For a long time I thought that ‘meal-prepping’ was reserved for enthusiastic gym-goers who needed to monitor their calorie and protein intake by way of steamed greens and creepy, pale chicken and sad brown rice. HOW WRONG I WAS. Since having Hunter, I have gained […]
For a very long time, my family has found it extremely hilarious and entertaining how punctual, organised and time-aware I am. Where my brothers and mum are relaxed and keen believers of ‘going with the flow’, I am the stark opposite. I would rather be […]
I am so excited and humbled to introduce you all to my beautiful friend, Jess. Jess and I met through the Peanut app when our babies were two months old. If you aren’t familiar with Peanut it is essentially Tinder for new mums. Jess and I both swiped right and since then we have seen each other at least once every week and we talk every day. I cannot express enough gratitude to this incredible woman. Not only does she know exactly what I am going through – as her gorgeous daughter Imani is only a week younger than Hunter – but she has taught me so many things about my own son, about my body and about life. She is a nurse and has plans to move her career in a direction which will see her helping mamas everywhere. For her inaugural post, Jess has penned a piece on breastfeeding which is something she is an absolute boss at. Jess, you are incredible and Hunter and I adore you.
Breastfeeding: beautiful, natural, relaxing, nurturing, beneficial. Also painful, stressful, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and lonely!
Unfortunately, not many people like to mention the latter part. If you’re a new mum, with a tiny baby and swollen boobs, I totally see you! I see you second guessing yourself, feeling as though you’re failing, questioning your instincts and not knowing what the hell you’re doing.
I was that mum only eight months ago. I had my gorgeous girl on the 15th of February 2019, and after a twenty-two hour labour we were both exhausted.
“Okay, time to feed her,” said the midwife. Ok, yes. Breastfeed. Should be easy enough right? I just gave birth so of course this will be easy in comparison! Latch baby on. Ouch. Try again. Nothing. Hand express (get yourself milked by two midwives at 3am). 0.2ml. Feed baby. Ouch. Repeat. One nurse told me I would just end up putting her on formula because my milk output was so low. Knowing what I know now, it actually wasn’t low! It was because we had a traumatic birth, blood loss and a poor latch.
Sadly, there really isn’t a lot of support for new mums. Breastfeeding was the one thing throughout my pregnancy that I was committed to doing. I joined all the breastfeeding Facebook pages, attended all the breastfeeding classes, bought all the nursing pads, haaka, hospital grade pump and bottles shaped like a boob (just in case of course).
So, when I had my baby girl and breastfeeding didn’t come easily I was devastated and broken, but determined. I made a goal to feed her for a week. After losing more than 10% of her body weight in the hospital, we were only allowed to be discharged once we agreed to a strict feeding plan of breastfeed, top up feed, pump and repeat. So I would feed my newborn for 30 minutes, top up approximately 20-30mls of expressed milk or formula, then pump for 30 minutes. If you have ever had a newborn, you can probably appreciate that once that whole exercise was completed we were back to step 1 again. Add all the washing of bottles and pump parts and pumping at midnight/3am/6am, I honeslty felt defeated. I even asked my husband, “Why am I doing all this? I may as well just bottle feed her.” He told me that I had made it this far and just to give it another week – he knew how important breastfeeding was for me.
At two weeks old, I had an appointment at the local breastfeeding clinic to have her weighed. She had finally gained weight. I decided to cut out the top ups (I still pumped up to 3 times a day some days) and trust my body. By the next weigh in at a month old, my girl had put on a whole kilogram! Wow, what a feeling. I was so happy! And proud of my body.
My next goal was to breastfeed for two months, then three months, then six months, with my ultimate goal being a full year of breastfeeding. Now we are eight months on our journey with no end in sight and I am so happy that I pushed through. It is the most amazing feeling to know that my body created and grew her, and has now nourished her and continues to do so.
I feel like finding that nurse who undermined my body’s ability to feed my child and show her my healthy eight month old, as well as my eight litre stash of milk in the freezer. I’d also like to introduce her to the six mums I have donated over sixteen litres of milk to via informal milk donation. That’s right, the young mum with no milk has gone on to donate EXCESS milk! How? Well, through my fear of “losing my milk” I kept up pumping.
