Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Set up for the fall

A new pregnancy brings with it a lot of decision making. Birth plans. Names. Nursery colours. Prams. Childcare. When (if) to return to work. Routines. To find out what you're having or stay team yellow. 

The list is endless. 

And while there were a lot of decisions to make, one thing that needed no debate was that I would breastfeed my baby. People would ask if I'd thought about it. The midwife ticked the breastfeeding box in my green notes without further discussion. Friends, colleagues, whoever felt it acceptable to ask nodded approvingly. The NCT classes scooted over it offering a few tips along the way. The nursing bras were purchased. I was ready to undertake this completely natural thing, the one thing that only I could do for my baby.

People said it might be tricky to get the hang of. People said to keep going if it was hard going at first. No one mentioned that it might not happen. In my head, I had images of skipping out of hospital with my newest most precious thing, just hours old, and returning home to the sofa without so much as looking at the microwave steriliser that someone had let us borrow. 

My perceptions and ideals had set me up for a huge fall. Looking back I can only describe those first few days as a nightmare. A nightmare that eighteen months on leaves me devastated, heartbroken and guilty.

Her arrival into the world was traumatic for both of us. An unconventional labour that no one could make head nor tail of, missing waters, back to back... A large head and a small pelvis, an emergency Caesarian, ten minutes of tugging to get her back out of where she was stuck and an anaesthetic that wore off before the ordeal was over. A haemorrhage to top it all off.

Needless to say that 8 hours after she was born, everyone was concerned that she had no interest in latching on, but my (not so) little bundle was shocked. I was shocked. My attempts to hand express were fruitless and the midwife gave her formula. We slept well. And for the next 3 days in hospital she bobbed on and off, fussed, suckled a bit and fell asleep. She didn't seem unhappy. Frustrated, as her head flopped around as if she couldn't get comfortable, but contented enough to sleep. We went home on day 3. And things got more difficult. My milk came in but I never felt full and the quantity was pitiful. Her nappies didn't feel all that full. I knew something was wrong but D desperately tried to convince me it was ok. Then my midwife came to visit on day 5. She said she'd never seen such an alert little newborn. Her colour and tone were good. Then she popped her on the scales... 8lb 3. Nearly 17% less than her birth weight of 5 days previous. 

Suddenly the world stopped. We were on our way to SCBU. They were expecting us. And the next 18 hours turned into a haze. She was dehydrated and her kidneys were poorly indeed. Desperate attempts to pump for her showed that there was next to nothing there for her.

My daughter was starving and it was all my fault. 

The following morning and 3 hourly formula feeds overnight gave the doctors the results they wanted. Her levels of hydration had improved enough and they were happy to discharge us with a plan to combi feed.

For five more days I tried to feed her and top her up with a bottle. But the quantity I produced became less and less. She got angrier, more frustrated, more fussy, more unsettled. At day 10, I made the decision that it was time to stop. I cried. Every time I made a bottle I wept and mourned for this thing her and I were mean to have. That thing that every mother should be able to do for her child. The only thing that made it easier was seeing that my little girl was thriving, even if it wasn't my doing.

And now I almost find myself fighting a pro formula campaign... I'm not anti breastfeeding, but some of us are not bottle feeders by choice. And formula isn't hurting our children and it certainly isn't the poison of which some uber-pro breastfeeding mothers have tried to tell me. It doesn't make me a bad mother. The options were formula or starvation and I know which option would have been frowned upon. Even as I stood in the milk kitchen in SCBU sterilising a bottle, I was surrounded by posters bigging up the benefits of breastfeeding. Nobody told me it might not work out. No one even pointed out that the stress and trauma and specifics of of her birth might have had a huge impact on the situation I found myself in. The pro breast feeders told me I hadn't tried hard enough, that I'd given up too easily. No one wanted to admit that maybe it just wasn't to be for me and E.

I have spent too much time being told I don't understand because I didn't breastfeed. I have spend too many hours wanting to shout from the rooftops that none of it was my choice. I have cried far too many tears. But my daughter is testament to the fact that formula isn't poison, whatever people might say.

Where am I going with this?

A new pregnancy brings with it a lot of decision making. Birth plans. Names. Nursery colours. Prams. Childcare. When (if) to return to work. Routines. To find out what you're having or stay team yellow. 

The list is endless. 

And those around me are most interested in whether I will breastfeed this time. Like I made the active choice not to last time. 

My answer is that I have no idea. I daren't set myself up for the fall. I daren't create the expectations. I don't want the pressure, and I don't want to feel like I have failed should it not work out. In case I just wasn't made to do this. But there's something else. Would you do something for one child you didn't do for another? I'm just not sure I can get over the guilt. I'm not sure I can give this baby something I couldn't give their sister. I'm not sure that's fair.

So for now I'm settling on not knowing. What I do know is that I've always made the best decisions I could have by my daughter.


  1. Oh lovey - I'm certain this makes you incredibly 'qualified' in the planning and preparation for number two. You've experienced issues many of us don't. This just highlights the lack of emotional and practical support for those who CANNOT bf, something that needs looking into for sure!

    Here's my tuppence for what it's worth. Those who read this and those who know you are in no doubt that you did what was best for E. No questions there at all!! Looking forward, number two is going to be different in a lot if ways, and it's likely your body will be too. So I think you need to look at it from that point of view, rather than number 2 getting something that E didn't - because they'll both have received what's best for them: wether that be bf, combi or ff you won't know until [he] is here.... Annoying!!

    Plan for all eventualities, prepare for all outcomes and use your experience to guide you.

