post,absolutely amazing. so many Mums bottle all the not so nice stuff that we just aren't supposed to admit to or talk about and it's so unhealthy, once you talk about it you can deal with it and make sense of it. You are a fabby Mum and every emotion you have is normal and understandable.
    Big Love Bec aka @ilovemonty.xxx

  • Reply Coding Mamma (Tasha) October 25, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Kelly, I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Well done for posting about it – I hope it helps you come to terms with it all even just a little bit. It is so difficult having your baby in SCBU and trying to establish breast-feeding in such an environment is incredibly hard. There really needs to be some special breast-feeding counselling in place within SCBUs.

    You are a fantastic mum and Piran is a very lucky boy. You will never be able to switch off the guilt – it comes in bucketloads at the same time you give birth – but please know that you have nothing to feel guilty about.

    Big cyber hugs to you all.

  • Reply zooarchaeologist October 25, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Bonding is a difficult thing. I dont think I really bonded with my boy until he was nearly a year old. A combination of undiagnosed pnd and the pressure I felt to bf was just too much. He was also a difficult baby in and out of A & E, breath holding and passing out at least 3 times per day. BF is really really hard as I have said to lots of people, dont worry about it. Someone recently told me that there is some new research out that says that actually it doesnt make that much difference either way.
    I think that every mum gets the child that they are meant to have, the child that is best suited to them and is meant for them. Piran has the best possible mum and you do the best job for him. I love the second picture of him with the bottle it really sums up being a mummy well! xx

  • Reply Strictly October 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    A very articulate explanation of what happened to you.

    Please don't beat yourself up, you did the best you could in each situation, and you're doing so well now.

    I breastfed my daughter easily for nearly 6 months but when I had my son I realised it wasn't down to the mum, it was down to the baby, he hated it and although we made it to five weeks it was a struggle every day.

  • Reply Sandy Calico October 25, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Oh Kelly, I want to give you a hug. I can hardly type for the tears. You are a wonderful mum. This is such a raw, honest post.
    The breastfeeding support in the two hospitals I gave birth in was woefully inadequate and completely non-existent in the SCBU when P was in there. In fact his paediatrician told us that P would suffer brain damage if we didn't give him a formula feed.
    My NCT teacher said that everyone can breast feed. She also said that labour wasn't painful. Both statements are untrue.
    I hope you feel better for writing it down.
    Oh and there's an award for you at mine:
    http://clareybabble.blogspot.com/2009/09/handful-of-tags.html
    xxx

  • Reply Sandy Calico October 25, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Oops, wrong link! Try here:
    http://sandycalico.blogspot.com/2009/10/eye-fang-ewe.html

  • Reply cartside October 25, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    What a very difficult time you had. It must have been hard sharing this. I know exactly how hard it is to even consider formula feeding, how hard a decision it is to supplement or stop bf altogether. I was very lucky that I had no difficult circumstances other than a constantly feeding baby who still didn't put on weight, and I'm so lucky I managed to continue breastfeeding, but I think most mums, bf or ff, understand that there can be situations where all the goodwill in the world does not make it happen.

  • Reply Claire October 26, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    This is a beautifully, honest post. I really hope getting it out as helped you.

    I know I have been incredibly lucky with my whole experience, and reading this has just drummed it in to me.

    Piran is gorgeous. When I met him he was clearly content, and confident and absolutely beautiful. You're doing a brilliant job. Things may not have gone as you hoped, and it may be hard sometimes but you're a fab mummy and that's the important thing.
    xxxxx

  • Reply miss leslieanne October 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    You've made me all teary!!

    This must have been so hard to write – and I applaud you for doing it. I could relate to so much of it too – especially the bit about a hundred different nurses grabbing at your boobs. God I hated that.

    Having met your little man, I can vouch for him clearly being happy & healthy – and for you being utterly smitten with him. Don't ever doubt yourself – you're a brilliant mummy with a gorgeous little boy.

