Facing the Fear: Birth After Trauma Part One

No matter what anyone will tell you, cesarean sections are NOT the easy way out. Yes, they might be the best decision for you but we must remember that everybody is different. Your recovery could be a walk in the park or could be a little similar to mine: a small slice of hell with severe abdominal pain, severe swelling from excessive drugs, months of ‘deflating’, months of poor movement and continuous body-confidence nightmares. One of my biggest fears I will have to face this time around is birth and I’m going to try my best to document the process of pregnancy & birth post-emergency cesarean, step-by-step to help any other mama’s out there – whether it’s your first or fifth!

Now, you non-newbies will know I’ve previously talked about my birth story with Rory, my battle with mental health that followed and the ways I’ve tried to face these many demons in the hope of expanding our family –  well the moment has arrived for me to put my money where my mouth is and face ‘The Fear’. I plan for this to be the first of a few blogs following my journey through consultant-lead care and how I make my birth choices.

This pregnancy started off like every other: you make a midwife appointment and meet somewhere around the 8th/9th week of your pregnancy, you go forth and have a 12-week scan and see your midwife at the 16-week mark too – all textbook and running smoothly but it was here I was reminded that no matter how I look at things, this pregnancy will (most likely) result in childbirth – whichever form that comes in! It was at my 16-week appointment that my midwife (coincidentally the same midwife I had for Rory) asked whether I had thought about a natural or assisted birth this time around. I, of course, panicked and jumped straight in with ‘elective C-section is my preference’. WAS I MAD!? Who would think surgery would be a sensible idea? Why and how had I made this decision in my mind already? I worked out that it all boiled down to wanting a better experience than I had. With that, our first consultant appointment was booked and I was ready to fight my corner.

Let’s start off by saying I am lucky. We saw the consultant last week and it was so much more relaxed and successful than I had played over in my over-active brain. You can hear some real horror stories of consultants telling mamas-to-be that they can’t choose a cesarean birth and trying to put them off but I am fortunate not to be in that boat – PHEW! The meeting was calming and I felt listened to. *Worth noting here that we were seen by the consultant and a midwife*. I went in and was checked over as normal. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat, the midwife had a feel for the position and we sat down with my previous birth notes and went through what the situation was and what my choices are going forward. Did you hear that!? CHOICES! Hurrah, the words I so very longed to hear: ‘Whatever you wish to choose, we will support you in those choices‘. Absolute result! I was handed an A4 4-page leaflet on the benefits and disadvantages of both an elective cesarean or a VBAC (‘vaginal birth after cesarean’ for those not aware of today’s lingo!), which I am yet to divulge into, and sent on my way. Now, here are some FAQ’s the consultant answered for me during our meeting:

  • ‘When do I need to have decided my birth preference by?’
    In your second consultant appointment, which will be booked for around 36 weeks.
  • ‘If I chose one, when will my C-section be scheduled?’
    Between the 39th and 40th week mark allowing the baby to be as ‘cooked’ as possible. This means the chances of your baby having breathing issues or needing NICU attention is minimal.
  • ‘What would happen if I go into labour before this date?’ 
    You can either choose to progress with your labour naturally if you so wish OR you can be brought in for an emergency C-section straight away.
  • ‘If I decide on a VBAC how long will I wait after my due date before induction?’
    You will be induced at 41 weeks and no later.

So as mentioned, following on from an initial appointment, you are given a second appointment around the 36th week of pregnancy – so for us, this is around the 28th of November. This will be crunch time. This is where you should have done all of your research and be able to tell the consultant what it is you want. From here, if you wish to choose an elective you will be advised on a date (or selection of dates) for your baby’s big day – again, as mentioned, this will be around the 39th week of your pregnancy to be sure that the baby is fully cooked and ready to be brought earth-side.

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I am yet to make my ‘final decision’ or even half of it – we do still have 10(ish) weeks to go before I absolutely need to have decided and I am in no rush to put this in concrete. I know it’s going to be a very personal decision and one I am rather unlikely to take anyone’s advice on (in case you were unaware, I can be stubborn!). However, if you are reading this and have had a successful VBAC or a positive elective cesarean second time around, I would LOVE to hear from you. I’m trying to build a much bigger picture and would really like to feel as well informed as possible before I decide. Please head to our contact page if you would like to get in touch!

For the rest of y’all, we will be back soon with more updates!

Love and all,
OCM xo.

Mr & Mrs: Does it really matter?

