Monday, 23 January 2012

2 Weeks Old

MUMMY

I need to start this post by asking for your patience. Today is my first day on my own with my little man and apart from being utterly terrified, it's extremely difficult to find time even to get dressed properly never mind write an awesome blog entry so this will no doubt be written in snatched moments with minimum editing. I thank you in advance for your understanding.

So, this was the second week at home with Dalton and it turns out the end of last week - after the initial euphoria had subsided, the extreme lack of sleep caught up with me, the excruciating activity that is breastfeeding took its toll and when things started to become very challenging - was just an aperitif for the week that was to come. Or perhaps this week is just an aperitif for the few weeks that are to come. Lordy, I hope not, but one thing is clear, this week was tough. Really tough. This week, without a doubt saw my experiencing the lowest day of my entire life and I really hope that that day, which I will be referring to as 'Resentment Day', remains the most depressing day of my life because I'm not sure how many of those I could go through.

During the middle of this week, I really started to understand how it must feel when women go through post-natal depression. I can only imagine it is like going through a day like I did on Wednesday, day after day, for months on end and, frankly, I don't know how those poor ladies get through it. I mean, my week has been really tough for me - for all of us - but I'm well aware that it is just the usual kind of toughness that all new parents go through and nothing even close to post-natal depression.

I realised this week that I probably don't have the best kind of personality for motherhood. Let me expand. I think I have the right kind of personality to make a very good mummy but I don't know if I have the right personality to make a very happy mummy, at least not in these early days. (baby crying - moving to one-handed) The problem is that I am a complete perfectionist and feel most comfortable when in control of situations which, for the most part, I usually am. I also tend to set very high standards for myself and feel very disappointed when I don't achieve them. Now, there is no way you can get this new mum thing perfect, no matter what kind of super hero you are, and I knew I was never going to be remotely in control of a new baby as well but no matter how much you tell yourself that and try to prepare yourself for it, you can't just change your personality in a few months and suddenly start being comfortable with being out of control after 35 years of not being comfortable with it. Finally, I knew it would be challenging in the beginning but the very least I expected to be able to do for my child was clothe him, keep him warm, keep him clean and feed him - the absolute basics - so, when it became apparent that feeding my own child was not turning out to be as easy as I had expected, I didn't just feel disappointed, I felt like a complete and utter bl00dy failure.

I don't want to go on only about breastfeeding for the next few posts but I will talk about it a bit more as it was, once again, the defining activity of the week and, more importantly, not enough people speak openly about how tough it is which gives the (now known to be false) illusion to new mummies like me that every other mummy in the world is happily breastfeeding away with no problems whatsoever so I am making it my business to make sure that any other new or soon-to-be mummies who read this know that this is definitely not the case.

(several hours later but back to two-handed)

Leading up to the hellish day that was Wednesday, I was still feeling like I really needed to continue to try to breastfeed despite the pain not only not getting better but actually getting worse and I really didn't want it to beat me. I kept thinking, any day now, the scars will heal and I will be able to do this without being in agony and it just wasn't happening and by Wednesday, I was in absolute agony and couldn't feed without sobbing in pain all the way through it and the little fella just seemed hungry all the time so I was pretty much doing this and nothing else all day. Ron, fortunately, although working, was working from home so could take Dalton from me for the few moments that I wasn't feeding but for some reason (well, probably due to lack of sleep, the pain of recovering from a major operation and the whole 'hormones being all over the place now my body wasn't supporting another body' thing) I just couldn't stop sobbing. And I mean inconsolably sobbing. I have never cried tears like that before and I hope never to again. All day, I was sobbing and at some point or another throughout the day - Resentment Day - I pretty much resented everyone and then felt very guilty for doing so and it was just constantly like this all day.

Firstly, I resented Ron for not being able to breastfeed himself (especially with those moobs) or share the load of any of the pain or discomfort I had been through over the past few months. I resented him also when he begged me to stop trying to breastfeed and just give Dalton the bottle and didn't understand why I felt I had to go on and push through it. Then I felt terribly guilty as of course it isn't Ron's fault that Mother Nature had chosen the stronger sex to deal with all the baby pain related activities. And of course it was understandable that Ron wanted me to stop breastfeeding - it was making everyone miserable!

Then, I resented my parents for wanting to come and see their grandson the following day because I just wasn't ready and wanted to sob in private if I was to continue being in agony trying to breastfeed and then I felt very guilty about that as all they wanted to do was see their grandson, which was totally understandable.

