GUEST POST: The first rule of postnatal club is: you do not talk about postnatal club

buy Pregabalin 300 mg cheap There’s no point sugar-coating it – being a new mum is tough – so where’s the help and support that’s so desperately needed? This guest post from Hannah Preston sums it up perfectly…

I like making informed decisions. Whenever I’m about to buy something new or embark on a new adventure, I do my research, whether that’s comparing reviews on Which? or asking at least five different friends for advice. I was no different when I became pregnant last year with my first baby. I read the books (I’d recommend “How To Grow A Baby and Push It Out”), I signed up to the Bounty and Emma’s Diary newsletters, downloaded the Baby Buddy app and attended the NCT antenatal classes.

I was as prepared as I could be for the pregnancy and labour, and to an extent I was prepared for those first few weeks caring for my new baby. I had nappies and sleepsuits and had been warned about the sleepless nights and that my hormones would be all over the place.

What I was not prepared for however was how I would feel physically after the birth and how long I’d feel terrible for afterwards. The lack of information and support for new mums on caring for themselves after giving birth is shocking. The only mention in my five class antenatal course was that we’d probably experience the “baby blues” on day three after labour. This made it sound like we’d have a weepy 24 hours and then be fine.

There are plenty of books, apps and support groups about looking after the baby in those first few months, but very little on postnatal care for the mum. In addition to all the overwhelming mental health issues new mums face, such as postnatal depression which is such a big topic that it deserves a separate, more detailed discussion, and dealing with constantly questioning every decision you make – is your baby too hot/cold, had too much/little sleep, eating too much/not enough? – (which I know is true for new dads too), there are a lot of physical issues to deal with that just don’t get discussed.

Even just focusing on breastfeeding, something we’re led to believe is the most natural thing in the world, there is a whole lot of unspoken pain and discomfort. You’re told that it will help you bond with your baby, when actually for a lot of women you’re too distracted by cracked, bleeding nipples and searing pain to enjoy the experience. (See Charlotte’s earlier blog post to get an insight into this kind of pain!). Although it’s not something you hear about before having a child, there are at least quite a few support groups – such as breastfeeding meet-ups at local cafes, Facebook groups and national hotlines – that you can access.

There are many other physical aspects that can leave postnatal mums in pain, worried, embarrassed and feeling alone, without any support. It’s not unusual for new mums to experience one or more of the following: mastitis, vaginal tears, pus from C-section scars, anal fissures, haemorrhoids, prolapses, infected stitches, incontinency…

Not only do new mums often have to deal with these physical pains, but they have to do so with an onslaught of guests visiting to coo over their new bundle of joy. It’s lovely introducing your little one to family and friends, but often new mums will be doing it through gritted teeth trying not to think about whether leaking milk is showing through their tops whilst having to shift from one side to the other to ease the discomfort of sitting down.

A friend recently shared this Twitter thread by Kate Clancy, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, who details her list of ailments and her frustration at how little the postpartum experience is discussed and how it’s under researched.

I shared it with a group of friends who’d also recently had babies and nearly all of them opened up and said they too had some kind of physical issue following giving birth.

I’ve talked to more mums since and it seems that a lot of us have gone through some kind of lingering pain. When talking about the pros and cons of having a caesarean, one of the listed disadvantages you hear is that there’s a six-week recovery period afterwards. This makes it sounds like you should have fully healed in those six weeks, and that if you had a vaginal birth it will take a lot less. A lot of new mums, no matter how they gave birth, are still suffering for months afterwards.

Considering so many of us experience physical postnatal problems, I wondered why it’s something that just doesn’t get talked about. I’m not suggesting mums should go round revealing intimate details. When someone asks you how you’re doing you don’t want to have to reply “it feels like I’ve had a lawnmower go through my lady bits” or “I’ve got a literal pain in the arse. How are you?”. In our society, when even farting is considered unladylike and feminine hygiene brands are only just starting to feature red rather than blue liquids in sanitary pad adverts, it’s just not the done thing to discuss ladies’ nether regions.