Still, to this day, I pump once a day, or every second day, and freeze. Once I reach a surplus of milk, I look for a mum in need. I donate my milk via the human milk 4 human babies – NSW Facebook page. There is one set up for every state in Australia. It is an informal milk donation page whereby mums with excess milk, or mums needing milk can post and help each other. Due to its informal nature, there are no laws surrounding this and thus there is a lot of stigma.
“What if the mum takes drugs/is sick, etc.,” is something I hear a lot. All I can say is that milk donation is a very altruistic act. We take time from our families to pump, bag, freeze and deliver the milk, all for no gain (except that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you help someone). Essentially, what I’m saying is – why would we do all that to intentionally hurt another baby?! On top of that, us mums are also feeding our own thriving babies and that is evidence in itself.
So, new mum. I see you.
I know how hard it is, how the nights feel like they will never end. The sore, cracked nipples. The leaking, engorged boobs. The “do I have enough milk/my boobs feel empty/she’s hungry again?!” thoughts.
My advice to you all is this:
1. Surround yourself with people who support you and your breastfeeding relationship. The last thing you want to hear when you’re already struggling is, “just give her a bottle”. You need that village that will look after everything else so you can skin-to-skin with your baby and feed, feed, feed.
2. When in doubt, whip it out. Crying baby? Boob. And literally everything else. Don’t worry when people say you’re spoiling your baby (um, isn’t that the whole point?!). Especially for the first three months AKA the fourth trimester.
3. Drink plenty of water (3-4 litres a day!) and eat healthy nourishing foods. What you eat definitely has an effect on your milk supply. Galactogogues AKA milk producing foods like brewers yeast, oats, lentils, chickpeas, barley, malt, etc., are great. Milo (for the malt), Powerade (for the electrolytes) and porridge (for the oats) are good to have on hand.
4. Social media and online support. Join the Facebook pages like: The Australian Breastfeeding Project, Breastfeeders in Australia, The Australian breastfeeding association, Pinky McKay and Milky Meg.
5. If you are struggling or need some extra support or guidance, there are drop in clinics that you can be referred to by your hospital. You can also hire a private IBCLC (probably the best option) to come to you or via Skype.
I have a new tribe.
Hunter has brought with him a whole new way of life, an entirely new lifestyle and, rather unexpectedly, some of the most beautiful friendships with the most incredible women.
One of us is a champion breastfeeder. One of us couldn’t stand breastfeeding. One of us desperately wanted to breastfeed but it was making their child sick. One of us mix feeds. And another of us wasn’t physically able to breastfeed.
Our children are different ages, though all under eighteen months. Each of us have a different mothering style with one big thing in common – we do whatever feels right for us. None of us judge.
A couple of our kids sleep through the night. A couple of the others still end up in our beds. Some have teeth, others don’t. Some can sit up, others can’t. One can crawl, another rolls.
One is at day-care full time. A couple are looked after by their grandparents a couple of times a week. Some are with us all day, every day.
Each of us come from very different backgrounds; each of us have incredibly different conception, pregnancy and birth stories and experiences. We are different ages, we have different beliefs, different cultures, different circumstances; and although that is the case, each of these women are my people.
Every time I spend time with these incredible women I am left awestruck. I always learn something new about each and every one of them, both as a mother and as their own person. Each of them are creative in their own ways and talk with such passion that it always leaves me inspired and grateful and unable to comprehend how I got so lucky to be in their company. One is into art and interior design, one knows everything there is to know about babies (seriously, she knows everything), a couple have truly incredible careers that they have worked exceptionally hard for.
I am writing this today because I am filled with such gratitude towards these women. Hunter and I had a particularly rough night last night and an even tougher morning this morning. We were up all night and then actually UP at 4am, screaming. For three hours. I burst into tears and felt like a failure because exhaustion and hormones are so real right now. When I finally bundled Hunter into the car to get him out of the house, my mind went to the women who comprise my tribe. I thought of the countless conversations we have had; we share stories, we share ideas, we share woes and worries we have for ourselves and for our beautiful children. More importantly though, we build each other up and reassure one another of anything and everything we need reassuring of, we never judge one another (or other parents and humans for that matter), we understand one another when we said, “It’s been a really hard fucking day”. Every single one of us is bringing up our child differently to one another and every single one of us is doing a perfect job, and we are always sure to let each other know.