Then, I resented all my friends for not being more open about the pain of breastfeeding and letting me know how many of then, it turned out, had struggled also and switched to formula feeding fairly early on. If only I had known that lots of other people struggled and that it wasn't just me, I might not have felt like such a terrible failure when I was struggling so much with it. And then I felt terrible for resenting them as so many of them had sent me wonderful messages of support and really helped me to get through the day and it was only because they had been kind enough to do so that by the end of the day, not only did I realise I wasn't alone, it seemed I was actually very much in the majority.

For a moment, I resented my beautiful boy for sucking so hard and continually falling asleep on the boob so much that he was making me bleed and very quickly then felt terrible for resenting him as he wasn't making me feed him that way and he is such a gorgeous little ball of wonderfulness that my continuing on meant that he was still hungry and not getting the food he needs so no wonder he was so fed up

I even resented my cats for demanding attention from me whilst I was sitting in agony trying to feed my child and then I felt terrible because I realised I hadn't fed them all day as I had been so focused on the breastfeeding alone. The poor little fluffballs - it must be very confusing for them to be spoilt so much by me and then virtually ignored.

Most of all though, most of all, I resented myself. And I didn't feel terrible for it. I resented myself for putting all three of us through such a horrific couple of days because of my obsession to try to crack breastfeeding and by the end of the day, I swore that I wouldn't do this again.

That horrible day was quite a turnaround for all of us (I often find I need to hit rock bottom before I can start picking myself up again) and I honestly couldn't have got through it without the support of so so many wonderful friends and the power of the book of face. It was overwhelming the support I received after a small cry for help and this is when I discovered that hardly any of my friends had managed to exclusively breastfeed, particularly those with boys, and that so many of them had felt the same as I did about formula due to what the midwives, health visitors and the breastfeeding nazis, as many people refer to them, make you feel about it but most of them had switched eventually to formula feeding and felt a lot happier for it. One of my friends wrote saying how she felt like she was putting poison in her child's mouth the first time she gave in and used formula and I knew exactly what she meant as I felt the same. It's strange as no one actually says to you, 'don't use formula, it's not good for your child' but the message is very much that 'breast is best' and the common message would be worded as something like, 'if you want to give your child a good start in life, exclusively breastfeed', which, if you are vulnerable, exhausted and so confused about what to do for the best with this new little life that you suddenly have to look after, you hear / read that as, 'if you give your child formula, you are not giving them the best start in life'. Obviously, that message is enough to make any loving mother try to push through the pain but the point is that there has to be a balance. I read so many things stating that it is not true that some women don't produce enough milk to feed to their baby's demands, they just need to feed more until their body knows how much to make. Some articles recommended have a 2 - 3 day 'breastfeed-in' where you literally do nothing but feed for a couple of days to get your body going and your baby used to feeding from the b00b and I thought OK, hold on a second, this is getting ridiculous. I've no doubt that I could probably have pushed through the pain eventually and produced enough to satisfy my very hungry boy but at what cost? At the expense of being able to do pretty much anything else. What about the benefits of having a happy mummy and daddy? What about not being so consumed by feeding from the b00b that mummy and daddy can go out for a walk in the fresh air? What about having a life still?! I mean, this article is a perfect example of the kind of ridiculous message that is forced upon us ladies at the most vulnerable time of our entire lives. When I read it now with a slightly clearer head, it reads as though it has been created by a crazy evangelistic person - the type of person I would normally just feel sorry for, not listen to!

By the end of Wednesday evening anyway, I gave in and decided that the trying to exclusively breastfeed just wasn't going to work for me and that I would express as long as I could until my milk supply dwindled (expressing doesn't hurt me at all so this seemed like the perfect solution - baby still got b00b juice and mummy wasn't in pain - but then I discovered that the milk supply would run out all together with exclusive expressing eventually - apparently after about 12 weeks), supplementing with formula whenever we ran out of my b00b juice and then, when it had all gone, switching to formula all the time. This is working much better and my biggest challenge is trying to find 20 minutes when I can express and Dalton is settled but when I can, I can produce a 4oz (125 ml) bottle of formula in about 20 minutes and I consider it quite a personal achievement! OK, so I feel like Daisy the cow and I couldn't do this for more than about 12 weeks either as it is very time consuming (sterilising bottles and breast pump equipment, feeding, pumping and so the cycle goes on) and I want my little boy to do more than have to stay in while I obsess about producing b00b juice, but it is a solution that works for me, works for him and eases any residual guilt I had. The main thing I learnt from that horrible day was that every baby is different, every mummy is different and everyone must find a feeding option that works for them and that there are many more ways than just the b00b to feed your child.