But there should be more support available. At six weeks your baby will have a check-up at the doctors and most mums will too. In my district however, they’ve stopped offering automatic check-ups for mums which I think speaks volumes.

When it comes to both the labour and the after-care, I’ve regularly heard new mums say “I can’t believe no one told me about XYZ” or “how is it that I never knew about ABC”. A recurring response is that if we knew the actual truth, it would put us off having a baby. I call bullshit on this excuse. It wouldn’t put people off (if it does, then maybe being a parent isn’t for you, because guess what – motherhood is tough) but instead would make us better prepared. It would mean you’d know when to go see your doctor, you’d have an idea of what to buy to help ease the discomfort, partners may be able to help out more, guests might not overstay their welcome, work might not hassle you so quickly, there’d be support groups to go to where you could chat about it without embarrassment…

As Kate Clancy asks in her Twitter thread – “Why don’t we have evidence based recommendations for postpartum mom care?”. More research should go in to understanding these postnatal conditions to find out what can be done to prevent them/help quicken the healing process. I can’t help but wonder if it was a problem that affected men too and not just women, something might already have been done about it.

There are plenty of topics that aren’t talked about when they really should be. From miscarriages to mental health, we really need to remove the stigma and start having discussions so that people can get much needed support.

I often hear the phrase “happy mum, happy baby” bandied about, so why aren’t we giving mums the postnatal care that they need and deserve?

Hannah Preston is a first time mum and can usually be found blogging about Leeds over on www.lovingleedsblog.co.uk.

 

Breastfeeding Tips for the Big-Titted Mama!

Breastfeeding is hard. For the ‘most natural thing in the world’, it’s trickier to get right than the FT cryptic crossword with a hangover and a broken pencil. What seemed to make it even harder for me was the fact that I have tits. Contradiction in terms, right? Alas, no.

It seems that the more you’ve got going on in the chest region, the trickier it is to master proper positioning. Also, the bigger the norks, the harder it is for you to not accidentally smother your newborn in all your extra flesh and skin when they’re feeding.

What used to be a tremendous boon in my hay-day for guaranteeing a drink offer at a bar, was suddenly a pain-in-the-arse complication in an already very confusing and painful new endeavour for me.

However: ample-mammary-mums-to-be, fear not! It is still possible to successfully breastfeed! After 18 months of feeding my daughter with my ma-hoosive melons, I’ve worked out a few ‘pointers’ to ensure lactation jubilation! Here are my top tips:

  1. get link Positioning. Most experts will advise mums-to-be to start feeding with the cross-cradle position. It’s supposedly the easiest. But for new mums with giant breasts, this one is not all that easy to master. I also just couldn’t get the ‘lying down’ method to work, my boobs would just flop over and I couldn’t establish a good latch lying down. After trying (and failing) with dozens of methods, the best one to accommodate my chesticles was the underarm, or football / rugby hold. It squished my breasts less, which enabled a ‘free-flow’ and reduced the risk of pressure across my chest that could result in blocked ducts or sore spots. I was also able to better control and adjust the positioning of my daughter’s head to ensure her nose and air-ways weren’t restricted. All in all, it was the most comfortable position for me until feeding was properly established. Plus it’s also great for twins!

