Monday, 28 November 2011

Where did my dignity go?

Before I got pregnant I was worried about how often I would have to get my bits out to strangers during pregnancy and childbirth. Stories about how women in labour walk the hospital wards naked "because you just don't care any more" and the what I was lead to believe was the inevitable pushing out poo while trying to push out the baby (my main concern about having a water birth) really didn't help.
I was pleasantly surprised that the first time I had to get my 'bits' out was in Triage when I was in labour, the second to see how I was progressing (and it's true by this point I didn't really care), the third when I was giving birth and the last to check if my stitches had got infected. Now my lower bits are back to their low profile existence. My boobs on the other hand...
So my point is I was mentally prepared for what I thought would be the indignities of pregnancy and childbirth and I was pleasantly surprised. What I wasn't prepared for was the loss of dignity after childbirth.
My partner and I have a relationship where the toilet door has always remained closed; there are some things we don't feel the need to share.
In the week after Baby M was born I went through several things that normally I wouldn't talk about, but I didn't want to (and couldn't) go through the discomfort and pain alone.
I could barely stand for the first week: the pressure on my bits was so painful. I could also barely sit or bend because of my stitches. This meant sitting, standing and bending were all difficult and painful.
Going to the toilet was hard as sitting was so painful I basically stood to go for the first week. I could just about manage this alone, but I did feel the need to share some of the more graphic details with my OH (which I'll spare you here).
Other things I couldn't do alone. Like drying myself as I couldn't reach half my body. By the end of the first week I was leaking from my boobs, leaking from my stitches and had heavy lochia. J had to help dry me resulting in exposure to these leaks. Not very sexy. I also had really bad wind and risked wetting myself if I laughed or sneezed. I wasn't prepared for this and I suspect my partner wasn't either.

I'm all sorted now except for the leaking boobs. My boobs can also squirt milk some distance. I'm impressed by this, but again not sexy.

An article in November's Prima Baby & Pregnancy magazine gives the average amount of time couples leave it before having sex after having a baby. This ranges from 2-4 weeks in London to 9-11 months in Leeds. Based on my experience avoiding sex is less likely to be about the pain of childbirth or allowing time for everything to heal and more about how much exposure my partner has had to distinctly unromantic bodily functions. I am now working on keeping quiet, regaining some mystery and one day becoming an object of desire again.

(No photo as I couldn't think of a relevant one that wouldn't be unpleasant)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sleep? I remember that

Baby M's sleep behaviour has changed almost weekly since she was born:
Most of week 1 she slept in the hospital crib or Moses basket at home.
Then for a couple of weeks she would only sleep if held. This meant that she was sleeping on my chest at night. I tried getting her to sleep on her own, but she wasn't interested wouldn't.
Then suddenly she started sleeping in the cocoon from her buggy so I placed that inside her Moses basket. After a few nights I placed her directly in the Moses basket. She slept fine for about a week.
Next she decided that she couldn't sleep lying flat so I bought a reflex wedge for her basket. Until it arrived I was sleeping with my legs in an arched triangle position and Baby M lay on my upper legs at about a 45 degree angle. With the wedge she slept in her basket again.
Around the 6 week growth spurt everything changed again and for the last 3 weeks she has been in bed with me, normally lying on her side between me and the edge of the bed.
(note: we have been doing this safely: she is at no risk of suffocation or being squashed).
Occasionally I have considered getting her back in her basket, but when she is sleeping next to me we both sleep better: I can comfort her when she is fussing without having to sit up or lean over.
Last night we tried something new. On the advice of a friend I bought a cheap cot from Ikea that is designed to allow 1 side to come off. The idea was that I would drill holes to make it the same height as my bed. With my baby brain I managed to drill the holes in the wrong place, then completely ignore them by accident and use the original holes. Whilst I might get round to sorting it out at some point fortunately the end result works just fine.
The cot is sandwiched between my divan bed and the wall (avoiding the need to attach it to my bed). The cot mattress height is 2 inches below my mattress, but this could be a good thing. It means she can't roll out of her bed but we are close enough that she can reach out and touch me.
She slept in there the whole night except for feeds (we are currently on 2 night feeds). I had plenty of space and J could actually fit in the bed again.
Definitely worth the £75 (Ikea Gulliver cot for £60 and the cheapest mattress for £15).
Fingers crossed she sleeps in it for more than a few days...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Recap: Breastfeeding Weeks 1 & 2

Week 1

First let me give a spoiler: Baby M is 2 months old and she has been exclusively breastfed from day 1, but it hasn’t been easy.  We haven’t had thrush and I haven’t had Mastitis (and crossed fingers I won’t) but we have had a whole range of problems and a lot of pain.

