The Good, The Bad and The Honestly Insane

Baby announcement

Before I fell pregnant, I had a somewhat rose-tinted view of what it would be like. I imagined peeing on a stick, one hand clenching the results and the other placed tenderly in my Husband’s grasp. We’d see the pink line appear and jump harmoniously, tears of joy running down our cheeks. The reality? I took the test alone in a local supermarket toilet (which was a good place to be considering I nearly shit myself when I saw the positive symbol). Nobody had prepared me for that initial surge of emotions. Holy crap – I was about to become responsible for keeping someone ALIVE.

As I embarked on my journey through pregnancy, I discovered that there was lots of things women ‘hid’ from each other. Some of which I may have been grateful for but some left me feeling cheated by womankind. Why had no-one told me what it was really like?

So here I am, baring the truth (or my perception of it, I know we all have different experiences).

People told me that I’d instinctively know when I was pregnant, that I’d feel different. It’s true, I did spot differences but I’m not entirely sure I believed they were pregnancy related to begin.

I recall the day before I took ‘the test’. I was at Bamburgh Castle with a few of my closest friends. I remember confiding in them that my ‘area’ felt different, a little wider, less able to fit in a thong so comfortably. I simply put it down to the few extra pounds I seemed to have gained, in spite of dieting excessively to fit in my bikini a week later. I was 9 weeks on when I took the test – and already showing.

So, now with an explanation in hand, the fun really started. Having already expressed that my perception of pregnancy was Hollywood influenced, I looked forward to the glow and compliments of radiating beauty.

This part I skipped – both times round. My glow was more of a luminous shine created by the several hot flushes I’d experience in an hour. My compliments came in the form of ‘well isn’t your face round these days’ and ‘you won’t look tired forever…just until your child is 5’. I mean, I had moments where I could cry at the way I looked but I knew it was short lived. I managed to find positives in most things (like when my face filled up with fluid and gave me a free Khloe Kardashian lip makeover).

pregnancy shoot

Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the speed in which my leg hair would grow. In the early days I shaved those bad boys…every day! Sure enough, I’d wake up each morning appalled at the sandpaper texture of my pins. It was manic. Then…I became too damn fat and could no longer reach them. After a while, my priorities lay elsewhere and the legs became neglected. There was an awful moment when I was 35 weeks pregnant. I’d been Chief Bridesmaid at my Best Friend’s wedding the day before. As a treat, my husband had arranged a leg and foot massage to help me feel better after standing so much at the wedding. It wasn’t until I was laid bare from the waist down on the massage table that I realised my legs hadn’t been touched in maybe 5 weeks. I felt hideous.

Then there was the wind – the painfully loud and blatantly obvious wind. I think this part speaks for itself.

Between the sweat, the farts and the leg hair, I can vouch that pregnancy is not always as glamorous as the Movies make it out to be. However, even they don’t document afterbirth.

So here I was, in labour. Now the one thing I had been prepared for was the possibility that I’d open my bowels on the baby’s head. Honestly? In the heat of the moment after nearly 11 hours of pushing and 15 hours of labour, I couldn’t have cared a less. In fact, I would have welcomed it if it made the tinker extract himself any quicker.

In the Movies, I’d deliver my baby and scoop him up in a loving embrace. My hair would be perfect and my make up would still be in tact. I’d get up from the bed and head home, several stone lighter and in perfect form.

The reality? I think being hit by a bus would be less painful. Oh yeah, and thanks for the heads up about how my ‘lady garden’ would be feeling. Despairingly, I convinced myself that I’d had a prolapse. I made six Doctors/Midwives check me in several positions to make sure I was in working order. They all told me the same outcome – I was fine. The seventh Doctor (a 40 something year old man) told me ‘I’ll check you again but then really, you need to draw a line under this’. I listened to him but never fully believed him until one morning, nearly two weeks later, I stood up and felt ‘normal’ again. So, what had been wrong with my Foof? swelling! Yes, apparently after the trauma of childbirth, one’s delicate place can be quite swollen. Remember this one and save yourself the embarrassment of getting in trouble with your Husband for flashing Doctors left, right and centre.

Now comes my last glamorous point, the 1st time you try to open your bowels will feel as though you’re pushing your insides out. Good luck with that…

But every cloud has a silver lining doesn’t it? This one simply couldn’t be better either. You’ll have heard about how much you’ll love your own baby but seriously, it’s indescribable. It makes all of the above disappear in a single heartbeat and completely worth it.

Tristan 4 hours old

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Why I Could Never Preach About Breastfeeding

 

There’s plenty controversy surrounding the issue of Breastfeeding in the Media of recent. The debate over bottle v breastfed babies is spiralling out of control, it’s to the point of teetering on ridiculous. As a mother of two, I have my own opinions on this matter. Opinions that rival those of millions.