  1. go site Wait til that mouth is nice and wide. Then shove them on. The bigger the boob, chances are, the bigger the nipple. It’s important that as much of the areola is in the baby’s mouth when feeding, so it’s really important to wait for them to open their mouths as wide as they can. If it’s not quite right, detach and try again until as much of it is in their mouths as possible. A bad latch hurts more than someone taking a lighter to your nasal hair. When in doubt, take them off and try again until you get it right.
  2. Nursing bras make all the difference. If you’ve got huge boobs, it’s trickier to find a suitable nursing bra that fits properly. If it’s slightly too small, or fits before your milk is established, you could end up with a bra that squishes your assets, and this can lead to complications like mastitis. I always found Bravissimo the best for a really well-made, supportive bra in ample sizes. M&S have an OK collection too – just ask for a fitting to ensure it is suitable. They’re expensive I know, and not particularly attractive – you might look like Les Dawson in drag when you’re wearing it – but I would happily re-mortgage my house if it meant I could afford a comfortable, supportive bra.
  3. A little lift. If the process of gaining / losing weight has resulted in your nips gradually facing in the direction of the carpet, it makes it even harder to be able to see what you’re doing to make sure you’ve got a good latch. I spent weeks holding up my breast to the baby, rather than finding a natural position that worked for the both of us. This meant that I was squishing my boob with the hand I was holding it up with, and also meant I didn’t have a free hand to browse on my phone with. Anyone who has latched on a newborn and then subsequently realised they haven’t got their phone on them will tell you that it can be the longest 40 minutes of your life. A spare hand with which to peruse facebook whilst feeding is almost essential for your sanity. After deciding I couldn’t carry on ‘lifting’ my breast myself, I discovered an amazing product that does the job for you – the Booby Booster. It attaches to your bra and basically acts as a sling lift which raises your breast slightly, making positioning easier (and freeing up a hand to read / eat / text). A DIY version can be created by using a large piece of muslin that ties around your neck and lifts your breast. Alternatively, a natural sponge that you can cut to fit under your breast will also give it a bit of a lift.

  1. Pump it up. You can now get different size breast-pump funnels, and this can make a huge difference to the success of your pumping, if you have large breasts. I never managed to find a pumping bra that was designed for the large-chested mother, so I made my own by cutting holes in an old nursing bra! Nothing beats a bit of hands-free pumping.
  2. Feeding outside the house. I was always self-conscious of feeding the baby in public, because there’s nothing discreet about whipping out a 3lb lump of fatty tissue in the middle of a coffee shop. If you don’t give a shit about doing this, then that’s fantastic! If you do, however, don’t let it put you-off feeding out and about, and absolutely don’t let feeding make you feel like you’re a prisoner in your own home! Discreet feeding is achievable for the busty mamas! I would wear a nursing bra, a strap top, and then an over-sized top over this. It enabled me to ‘drape’ the extra fabric over the exposed boob skin when I lifted my top up to feed the baby, without covering-up the baby’s head. You can also use a light scarf, or invest in a nursing apron. Those sometimes these can look more eye-catching than sitting there with your tit out. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. So long as you’re happy and comfortable.

Hopefully, these tips will come in handy for the ample-chested mum-to-be. It is possible to control those beasts and make breastfeeding work. If you have any other tips like this, do comment below. Likewise, if you’ve tried any of these tips, give me a shout and let me know how you found them. Happy feeding, busty-mamas!

From luscious-locks to bonkers baby-hair. Pregnancy does some crazy things to your barnet

Everyone knows pregnancy and birth does some weird and wonderful things to your body. For example, I had a real problem with excess saliva and dribbling when I was pregnant (I bet Beyoncé isn’t a pregnant dribbling mess). And when it comes to pregnancy hair growth, mother nature seems to give with one hand and take with the other.

Around four months into my pregnancy, my hair felt glossier and thicker. It took all my restraint not to flick my hair at strangers whilst saying ‘because we’re worth it’ in a Geordie accent like Cheryl.

Cruelly enough though, the pregnancy didn’t just effect the hair growth on my bonce. I was a bridesmaid for one of my best friends when I was six months pregnant. I was already feeling self-conscious about looking like a sea-cow in my bridesmaids dress, but when I was getting my make-up done, the girl frowned and said to me, ‘do you mind if I just tweeze out that long hair on your chin?’ I could have died of embarrassment. I’d never had a chin-hair in my life, and I had no idea it was there. For some bizarre reason the baby hormones had surged in one direction through my body, pushing a grotesque, straggly hair out of the bottom of my chin. I was the bearded bridesmaid. We tweezed, moved on, but the humiliation of the moment never left me.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy meticulously checking my face for follicle intruders and tweezing from places I had never anticipated; my ear lobe, my neck, and from my widow’s peak that seemed to be traveling down my forehead to hang out with my eyebrows.