Before Baby M was born I didn’t know if I would be able to breastfeed because I had my breasts lifted 10 years ago.  I was really happy when she fed successfully during skin to skin and I thought everything would be ok.  Over the next day and a half the midwives gave me advice on how to get Baby M to latch on properly and we managed ok. Until my milk came in.

A couple of days after Baby M was born I tried to feed her at night and couldn’t get her to latch on.  Being unable to feed your baby in the middle of the night when there is no support available is very stressful.  My OH “J” was really fabulous, he helped look on the internet for help and we very nearly caved and gave Baby M some formula.  In the end J hand expressed some milk for me and she latched on.  Looking back I think my milk had come in and she was struggling to latch on to my engorged boobs.  The following day we managed to feed without problems.

The next night I struggled to get Baby M to feed again.  Again with the benefit of hindsight I suspect that this was because my boobs were fuller at night and harder to latch on to.  In the morning I called the community midwives for help and amazingly one came over within half an hour to watch me feed and give advice (the midwives in my area are fantastic).  She recommended holding my boob in a kinda squeeze to help Baby M latch on, which seemed to work.

For the next few days we managed to feed ok.

Week 2

At a week old Baby M went through a growth spurt.  This meant she was feeding “constantly” as I described on twitter at the time. This started Saturday evening and my Sunday night my nipples were in agony.  By Tuesday I was struggling to feed her because it was so painful.  I remember crying with pain whilst she fed.

I remember one night when she was regurgitating milk (she’s sick a lot) there was blood in her vomit.  This really panicked me until I realised it was my blood from bleeding nipples.

Several people suggested feeding Baby M formula during this hard week for me, but I couldn’t do it.  I had set myself the challenge of breastfeeding and the idea of giving up made me feel like a complete failure as a mum.  I completely support people who choose to feed their babies formula for the many good reasons they may do this, but I just couldn’t get my head passed it being a failure for me.  I suspected that if I gave her one bottle of formula it would be the start of a slippery slope.

In a conversation with a midwife (I’m surprised they didn’t get sick of me) they suggested I try nipple shields.  I know the use of these can be controversial, but for me they were a life saver as they allowed me to keep breastfeeding, well on one side anyway.  On the left side she could feed via the nipple shields without me bleeding.  The first time I fed her on the right side with the shield I looked down and there was loads of blood everywhere: in Baby M’s mouth, around her face and all over me.  I decided I couldn’t feed her like that so for the next week I fed her exclusively from the left side (via the shield) and pumped and dumped on the right.  I didn’t want to risk introducing a bottle so I poured the expressed milk away.

To be continued...

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Baby M had her first set of jabs this morning.  I'm fully in favour of immunisations because I believe the benefits out weigh the risks, but it's still hard doing something which (in the short term) is going to bring your baby some discomfort.

I asked to feed Baby M while she had the injections and I would definitely doing recommend this.  The first injection she came off my boob to briefly squeal and then continued feeding.  I then had to swap sides quickly so the nurse could get to the other leg.  This time Baby M knew what was coming when the nurse held her leg so she started crying in anticipation, but again afterwards she quickly latched on and stopped.  We were asked to stay at the surgery for ten minutes to ensure no major reaction occurred and I continued to feed her during this time.

When we left Baby M went to sleep and she has continued to be pretty sleepy all day, but has woken up to feed and for brief periods when she has wanted cuddles and interaction.  While she has been sleeping I have been checking to make sure she is breathing and I keep checking her temperature.  So far all is ok.

edit 26th Nov: Baby M woke up every 2 hours throughout the night for a feed. At 1.30am she had a bit of a temperature so I gave her Calpol.  The next day she was more grizzly than normal and today she is back to normal.  The only evidence of the jabs is a mild reaction from the plaster adhesive (I get the same reaction).

When Will My Baby...