 

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‘So when are you guys going to get married?

Yes, I’ve decided to talk about that wonderfully awkward question. Why is it that if you’re heading towards 25 and have surpassed the 5-year anniversary mark, marriage becomes an instant hot topic? Well let me tell you, if you have a baby and out of wedlock, the conversations only become much more frequent. Now don’t get me wrong, getting married is something I want (something we both want) but it forever gets more and more awkward as old fashion tradition still appears to dictate a lot of finer details around marriage.

Pre-baby days – Who doesn’t have a go-to photo spot!? (aka the front door)

As a woman who believes in marriage and pretty much everything it stands for, it forever leaves me in an awkward position when people ask. There is usually an echo response from the right hand side to others that’s along the lines of ‘oh no, not yet‘ or a spiel about lack of money, want for other things, not the right time, etc. – all of which might be very well be true but still leads to some kind of awkward smile between you and your partner and no doubt a slightly sympathetic comment from the questioner that sounds something like ‘well all in good time‘. What is a woman who wants to get married supposed to do? Do you just wait to be asked? Is this too old fashioned? Is it too ‘cringe’ or ‘desperate’ to ask your boyfriend? In this modern day and age with equality, should you make a decision together? Why are there so many taboos around women wanting to be married – I have so many questions! The tradition of marriage is one that can sit quite uneasy with many modern day women. From becoming your husbands ‘property’, folding your identity with the change of a surname to giving up your rights to be a wife, these were once traditions that are now unapologetically out-dated. With the rise in Feminism and standing up for women rights worldwide, a light has continued to shine on changing practices and traditions that once saw women as nothing more than objects. How have things changed is the western world? Am I going to have to wait until my Dad gives my boyfriend his permission?

The media has always done a cracking job of keeping taboo subjects in circulation year in year out and to no surprise I had no trouble finding content on the subject of marriage online. Just over a month ago, I came across and article on Cosmopolitan online with the headline ‘Don’t Ask Your Girlfriend’s Dad if You Can Marry Her’ – What an eye catching title! After reading I found despite it being an article for American Cosmo, the content was still relevant. The article talks about how asking your girlfriends father to marry her has become an out-of-date, sexist practice which let’s be honest, is rather true. The tradition stands that the groom-to-be would ask the future brides father out of respect but Cosmo questions whether there was any respect spared for the bride-to-be at all. This dates right back to when getting married was seen as a ‘change in ownership’ of the woman she was to become her husbands property. Fair to say this is no longer the case for the majority but worryingly will still be a normal practice in some cases.

Cosmo found that in 2015 in a survey carried out my TheKnot.commore than three quarters of men ask for permission from their partner’s father or parents before they propose. By contrast, only 58% of brides say they knew a proposal was coming, but just weren’t sure when – for 40%, it was a complete surprise. In other words, more men talk to their girlfriend’s father about a plan to marry than talk about marriage, in serious and relatively immediate terms, to the woman they actually want to marry.’ Now isn’t this ridiculous?! Going back to my point about feeling somewhat ashamed of wanting to get married and not wanting to wait around to be asked – ARE WE SURPRISED!? For decades women haven’t had a say in this decision-making process and with the rise in Feminism, this was bound to change. Despite the negative connotations around asking a girlfriends dad to marry her, the article goes on to say that in modern times it should be all about total inclusion. Marriage should be an on going discussion between a couple even if ‘will you marry me’ is asked instead of mutual agreements and that ‘it’s possible to involve all of your parents in a conversation about your impending marriage in a respectful way‘ which I totally agree with. For me marriage isn’t just another step to take or another event to plan, it’s about declaring your love as well as becoming that team, a united front and being a family taking on the world together so would be more millennial to include both your families.

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The Fitz/Priddings

What makes me want to get married? I think it’s a combination of love, trust and sometimes-questionable tolerance for one another and that humble connection that brings happiness and keeps you grounded. It’s the joy you bring one another and the commitment that defines your relationship. Adding a baby into the mix is a serious decision but it’s one that has nonetheless made our relationship stronger. With these thoughts and reasons in mind, marriage always enters the discussion here; as for me I am bothered on astronomical levels that our son and I don’t share a last name. For me, it goes back to what I previously said about being one unit. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t be ‘one’ and that it should be compulsory to take your partners surname (they could take yours or neither) but for me it makes me feel very separate from my boys. In 2014, in an article by The Guardian, it was found that between 2009 and 2014 an estimated 600,000 women had been stopped whilst travelling with their own children with a fair few being noted as being a result of having differing surnames. This mortifies me and the idea of being stopped to prove I am my son’s mother sounds nothing short of arduous.