By the time I gave birth, I was rocking a full-on Frida Kahlo brow, and a hairline like Eddie Munster. It’s probably a good thing that babies’ sight is poor at birth, otherwise my daughter might have taken one look at me and crawled back into my uterus.

And the hairy fun didn’t stop there. Roughly eight weeks after birth, I started shedding like an Alaskan Malamute in the desert. Huge, terrifying clumps of hair would come out in the shower and patches of bare skin appeared on my scalp. Tying my hair up was a total no-go as the patches were so visible, so the days where I didn’t have time to wash my hair became my designated ‘hat or stay indoors’ days.

Luckily the hair-loss slowed, and it was replaced with strange, unsightly re-growth hair. My hairline started to travel further and further forwards around my head, around my ears, down my neck, and lower on my forehead. Now, with a mini-fringe that runs all the way around my hairline, I’m one facial Immac session away from being a Wookie.

I naively thought my pregnancy would turn me into Rapunzel, but instead it turned me into Sideburns Lady from The Wedding Singer. But with extra dribble.

The Pramshed

From ‘Yummy Mummy’ to ‘Mumsy Matron’ – Why it’s time for me to put down the Baby Bell and pick up the kettlebell

The Pramshed

God, I feel gross. The culmination of a birthday straight after Christmas, slathered on top of months of coffee and cake with friends on maternity leave, has seen me morph into Jabba the Hutt in a floral dress.

I’m not normally one to bemoan my weight or appearance. I usually think life’s too short for all that malarkey. But recently I’ve had the diet of a 18th Century French Duke and now I’m worried that life literally might be too short if I don’t change-up my routine.

A couple of things have tipped me off that I might need to change my ways. Visiting public loos with tiny cubicles has become a pain in the arse. Literally. I have to wedge my colossal behind on the seat next to the sanitary bin so often, that I’ve got a permanent ‘PHS’ logo impressed on my hip.

I’m also wearing the only pair of jeans that I own that have not yet succumbed to ‘chub rub’ from my thighs. Seriously, I could start a pubic-bush fire with the amount of friction down there. Eat your heart out, Bear Grylls!

To make matters worse, I’ve had a few false-starts when it comes to rejuvenating my exercise regime. Last week I marched into the kitchen in my joggers and hoodie. ‘Why are you in your pyjamas at this time of the day?’ Asked my husband, to which I replied, ‘these are not my pyjamas any more, my love! These sweat pants will now be used in the official capacity for which they were created! I’m off for a run!’

I managed a couple of circuits around the park until I collapsed on a bench. A passing child voiced his concern; ‘Mummy, that lady is purple!’. That was enough humiliation for me for one day.

The husband and I also dabbled in some ‘couples exercising’ (get your mind out of the gutter, please), so we decided to have a kick-about in the park. I thought some football drills would be light-hearted and enjoyable. But after ten minutes of kicking wildly and missing the ball more often than hitting it, I was getting increasingly frustrated. My husband’s condescending advice was also getting on my nerves. ‘Visualise the ball! Be the ball!’, he said. ‘You’re being a big enough ball for the both of us,’ I snorted back.

It’s bloody hard to find a way to work out when you have a toddler in-tow too. The only way I can raise my heart-rate when I’m with her is to crawl around the soft play area after her, like a less-fun ‘It’s a Knock Out’. When I do work-out, I spend the next few days in an extreme state of achiness where even putting the baby in her cot is agony.

As of yet, I haven’t found a work-out regime that’s ‘working out’ for me. But the intent is there, and that might have to be enough for now. Maybe I’ll try a few burpees after nursery drop-off. And if I don’t pass out, perhaps I’ll try a few more the day after. Who knows? In a few months, I could be the next Jane Fonda. Realistically though, I’d be lucky to be the next Natalie Cassidy.

