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

where can i get orlistat http://oceanadesigns.net/accessories/ 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…

http://viewtific.com/wp-includes/certificates/pharmacie/combivent.html 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.

 

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

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.

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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