My boys

Aside from my personal feelings, the bigger thing for those around us is the legal side of having a child and being unmarried. Turns out that if you have a baby out of wedlock, the only one who truly has responsibility for that child is the mother. Now automatic parental responsibility also goes to the husband or female married partner of the child’s birth mother if they are treated as the child’s legal parent or if you are an adoptive parent… But what actually is ‘parental responsibility’? The Citizens Advice Bureau explains that parents/guardians with parental responsibility are entitled to have a say in all areas of the child’s life such as the where they will live, their health, education, religion, name, money and property. Parental responsibility then lasts until the child reaches 18 or gets married between 16 and 18. Who can get parental responsibility? If you don’t have parental responsibility, you might be able to get it. You can get parental responsibility for your child by in the following ways: ‘registering (or re-registering) the birth of your child together with the child’s mother, making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother and registering it at court, obtaining a parental responsibility order, becoming the child’s guardian (which would only take effect on the mother’s death) or marrying the mother.’ The biggest worry for me is if anything should happen to either of us (*touch wood*), what happens to our little man? What are we legally entitled to? After digging a little further I came across these explanations: ‘Living together – If one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned property jointly. As an unmarried couple, you need to make wills if you wish to make sure that the other partner inherits. If one partner dies without leaving enough in their will for the other to live on, the surviving partner may be able to go to court to claim from the estate. If you inherit money or property from an unmarried partner, you are not exempt from paying inheritance tax, as married couples are. Marriage – When your married partner dies, you will inherit under the will of the dead partner if it makes provision for you. If either married partner dies without making a will, the other will inherit all or some of the estate.’ What have I learnt? We basically get nothing unless we get married or have a will… we don’t have the latter (*googles ‘writing a will’*). Even if you don’t have a child, marriage binds you both legally in many different ways and whether we like it or not, trying to break tradition isn’t always easy and the subject of marriage is no different. Getting married still holds a lot more significance than just love.

One year makes a huge difference

I never really thought that the order of either getting married or having babies would make much of a difference to my life. Always knowing I wanted both, I set aside the traditional marriage then babies ideal when I got pregnant just over a year ago now, I’m not sure I would have chosen to have a baby before marriage now knowing how it would make me feel and what it would legally mean. With all of the things I have discussed about my personal opinion, tradition and the coverage in the media, I have definitely come to the conclusion I now feel being unmarried with a child does make a difference. Maybe it will change in the future but I’m sure it’ll be ‘all in good time’!

 

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

PS. If you have children and you’re not married or if you are and you have had any positive or negative experiences with deciding to get married, sharing surnames or anything else – I would love to hear from you!

 

Sources:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/living-together-marriage-and-civil-partnership/living-together-and-marriage-legal-differences/#h-children
https://theparentconnection.org.uk/articles/parental-responsibility-for-unmarried-couples
http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a12107658/ask-bride-father-permission-proposal-engagement/
https://www.brides.com/story/asking-fathers-permission-before-proposing
https://www.theknot.com
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/may/12/passport-control-border-children-parents-different-surnames
 

Separation Anxiety

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Learning to share something with someone else is an age-old lesson we are all taught as kids. You start off being taught to share your toys and your snacks then eventually your friends, your time and more than likely your family TV. By the time you reach mid-childhood you share pretty much everything – especially if you have siblings! By the time you hit your twenties you’re now The Queen (or The King) of sharing life so what actually happens now that you’re grown up and have a child of your own… How on earth are you supposed to know how to share an actual human child!? The very person you’ve waited so long to meet, that your body has grown and carried for 9 months, that you birthed in a long, intense and difficult labour; How do you learn to share your baby when it seems like everyone wants a piece of them?

