The depressing truth | In the media

I recently came across an article that a couple of friends posted on social media recently. The headline caught my eye simply because I related to it – The depressing truth behind mums ‘unable’ to breastfeed. I put together three of the words – depressing, unable, breastfeed – and immediately thought of myself. If you have read my blog before you will know that I really struggled to breastfeed both J & N.

The months after J was born were some of the worst of my life because I was unable to breastfeed. I blamed myself, my body didn’t work properly, I couldn’t provide for my baby. My inability to breastfeed led to an enormous amount of breastfeeding guilt. In turn this led to me developing post natal depression. I mention in the post I linked to for the experience with J, that I had help from the support workers. But that was it. They could see that I couldn’t get J to latch, but they didn’t suggest anything else. Now I see it wasn’t my fault, but is a possibility that J had tongue tie; but nobody could diagnose that because I didn’t know about it back then, and nobody else mentioned it to me. So I gave up before I even really tried.

My experience with N was slightly different in that I tried battling on for longer but we had the exact same problem – his latch, or lack of it. We had help from the NICU nurses when we were in transitional care, but nothing when we were discharged. I refused to give him formula as I was so so scared of developing breastfeeding guilt and depression again. The support workers came out to me a few times for a week or so after he was born, but every time they came out it was the same. They could see he couldn’t latch, but nothing else. We attempted, but no other suggestions, nothing. I was simply told as was said in the linked article, “Stick at it and it will click”. So we stuck at it. It didn’t click. This time though I didn’t blame myself as I know I tried my hardest for four weeks, on my own for the most part. Again, a friend mentioned to me recently that N could have tongue tie too. No-one mentioned anything during support.

So far (fingers crossed) I have gotten away with developing depression because I was yet again unable to breastfeed.

Both times, I believe I really could have done with specialist help. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe it wouldn’t. But just the fact that it would have been a ‘professional’ rather than just support, might have helped me not to become another statistic.

It is so sad and such a shame that there is no specialist help for so many women who really want to breastfeed. It’s okay saying that breast is the best option (which it is, I know), but where is the help, rather than just the support, if women don’t know about it and therefore can’t find it?

Breastfeeding envy

As my regular readers will know, I suffered terribly with breastfeeding guilt after not managing to feed J. Though I only managed to feed N for a few weeks and it was quite upsetting for me to stop even though it was my decision, I haven’t suffered with it half as much. One thing I have suffered with though, is breastfeeding envy.

  1. Envy
  2. Envy is an emotion which “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it” Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the most potent causes of unhappiness. Wikipedia

As the definition above goes, I definitely don’t agree with the latter in this respect – I don’t wish that anyone else lacks it and cannot do it as it is a horrible feeling when you can’t. The former though is certainly true for me.

I so desired to just be able to do it this time. Well, not even ‘just do it’; even if it took a few days. I was still struggling after weeks. It just didn’t come natural to me. Or N. Though the times we did manage it, it felt completely natural.

It upsets me when I see that people that seem to take to it like a duck to water. Like it is so easy for them. Natural. Like they just never get that feeling of failure. That they don’t even have to try.

I realise that maybe, just maybe, they have struggled but don’t tell anyone on the outside. But then there are those who tell everyone just how easy it was for them. (Here I will add that nobody has ever made me feel purposely inferior, it’s just something in my mind that tells me I am).

Every time I see someone breastfeeding, I am overcome with a mixture of feelings. Happiness; that their child is getting the most natural food and that they are doing the most natural thing. Disappointment. In myself, for the fact that I quit, again. Envy. Because one thing that is supposed to be so natural, just didn’t come natural for me when I so desired it to.

I’m not sure I will ever be able to brush this feeling off.

Guilt, yes, in time.

Envy, I just don’t know.

Though perhaps, that will disappear in time, too.

Mummy guilt (and PND)

Mummy guilt is something that I think most of us probably suffer from, for one reason or another. I know I have, with both of my boys throughout the last couple of years (and many more to come, I’m sure!).