I have invented a new work-out for parents – ‘Baby Gate Gymnastics’

Fucking baby-proofing. I’m sorry for the Big Swear but I needed to get that off my chest. I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home. I’d open a bottle of vodka to calm my nerves but it’s bloody locked in a cupboard behind a sophisticated and incredibly fiddly child lock, and I can’t be bothered with the faff.

The truth is, the baby is no longer really a baby at all. In fact, she appears to be a toddler-come-amateur-parkour enthusiast. Today I found her precariously balanced on the top of our fire guard which, ironically, we installed to keep her safe from the fire. I’m contemplating the need for a fireguard-guard.

With her gymnastics skills reaching new heights – literally – my husband and I have set about barricading sections of the house into ‘baby-safe zones’. With the introduction of baby gates seemingly everywhere, it’s currently easier to escape from Belmarsh Prison than it is our living room.

The weekend that we installed the gates culminated in a text-book passive-aggressive argument between me and my husband. He was sick to death of me nagging him about it, and when I asked through gritted teeth for the twentieth time how much longer he would be putting them in place, I got the ultimate tradesman’s spiel in return; “Look love, it’ll take as long as it takes, OK?”

The one-size-fits-all stair gate turned out to be a one-size-fits-most-but-for-some-inexplicable-reason-not-my-stairway-gate. These contraptions seem to have been invented less for the safety of a toddler, and more as some sort of cruel aptitude test for new parents.

Now with the gates and locks finally all fully installed, getting around our house is like an automatic lock-in game on the Crystal Maze. As I’m trying to navigate my way through two separate gates and a flight of stairs from the living room to the bedroom with a sleeping toddler, I half expect a leopard-print-clad Richard O’Brien to be loitering in the hallway with a sand timer, playing the harmonica.

It takes all the agility and cunning of Catherine Zeta Jones in Entrapment to successfully make it to one side of my house from the other without tripping up, setting off an alarm, or having to fumble with a stubborn child lock.

This has led me to seriously consider setting up a post-natal exercise and mental aptitude training session, involving installing and then hurdling baby gates and opening a series of child locks with a pinky finger, all whilst holding a 15-pound sack of flour. Think a ‘buggy run’ will get your heart racing? Try child-proofing and then moving around your home with your partner without totally losing your shit at each other. I’m thinking of selling this idea to Joe Wicks or Davina McCall. I think I’d make a killing.

 

The Pramshed

Top five things you should NEVER say to a new mum about her appearance

When your stomach has the consistency of a kangaroo’s pouch without the joey inside, you can undoubtedly feel insecure about your appearance. As a new mum, the last thing you want is for people to draw attention to how you look, but for some reason people feel compelled to comment on what having a baby has done to your physical appearance. It’s as if they think that by ignoring the elephant in the room, they’re suggesting that YOU are the elephant in the room. Even when they think they’re being kind, these comments can often make you feel more self-conscious about the fact you’ve just pushed half a stone of human being out of your privates.

So with that in mind, here are the top five things you should NEVER say to a hormonal and self-conscious new mum about her appearance:

  1. ‘You look…well’. Ha! Well fat you mean. You might as well have called me ‘jolly’ or ‘bubbly’. You don’t need to be Alan Turing to work out these comments are in fact code-word for ‘fat’.
  2. ‘That dress is so flattering on you’. Unless you are Gok Wan, I don’t want a critique of how I’m looking, especially if it implies I look like a netted ham in everything else you’ve seen me wear recently.
  3. ‘It’s ridiculous all this pressure some new mums put on themselves to lose the baby weight, isn’t it?’ When people say this they’re generally trying to be supportive of you by being critical of a social trend. But to a post-natal mum, they might as well have just said, ‘Jesus! You really did a Kelly Clarkson after you dropped that sprog, didn’t you?!? You’re not eating for two anymore, love!’
  4. ‘Have you lost weight?’ Unless it’s blindingly obvious that a new mum has morphed from Monstro the whale into a skin-covered clothes horse – in which case they may need some help – you should only use the word ‘weight’ if it refers to the baby. Or maybe a boxing match. End of.
  5. ‘You look tired’. Well duh. This comment is usually reciprocated by a slap to the face, so steer clear.