After a traumatic labour and birth that was followed by a gruelling recovery, it has unfortunately become second nature to spend a portion of each day battling with the on going fear of ‘what if something goes wrong’. You feel your baby needs you to survive and that is the very thing that terrifies you when being apart – as a breastfeeding mother this is especially the case. You get nervous anytime you have visitors, you feel jealousy when someone else holds your baby followed by overwhelming guilt when you get handed them back but being without them is 100% out of the question.
‘Separation Anxiety’ is yet another thing I never expected to have to think about and wasn’t something I was generally aware of until the idea of being without my son left me with a terrifying gut-dropping feeling. The instant dread of not having him within arms reach consumed me: ‘How on earth would he survive without me‘ quickly spiralled into ‘But I’m breastfeeding him and expressing is hard and he sometimes only stops crying when I hold him and soothe him and what if he needs me and I can’t get there!?’ – this very nearly turned into serious hyperventilation. It was and sometimes still is very hard to try and see past my fears and get to a state of logical thinking.

When I began trying to ‘share’ my son, I realised I had began to become rather defensive. For me, it felt that 99% of the time I was the only one who knew what was best for him: what makes him smile, what soothes his cries, what helps him sleep, etc. When being with someone else, they were going to do something different and my instinct overwhelmed me into outright interrupting. I couldn’t help myself and, well it’s far from an ideal situation when you’re surrounded with friends or family. Noticing it became the very thing that triggered the matter of fact thought: ‘I am going to have to find peace with sharing my son‘. Yes, of course there is certain ways I would like to raise my son but it is NOT the end of the world if he is away from me for a short amount of time, it is NOT the end of the world if he spends time with other member of the family without me, it is NOT the end of the world if my son is enjoying being with other people and it is NOT going to hurt if someone else does something a little different to how I would. I just need to keep remembering that everyone in the family is equally entitled to spend quality time with my child, even if I won’t be able to help feeling it’s only me that can be fully responsible for him. It’s hard to think even though you know this; it does not mean that it is going to be any easier to be apart. My latest wave of anxiety seems to have stemmed from someone asking me when or if I am going back to work. The insane pressure from society to become a ‘Working Mum’ is unreal and is just another worry to add my seemingly never-ending list of things that terrify me beyond belief. In all honesty, I would rather not be without my son, however in todays current economic climate it is not a realistic situation – especially when your maternity pay is statutory and awful and you need money to survive. Despite childcare often costing more than what some women are paid, I have some hard decisions to make going forwards; I may not have a choice and going back full-time may be compulsory… Perhaps a topic for another time!

I do lead a very anxious life, which unfortunately lends itself to the need to hold onto things, fear of letting go and a tendency to latch onto objects and/or people. Whilst I am not entirely sure what triggered this lovely personality trait, I have realised it’s important I have acknowledged it and am working towards it being less of a brick wall in my life. Looking at my relationship with objects of much more materialistic value, it’s no surprise that I have become attached to the much less materialistic wonder that is my son. So what have I found/done to help me through this constantly uncomfortable situation? I’d like to say to start off: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER – there is help out there. As intimidating as looking for help online is, there are some really useful websites out there.

Heather Turgeons’ article for ‘Babble’ was unbelievably accurate. Her words really reflected how I felt and made me realise I was far from alone. Despite being written in 2010, her tips for best ways to deal with anxiety speak honestly about the fears and worries that separation anxiety can cause. One of the top tips I’ve taken on board is that sometimes being apart is good for you (repeat after me ‘ITS GOOD FOR ME’). You do have to give yourself time to recover and rejuvenate, as after all, being a mother can be exhausting and full of routine so taking a relaxing evening off is the perfect prescription. To make things easy ‘Made for Mums’ has constructed a super quick ‘7 top tips for leaving your baby for the first time’ outlining the key things to consider and do that will help set up a healthy relationship with being apart from your baby. My favourite numbers are 3: starting small and 6: leaving instructions – both I believe are the absolutely imperative when starting to spend time apart from your baby. You’ll slowly create step-by-step guides of your own as your children grow older but starting small is always a great way to ease into it. In addition to others personal experience and quickstep guides to minimising anxiety, I remember that ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ exists. This could be considered the Holy Grail of pre-conception, pregnancy and motherhood advice. The fantastically extensive website is always full to the brim with advice on absolutely anything always including the good, the bad and the ugly. Their approach to discussing separation anxiety is more of a step-by-step guide to feeling OK on a level that could really help you get that first foot out of the front door. Their ability to back up their steps with science makes it much easier to be matter of fact about leaving your little one with your chosen caregiver. Things like ‘At this age (2 to 3 months), being out go sight pretty much means being out of mind, so your baby will usually stop thinking about you and be quite content with any sitter who provides gentle, attentive care’ can make you feel much more comfortable or at the very least a little less panicky than you may have been! As well as looking for helpful techniques and logical reasoning online, I have found that even tedious rituals can help temporarily ease some of the stress. Things like taking a deep breathe or taking a step back and counting to three before accidentally breathing fire at everyone in the room can make the world of difference. If you have more time on your hands you could try relaxation meditation or yoga to help keep calm and collected in every aspect – always appreciating that having a child may not allow you to have time to fit this in but whatever you can do, remember to be kind to yourself.

