If you had had a blissful pregnancy, a trouble-free birth and slipped easily into the world of yummy mummy step away from the screen there’s nothing for you to see here.
On the other hand if you found the whole pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding thing a bit darn hard then open the wine we’ve got bonding to do.
It’s been 15 years since I first encountered pregnancy, but I still distinctly remember the shock as my body morphed into an unrecognisable shape and my emotions went into free fall. At the time I felt I was being perfectly reasonable, although perhaps in hindsight crying hysterically for 30 minutes because I emitted a rip roaring fart and my husband laughed was a tad of an overreaction.
There were moments of amazement and wonder although most were eclipsed by constant all-day sickness (I refuse to refer to it as morning sickness this was a 24 hour-a-day living hell). I was to become familiar with every toilet facility within a ten kilometre radius of anywhere I went.
By the time the birth rocked around I was more than ready, unfortunately my husband was not, he forgot he was supposed to be timing the length of time BETWEEN contractions and started timing the LENGTH of the contractions. Then he lost the car keys. It was like a bad sketch comedy me arguing, him befuddled and a baby on the way! Somehow the keys were located and we got to hospital.
I wimped out of the pain with an epidural (and no I won’t feel guilty about that) and my baby decided to make an unexpectedly quick appearance, after all Mum was pretty relaxed so she figured she just get on with the job. Unfortunately, the placenta didn’t follow the child’s lead and remained steadfastedly stuck to the uterine wall. Doctor went in for a manual removal and so help me I thought her hand was going to come out of my mouth! There was a couple of stitches required (again I’m feeling no pain) but the amount of threading in and out did give me some concern over just how much was being stitched up! (There’s a number of ‘layers’ to get through apparently at least that’s what I think I was told).
What was my husband’s response after sitting through all of this? “I wouldn’t be a woman for quids”. Remember ladies this is the moment to ask for whatever you want.
If that had been where it ended all would have been good. Unfortunately, we had one more challenge to face, breastfeeding. My underweight baby (I think that placenta was a bid dodgy in the last month) had tiny, tiny lips. I had size F hooters. Somehow the coupling was not a happy romance. We tried and tried. We got help from midwives and a lactation consultant. But at the end of the day the mastitis did us in.
I was swamped with a burning, ruby red rash and overwhelming tiredness that left me incapable of caring for my baby. On the third bout I threw in the towel. I hired a giant milking machine from the chemist and did my dairy cow duties for another few weeks with expressed milk and a bottle then went on to formula. Baby and I had never been happier. The best piece of advice at this time was from a nurse at the hospital “really look around the room, can you pick who was breastfed?” If you can breastfeed all power to you, if you can’t, and you know you’ve tried as hard as you can, then formula is not the worst thing you could do to your child.
Fast forward three years and I line up again for child number two. Again my friend the all-day sickness arrives. This time I end up on a drip in hospital more than once. I manage to catch the world’s worst flu which develops into chronic asthma.
Then I wake up one morning, almost three months before the baby is due, covered in blood. I’m convinced I’ve lost her. The desperation and fear are overwhelming.
The next few hours are a blur, the ambulance, the hospital, the specialists, the baby’s not dead, there is a heartbeat. But now unfamiliar words “placenta previa”, “high risk pregnancy”, “emergency caesarean” are echoing around the room.
It turns out that yet again the placenta has let me down. This time it has grown in the lowest part of the womb and is covering all or part of the opening to the cervix. There’s no way a baby can come out that exit!
We spend a month on steroids to build up the baby’s lungs, there’s some smaller bleeds, then another big one. It’s time for that caesarean. There is the certain knowledge that my baby is tiny, she’s seven weeks early, will she be big enough? Will there be complications? You are completely helpless. Reliant on the expertise and judgement calls of a roomful of strangers.
When she arrives she bypasses her parents and is whisked straight to the arms of the paediatrician. There’s a terrifying moment of silence when the world stops moving and then the most wonderful sound in the world – a cry. She’s sent straight to the neonatal nursery where she needs a few puffs of oxygen but essentially we are very lucky. She weighs in at 1750 grams, not much bigger than a bag of sugar.
It is only later, when I see the look of relief on the obstetrician’s face that I realise just how much guess work was involved on when was the right time to deliver. We are so grateful she picked it perfectly.
There’s three weeks in the nursery and the devastation of having to leave hospital without my daughter but she emerges a strong little individual who now, at 12 years of age, is an intelligent, caring and very capable young lady.
Birth and breastfeeding are unique experiences that I don’t think you can prepare for, some will find them beautiful and wonderful, others will struggle, at the end of the day we all manage to muddle our way through. We must all be confident that we can make the right choices for our circumstances.
Written for and first published by Saturday Morning Ogre Mum for a series on birth and breastfeeding stories.