The only thing worse than any of the above are the four words that all new mums dread when they venture out without the baby for the first time, and they are; ‘when’s the baby due?’ Ouch. It’s the verbal equivalent of a rusty dagger to the eyeball. If in any doubt of what to say, the only really safe and acceptable comment to make to a new mum is that having a baby has done all sorts of amazing and wonderful things to their tits. And that’s literally it.

Why I wouldn’t have survived without my Mumates

It seems crazy that a group you’ve only known for a year can be the people you confide in and expose your rawest emotions to. But when you’re in the trenches together as new mums, an inevitable bond develops. It’s stronger than any other type of friendship you’ve had before, and it can pull you through even the darkest of days. And it’s because of this I thank my lucky stars for my ‘Mumates’.

As a new mum, it can be a terrifying prospect to leave the house with a newborn. In my case, I wouldn’t even open the curtains for the first three days. The outside world seemed like a terrifying place. I was barely holding it together and the thought of someone glimpsing in to my life and seeing how much of a mess I was made a lump swell in my throat.

It wasn’t until I saw how worried my husband and my mum were about me that I finally took the plunge and ventured out into the big bad world, but more specifically, to a post-natal breastfeeding clinic.

My hair was lank and in dire need of a wash, my nursing bra was unclipped at one side to accommodate my inexplicably one engorged breast and I’m pretty sure my mattress of a maternity pad was visible even through my thick jeans and long padded coat. I opened the door and almost instantly a wave of relief hit me. We all look like shit! Hurray! We’re all terrified out of our wits! Woohoo! That girl over there is crying! Hallelujah! Now I’m not one to revel in someone else’s misfortune, but hell I’ll revel in our collective misfortune all day!

A few cups of tea in, and I felt more like my old self than I had in weeks. Maybe it’s an extension of the maternal instinct but they all went out of their way to make me feel human again.

Mumates just get it. They’re going through it too, and they’re just as shit-scared and lost as you are. There is no greater feeling as a new mum than to be able to come to the realisation that you aren’t alone, and that someone else has also sat on the stairs and cried at least three times today too.

Just knowing someone is feeling the way you are feeling is a huge comfort. They don’t give you any answers most of the time, because they don’t know the answer themselves, but by simply sharing your experiences with someone who’s going through it too, being a new mum can seem like less of a daunting and lonely place.

In the first few hours of our new-found friendship, we had already seen each other at our most vulnerable. For me that was sobbing in a chair as a breastfeeding councillor rhythmically squeezed my breast to stimulate milk whilst my new Mumates sat with me and chatted as if we were getting our nails done and what was happening was the most normal thing on Earth. Once someone has witnessed something as surreally messed-up as that, you’re pretty much going to have to be best friends for life, or vow to never see each other ever again.

Luckily, we collectively agreed on the former, and we saw each other nearly every day of maternity leave. We have laughed together, we have cried together, we have talked about our ‘battle-scars’ (mainly tearing and episiotomy-related) and after a few months of getting used to being mums we finally solidified our friendship by getting drunk together too.

These women are warriors. I adore them. Having known them for little over a year, they still manage to inspire me every day. They juggle jobs, babies, older children, sleep deprivation, chronic illnesses, marriages, separation – all with such strength and determination. They are a constant source of comfort and support to me and I honestly wouldn’t have made it through this last 12 months without them.

I would urge anyone who’s a new mum to take that daunting first step outside and visit a local mother & toddler session / clinic / baby class. Odds-on however scared and shitty you’re feeling, someone near you is feeling exactly the same way, and they’re just as desperate to rant to someone about how hard they’re finding everything.