    Like I say, your more experienced on these things to make well rounded decisions!

  2. Beautifully written and well said.
    I agree that the support for those that have to formula feed (and any number of reasons) is sorely lacking, if not nonexistent. Even though I was combi-feeding I felt like the breastfeeding counsellors etc simply dismissed me and lost interest in helping me once I'd admitted I was supplementing with formula. I felt horribly guilty that I needed the extra input and that, because of all the problems we'd had with, I didn't find bf the amazing, bonding experience the poster campaign bills it as, but I instead for the whole thing traumatic and hated every minute of it! Admitting that to any of the pro-bf gang would have been social suicide!

    You have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. You've always done the best by E. You also shouldn't feel guilty if you do end up bf her sibling. I can guarantee E wont hold a grudge about it! If you are able to feed this time, don't let guilt or social pressure guide you decision. Do what you feel is best for everyone.

  3. Don't be so hard on yourself. I think we all do the best we can and I bet you are doing a great job! I'm Kaycee from Crafty Zoo with Monkeys. I wanted to stop by and thank you for linking up in the Journeys of the Zoo Blog Lovin' Hop! Hope you have a fabulous day

  4. Thank you for this. As a FTM my expectations are high. I want to bf - after all, isn't it my right? I've earned the right - surely - after carrying for 9 months. I keep reading that it's hard but if you push on through the pain barrier, the lack of sleep barrier, get to six weeks barrier - you're home and dry. I needed to hear that it doesn't work for everyone and not always out of choice.

  5. I felt incredibly guilty about this with my lo. I planned to bf but for some reason I just couldnt. At first he latched on great but then we both struggled. There was absolutely zero support at my hospital and when I told the nurse I was struggling she just handed me a bottle, I was so tired I took it without question. I think there should certainly be more support for mums who don't/can't bf. I think not having any expectations is the best plan then you can judge what is best for you and baby without feeling you've let either of you down xxxx

  6. Such a well-written post. First things first, the fact that your baby was starving was in NO WAY your fault. You were doing the best you could for your baby. That's all anyone can ask. If it didn't work then who are other people to judge what you did? I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed but my goodness did it hurt! I think that you have to do what is right for you and your baby. If you want to breastfeed this time round then I think the best way to look at it is this is meant to be and not feel guilty about the other one. It's nobody elses business but yours. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo xx

  7. I really feel for you - i had terrible problems BF my first and gave up after about 6 weeks; i spent those first 6 weeks mainly crying and feeling so guilty which was a real shame. I should have been enjoying my lovely newborn and i will never get that time back.

    With mu second son i thought i would give it a bash - maybe because i put no pressure on myself that helped it to actually work out. I'm still going now at 7.5 months but i would never judge anyone for whatever method they use and for whatever reason. In the grand scheme of things how you feed your baby doesn't really matter as long as they are fed!


  8. awww honey i certainly know what you mean about that pedestal breastfeeding is on, i too couldnt feed my son properly, although not as badly you guys had it and i was ridiculed by one family member that i couldnt feed my baby. You have my empathy, i would of loved to of done it longer and been successful but something are not meant to be. It took me 2 years to get my head round it xx

    big hugs x

  9. My mother was not able to breastfeed my sister or I although she had tried both times. It wasn't her plan not to breastfeed, but we don't always get to choose how these things turn out. For that reason, I was completely indecisive about breastfeeding my son when he came along. If it worked, it worked. If not, we'd just have to use formula. The most important thing I have learned about parenting is YOU have to make decisions for YOU and your family. Don't let peer pressure or other opinions affect you. I wish you all the best!

  10. TBH this upsets me. The midwife shouldn't have given her formula straight away. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand, and the more they told you to mix feed then the more your milk will dry up. It's hard. I know it is. And am sure it was a frightening time for you. My son only lost 13% but it sounds like a similar scenario. Only dif is that I was already breastfeeding and was a peer supporter so knew facts about breastfeeding.
    I'm all for choice. And understand that some people may not be able to breastfeed - but just seems to me that you were given bad advice and you feel to blame for it all. They tried to pressure my husband into thinking it was starving my baby be me deciding to carry on breastfeeding when he continued not to put on weight.
    I'm just glad that the most important thing is that both our babies are ok x

  11. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and words! Deep down I know that I shouldn't let others judge and OF COURSE I know that E's health is the most important thing... I just wish stigma didn't hurt, and I wish people could be more realistic... And that some would get off their high horses. I'm off to bury this until February. I'll report back then. xxxx

  12. You have to do what is right for you and your children. I tried to breast feed for a little bit, I wanted to, but after six weeks it was just too much stress. Do what you need to do mama. Don't let anyone judge you for your decision.

    Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
    Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Although the breastfeeding issues that I faced were different than yours, the principle is the same. I wanted to breastfeed and it didn't work out. I felt so guilty that it tumbled me into a state of depression. Everything that I read on the internet made me feel like an awful mother.

    My daughter is now just under 22 months old and while I am 110% okay with my decision to formula feed my daughter, the comments and crazy breastfeeding people (not all are crazy obviously, but there is a very devout group of crazies out there) still bother me. Not because of me anymore, but because of the women out there who are going through what you and I went through and who don't yet know that it is okay if breastfeeding does not work out.

    1. Selfishly it's always comforting to hear from others who get it and who've been there. Thanks for stopping by. Xx

  14. What a story! And it sounds like you are entering your next child's birth with some realistic expectations you don't know what is going to happen. But hopefully this delivery will go smoother. Hope you have a great day!

    Heidi’s Wanderings


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...