One of the first times I suffered – badly – was with my breastfeeding guilt after I failed with J. This partly led to my suffering from postnatal depression. Breastfeeding guilt is a horrible thing to feel, as everywhere you look you are reminded, of how you couldn’t/didn’t provide the best for your baby. I felt like I was being judged, by everyone – the PND made this 100x worse. Even if you feel you made the correct decision, it still creeps in. With J I now know I didn’t make that best decision, which is why I was more determined this time. This time I have suffered, but not nearly as much as I did with J, because this time I know I tried the hardest that I could. This time I am feeling more envy than guilt, which I will write about in a later post.

Giving birth to N and these few first months, I have felt so much love for him and just wanted to be with him all of the time, and he still hasn’t had a night away from me like J did. I haven’t written this before so I am opening up a little more now, but with J – due to the PND – I just didn’t feel that and now I feel so guilty for him because he missed out on so much of my love, affection & attention. At every opportunity offered I would just ‘palm’ him off on someone else. He didn’t deserve that. He was just an innocent child, a child that just wanted, needed, to be unconditionally loved. Gosh, deep down I did love him, but it just wasn’t there, on the surface. And now I’m feeling almighty guilt.

Now I obviously have to split my attention between the two and it’s only just in the last year or so that J has gotten my attention all to himself, and for that I feel guilty as my full attention has disappeared for him again. N will know no different, as he will from the beginning of his life, have had to share it. Don’t get me wrong, I do have one on one time with J now, he needs it. He has always been a child that needs lots of attention, and I often wonder if that’s because I didn’t give it to him for his first few months?

But, they will never know my guilt, unless one day they choose to read my blog. The joy of innocence. I just hope that they both grow up knowing I have always loved them, and always will. That it’s those evil hormones of depression that have made me feel this way, and not them.

They are both innocent.

I am guilty.

Where in your motherhood journey have you experienced Mummy guilt?

Our breastfeeding journey

Though it may seem trivial to some, this for me is a really hard post to write due to my previous breastfeeding guilt with J. 

Breastfeeding is something I really wanted to achieve this time. I had armed myself with information which lovely people had provided, telephone numbers and ready for the support of the local breastfeeding support peers. I (foolishly) convinced myself that I would ‘get it’ this time. That we would get it.

If you have read the posts from the early days after N was born, then you’ll know that it just didn’t happen like that (parts 12 & 3). Even in hospital, as much as I wanted to come home, I persevered. Perseverance worked, as he finally latched and we went home. 

Once we were home I continued to express as I had been doing in hospital. The B.A.B.E.S. came out to check on us and gave me a nipple shield as even though he was latching, it wasn’t good. This was so much better and we continued using it. But even then he was very fussy, so we were mainly giving EBM from a bottle as it was very upsetting for both of us.

For me, I found expressing so time consuming and tiring. Add that to the fact that when I wasn’t attending to N, J required my attention and I couldn’t not give it to him as he is a very clingy child and would get upset easily. And if I didn’t give him attention, by the time I’d finished, N would require me again. This really started getting me down and many tears were shed.

Which led to us starting to give formula top-ups. I think this was my downfall, and where I feel I sabotaged us being successful. Once that had started, it kind of became a downward spiral from there and the formula increased, so N wanted my milk less & less. Which also meant I was producing less & less milk as I wasn’t expressing as much either.

After thinking long & hard, and this time making an informed decision rather than feeling like being partially forced into it, I have decided to switch completely to formula. This time I know it is not poison, and J thrived on it. He is a happy (most of the time anyway!) healthy child. I will not feel guilty. I will try not to feel like a failure again.

But I will feel sad. 

Sad that our breastfeeding experience wasn’t as I imagined it would be this time. But happy that I managed to have a bit of one. I look at it that N has had 4 weeks of my milk, so I have given him the best start in life. I feel like I have given it my best shot this time, whereas with J I had pretty much given up before I’d even started. 

But I feel like I have let down the many people who tried to support me. I really have appreciated all the support, and I thank those people as I don’t think I would have gotten this far if I didn’t have that.

So that’s it, our precious breastfeeding journey is over. 

But I will treasure this photo forever. Something I thought I never would share even if I did succeed at any point. But I am proud.

No guilt, but now it’s the breastfeeding envy I have to deal with (and that’s a whole other post).