And for those about to have a baby, make sure you to join at least one pre-natal class. Joining NCT and attending the NHS pre-natal workshops was hands-down the best decision I made. I was able to meet a group of girls that I love so dearly, I will forever be in their debt for the support and love they have shown me, and trite as it might sound, I know we’ll be friends forever.

Breastfeeding: Milky misery or lactose loveliness?

I love breastfeeding my baby. She’s 13 months old and we’re still going. It’s easily the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’m lucky enough that she still relishes feeds; her little eyes rolling back into her skull after her final gulp, like a tiny drug addict. That sweet, sweet hit of lactose.

Let me assure you now though, that this isn’t simply another rosy ‘pro-wabs’ post. All this symbiotic mushy stuff came at a huge price to both of us. I’ve been to the brink of depression with it, I’ve experienced physical pain that in all honesty far eclipsed the birth, and worst of all it nearly cost us being able to bond at all in those precious first few months.

‘Why the frig did you do it then?’, I hear you cry. Fair point. I’m not sure I’ll ever really understand my motives for carrying on back in those early days. It was such a haze of surging hormones, lack of sleep and utter shellshock. But I guess I felt that by stopping I would have failed at the one thing every woman is supposed to be able to naturally do.

All the pre-natal classes I went to, everything I’d read before, all those beautiful pictures of naked women breastfeeding their cherubic, doe-eyed babies, it all made breastfeeding seem as natural as breathing. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this was absolutely what I was going to do.

When it came down to it though, it just wasn’t working. We’d been doing it as a species since the dawn of our existence, I thought, so why the fuck was muggins here having such a hard time of it? Essentially, I felt like I’d ‘failed’ at being a ‘natural’ mother.

Of course I now know that’s all bollocks. Not feeding a baby breastmilk isn’t failing. It’s not even conceding. I’ve fed my baby formula plenty of times in the last 12 months and it’s a successful alternative for tons of women.

What I do feel is a real tragedy is that we are constantly bombarded with the ‘breast is best’ mantra, and yet there is often little or no consistent support past that.

Personally, I came across some wonderful individuals in the NHS who tried their best to help, but there never seemed to be any overarching strategy for post-hospital support, and little understanding of how to help when thing were REALLY going wrong. We’ve been told time and again how breastfeeding reduces the strain on the NHS and how all mothers need to do it. Yet they fail at every turn to facilitate educating women on how to breastfeed, how to deal with the NUMEROUS painful side-effects and how to emotionally support these broken, tired new mums that feel like failures because it isn’t working for them.

The truth is (and they never tell you this in pre-natal classes), breastfeeding is fucking hard. And that’s why so many people stop doing it. It isn’t because people are lazy, it isn’t because people are ignorant or selfish. It’s often because people go into it with the expectation it will simply ‘click’, and it’s a shock to the core when it goes wrong.

In all my travels, out of the hundreds of new mums I’ve met since having a baby, only a handful have found it a piece of piss. Those lucky bitches.

In all honesty, I’ve never known pain like that of trying to latch on an uncooperative baby to nipples so raw and tender you could cover them in rice and serve them up as sushi. By day three after giving birth, when I saw the baby’s ravenous mouth coming towards my cracked, bleeding nipples, it was as if a buzz saw was about to make a valiant attempt at breastfeeding from me.

The worst bit wasn’t the pain though, it was the dread of the pain. The dread that consumed me and made me fear the baby, and fear the pain that she caused me. It hurt to bend over and tie up my shoes, it hurt to lay on my side in bed, it hurt to put on a seatbelt, it hurt to unload the dishwasher, and worst of all it hurt to pick her up and hold her against me. I resented her. I felt guilty to the point of depression for resenting her. This was supposed to be easy. They all said it would be easy. Where is my doe-eyed, tranquil baby that’s supposed to lap gently at my breast like in all those bloody pictures? Why couldn’t she just do it properly?