I love the idea of this website. Obviously all babies are different and parents will interpret things differently (like what is a genuine first smile) but by crowd sourcing this website provides some interesting time scales for different development.

When Will My Baby... Results of our Baby Milestones Survey:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Back to the beginning: My birth story

Warning: due to the nature of childbirth this post may contain too much information.  

My last post before I went AWOL from this blog was the morning of Saturday 24th September.  In it I complained that I was still without child so obviously I went into labour later that day.

Saturday morning I went for a looonnnnnggggg walk and baked chocolate cakes.  Around lunchtime I got a stomach cramps (similar to period pains or constipation).  The pain was pretty constant and got worse through out the afternoon.  At 6pm I was having dinner (slow roast lamb and potato gratin, very yummy) and I noticed that the pain was in waves about a minute apart.  

After dinner I went to lie down with a hot water bottle, but it didn't help much so I had a bath. Tip: Don't use a pink bath bomb as I did, even if it's designed for pregnant mumma's, as it makes your Mum a little worried that you've had major blood loss.  I continued to time the waves whilst in the bath and they slowed down to about 3 minutes apart.  By this point I had decided it probably was real labour. 

When I got out of the bath my OH put the TENS machine on me and I tried to relax expecting a long night and day ahead.  The pain continued to get stronger though and I began to need to focus to get through each wave.  Around 9.30pm I called the labour ward and explained what was going on and asked when I should go in given that the gap between my contractions varied in length, but was never more than 3 minutes.  The midwife said I could be checked in triage if I was worried, but they would probably send me home again afterwards.  So I headed in to hospital.

In triage the incredibly lovely midwife said I was 1cm dialated and that the baby sounded fine.  She gave me co-codamol and suggested I waited around for half an hour for it to kick in. Over the next 20 minutes I paced the corridors with frequent contractions.  I had to push against the wall to get through them and was struggling to stand.  The lovely midwife approached us and said she had got me a bed on the ward as she thought I was in too much pain to go home.

I was put in a room with 3 mum's and their newborn babies all trying to sleep (it was now about 10.30pm).   I continued to use the TENS machine, but I was really struggling with each contraction.  In the end I approached the nurses?/midwives? on the ward and said I needed something for the pain.  They were really unhelpful.  They made it clear that they thought I should be at home.  I told them I was struggling and they eventually offered me some morphine based drugs or a hot shower.  I told them I didn't want the drugs as morphine makes me feel sick.  They told me I had to have them and I would also need an epidural when the time came as I was so bad at managing the pain.  I said I wanted to avoid an epidural if possible and asked if they could give me gas and air and I would have a shower whilst they got it ready.  At this point I began to doubt my ability to get through labour with minimal drugs as I was clearly pathetic.

The shower helped, but I couldn't stay there forever so I headed back to the ward with the TENS machine back on.  They still hadn't set up the Gas and Air so my OH went to chase it up whilst I grunted and swore through each contraction (sorry sleeping new mums).  Soon I was begrudgingly supplied with the gas and air, but I can't say I noticed any benefit from it other than it encouraging me to take long slow breaths.  Where was the lovely light headedness that I was meant to be experiencing?  

The pain increased and I started to need to push.  On one of the contractions I felt myself push out liquid and was worried that I had wet myself so I went to the loo to check.  In the toilet I saw that I had a lot of bloody discharge which worried me so I showed my mum.  She went to get the midwife and told her I had had "the show".  The midwife insisted I put a sanitary towel on so she could see what the discharge was like.  5 minutes later she came back and asked to see it.  I advised that I hadn't had long enough between contractions to be able to put one on, and that my gas and air had run out.  She told me to breathe into the thing any way (trying to suck air out of a vacuum was not going to happen, physics clearly wasn't a strong point for her).  

Eventually the midwife told me to get on the bed so she could examine me.  When she looked the change in her approach was comical.  She became slightly panicked and advised that I was 8cm dilated and I would give birth as soon as my waters broke.  She called another midwife and rushed me quickly down to the delivery rooms.

Things then happened quickly.  My waters broke (all over a midwife) and there was meconium in them (which can be a sign that the baby is in distress).  The baby's heartrate was ok, but they decided I needed to give birth quickly so strongly advised I had an episiotomy.  I agreed as I wanted to avoid an assisted delivery.  I was then told I had to push and I wasn't allowed to make any noise (apparently if I grunted etc I wasn't focussing all my energy on pushing the baby out, but I really didn't appreciate this as I found screaming was helping me manage my drug free state nicely).  At 1.44am Sunday morning my daughter slithered out.

