An honest view of motherhood.

Breastfeeding made me a bit bonkers

Bonkers – one of my favourite words. For me it describes a slight mental imbalance without sounding too serious. I would definitely describe myself as bonkers during the start of my breastfeeding journey.

Some people think I'm bonkers

Giving birth to a premature baby has all sorts of challenges, but the main one for me was establishing feeding. To start off with I had a traumatic birth. My baby boy was an undiagnosed breech and I delivered him naturally (yeeouch!). The hospital wanted to do an emergency C-section, but the little blighter was coming way to quickly for that. My waters broke at 8:30pm and I had a baby 3 hours later.

One of the most traumatic things about giving birth to him was that I couldn’t be with him straight away. They whisked him off and he was put in an incubator so they could make sure he was OK. Luckily he was perfectly healthy, and aside from being early, there was nothing wrong with him.  We spent the next 7 weeks in a neonatal unit (intensive care, then special care) patiently waiting for him to cook and be ready enough for us to take him home.

I remember the first moments after they took him away. I was wheeled out of theatre and back into the hospital room and my partner went to see our new baby. He came back into the room to report back to me that thankfully everything was fine and that our new baby was beautiful. I noticed he was holding a bag full of syringes. Weird. He said to me that a nurse said I had to “express”. I had no idea what he was talking about, and neither did he as no-one had explained it to him. They eventually wheeled me to see my baby for a few minutes before transferring me to the labour ward. I laid awake all night in utter shock and disbelief at what had happened.

The next day I got up and ran (hobbled) down to see my baby in the neonatal unit. A nurse asked me if I had started “expressing” and I still didn’t know what it meant. I think the nurse must have noticed that I looked like a little-girl-lost and took pity on me. She sat me down and showed me how to ‘hand express’ my first colostrum. I literally could not believe what was coming out of my nipples! It was like bright yellow puss. It looked pretty gross if I’m honest, but the nurse got all excited and happy and said it was brilliant. She told me to go and fill a 1ml syringe by dripping the colostrum into it bit by bit. I thought there was NO WAY I could fill a whole syringe and I suddenly felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders. She said it was really important that I give this colostrum to my baby as it was full of all the nutrients and vitamins he would have otherwise got in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. PRESSURE. Understanding the importance of what I had to do I went off and got to work. By the next morning I had filled 7 x 1ml syringes. I was like a proud peacock! The colostrum was fed to my baby via a tube in his nose. Heartbreaking, but it felt great knowing I was giving him the good stuff.

7mls of the good stuff

We then got transferred to another hospital and the first thing the nurses asked me was “are you expressing?”. I had never realised how important expressing was, or indeed what is was. They encouraged breastfeeding as soon my baby was ready enough to be held and his suck reflex had kicked in. I ended up expressing with an electric pump every 3 hours to keep up my milk supply and trying every single feed to breastfeed. I am very thankful that I had lots of milk. I couldn’t believe the quantities I was producing. I was producing so much that I was freezing most of it and taking up most of the freezer in the hospital. Also, at times I would get so engorged that the pain was unbearable. In fact, once I ended up in A&E and given morphine because I was so engorged – the milk was going to places it shouldn’t (gross). My baby was being giving my milk via his nose tube and I was constantly working with him to try and breastfeed.

It never happened. He never latched on and I was devastated. I’d worked so hard to keep up my milk supply – expressing every 3 hours around the clock – and still nothing. I thought he didn’t like me and that I couldn’t satisfy my baby. The nurses said he would get it eventually, but he never did.

I carried on trying, every single feed, and expressing every 3 hours for 7 weeks. I’ve lost count of the times I nearly gave up. The support from my partner was amazing and he helped me carry on. In the end we were just so desperate to have our new baby home that we decided to put my breast milk in a bottle and give it to him that way. We eventually got him home on his due date and feeding continued via the bottle.

Expressing started to make me bonkers. The sound of the breast pump would ring in my ears, my back would ache from the position I would have to sit in, not to mention the hundreds of milk bottle labels I had to write (name, date, time). My entire life was all about expressing – it was all-consuming.

