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

I Survived the Baby Blues

 Before my children were born, I lived in a world of ignorant bliss. My idealistic views of Motherhood stemmed from American Soap Operas and Chick Flicks. They were, in truth, Disney influenced. 

That’s why, when my children were born, I suffered so badly with guilt. As a new Mam, I’d no idea of the trials and tribulations each day would hold. My visions were cloud lined with images of me cradling my newborn, cheesy grinning, prancing abound my living room like Mary Poppins. It wasn’t that I expected it to be easy, it was how the Media had led me to believe.
I expected that my son, Tristan, would be placed in my arms and I’d cry with happiness. That I’d scoop him up in a loving embrace and declare to the rest of the world ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’. I expected that when he cried, I’d know instinctively what he wanted and how to handle him. I expected him to latch to my breast harmonious and feed like he’d been waiting for me forever. Only now, a full year on, am I ready to speak the truth.
Tristan’s birth had been slightly traumatic. I pushed for hours upon end without any medication. I’d been allowed to continue pushing because his heart rate had not faltered, he was not feeling the same distress as I. However, it became apparent that something wasn’t right. Tristan was lying on an angle that would prohibit him from coming naturally. I was taken to theatre and given a spinal block in preparation for an emergency C-Section if his heart rate plummeted whilst moving him. In the end, no C-Section was required but I was left paralysed from the armpits down.
As I lay exhausted and convulsing from the medication, the midwife cleaned Tristan up then rested him on my chest. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. The moment where I was meant to kiss his blood stained head and cry. Instead, I froze. ‘Somebody take him’ I sobbed. I didn’t have the confidence. I was tired and didn’t have control of my arms. How would I protect him if he rolled?
So there it was, the most important moment in my life and I was already a failure. But was I? The dream is, and always has been, that you’ll look dotingly into your baby’s eyes and immediately bond. I loved my son immediately, intensively but I didn’t bond with him as quickly as I’d hoped. I remember being scared of him, thinking that I wasn’t what he wanted, thinking that he didn’t like me (I know, ridiculous right?) However, many mothers feel this way. Many new mothers have experiences like myself.  This doesn’t seem to stop us lying through our teeth and saying aloud what society wants us to say. We all contribute to the Media’s representation of immediate Motherhood.
So what else do we lie about? I remember being asked a million times whether my son was ‘good’. ‘Oh he’s a dream’ I’d state ‘he’s just the best baby EVER’. What I meant was ‘he cries…all the time. I don’t know what I’m doing. If he’s good then it’s definitely me that’s bad. Oh god, I must be rubbish’. I remember one awkward moment with my male next door neighbour who dared ask me this question on the wrong day at the wrong time. He got my honest response. ‘Welcome to parenthood’ he declared. ‘We all felt that way to begin’. This was a revelation. If we all feel this way, why don’t we say it?
The guilt I felt in the 1st few months will never leave me. There’ll always be a part of me that feels massively ashamed. I felt guilty that I didn’t know how to soothe my crying baby within milliseconds. I felt guilty that I didn’t know how to read his mind. I felt guilty that I struggled to wake four times a night for feeds. I felt guilty that I wanted to cry so much. I felt guilty for feeling so scared. I felt guilty that I no longer had time to listen to my husband. I felt guilty for giving birth when I so clearly wasn’t equipt. I felt guilty because sometimes I found it hard to smile. I felt guilty because I was, so clearly, a million miles away from the Mary Poppins Mother I’d dreamt of being. On the whole, I felt guilty because I was the only one feeling like this. I looked at other mothers, I saw the way the beamed and glowed. I felt low and anxious that I’d never be like them. I looked at other mothers and saw the way the looked at me. I immediately believed that they’d guessed my secret, they knew how utterly weak I was.
With my second child, I vowed that I’d do things
completely differently. I wanted, because I knew the score by now, to be in control. When she arrived 9 weeks early, I was thrust into a new turmoil. Yet again, I missed my movie moment of feeling her against my chest (I had her for 30 seconds and we did cry this time, through joy that she was breathing). I thought that when she came home, I’d take over from the NICU nurses and be exactly what she wanted/needed. Yet again, I found myself pacing the floor at times unable to satisfy her and doubting myself.

