I had always known I wanted to have a baby and to have a “natural” birth: no pain relief, skin-to-skin contact, and a small bead of sweat that’s dabbed away as I look glamorous and glowing. Then when the baby pops out all clean and wrapped up, I would place them at my bosom and they would latch on with ease and our journey into breastfeeding would be like a musical! Because that’s the story we’re fed right? Birthing and breastfeeding should come naturally. Mmmhmmm okay…
News of our pregnancy brought joy and fear
After suffering a miscarriage earlier in the year we found out that we were pregnant later in the autumn. We were overcome with emotions ranging from joy to fear, and all of the uncertainties first time parents feel. We talked and planned and made numerous lists.
We even had contingency plans A,B and C! But there was no contingency plan for what actually happened!
Shielding, solo hospital trips and insulin injections
And the plot twist that happened? 2020. And it didn’t come alone: 2020 brought friends!
After a few weeks of shielding I found out that I had gestational diabetes. Goodbye midwife led birthing centre, hello solo hospital trips and insulin injections!
But that wasn’t the end of it, because of this I was told I would be induced at 39 weeks. This really wasn’t in our plan, and the idea of spending time away from my fiancé alone in hospital filled me with dread. But there wasn’t a lot we could do, and the day came where he dropped me off at the hospital and I went in alone.
Finding out I had a heart condition
(Un)luckily for me I wouldn’t be alone long, because as it so happens, I had an undiagnosed heart condition that decided to announce itself 15 minutes after I unpacked my suitcase! So while I lay back, listening to ten different doctors deciding the best way to drop my heart rate from 294BPM, I couldn’t help wonder which contingency plan was I currently on, maybe Q?
Within hours I was blue lighted to a different hospital, where I spent 4 days on cardiology and hooked up to all the monitors. The only good thing was that my fiancé could visit due to the seriousness of the situation.
Within hours I was blue lighted to a different hospital, where I spent 4 days on cardiology and hooked up to all the monitors.
We were advised that I would need to have a c section, something that I’d never considered, and I was terrified. But the reality was if I went into labour I could have a heart attack and risk both of our lives. There’s nothing that can prepare you to hear that, no dewy dreams of a perfect “natural” birth matter at that moment.
Boobs at the ready!
So on the fifth day of my stay, I had a c section and our gorgeous son was born. I can’t remember what I was worried about anymore, but here it came! The big moment, boobs at the ready! But, then came the onslaught of issues I just wasn’t prepared for…
He wouldn’t latch.
My nipples are flat.
Try this position.
Are they meant to bleed like this?
“That doesn’t sound like mastitis.”
“You’ve got mastitis.”
“It’s an abscess. You’ll need that drained.”
Oh no he’s awake again, he’ll want a feed!
Should breastfeeding come naturally?
I’d failed. I let him down, and I’d let myself down. This was the one thing that only I could do and I couldn’t. I was terrified of him waking up because I knew he’d need a feed. What kind of mother was I?
Turns out, a pretty good one if I do say so myself! I’m writing this 10 months into our journey when I didn’t even think I’d make it ten weeks!
After all we went through, including heart surgery, we’re still going strong. My nipples are perfect just the way they are, I hold him however it feels comfortable for us.
We’ve had so much support from our local Infant Feeding Coordinator Health Visitor, she supported and guided us when we needed it most and even now she is still there to help and offer advice!
What have I learnt from my journey so far?
I guess the take away here is, you can’t plan for everything. Things change, pandemics happen. We’re all doing the best job that we can!
I thought breastfeeding would be the most natural thing in the world, but it turns out it’s hard: women struggle, and partners struggle as they watch on helpless. It doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job! Just like making the decision to use formula isn’t doing a bad job. Making the best, most informed decision for you and your baby is the best job that you can do.
I thought breastfeeding would be the most natural thing in the world, but it turns out it’s hard
We need stop those who tear down boobing mummies, formula mummies, extended feeding mummies by normalising conversations about feeding (in all its forms!).
So this is my love letter to everyone who has had a baby during the pandemic and to every NHS worker who helped us get here. Without you this story may never have happened x
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