I was still very keen to breastfeed, even after all we’d been through. I found support through The Breastfeeding Network and went to breastfeeding groups and eventually, when our baby was 10 weeks old he latched on! I couldn’t believe it. I was crying with happiness. All this time, all this effort, and it was finally paying off. My milk supply was still really good because I’d carried on expressing.

I thought that was that – we were breastfeeding now, woohoo! Haha, how naive was I?! The next 3 weeks were utter hell. You name it, I had it. Sore, cracked, bleeding nipples, Mastitis, milk blebs, blood blisters. Once we even ended up in A&E because the little one was vomiting blood. It took the paediatric nurses and doctors 3 hours to work out he wasn’t vomiting his blood, he was vomiting my blood. OHMYGOD! I was relieved he was OK, but in shock that things had gotten this bad. The pain was gut-wrenching, toe-curling bad, but I kept attending breastfeeding groups and my partner carried on being as supportive as ever. Eventually, things got better and 3 weeks later my baby was feeding like a pro. Feed by feed the pain reduced and finally we began PAIN FREE breastfeeding.

Now I can really say WOOHOO! I’m so pleased I persevered. It’s so amazing to be able to feed my baby and know he’s satisfied. He’s currently 6 months old and constantly gaining weight.

My friends, family and other mothers often ask me why I persevered so hard. I honestly don’t know. I think I felt pressured by the nurses and knowing that breast milk was the very best thing I could give my baby. I know that formula isn’t bad at all and that millions of babies are perfectly healthy being formula fed, but for some reason I had to breastfeed. The feeling was so strong I couldn’t explain it. I think it’s really important to go with your gut instincts on these things, but also know that every baby is different, as is every mother, and at the end of the day, you just have to do what is right for you.


My birth story

The time has come. It was going to happen sooner or later, so you’re just gonna have to put up with it and let me have my air-time. Yes, it’s time to talk about the birth of our baby boy.

It’s a fairly traumatic tale and, to quote one of the nurses, a birth some of them had never witnessed before. If you don’t read any further than this, know these two things:

  1. My baby was an undiagnosed breech.
  2. I delivered naturally and it hurt. A lot.

To set the scene, I must first tell you I had a fairly normal pregnancy. Normal in the sense there were no real problems. At 6 weeks pregnant I had a crazy rash all over my body which they later discovered was shingles, and a week before I gave birth I went to hospital due to a mild panic over some ‘unusual activity’ down below. It was nothing (or so they thought!). Yep, my pregnancy was something I really enjoyed and, looking back, a part of me feels a little disappointed I didn’t make it to the end.

Rewind back to Sunday 10th July at 8:30pm. The reason I so clearly know what day of the week it was is because I always empty my work inbox on a Sunday afternoon, and that’s what I was doing just before my waters broke. I was just 33 weeks pregnant and my waters broke. I could not believe it. We’d just sat down to have a substantial Sunday night tea and BOOM. Yes, it was that dramatic. Like in the movies. It was everywhere and it wouldn’t stop. I should tell you at this point, that during the day we had been at our very first antenatal class at the hospital. We had booked on to a paid-for NCT course at the end of July, but I thought hey, you can’t know too much about this stuff can you, so I dragged my other half off the to freebie class at the hospital. The class was 10am-4pm – we were back at the hospital at 9pm catching the live show.

Back to the waters…Well, they just kept coming. I ran to the bathroom to sit on the loo and then change my clothes. I went through 3 pairs of trousers in about 5 minutes. Nothing was stopping it. Meanwhile, my other half called the hospital and they said, unsurprisingly, to bring me in ASAP. He then set about grabbing a rucksack and chucking anything and everything in it. I think the final result was 3 big towels (bath sheets size) and a pair of trainers. He then asked me how we should get the hospital – drive or get a taxi? I didn’t feel I could help with this decision due to the tricky waters-breaking situation I was in so screamed “YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE THE DECISION FOR US”. We ended up getting a taxi.