    Grand scheme of things, that'sall that matters 🙂 xxx

  • Reply allgrownup October 27, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I wanted to wait til I had time to properly comment, but ((hugs)). I so know how you feel n the b/f front, something similar happened to me with my 1st. Why do midwives think it's ok to grab your already sore boobs and shove then into baby's mouth?? When have you ever learned a skill if someone did it for you? Midwives should be showing, teaching, advising, otherwise, how can you do it on your own at 3am? Society fails us with breastfeeding, tells us all it's best, that we must do it, then doesn't teach us or support us at all. That's why I'm training to be a b/f helper, to teach women what to do. It's often that women don't know about support available. With this baby I did, I got 2 visits of an hour each while I was in hospital from helpers, and a further 3 at home before I started attending the support groups. Society has failed you, please don't blame yourself. I know all too well the b/f guilt, but you can't go back in time. You did the best you could with the information you had at the time, he had a great start. Why do all the health professionals insist on being totally contradictory to each other?? It makes me so angry. I follow the information the breastfeeding network gives over them, everyone has their own opinions, but the bfn is well researched and up to date. In my area, they train midwives in b/f! They can choose to ignore it though. It's awful not knowing what you need to know to succeed. For example, I recently learned that SCBU babies do not need to be given formula if breastmilk is not yet forthcoming….it's fine to just give glucose to keep bloodsugar up til milk comes in. Why don't they tell us??

  • Reply Mum with carrot in her hair October 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I was so touched by your story. I really hoped it helped you in the way I'm sure it will help others. It helped me. Lily took 32 hours to arrive following a failed ventouse and a failed forceps. Her head was so sore that I was only allowed to handle her very occasionally. I felt I needed permission to pick up my own baby. I struggled to breastfeed for 12 weeks but to be honest we should have stopped at two weeks. Lily would constantly fight me, arching her back and pulling away screaming. I tried everything but the moment I felt angry towards her I realised enough was enough. She is now a bright and healthy formula fed baby. You're a wonderful Mum and like me need to take heart from the fact that you tried. Who can ask for more?

  • Reply New Mummy October 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Oh hun sending lots of hugs. I had a very similar birth and experience. BG spent her 1st night in SBU. I haven't written my birth story yet, but may do soon. everytime I think of the birth I get really angry that it went the way it did. Your a great mummy x

  • Reply Pippa November 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Hugs and love to you, all choices that we make are made as reactions to events that we don't control. Any what if's need to be bannished, because you are now on the path for you.

  • Reply Alicia November 11, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, you're a great mum and you shouldn't beat yourself up about what happened. Talk it through, it does help. Bonding takes time, its not like the movies! I found it difficult too, with both of mine, so a little tip i was given was to find one thing about them to be thankful for each day – it really helped me to bond.

    Like you, my first child spent some time in SCBU. She was born 7weeks early by emergency c/section which was a big enough shock. The nurses used to force her onto my breast to try and latch on. She didn't get the hang of it for 6 weeks, and was tube fed the whole time. I felt a complete failure, and on top of that i was only expressing a tiny amount which they had to top up with formula. She never really fed properly and i gave up with the bf a few days after she came home on her due date.

    So with number 2 (he's now 3 months old) being born at 38 weeks, I thought it would be different. However although he latched on immediately, he would constantly want feeding… and i felt so miserable doing it. I didn't really start to enjoy him (had the baby blues for about 10 weeks)until i decided to stop breastfeeding and go onto the bottle. He now weighs a stone and I adore him – a million miles away from the mild regret I had when he was about 6 weeks and constantly hungry.

    Big hugs, and thanks for the post.xxx

  • Reply Baking Mad November 11, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Parts of your story are incredibly similar to my experiences with breastfeeding. Well done for writing it down! xx

  • Reply Michelle December 31, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    I'm sorry for you experience. I know how hard it can be to give up a dream. I have low milk and I remember having to give a bottle to both my little ones and just crying over it. I didnt want to.

    I was fortunate enough to go on with my (now) 3 year old to have a successful relationship breastfeeding…but my (now) 1 year old weaned at 6 monhts…we used an SNS and he just prefered the bottle.

    I'm about to give birth any day now. I sure hope to have it work this time.

    anyway, thanks for sharing. Found you from another site.

  • Reply Monica January 26, 2010 at 11:57 am

    My thoughts go out to you… You did amazingly well considering the circumstances you were in. I also went overdue 1 week and totally panicked cause I didn't want to get artificially induced…I've heard many horror stories. I took a giant leap of faith & did a treatment of acupuncture & reflexology and it worked for me.

    Your hospital care was appalling, I wish I could have been there to give you some real support. I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding my first as he was very lazy, didn't want to feed too… too much work to get it out of the breast! But I wont go into that long story!!

    You did great & well done to you!!! The major thing is that you are all happy!

    Mxx

  • Reply Heather February 26, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    This was such a beautiful post. My heart goes out to you. I didn't breastfeed for long, for me it was exhaustion and stress and the fact that the sensation of breastfeeding was like having nails scratched down a blackboard. i did it as long as i could and then stopped. And beat myself up over it for a long time. I realised after a while that it doesn't matter. i don't have to justify whether i breast or bottle fed to anyone. i did the best i could. just like you did and you have nothing to beat yourself up over.

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