From each of these women I have learned resilience, patience and perspective. I have been taught things about my own son from each of these wonderful creatures. I have been inspired to write, to create, to forge my own path, to be more fierce, to be myself. I have so much to thank these women for, most of which they won’t realised they even helped me with and through.
Mamas, your tribe will find you, and you them. Until then, you have me. I’m your tribe; Hunter and I will always be your people.
I always feel such a desperate need to apologise when I haven’t posted in a while. I have written three or four separate posts since my last one and have either deemed them unworthy, or haven’t had time to type them up and post them. For me, if I don’t write and post all in one go, whatever I have written seems irrelevant if I then publish it days (or weeks) after I originally wrote it.
Hunter and I have been working through a fortnight of sleep regression and growing pains and teething and everything else in between. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks, but out of it I now know Hunter a little bit better and Pete and I are even closer to one another as both Hunter’s parents, and as each other’s partners.
I have been reading to Hunter for about an hour each day, I still make sure that we get out of the house for a good chunk of the day and he is just starting to be able to entertain himself (even if it is only for ten minutes at a time). The changes in him – mentally, developmentally and physically – have been absolutely astounding. It’s no wonder he has been so unsettled and all over the place. I said to Pete last night that what Hunter is going through is much like what I went through during the pregnancy. Even when I spent all day at home, lying on the lounge doing ‘nothing’, my body was still working overtime creating a small human. Hunter’s brain and body is doing the very same, even when he is sleeping (actually, especially when he is sleeping), there are serious changes happening inside his small body.
Strangely though, the challenges of parenting this week have brought up something in me that I thought I had long put to bed. I have been really struggling with body image and my self worth. It has been a very long time, years, since I have had any qualms with the way that I look and the way that I feel. I bounced back pretty quickly after giving birth to Hunter and am incredibly grateful for the fact that my body works and was able to provide Pete and I with such a beautiful, wonderful, amazing son. But this last week, and especially these last few days, I have been really critical of how I look, convincing myself every day that I have put on weight, that none of my clothes look good on me and that I will never feel attractive, or sexy or desirable ever again. It’s exhausting to constantly be focusing on the physical, rather than celebrating everything else in my life because really, that’s what it’s all about.
It has been interesting rifling through my thoughts lately. When I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I make it mean so much more than that. All of a sudden I am concocting really negative, hideous thoughts – and, what’s more – I am believing them. I’m not a good mother, Pete could do so much better than me, I’m not achieving anything, what the hell am I doing with my life, etc., etc., etc. Why, I wonder, do we connect our body image with our self worth, especially when everything else (literally, EVERYTHING ELSE) is so much more important.
Over the weekend, I managed to catch up on a lot of sleep. I did so by falling asleep on the lounge Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at about seven. I woke up at about ten to feed Hunter and them got myself into bed. Those extra hours made all the difference to my energy levels, but my self worth was still suffering. Every morning after falling asleep so early, I found myself apologising to Pete. “I’m sorry,” I kept repeating to him, “I’m so sorry that I fell asleep so early.” He always met these apologies with kindness, reminding me that that is never something I need to apologise for.
I don’t know what triggered this period of self loathing, but I am making a conscious decision to stop. My creativity has suffered from it. I went from writing about 1,500 words of my manuscript a day, to absolutely nothing. Writer’s block reappeared and I stopped writing freely, chastising myself as I sat there, my pen hovering over a blank page. It’s awful and hideous and I can’t stand it. It’s also the reason why I haven’t posted in a long time. Everything I write, I think to myself, “No one is going to care. No one is going to want to read that.” I am thinking that now, as I type, but I know that I need to break the cycle and post it anyway. Even if no one reads it, it’s about writing the words, getting out of my own head and taking steps towards something positive rather than wallowing in this sadness for any longer.
Instead of focusing on what I am not doing (exercising enough, eating well enough, making my own money, keeping up to date with the laundry), I want to focus on everything that I am doing. I am taking care of my beautiful son and I am an incredibly devoted mother. I am making two batches of cookies a week for the cafe and have two events that I am also creating custom cookies for. I have really big goals for myself, and a (VERY) rough plan of how to see them through. I have written almost 20,000 words of a novel and will definitely, definitely finish it (a life goal of mine). I have the support and love of an incredible man who I am thankful for each and every day.
And most importantly, I need to remember that this will all be a memory soon. Both the good and the bad days are going to pass, and I will look be able to look back on them warmly because these are the days that will get me to where I am going.