Once again, nobody said it would be easy (but then nobody said it would be so hard either).

Home birth, but hospital stay – part 3

You can read part 2 here

Monday 3rd March
I was hoping that we would be allowed to go home today, but as little man #2 still wasn’t feeding directly from me, that was a no go. At this point I once again considered just totally switching to formula so we could go home. But then I remembered how bad it made me feel last time so I got my determined head on and tried to be positive. We could do this. 

Hubby came back to hospital, bringing little man #1 with him. As LM#1 has a short attention span, I suggested that they only stay a couple of hours then go and get some lunch, then come back for another couple before going home for the night. LM#1 was that tired anyway he ventured around the room for an hour (luckily we were in a private side room!), then just fell asleep on Daddy for a while. This gave me a chance to attempt feeding LM#2 again and to have some lunch. When the two men left to get their lunch, I armed hubby with a list of items to bring to see me through the night.

I must have been tired from all of the emotions going through me as when hubby and LM#2 came back, I was fast asleep. Again, they stayed for a couple of hours before going home. This time, I was in tears before they left – so wanted us to go with them. The NICU nurse (the 2nd one now) asked what was wrong – she suspected I didn’t want to attempt to breastfeed anymore. Right now, I really didn’t know what I wanted. I wanted to go home but I also just wanted to feed my baby! It broke my heart when they left because LM#1 was just constantly saying Mummy, so we were missing each other just as much. They went, I had my tea, had a few more tears, then I got on the pump again (as I had been doing after every feed, ready for the next one). It couldn’t have gotten any worse, but then the HCA attempted to ‘help’ me transfer my expressed breast milk into syringes to store in the fridge, and in the process tipped half of one of the bottles all over the floor! I was on the verge of tears, again.

After I’d finished pumping I climbed back into bed and decided to read for a while rather than sleep. My Mum rang me to ask how things were going – I just burst into tears. I had to calm myself down before I told her how I was feeling. I just didn’t want to be here anymore, on my own. She said that she would gladly come for a while to keep me company but by the time she got there guest visiting would be over so suggested father-in-law watch LM#1 and hubby come up, which he did. I just burst into tears when he walked in because I was so upset at the lack of progress, and just with being there.

We had a different NICU nurse looking after us tonight. We were still continuing with the cup feeding, and trying on the breast before a feed. The nurse had gone to get my EBM from the fridge and whilst she was there, I, now reluctantly, tried LM#2 on the boob again. He fussed a bit as usual. And then he latched on (albeit painfully). He fed for 5 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. We had done it. The first time I had ever breastfed ‘properly’. Though I wasn’t getting my hopes up as I already felt like a big fat failure again, and felt it was too good to be true. He still had my EBM which the nurse had prepared though. 

Once again hubby had to leave. The same old routine, me crying. Hoping we would be going home with him tomorrow. I decided to go to sleep this time as I was shattered, and the nurse would be back in a few hours for another feed. LM#2 breastfed again, but the nurse could tell I was still upset as it still felt like such a struggle, and she could just read that I wanted to be at home. She was so lovely, and we had a little chat. She said it was no bother to her whether I carried on with the breastfeeding, or decided to give him formula. I really did want to carry on though. I could have cried because she was so understanding. After this, she decided that she was happy enough that we could now be discharged from transitional care back to the midwives, then it was up to them if we could go home. I didn’t see her again after that, I was left to feed him on my own.

Tuesday 4th March
I was still nervous that the midwife care would want to keep us in – I don’t know why as everything was fine now! I was woken by LM#2 around 6 am wanting a feed, and I couldn’t get back to sleep after this. I had told hubby not to bother coming until I knew what was happening and had let him know. The midwife came in around 9 am and told me that the B.A.B.E.S would be coming to see how we were doing now, and if they were happy then she would come back to check me & LM over and then we could go home. I was so relieved, so happy! I called hubby to tell him the news and he came with LM#2 straight away. We then had to wait for the midwife to officially sign us off.

I wasn’t expecting that I would have to do this, this time; but once again, I finally had that special moment of being able to take my baby home from the hospital.