So it's been quite a while since I posted here, three months or so. And a crazy, hormonal, love-filled three months they have been. I'm very happy to introduce our daughter, who arrived a leisurely 10 days past her "due date" and made the boy a very happy and proud big brother. Here's a few thoughts of mine from the last three months, on birth, motherhood and life blah blah blah!!
The female body is truly amazing, capable, powerful and strong. We women are not generally encouraged to believe this; from a fairly young age there is a commercial interest in us believing the opposite is true, from cosmetic companies to those pushing us to try different diets. So much of the hype around pregnancy, birth and early motherhood focuses on the negative and almost all the images any of us see of birth lead us to believe it is an intensely painful and difficult experience. I had a pretty good experience birthing the boy, and I feel lucky that I was able to approach it this time with the assurance that my body could do what needed. I am once again eternally grateful to my yoga teacher, Lucy at Portsmouth Yoga for teaching me to use my breath and giving me the confidence to have an entirely unmedicated birth. Oxytocin really is the most incredible hormone, and with fantastic support from PLH and my midwife the birth was a really peaceful and powerful experience. Bringing a whole new human into the world made me feel like the strongest person on the planet!
A big baby does not warrant any sucking of teeth, "ouches", "ooh, I bet that was sore" comments (accompanied by a grimace) from well-meaning friends, family and anyone else who may ask. The inference that anyone is thinking about your vagina when you've just given birth is entirely unwelcome (particularly on a Skype call with the in-laws!). Fact. Incidentally, all those cute baby grows and vests... All too small after about 5 days!
The babymoon... A phrase has been used to describe a pre-baby holiday taken by many pregnant couples, but I mean those first days with a new baby. I've spoken with friends about this a lot, and the general consensus is that those precious days you will never get back. I fully intended to sit around in my PJs with my boobs out, bonding with my baby and establishing breastfeeding. This was mostly how the first 10 days or so went and it definitely helped me recover from the birth and get to know the baby. PLH took care of everything around the house and we mostly kept visitors away. For the boy I think it really helped him acclimatise to our new family of four and I loved sitting around cuddling them both and reading a lot of stories! The only unwelcome interruptions to this blissful babymoon were the routine visits we had to make back into hospital for the midwife checks. I'm pretty sure that last time round they came to us, and it seems to be a sad result of cutbacks that midwives can no longer make these home visits, instead requiring women in the early postpartum period to drag themselves into public when I for one would far rather have been at home.
Breastfeeding is a subject I feel so passionate about, and for most of us good support is essential in establishing and sustaining breastfeeding. Although I nursed the boy for nearly 2 years, the early weeks were agony and it was 8 weeks before I realised that he had a tongue tie (which was later divided). I never thought that our journey would last so long and we only weaned when we did so that I could go through IVF again. I was lucky enough to be supported by a wonderfully nurturing La Leche League group which opened my eyes to so many aspects of the nursing relationship and totally normalised "extended breastfeeding" for me. Not long after birth my little girl found her way to the breast and latched on, and I could tell almost immediately that she had a tongue tie; it felt so similar to the way it had with the boy. We stayed in hospital for a few hours after the birth, during which time a fair few midwives and maternity support workers had a look and declared nothing was wrong. Luckily the midwife that discharged us agreed there was a problem but informed me that the Infant Feeding Advisor was on leave and I wouldn't be able to see her for at least 2 weeks! 2 weeks - I wonder how many women would be forced into alternative feeding in that time. I decided to seek help from Julie, a lovely local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) who came to our house and assessed and divided the tie. I feel very lucky that we knew about this and were able to seek help from a IBCLC but so many women are not in this position. It is a sad truth that despite generally excellent midwifery care in and around Portsmouth, there is insufficient expertise to consistently help women and babies establish and maintain a nursing relationship in difficult situations, particularly where tongue tie is involved. Finally, I think I was surprised that it took a little hard work for the first few weeks in terms of getting a good latch and getting the hang of it again. But when I look down at my milk drunk baby snoozing by my breast, or she cracks a smile as she gazes into my eyes when latched on, oh it's so worth it!
Love is really boundless... Before the baby was born I really did wonder whether I would be able to love her as much as the boy; well I can and do - it really is amazing and just as all my friends had reassured me. Two is hard work, crazy busy and totally wonderful. I have been blown away by the boy's ability to deal with no longer being an only child; in general he has shared our time and attention with willing and love. But the sling is a total lifesaver.
The birth of my first child instigated an overwhelming emotional change in me. I was overcome by love for the boy and I enjoyed our time together but I think also I was often on edge about making the "right" decisions, unsure of myself as a mother and not entirely sure who I was anymore. My choice to give up work was something I struggled to admit to - for me the "stay at home mum" label wasn't something I was entirely comfortable with. Although being a full-time carer for my children was something I really wanted to do, I didn't like feeling as though people might see me as less intelligent or less interesting than a mother that returns to work. I love politics, current affairs and stimulating and varied conversation and hated that people might think my chat may be limited solely to baby pooh. From an egotistical point of view, there is no one telling you that you're doing a good job every day, you don't get appraisals that sing your praises or seniors expressing gratitude for the work you're doing. That took quite a bit of getting used to (despite PLH's frequent assurances that I was doing great!). I'd say it took well over a year after the boy was born before I really knew who I was again, and felt truly comfortable with myself. This time around it's been different - I'd already become used to myself as a mother and I am so much more confident in my ability to know what is best and trust my instincts - it really is so liberating!
Well, that was quite a post - somewhat longer and slightly more ranty than I planned but hey ho! I'm off to cuddle that baby of mine!