I had one last go at it after arranging for a breastfeeding counsellor to do a home visit on Sunday and she really helped me to find a better position but after 4 hours of solid feeding, a starving child and the return of the waterworks, I swore that that really was it and I would never do that again to any of us.

So, a special thank you to all of you who were kind enough to write to me and tell me your story. It REALLY helped. And please, no more apologies for giving me advice. Anything I said in the past about advice can now be disregarded. When it comes to being a mummy, I have never felt less confident so I will take all the advice I can get now.

Talking of confidence, this is one of the things I have struggled with so much the last couple of weeks. There really is nothing like a child to make you feel pretty sh1tty about yourself. I find myself on such unfamiliar ground as at work, in the home, in life generally, I am very confident about my own abilities and I am good at stuff. I am good at quite a few things. I am very decisive and have no problem making snap decisions (sometimes a bit too snappy admittedly!) and then all of a sudden I find myself questioning every single thing I am doing and asking Ron ridiculous questions like whether or not I should change my baby's nappy when he has just shat himself so hard it has come through his babygro (Dalton I mean, not Ron). I know the answer to this question is yes so why am I double-checking everything and feeling like I just can't get anything right when in the space of ten minutes I get puked on, dumped on, weed on and sneezed on (checking then of course for any other orifice I might have forgotten about) when actually this is just a normal part of being a parent. It was starting to get silly so whilst absolutely terrified about it, I was sort of relieved when Ron had to go back in to the office today and I had to start coping on my own as I know the answer really and if I don't, it's because there isn't an answer and you just have to wing your way through it. It turns out that this is exactly what parents have been doing for years and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it horribly wrong but we do our best and at the end of of the day, if our children are fed, watered, clothed, sheltered and reasonably content, we're doing OK! I also couldn't help thinking it might be good for Ron to get away from such an emotional wreck for a day as it can't have been nice to be around me these past few days.

As we move towards the third week now, I finally feel like we are starting to slightly turn a corner. We will still have many more bad days as well as good ahead I'm sure but I have made a decision to not keep beating myself up all the time because I don't know what I am doing. No one knows what they are doing and most people struggle a lot in the first few weeks, even if on the surface they look like they are coping wonderfully well - most of them just don't enjoy as public a meltdown as I do!

So, other than the b00b issue, we have managed to get out and about a few times this week. Little man is now registered and officially exists and Ron and I managed to go for a few short walks to the high street / Tesco's etc. with Dalton and we even managed to have lunch in our local pub without me feeling incredibly anxious about breastfeeding as I bottle-fed him instead. Now I'm going to be on my own a lot of the time, I am going to try to build up the visits out of the house, just little by little until I am confident out and about with the little guy. I know it won't come straight away but I am going to take it slowly and not try to take on too much. Ultimately, the most important thing is that the three of us are a content family so whatever it takes to make that happen is what I will do.

I will end this week's post with some more photos of my little ball of gorgeousness and look forward to updating you all with a hopefully much more positive post next week.

Thanks though, all of you (you know who you are). x

Smiling (alright, pushing one out)
All wrapped up after his first bath

Out and about

Mummy trying to master her new hands-free device

Current Symptoms:
  • Very light vaginal bleeding
  • A restored botty
  • Area of numbness above caesarean scar
  • Weakened but improving lower tummy muscles
  • Recovering boobies after a couple of days without abuse
  • A tendency to cry lots!

DADDY

Again, Daddy is flat out looking after all of us and working very hard. He's a saint and is coping very well with his crazy fiancĂ©e.

DALTON

I've not had a bad week all in all. I've been out and about a few times and except for the day when it was REALLY windy on my face, I quite enjoyed looking at all the sights in the outside world - even if they all appear black and white to me right now.

The only thing that is getting me down a bit is that I keep telling mummy and daddy exactly what is wrong with me (I normally wail this extra loud to make sure they hear) but they don't seem to be getting it. I tell them I just want a cuddle, mummy tries to feed me. I tell them I need a dump and am struggling to push one out, mummy tries to feed me. I tell them I am tired and quite fancy a lie down, mummy tries to feed me. Honestly, I hope they get a bit better at translating my screams soon!

Mummy seemed very upset the first half of the week, I don't know what it was all about but she seemed a lot happier by the end so I hope that continues as it was no fun for me either when she was sobbing all the time. I was like, get a grip, woman. I've just been cut out of a person, talk about traumatic, what's your problem?

Anyway, I'm just trying to take things in right now. There's a lot to take in and there's a lot of eating, pooping and sleeping to be done too!

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