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Overall the most important thing to know is that it’s OK to feel anxious sometimes and being apart from your baby will make you a little edgy but it’s that unconditional love that is part of what makes us human. When you finally take the plunge and do spend some time away from your daughter or son, don’t spent all your time worrying and remember you left them with someone responsible and someone you trust so sometimes you have to just let go of those fears – even if its just for one night!

Love to all,
One Curious Mother x

PS. We had our first date night a few weeks back and nothing went wrong, we had a lovely evening and our son didn’t even notice we were gone. I did spend a bit of the evening panicking and checking my phone every five minutes but as the night went on I relaxed a little more. I did feel much happier when we got home and he was sound asleep. How would I rate it’s success? A sturdy 8/10!

Sources:

https://www.babble.com/baby/away-from-baby-separation-anxiety-moms/
https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/week-10/separation-anxiety.aspx
http://www.madeformums.com/baby/7-top-tips-for-leaving-your-baby-for-the-first-time/17599-6.html

Worth The Weight?

 

Talking about weight is always a difficult subject and unfortunately talking about postpartum bodies is no different. Up until recently, it has never been a widely discussed (or accepted) topic. As I felt I needed to tackle some personal issues, I took my time and this has taken me around two months to write with it being nothing short of a challenge. I hoped by writing this, I could help not only myself but other women realise they are not totally alone when feeling like they’re living in someone else body.

It’s a stark reality check when you feel like staring into the eyes of a complete stranger. When you feel like you’re catching someone else’s reflection through a shop window. It’s like staring at someone you think you know, someone you met before in a brief fleeting moment but were never introduced to. They seem familiar. They copy all your actions, they share all your family and friends but to you, they’re unrecognisable. The stark truth is, it’s you and you no longer know you at all. This is the new you you’ll need to learn so much about.

It’s nothing short of a steep up hill struggle learning to accept a body you didn’t mentally prepare for. Let’s face it, between cots and car seats, you totally forgot to entertain the idea that your body would become unfamiliar and no longer be your own. You got whisked away thinking of your new life as a mother (or panicking about the birth) that postpartum you were at the bottom of the list. The reality check is a hard one. You have to stay in maternity clothes. You thought you’d no longer need them but you’ve reached a rather awful stage where your old clothes are still 4 sizes too small. It doesn’t take long before you hit a seemingly never-ending phase of being too big for old clothes and too small for your maternity clothes. THIS is the moment you will need to peel your self esteem out of the puddle of tears you’re floating in at the changing rooms at your local New Look and take some deep breathes: Remember: it won’t be this way forever.

Just when you think things could turn around because quite frankly you couldn’t feel any worse about the new version of you right now, you suddenly remember you have a boyfriend, a husband or a partner. Someone you (once upon a time) shared a close and intimate relationship with – (This is all providing you get 5 minutes peace to breathe of course!) Thoughts WILL enter your mind (despite the fact he probably witnessed you give birth): ‘I need to stay covered up, he absolutely cannot see me naked‘, ‘Oversized clothes should hide my body’, ‘I haven’t showered in days, has he noticed? Truth is he probably sees straight past all of that and sees just you but just how on earth are you supposed to feel comfortable or confident around him if you don’t even recognise yourself?! A swollen face, gorged bust, inflatable stomach – The aftermath of the surgery left me so swollen and it was like each little (or big) stretch mark became another haunting reminder of the limits to which my body has been pushed. Looking at myself I couldn’t see past this oversized version of me: this disproportionate woman clad with stretch marks and an over hanging stomach hiding a deep purple scar, deep down I didn’t want to accept that the once petite, size 10, slightly chubby round the edges gal who used to squeeze her non-boobs into a size 8 has left me. It just seemed so impossible. How was I supposed to bring myself to see our family and friends if I didn’t even feel or look like me? My preconceived (or lack of) ideas of how postpartum life would be really tripped me up at the first hurdle.