I made a rather undignified exit of our flat with a towel rolled up in between my legs. No, not one of the towels from the rucksack, so that made 4 massive towels we were taking to a building where they pretty much have an endless supply of towels.

The taxi driver was very understanding and drove like lightening to get us to the hospital in 10 minutes flat. We ran (I hobbled with towel between my legs) into the hospital and on to the labour ward. We were laughing. We didn’t really understand what was happening or even believe it had anything to do with a baby being born. I can honestly tell you we thought it was just a blip. A setback. Something that we’d get over with a little bit of R ‘n’ R.

The head midwife lady – who, incidentally, looked remarkably like Jimi Hendrix – settled us into a side room. She hooked me up to the machine thingy and put 2 straps on me. One to measure what was happening to me, and one to measure what was happening to the baby. She then skipped off, told me to relax, and said she was going to assign me a midwife. This confused me because I thought she was a midwife, but whatever.

We were stunned, and still laughing a little bit.

I was in no pain, and nothing much was happening other than my waters kept coming, albeit much slower. There was also a slight tightening of my tummy. The machine was printing out 2 wiggly lines. All looked fairly consistent so we weren’t worried. And we were definitely NOT having a baby, oh no.

9:30pm. Jimi Hendrix came back to check on us. We asked her if I was in labour. She said they were waiting to see but try and relax. Haha, try and relax. Funny. No really, it was funny. We were giggling at this point. And I was still in no pain. The lines on the print out were getting a little bit more wiggly and I could feel my tummy getting a bit tighter. Even though all this was going on, I was still not having this baby, oh no.

Next came the examination of the baby. They felt all around and suddenly I felt a slight panic in the room. They told me the baby was breech. Very strange considering I’d been checked just 2 weeks before and was told the baby was in the correct position. I’d also just like to add that at this point, they still hadn’t confirmed I was in labour.

9:45pm. My tummy was getting a little bit tighter and now I had a dull ache, like a period pain. Ooof, I thought. That hurt a bit. The wiggly lines were getting closer together.

10:30pm. More people came in the room and now we’re thinking, hmm, this maybe looks like I might be in labour. I know I know, it seems obvious now you’re reading about it, but seriously, we didn’t think we were having this baby. I’m pretty sure this is what mental health professionals would call ‘complete denial’.

10:45pm. The surgeon came in, with Jimi Hendrix, and tells me I’m in labour and because the baby was breech I had to have an emergency C-section. Hmm, no. No, I didn’t want a C-section so that wasn’t going to happen. I actually hadn’t given much thought to what sort of birth I wanted, but I had a very strong instinct all of a sudden that I didn’t want a C-section, and some guy telling me I was going to have one did not compute. They continued to monitor me and my other half was watching what we then knew were contractions. I was having contractions every few minutes and they were now getting owowow.

I was examined and told I was 3cms dilated. 3cms was enough time to get me ready for the C-section I didn’t want and deliver this baby. All the while we both strongly believed that we weren’t having this baby, oh no.

11pm. OWOWOWOWOW. The sensation to push was overwhelming. my contractions were happening every few minutes and they gave me some gas and air. I couldn’t seem to coordinate sucking and blowing the gas and air whilst having contractions so really, it was a bit of a waste of time. They examined me again and I was 9cms dilated. NINE. How the hell did this happen? From 3cms-9cms in about 10 minutes – CRAZY. My other half was helping me to breath and some nurses were trying to get DVT socks on me. I had to sign a consent form (mid-contraction) to say I was happy to have a C-section. I was not happy, but I scribbled on the paper anyway.

My memory form this point onwards gets a little sketchy, but I know that the sensation to push was something out of my control. The many people in the room were screaming “don’t push don’t push”. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in labour, or know anything about it, but you can’t not push. It’s impossible. It really is impossible.

