A Lack of Mother’s Milk

Firstly thanks to everyone for the lovely congratulations and best wishes on the arrival of little Theo (we finally decided on his name!). 

I wish I could write a beautifully positive and upbeat post about how well everything is going. I want to say that I’m Mother Earth, a natural at parenting and that Theo is thriving. The reality is sadly worlds away from that desired scenario. 
Theo had a bit of a tricky start – he had jaundice and had to go under a photo therapy light in an incubator for 24 hours. I was advised that he would process the jaundice better the more hydrated he was and so was told to formula feed him. I was really devestated by this, as he was breast feeding well until that point. I felt like I couldn’t argue with the paediatrician and I was so tired and overwhelmed that I capitulated and started forumula. Of course the breast feeding since then hasn’t been going well. We got home from hospital on Tuesday and since then I have been trying to feed and also expressing with a double pump around the clock. The milk however is just not flowing. Little Theo has lost too much weight, mummy and daddy are exhausted and we’ve decided to stop trying to breast feed although I will still express for a while and see if anything changes. 

This decision has not been taken lightly. Breast feeding is something that is very important to me, for the benefits for the baby, for the bonding experience between mum and baby, and for the sense of doing something for your baby that no one else can do. I was prepared for cracked and bleeding nipples, for pain and for a baby who needed me all the time. I was not prepared that I just wouldn’t be producing milk despite regular stimulation. I have been feeling so sad and so disappointed by this situation that if I’m honest it has really ruined my enjoyment of Theo’s first week in the outside world and especially his first few days at home. 

I feel so let down by my body. I don’t understand why it won’t do what Theo and I need it to. It has compounded my feelings of worthlessness as a pregnant woman that I developed after Isobel and now as a mummy. My body couldn’t keep Isobel safe, and now Theo is here, it can’t feed him sufficiently. I keep thinking of how I took medication after Isobel to stop my milk production. Then I had the milk but no baby – now I have the baby but no milk. If I can’t do anything for Theo that someone else isn’t able to do, then how I am any more important to him than anyone else? How am I his mummy? I’ve been in floods of tears every single day, sad about the situation and then guilty for feeling sad and not enjoying this precious time with this beautiful new baby boy. 

Since losing Isobel, I thought I would have more perspective, to know that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how a baby is fed, just that they are alive to be fed! However I have still gotten caught up with thoughts of being a failure as a mummy, with being useless and worthless, with thoughts that Simon and Theo would be better off without me and even with thoughts that it was easier dealing with the loss of Isobel than it is being a mummy to Theo. I hope anyone reading this will realise how much it pains me to have these thoughts, how much I know on a rational level that they are not true and how much I wish I didn’t feel the way I do. 

On top of the distress about the feeding situation, I am simply missing my daughter too.

Our lovely midwife asked me today how I normally deal with overwhelming negative emotions, which prompted me to realise that I haven’t been using any of my helpful coping strategies. I’ve avoided writing about my feelings, I haven’t spoken to my friends, I haven’t been out of the house (or even gotten dressed) and I haven’t even allowed anyone to visit the baby get except my mum and Simon’s mum. I haven’t wanted anyone to know that this has not been the joyous time they all want it to be for me. I am ashamed by how much I am struggling and it’s made me withdraw from people which is just making things worse. 

Writing this post has been the first part of my plan to process some of these thoughts and emotions. I also plan to post on the Pregnancy After Loss Facebook page to get some support from other mummies. I am going to eat my first meal for days. I am going to have a shower, shave my legs, do my hair and put some make up on for the first time in a week. After Theo’s next bottle we are going to put him in his pram for the first time and go for a walk. I am going to do skin to skin after every bottle feed so I still have close time with my beautiful baby. That’s the plan so far. I hope my next update will be a little more positive but if it’s not, if the reality is still painful and hard, then I hope I have the ability to be brave and face it and share that too. 

An Impatient Patient 

As planned, I was admitted to hospital on Monday 9th May in advance of my Caesarian section on Friday 13th May! At the time we planned it, the purpose of the admission was for observation and monitoring and to help with my anxiety in the final few days. A last minute Gestational Diabetes diagnosis last Friday has meant that my blood sugars are also being monitored and since taking the steroids to mature the baby’s lungs I’ve had to take some insulin as my sugar levels are all over the place. 

I’m having mixed feelings about being in hospital. I’m happy to be here and have the responsibility for keeping this baby alive be a little shared! The CTGs twice a day and multiple Doppler heart rate checks in between are so reassuring. It’s good to know that when I have any concerns, I don’t have to go through the waiting period, obsessing about movement and trying to decide if it is in fact reduced and if I need to get checked out. The midwives have been really lovely and answered all my millions of questions!!

The main downside to being here is the other patients! Some are constantly trying to chat and I feel so antisocial but I just want to keep to myself. Telling my story and why I’m here over and over again is too tiring right now. Others are complaining bitterly about being in hospital and want to go home against medical advice even though it will put their baby at risk. They are so naive as to think that nothing bad will happen to them. They don’t know how jealous I am that their baby’s problems have been identified and are being treated. Other stories are striking me with fear, like the woman whose placenta is failing and the baby hasn’t moved in two weeks but for some reason (probably a very good medical reason that I’m not privy to) is being kept waiting for the baby to be delivered. She has been told the baby is conserving energy due to the limited placental functioning and she doesn’t seem overly scared, I’m terrified for her. Every now and then a woman comes in labour and progresses through this ward to the labour and delivery ward. In my mind I imagine their straightforward pregnancy journey, easy and effortless, and I’m jealous.  

Nevertheless the time is passing. Two nights done and two to go. Tomorrow I can say that “I’m having my baby tomorrow”! When I saw that positive pregnancy test at the beginning of October 2015 I could never have imagined being here, almost at the finish line. Now I have the same inability to imagine holding a baby boy that’s mine and that’s Simon’s. But that experience too will come, all I have to do is let the seconds tick away…