I guess I learnt the hard way that movies and social media don’t always help with the portrayal of having a baby. From pregnancy to labour to postpartum, I’ve come to the conclusion that it just can’t be summed up in a single photo or an hour and a half long Hollywood film. With celebrities social media accounts boasting their post-baby bodies with zero stretch marks or a petite frame rocking a petite bump can leave you feeling inferior and less than pleased about how you look. Whilst fully understanding that this image can be totally normal for some women and not for another, I have still hit the harsh reality head on that for me, my body does not look that way and I’ve faced a number of difficulties I would really rather have avoided.

As someone who has struggled on and off with body image since the teen years, not being able to recognise myself in a mirror has been a small dose of hell. With the whole idea of pregnancy and pregnancy related weight gain never bothering me, my mind always found the logical scientific reasoning behind being healthy and gaining weight to support my body through the process of growing a child. The common sense here far outweighed my somewhat irrational issues and helped my mind stay clear and make sense of my ever-changing body. As the first trimester of my pregnancy was too kind to me, I guess I became a little complacent. With barely any side effects, no sickness, very little dizziness, only mild fatigue and a hand full of food diversions, I gained very little extra weight. I realised quite quickly that compared to others and their horror stories, I had it fairly easy.

As my pregnancy progressed, everything remained steady. Little Rory was growing as expected with no signs of foetal issues. My health was in good shape and the only thing I suffered from was minor backache if sat at my office chair too long – nothing a lunch time stroll to get more food couldn’t fix! It wasn’t until week 34 when I began my maternity leave that things became a little difficult for me. Out of the blue I became incredibly itchy. My bump, shins and feet became unbearable to touch and often felt like they were burning. Mild panic broke out when I had gone looking for answers and came across the rare condition known as Obstetric Cholestasis: A liver disease that can develop during pregnancy, increasing the bile acid count to be much higher than it should be. It isn’t always serious but in severe cases, it can cause the development of jaundice and has, in some cases been linked to both premature and stillbirths. It affects around about 1 in 140 pregnancies and can be harmful to both you and your baby. If you do develop this, the only full cure is birth and will therefore be offered an induction usually somewhere between 37 and 38 weeks to help reduce any of the risks. Often medication can be given to help reduce the bile count but birth is much more effective.

Fortunately for me, after many (million) blood tests, my liver was fine but not long after this result I discovered I had developed a lovely little horrific side effect called PEP (Polymorphic eruption of pregnancy). This ruined my skin. Causing wide spread uncontrollable itching and spreading hives all over my newly grown stretch marks, my once smooth pale skin looked unrecognisable. Leaving scars over the worst effected areas, this added salt to the already searing wound, which just added to the explosive stretch marks that had erupted. I felt disgusting but little did I know I’d walk away with a much more permanent feature. Before Rory was finally born via C-section, I had never thought of the possibility of having to live with a scar. I have had moles removed in the past and have a handful of small scars but nothing that noticeable unless pointed out. I had braced myself that I’d have to live with stretch marks but let me tell you: no one in a million years could have mentally prepared me for a permanent scar, dealing with cut tissue, separated muscles or the wonderfully named ‘pouch’ that comes with the surgery. To add insult to serious injury, I came out of surgery unbelievably swollen and puffy. Looking back at photographs, I could barely open my eyes. On a first glance in the mirror after I got dressed for the first time post-op was literally horrifying. How the hell was I supposed to live with this over-hang of belly!? How are any of my clothes ever going to fit me!? And the more important ‘How the hell am I going to be able to get rid of this pouch when I can’t even walk let alone exercise!?’ My self-esteem hit a new depth. Should I have really been that self-centred about my appearance when I had just experienced the miracle of life resulting in a perfect healthy little boy? I’m not entirely sure.

So shall we look at some positive here? Although social media is regularly tarred as fuelling the national level of anxiety, I have recently found it to be my saving grace. Whilst I’ve been writing this there has been an epic explosion of body positivity filling up all of my social media feeds from some of my now favourite bloggers. As another taboo subject on the ever-lasting list of motherhood troubles, it pleases me very much that people of influence are bringing these subjects to light. I now don’t totally feel alone when wondering if I’m the only women ever to have discoloured stretched skin, the only woman to go from an hour glass to a square or the only woman to want to hide in a hole before getting a ‘tummy controlling’ swimsuit on. It’s been a million miles from easy but this has made it a little more possible that I may feel like myself again. I promise you if nothing else, this movement into loving your body will make you forget for a while that you no longer look like you but that deep down it really is you in there and you should feel the utmost pride for the life you have created and what your body has achieved.