11:20pm. They told me someone was in theatre so I’d have to hang on. Hahahahaha. “Don’t push don’t push” they were screaming. I was screaming “the baby’s coming the baby’s coming”. Oh dear, things were getting tense. I then heard beeping and a lot more people came into the room.

I had somehow found a position on the bed I could cope with, which was on my right side. This didn’t fit in with how they wanted me to lie on the bed so kept trying to turn me on my back. Every time they pulled me on my back, my body sprung back on my right side. I wasn’t being deliberately difficult, my body just took over and started doing what it wanted. I had also developed a sort of on-the-bed-march, like I was in a marching band, but lying down. Highly inconvenient for the poor nurses trying to put those DVT socks on me – I ended up kicking them in the chest a few times. And the noise I was making resembled that of the noise you heard if you’ve even seen the movie Jurassic Park – you know, the noise the dinosaurs make in the distance? My other half said I turned primeval. I couldn’t make that noise now if someone paid me.

11:45pm. A nurse came in the room to tell us that theatre was now free and we could go in. Like lightening, they wheeled me into theatre (still on my right side, marching/kicking, half hanging off the bed) to get me ready for my C-section. They were still screaming “don’t push don’t push”. I really was trying, but nothing was stopping this baby. It was coming and that was that. I kept telling them they didn’t have time to do a C-section, but they kept screaming “don’t push”.

11:50pm. The room was chaotic. There were about 17 people, all shouting and busy, and there was me on the table, legs in the air telling them a baby was about to come. At this point the surgeon shouted “EVERYONE QUIET”. Gosh, it was like a teacher telling off a room of naughty kids. He said he only wanted to hear me, my other half and Jimi Hendrix. He examined me again and I’ve no idea what he did, but he somehow manipulated the baby. He didn’t turn him to the correct position, just flipped him clockwise. Then he said “I think I can deliver this baby”.

11:51pm. Whaaaaaat? The realisation was hitting me that I was actually having a baby and that I was going to have to deliver it naturally. The surgeon went on to say that on the next contraction he wanted me to push. Suddenly, the entire room went from shouting “don’t push” to “PUSH!”. I took this as my cue to get down to business. My screaming stopped and I put my chin on my chest (on the instruction from Jimi) and on the next contraction I pushed.

Midnight: Like magic a little foot and bottom came out! I could not believe it. All I could hear was the room shouting “PUSH, PUSH” and all I could see was my other half close up on the right hand side of my face, and Jimi on my left. Jimi said to me that on the next contraction she wanted me to really push. I said to her “am I actually having a baby?”. She said “yes, yes you are”. My other half tells me I screamed quite a few expletives throughout my labour, but the only one I actually remember is at this moment when I said, “SHIIIIIT!”.

12:06am. On the next contraction I pushed with all my might and the rest of my baby came flying out, like a torpedo. The whole room cheered and clapped. I saw a baby, all tiny, blue and shriveled. They put the baby on my chest for a millisecond and then whisked it away. My other half found out the sex of the baby and told me it was a boy. A BOY!

12:07am. Then I couldn’t hear anything. It was like silence descended on the room and I was worried for the very first time. It took a whole minute for my baby to breath. I heard a gasp of air and tiny whimper of a cry, and then I burst out laughing! I went into hysterical laughter which lasted about 5 minutes.

They then started to work on him. Initial reports were that he was fine and breathing on his own. They took us back to the side room where we had begun, both in utter shock and disbelief. We didn’t know what the hell just happened, and we had no baby with us. It was very hard to compute. Everything was so quick, so painful, and we had no baby.

My best friend came to the hospital and brought things I actually needed (I had called her whilst in the labour I didn’t know I was in), and we waited for further news. My other half went off to see our baby and came back to report to me he was beautiful and healthy.

We had no idea how big an adventure we were about to start, but I was just so thankful that, even though he was born early, he was a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

I just want to end by saying thank you to the nurses, midwives and surgeon at UCH hospital in London, and in particular, Jimi Hendrix – you were absolutely amazing.


%d bloggers like this: