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.