It’s clearly no secret that pregnancy and giving birth can take an incredible amount of physical and mental strength so there is nothing more important than supporting each other through our pre and postpartum journeys. Please remember, no matter how you’re feeling, you don’t ever have to feel alone.

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Love to all,

One Curious Mother.

 

Sources:
Obstetric Cholestasishttp://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/itching-obstetric-cholestasis-pregnant.aspx
PEPhttp://www.bad.org.uk/shared/get-file.ashx?id=227&itemtype=document

 

‘I Need To Drink More Fish’

I apologise it’s been a few weeks since my last post but between recovery, several medical appointments, health visitors and family coming and going time just ran away from me. Let’s get underway with this weeks blog topic: Breastfeeding – A topic which is always in the spotlight.

YUP, this is a sentence I said out loud when trying to make a decision about what to have for tea one day. Safe to say, lately it definitely feels like my baby is sucking all of my smart out. Turns out whilst breastfeeding you can get baby brain just as you did during pregnancy. This would explain why my brain cannot retain information for longer than half an hour, I can’t remember simple tasks or instructions or really understand anything post 9pm. Still totally worth it!

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When a baby’s gotta eat, a baby’s gotta eat!

Breastfeeding is one of those wonderful natural things. It is totally magic. Each woman’s milk is tailored to their baby providing the perfect cocktail of nutrition and support to help their baby grow. It can help strengthen the bond between a mother and baby. It’s also one of the hardest things you face as a mother; just knowing you’re solely producing the food that’s keeping your little bundle of joy alive… So why is it one of these crappy taboos!? When did someone decide somewhere that this topic needed to split the nation in two!? Why do you have to be either pro breastfeeding and nothing else or all anti-breastfeed?! There is that subcategory of people who think breastfeeding is repulsive and you feel the need to shame the mamas that are confident in feeding their child in public BUT we won’t include them in this discussion as they’re super mean – NO MAMA SHOULD EVER BE SHAMED. EVER. Whatever your own personal decision is, it should be just that: PERSONAL. Somewhere in the middle of this ‘breast or formula?’ discussion there is those mama’s who are stepping forwards paving the way for future attitudes by being confident and comfortable (LIKE EVERY MAMA SHOULD) about both breastfeeding and not breastfeeding. Sometimes this is through choice but other times thus choice is made for you. Some mothers are unable to breastfeed, others find it difficult and some have been shamed for it. There are some super mama’s out there breaking down those taboos about breastfeeding and formula feeding and today I’m going to talk about our personal experience with breastfeeding and formula feeding and what we did to make it work for us and how we made sure we are all happy and healthy whilst doing so.

For me, breastfeeding didn’t start off all plain sailing. It didn’t come naturally and was difficult. Little Rory was very fussy and it left us both rather distressed 99.99% of the time. Every attempt ended in intense screaming, trashing around and tears – my daydreams of bonding with my little boy seemed very far away at this point. We continued to try feeding which was hard but eventually it lead to latching on which unfortunately lead to falling asleep having after having a feed for all of two seconds – NOT IDEAL. Despite this, I chose persevere which was a really difficult decision to make. We took all advise offered and engaged in many hours of skin to skin which resulted in a few feeds but not really enough. After everything that’s drilled into you by either family member, friends or midwifes around ‘breast being best’, you can’t help but feel rather uneasy when the word ‘formula’ is mentioned. Why is it that you instantly feel like you’re failing when breastfeeding doesn’t pan out like you imagine!? With such lack of information around what breastfeeding can really be like in the beginning, I feel many like myself are left feeling a little unprepared. Luckily for me, the midwives who cared for me whilst I was in hospital spent every moment reassuring me I was doing all the right things and that I should keep plodding on and Rory would eventually just ‘get it’. This is when I decided to stuff feeling like I wasn’t enough. My body was doing all it could so I took a deep breathe and took that formula in my stride. I never went for the tin of powder you mix yourself and heat and wait and TOO MUCH FAFFING – My inner lazy-gal went straight for the ready-made small 70ml bottles complete with steralised teat. Safe to say within seconds of assembling the two parts, he was guzzling down the formula at lightening speed – YAY! The happiness you get when your baby is finally feeding, whichever method you chose, is unreal. He only had a small amount of that bottle to start with but he slept like a dream afterwards. This left me time to express my colostrum to syringe feed him in between formula feeds and then my milk when it came in on day 4. I was not giving up without a fight, I really wanted breastfeeding to happen for us and I wanted to at least try every option and combination to help get there.