My son, my first born, never took to the breast. Before he was born, I had an idealised version of Motherhood. In this, my child took to my breast harmoniously and worked in sync with my body. There were no tears over his inability to latch, no guilt over my poor milk supply. I was going to breastfeed, I was 100% sure of it.
So when it didn’t happen, I was left tormented by the whole ordeal. At 24 hours old, Tristan was diagnosed with Jaundice. Although common in newborns (and even more so in those born before 40 weeks), Tristan’s bilirubin levels plotted high above the treatment line, leaving him under U.V lights for 6 days. In this time, Tristan was made to take formula every 2 hours to wash out the infection. I wasn’t allowed to hold him unless trying to feed. Even when he screamed for my affection, I had to deny him. The roll on effect of this was that, due to not being able to give him skin to skin, my milk supply was practically non-existant. It also meant that when in my arms, Tristan took comfort in my embrace instead of trying to work. Lastly, like many boys, he was also incredibly lazy and didn’t understand why he had to work when milk had been given to him for free without demand.
Once out of hospital, I persevered, I even scheduled my days around expressing to make sure he got the ‘liquid gold’ but it was hard and tiring. Tristan’s one week check up confirmed that he had lost 10% of his body weight. My ultimatum was either continue trying and risk him being hospitalised or give up the ghost and turn to formula. I’d tortured myself for seven days and eventually, I saw what I had to do.
Turning to formula was a decision I didn’t take lightly but it was also I decision I knew was right for Tristan and for me. Still, I wept and wept over the abrupt ending to breastfeeding. For weeks, I felt deprived of that ‘special bond’ breastfeeding allows you to form. I felt rejected and useless.
Having a baby is a crazy experience but having your 1st baby is on a whole different level of surreal. It’s a time when emotions run high and the slightest thing can be magnified intensely. I’d been preached at by so many midwives and nurses before Tristan’s birth that failing to breastfeed made me feel like a failure. It confirmed that I was already going to be a rubbish Mother, that I was already not good enough. But of course, this wasn’t the truth. Turning to formula was actually the act of a ‘good’ mother because I refused to let my baby starve. It was the act of a ‘good’ mother because I put my own selfish wants and desires aside to do what was best for my baby. I wish I’d realised that at the time.
Bottle feeding my baby made me feel dirty, like I was breaking the rules. I dreaded seeing people  I knew because I dreaded the question ‘how are you feeding him?’ I mean, what a thing to ask…and yet, it was nearly the 1st thing on everyone’s mind. I felt embarrassed to admit that I was giving Tristan formula, always felt as though I had to justify why.
When I fell pregnant with my second, breastfeeding didn’t even enter my mind. I’d already decided that I wasn’t going to try. The hardest part of having a newborn was the mental torment I endured over feeding, I’d already realised that having a newborn was stressful enough without inflicting even more duress on myself. Plus, I’d seen the benefits of formula. My son was rarely starving, he was satisfied and a satisfied baby is definitely a happy one. My husband could take over, giving me time to shower (or at least, let’s admit it, use the toilet in peace). Tristan’s immune system was never effected, he’d never caught a bug. He was also always in line with the 50th percentile, the myth of formula making babies obese just didn’t seem truthful.
Then my daughter arrived prematurely and my plans were, once again, turned on their head. Breastmilk was part of my daughter’s treatment. I was told by the doctors at North Tees Hospital (Doctors by name but Angels by profession, their care and expertise was simply amazing) that I wouldn’t be allowed to formula feed even if I wanted to. The thing is, I suddenly didn’t want to.
Siena was incubated for 17 days, fed through a feeding tube for 4 weeks. The only think I could possibly do to help her was breastfeed. So, once again, I centred my days around expressing. I even set my alarm twice through the night to get up and express. During the day, I made time at hospital to leave Siena’s side and express. If out somewhere else, I carried my breast pump with me. I was that determined to do this for my daughter, I once even expressed in the changing room of H&M. When the time came at 35 weeks gestation, I was nervous about whether Siena would refuse me just like her brother. She didn’t, I eventually had the harmonious experience I’d craved. It was like fate, like destiny. Siena’s release from hospital depended on her ability to feed from me, I’d been warned that this might not come naturally or quickly and that Siena might have to be trained how to feed. I was told to expect up to a month until she’d be released from hospital. Only two days later, we were on our way home. It seemed as though Siena was just as determined as I was. Although completely overjoyed, I knew I’d never preach breastfeeding.
I’d never preach it because I don’t believe we should. As women, we need to support and encourage each other to do whatever is best. And let’s face it, breast isn’t always best. Having a newborn is daunting enough, we shouldn’t add extra pressure to new mothers. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and those whose opinion is strictly pro-breastmilk are freely allowed to express these but not look down upon those who don’t. The Mothers who choose to bottle feed should feel confident about their decision but remember that not all women who choose to breastfeed will disagree with formula. Having experiences in both, I’m well aware that breastfeeding carries its own stigma.
At the end of the day, we do what we do for the sake of our children. Whatever decision that we choose, we should be applauded for caring and doing the right thing. To those breastfeeding Mothers, well done for feeding your baby. To those formula feeding Mothers, once again, well done for feeding your baby. Our methods may differ but we essentially have the same outcome in mind.

The Twinkle Diaries