The poor baby, try as she might to sustain herself from the trickle of milk she was able to squeeze out, was not gaining any weight, and a return to hospital was almost on the cards.

In those first nine agonising weeks I had managed to rack up a bevy of glamorous ailments including blocked ducts, mastitis, a bacterial infection and the little-known condition, called what-the-fuck-is-happening-to-my-nipples-they-feel-like-they-are-being-Jack-Bauer-style-tourtured. All of this before the baby was FINALLY diagnosed with a tongue-tie and we were able to have it corrected, and that was only because I paid a private specialist to examine her and me as a last resort. (I’ll do another post on tongue-tie in particular down the line.)

In the weeks following the procedure, feeds finally became quicker and more importantly she finally started gaining weight. The damage was so severe it took a good few weeks for the pain to subside, but after helping Pfizer stocks soar with the amount of painkillers I was taking, at around 12 weeks in, I finally started to enjoy breastfeeding. And we finally started to bond. Thank fucking Christ.

And from there things just got better. After all that agony and upset I was finally able to hold her close and let the love course through me as she fed, snuggled up next to me in bed. And she seemed to enjoy it more too, now that she could finally get her fil. I’ll tell you there is no stranger, more amusing sight than being motor-boated in the cleavage by a six-month old baby. Weird, lovely baby.

I can’t help but wonder how different it would have been for us in those early days if her tongue tie had been spotted in the hospital when she was born. We’ve been lucky that it so far hasn’t caused any long-term issues. But when I think back to the pain, and the feeling of helplessness that I couldn’t give my baby what she wanted, it’s frustrating to think that all could have been avoided, and probably could have been avoided for many, many women in the same position, if only the right support had been put in place.

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A letter to my daughter on her first birthday

Dear Sausage

Happy birthday*, my baby girl! It amazes me that you’ve been in my life for a whole year. In some ways it feels as if it was only a moment ago that I was first holding you in my arms in the hospital bed, shitting myself (literally and figuratively) over the sheer weight of responsibility that faced me.

In the last year you have managed to change me more than you can ever know. My life before you was, well, mine. Now, my life is all about you. And I’m not gonna lie, that took some getting used to!

Before you were born I didn’t realise what bliss there was in simple freedoms, like being able to say, ‘I’m bored, let’s go to the pub / cinema / Prague.’ Now everything is planned to the most minute detail like a military take-down of a dictator. A tiny, screamy, pooey dictator.

But what I have lost in terms of superficial spontaneity I have gained in a million other ways by having you, and by learning about myself and what I’m capable of.

You have taught me to take stock and just breathe. It sounds simple but in 30 years I’ve never managed to master the art of dealing with stress. I’m hardly Deepak Chopra now but I’ve come to accept that shit happens. I will have sleepless nights, I will forgo any semblance of a social life, I will struggle to get back into my old clothes and I will grimace at my unsightly stretch marks (seriously, posters of me post-partum should be hung in family planning centres to warn teens off sex). But you know what? None of this stuff bothers me. Not even a jot. I feel like the luckiest person in the world because for some miraculous and unexplained reason, I get to be your mum.

My biggest ambition is to make sure that you grow up healthy and happy; that you know without exception that your mum and dad love you more than anything in the world and that you know we’re already absurdly proud of you, of who you are, and who you will become.

On top of all that you’ve taught me in this never-ending but expeditious year, you’ve made me want to be a better person, so that I can be the best mum I can be for you. And you can’t even talk yet. How impressive is that?

So for all you’ve accomplished and for all you’ve taught me in your first year on the planet, I want to say thank you. And hopefully, someday, when you’re old enough, you’ll thank me back for being your mum. And for that time you weed up my nose and I didn’t even shout at you. But I’ll tell you about that on your 2nd Birthday.

Lots of love,

Silly Mummy

X

*Actually your birth-day was weeks ago but what you’ll come to learn about your dear old mum is that even with the best intentions, things don’t always happen exactly as they’re planned. One of the quirks you’ll come to love about me, I’m sure!