It took me three weeks to fully adjust to Motherhood. That was, three weeks of making myself Ill with torture. Don’t get me wrong, and I know you’ll understand me, I LOVED my babies. I loved them so much that my heart would literally beat outside of my chest. The worry and anxiety I felt was all BECAUSE I loved them more that I’d ever known possible. The pressure I put on myself was all because I wanted to be the very best for them. It took me three weeks to learn that these feelings were normal, that many new mothers feel exactly that same as I did. It’s taken me a full year to say this out loud. And even now, I know there’ll be some who judge me. Some who will never understand because they never felt that way. I envy them but only for their ‘perfect’ transition. A full year on and I’m confident in my abilities. I hold my head high (even throughout the tantrums) and KNOW that I’m good. My children are happy, they’re blessed with a loving home. Their laughter and smiles reassure me that I’m on track and…eventually…I can say ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’.

”Twinkly

You Taught Me Love

I was always one of those women who, if asked whether they wanted children, would say ‘No’. At the time, I think I meant it.
I was happy with my life. I was happy being irresponsible. That’s always been my problem. For all I’m nearly 30, I’m still a little girl. I still cry when I don’t get my own way, still throw tantrums when things don’t go to plan, still can’t make it through a day without cocking something up. Making a mess of my own life though, well that’s acceptable but making a mess of someone else’s, just wouldn’t have been fair.
For all I’d felt that way long after my 27th Birthday, as soon as I saw the positive test result, I knew I loved you. It was magnetic, instinctive and scared the life out of me. I’d never expected to feel that way.
As you grew inside me, my love for you also grew. I couldn’t control how strongly I felt for you. It would make me cry just to fear my life without you.
My favourite moments are, and always will be, the first time I saw you, heard your heartbeat, felt you from within and held you in my arms. Nothing will ever make me forget the strong sense of emotion I experienced at all of these times. When I think of them, I feel it all over again.
That same emotion though, I feel it every day. It starts in the morning, when you wake me with my call. For all I want to rush to you, I lie in bed and take a second to soak it all in. You’re my baby and hearing you call out to me, your ‘mama’ is my favourite noise. I feel it when I first see your face, you’ll flash a goofy toothy smile in my direction and my heart melts a little. I feel it when you blow kisses in my direction or plant a drooly one straight on my lips. I feel it when you rest your head on my shoulder and snuggle tightly into my arms. I feel it while I watch you play with your toys, when you flap your arms and try to dance to Disney songs and when you giggle uncontrollably as I tickle you. From the moment I wake until the moment I sleep, I feel that way for you.
It’s a love I know you’ll never fully comprehend until you have children of your own. It’s a love I never fully comprehended until I had children of my own. I thought I knew what love was but trust me when I say, the love I feel for you is stronger than any feeling humanly possible. That’s why I know, you taught me Love.
Before you arrived, I loved your father. In all his flaws and in all his imperfections, I’d found my soul mate and loved him with all my heart. After you arrived, I realised that I’d only loved him with 50% of it. You came along and taught me love. Now I look at him, he’s your ‘Dadda’ and the best one he could possibly be. I watch him play with you and his juvenility makes me bubble with love. I watch him bath you, put you to bed and his gentleness makes my heart splutter with love.
Before you arrived, I loved my life. I was selfish and spontaneous. I was carefree and did as I pleased. After you arrived, I realised that my life had been empty. You came along and taught me how to live. My life is a million miles away from the one I lived before but I’d definitely say it’s a million times happier. Joy lives in every crease of my skin. When things get tough (as
they often do) I don’t dwell on the negatives because I know they’ll be short lived. Soon, you’ll be an adult, a man and I will look back and plead with God to have my little boy back just for one squidgy, cottage pie covered kiss.
I hope that one day, you’ll know how I feel. I hope that one day, you feel the same for your children. I hope that, in those moments, when they teach you love, you remember that you taught me too. You’re my special boy, my Prince Charming, the love of my life.