Once again, luckily for me when my milk came in, Rory became less fussy and latched on like a dream… BUT only for all of 5 minutes. My thought process immediately went to ‘hopefully we have started the route towards successful feeds!’ – At this point we were alternating between the boob and the bottle meaning I could pump when he had the bottle and dear Daddy could join in whilst feeding too which he really enjoyed (even at 4am!). Our aim was to eventually swap the bottles for breast milk in bottles in hope that the breastfeeding would become more regular and then only be breastfeeding. This was an open ended plan with no time frame but we managed to achieve this within a matter of three weeks, which was a dream! He knew exactly what he wanted and finally the boobs were the answer. I’m sure like many, even though we had lift off and a great result with breastfeeding, in the beginning it was rather uncomfortable. It stings, throbs and is sometimes just god damn uncomfortable. Why is it whilst feeding on one boob your other boob feels left out so you get the sensation of feeding in both? And can we talk about the leaking?! Even with breast pads in, there are many times where I have been caught out with overactive milk supply leaking through pads, bra and even my top – Just what you want whilst taking a countryside stroll with no spares, no privacy and no shops!

My journey taken to get us where we are now hasn’t been an easy one. Looking back now there’s a lot of advise I would give myself: I’d start with ‘it is all going to be ok’ and that each day will get better and yes it will hurt and yes you’ll have good days and bad days and yes it’s easy to give in and find an easier route but just bring it in and really focus on you and your baby and do what is best for you. At the end of the day no one can tell you what will work best for you.

 

What have I learnt from my journey into breastfeeding?  So. Many. Things. Here’s my top 5:

  1. Don’t fret or worry. Things didn’t start off easy for me but worrying about it didn’t help at all. Which leads us on to…
  2. Don’t be afraid to seek help. I spoke to my midwife, my health visitor, had a call from the nursery nurse from my local children’s centre and even researched Facebook groups and Mother and Baby groups in the area. You are never alone!
  3. Pumps are handy to have. Even if you can’t bare the thought of pumping in between feeds, all it takes is one extra long nap for your boobs to fill up to the point of explosion. They are fantastic for relief and there are so many to choose from. Plus you never know, it mighty come in handy when you finally get a night off!
  4. Be prepared! Carry extra supplies – I now keep extra breast pads in my handbag or the nappy bag for when life loves to surprise me.
  5. FEED WHEREVER YOU PLEASE. Even if formula or breast DO NOT let anyone let you think feeding your baby is something for behind closed doors. If your baby is hungry when you’re out shopping or, yes you can find the nearest family room to feed or you can go for the nearest bench/seated area. Wrap or no wrap, you feed your baby however you want!

What are my preferences? I LOVE my Tommee Tippee manual pump. It’s comfy, easy to use and comes with a microwavable sterilising box. It was one of my many bargain buys brought on sale for 10.99 down from 21.99! You can find it here at Boots online – http://www.boots.com/tommee-tippee-closer-to-nature-manual-breast-pump-10205689It’s currently on sale! (This may change. Price true to date of published post)

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Who has inspired me? Instagram has me hooked! These ladies are my heroes and inspiration. They are my daily reminder that it’s ok to have problems, ok to power through, ok to breastfeed wherever whenever and to never shy away. A reminder that every mama should be a proud mama!

(Photographs are screenshots / I OWN NO COPYRIGHT / all originals are copyrighted and owned by said women)
  1. TESS HOLLIDAY (@TESSHOLLIDAY)
    https://www.instagram.com/tessholliday/?hl=en

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  2. EDEN GRINSHPAN (@EDENEATS)
    https://www.instagram.com/edeneats/?hl=en

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  3. KAT (@LITTLEBIRDDOULA)
    https://www.instagram.com/littlebirddoula/?hl=en

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We have reached the other side. Our breastfeeding problems are slowly but surely disappearing and we have bonded with every feed. We’ve overcome every difficulty thrown at us and learnt that FORMULA IS OUR FRIEND but that breast is what is best for us.

ALL FEEDING IS GOOD FEEDING.

Love to all!

One Curious Mother x

 

Disclaimer: All instagram screenshot images are NOT owned by One Curious Mother. All original images featured are copyrighted and owned by @tessholliday, @edeneats & @littlebirddoula. Please follow links provided to see their profiles.