She was taken away to be checked by a paediatrition because of the meconium in the waters, but was quickly brought back having been given the all clear allowing me to have skin to skin.  Once my placenta had been delivered we were left for ages allowing myself and my partner to bond with my daughter and I managed to breastfeed her (I had been unsure whether I would be able to so this was a huge relief). 

After an hour or so the midwife came back to measure and weigh my daughter (7lb 12ozs) and to stitch me up.  She used a local anaesthetic for this but I had to use a lot of visualisation of a beach on a sunny day to get me through it.  The cut was small, but as they have to stitch through 3 layers of skin it took a while.  The good thing about this though was it allowed my OH to hold his daughter for a while and I think they really bonded in this time.

At about 6am we were wheeled back up to a ward and my mum and partner had to go home leaving me to enjoy my beautiful and amazing daughter (well I could hardly sleep could I?).

It all happened so quickly I had no choice about birth position or water birth etc, but in the end the important thing was that my daughter was fine and there were no problems.  First definite contraction to delivery of placenta was 8 hours.  Short and intense, but managed basically drug free.  

I will be eternally grateful to the wonderful triage midwife who didn't send me home (I'm not sure what would have happened if she had).   She came and said hello after the birth as well so I had the opportunity to thank her.

I strongly believe that you have to trust your instincts about what is happening to you during labour.  The midwives on the ward had their expectations about how long it should take and how much pain I should be feeling and I (and my birth partners) really had to push to get them to listen.  I still find it funny thinking about the panic in the midwife's voice when she realised she was wrong :-)

Oh and I didn't poo during labour.  Yay!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A day of 2 halves

AM Update: I'm fed up. 
For 3 weeks now Baby M has basically been feeding, regurgitating her food, sleeping or crying for more food. Actually that's not fair: she has brief happy moments, but I spend so much of my time with her attached to a boob that it's easy to forget. We've really struggled with breastfeeding and I'm really proud we've managed to stick with it exclusively for 8 weeks, but now we are having problems again.  My nipples have finally just about healed from the initial problems, but now she isn't feeding properly from the right side. When she latches on it hurts and I suspect my nipple is cracking again. I refuse to give her formula, but I'm really struggling. 

In addition the last few days she keeps falling asleep whilst feeding then waking up soon afterwards demanding more food. This is a huge struggle at night. Last night I had to feed her in the position she would sleep in and eventually she would be full enough to sleep (this involved some very interesting positioning).
She's feeding really inefficiently so even after 45 minutes on one side my boob isn't empty. 

I also have hardly anything to wear as I need to be able to have easy access to my boobs and everything gets covered in vomit within 5 mins.
I love Baby M, even when she is screaming her lungs out, but I wish I was more on top of things.

PM Update:

This morning I went to the Health Visitor drop in to get out the house and to get some advice.  She said she wasn't worried about Baby M because she is gaining weight, but that she was worried about me. She suggested I go to a breastfeeding drop in to check the latch is ok.
On the way back Baby M fell asleep and stayed asleep for 2 hours (if only I was able to sleep too). In the end I got her up as it had been 3 1/2 hours since her last feed and recently she has been going 2 hours maximum in the day between feeds. 
After feeding her (she was on and off for an hour and a quarter) she was sick 4 times. Her top was completely covered in regurgitated milk (I've learnt there's no point changing her each time as she'll just be sick again). She was happy for an hour and a half then she started crying again so I tried to feed her, but she wouldn't latch on. Eventually after 3 and a half hours she fed again. 

So... this morning I was complaining that she was feeding too often and this afternoon I was worried because she didn't want to feed and how often she'll wake up tonight if she doesn't get enough food during the day. 

I guess as long as I'm a mum I will be worried about my beautiful daughter. 

Blog Silence

Quick recap of the last 2 months:

  • I had a beautiful baby girl
  • I had a nightmare breast feeding 
  • Things got easier
  • Baby M had her 6 weeks growth spurt and things get worse
I'm determined to get back on track with this blog. I did draft some posts in the early days, but didn't finish them so I'll get those posted soon. I promise