Breastfeeding.. love in every drop – Guest Writer Siobhan Barwick

All I ever wanted to be was a mother. Ever since I was a young girl, I had a way with babies, and dreamed of the day I’d be blessed with my own.

That day came before I knew it, and my life felt complete, as I held the most perfect little boy in my arms.

When I fell pregnant, my husband and I had decided to do what we thought was best, and that was for me to breastfeed. I never thought about it, as for me, it was the norm. My mother was a CHN, LC and midwife for many years, who breastfed my siblings and I long in to toddlerhood. Because of her experience and knowledge, I knew I could turn to her in times of need.

After a traumatic, long and exhausting birth, I cradled my son close to my body and was waiting for him to do the ‘breast crawl’ and latch on to my nipple. He opened his mouth and I put my nipple it. He began to cry. I tried again. He screamed louder.

What was I doing wrong? I had laboured for over 2 days, was rushed to theatre, was numb from the waist down, and all I wanted was to nurse my newborn! I thought it was as easy as putting your nipple into their mouth….how wrong I was! Luckily mum and my husband Chris were by my side to help relax me and assist with our son’s latch.

Still, I felt it to be unsuccessful. It was midnight by this stage and I had to go to the ward. The whole breastfeeding experience got worse. Due to the anaesthetic, I was unable to move my lower body, meaning I had to call a nurse every time Isaac stirred. Each one that came in had a different approach in assisting a latch; one nurse would grab my nipple and shove it in Isaac’s mouth, another would try and stimulate Isaac’s reflex by moving my nipple up and down on his top lip. He was jaundiced, so I had to feed every 3 hours. My nipples were blistered and bleeding. I wasn’t able to sleep because of the fucking bell going off 24/7, I was sweating heavily and felt extremely irritable. I needed to get home!

I was ready to give up, but my dedicated and some-what stubborn nature prevailed. We got home and that night my milk came in. Finally! I began feeding him standing up, as he was latching properly, but knew it wasn’t a long-term thing. At last! We discovered the perfect positions, and after a few days, my confidence started to show.

The hard part was over! Right? Once again, wrong. I had an oversupply of milk, a fast letdown, vasospasm, Isaac had a CMPI (Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance) and throw PNA in the mix! He was constantly windy. I’m talking, leg curling, fist clenching, lung screaming pain. My poor baby. I felt I had failed. My nipples were raw from him sucking all the time and no matter what I did, he just couldn’t get comfortable. Sleep was an issue because of the other things, and I began to feel like I was drowning. In the midst of this emotional roller coaster was also the whole journey of becoming a ‘first time mum’. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

There’s social media, Google, parenting blogs, parenting websites, breastfeeding websites, family, friends and insignificant others all bombarding you with conflicting information and opinions. The hardest part was yet to come. I thought that when you have a child, you want to breastfeed it. I thought that most women breastfed, that it was the normal thing to do. Apparently not. I felt quite isolated in a way. I was one of the only mothers I knew who was breastfeeding, and more importantly, because I wanted to, and not because I felt I had to. I felt sad for the babies that had mothers who didn’t want to breastfeed. I didn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to, especially to begin with. How do you make a decision like that, even with scientific research and studies to show the benefits? I do realise that some mothers literally can’t exclusively breastfeed, but also know that when there’s a will, there’s a way! (I do respect other mother’s decisions)

I had no idea that breastfeeding was such a HUGE deal in society, and that women were trying to #normalise breastfeeding through the use of social media. Wow! What a lot of shit to digest. So much judgement from random people about a baby being breastfed in public! What an upside-down world we live in…

“While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby.”

-Amy Spangler

When Isaac was about 6 months old, not sleeping, wanting to breastfeed 24/7 with an emotional wreck of a mother, I decided to use the power of social media to find me some other like-minded friends. I found lots of different Facebook groups, one in particular that struck a nerve was the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Facebook page. It was a Facebook page used for breastmilk donations for women with low supply, prem babies or mothers who just didn’t want to give their child formula or cows milk. My heart swelled as I began to scroll-faith had been restored. So many women were offering their liquid gold to others in need. I HAD to be apart of this beautiful act of kindness. Isaac never took a bottle/dummy. Just needed a nipple (haha). I had so much EBM in the freezer that I was thinking about chucking out. Sooo glad I didn’t!

Over the next 6 months, I was able to donate to an amazing mother who fed (still feeding @ 23 mo) through a SNS due to lack of milk glands. Every time she would come to collect milk, I’d look at her beautiful son, and feel so proud that I was able to help him thrive, not to mention forming a friendship with the mother.

Fast forward to now and Isaac is 21 months old. Our breastfeeding journey is still very much alive, but as your child gets older, a whole other can of worms is opened.

“When are you going to wean him?”

“He doesn’t NEED breastmilk anymore, he’s over one!”

“You’ve made a rod for your own back. He will only sleep if you feed him and depends on you.”

“Wean him when he’s finished teething.”

“When’s he going on a bottle?”

“You’re STILL breastfeeding!?”

Unwanted opinions from family, friends and others. You just can’t win. You don’t breastfeed and you’re a ‘bad mother’. You do breastfeed past 1 and you NEED to stop and get your pre-baby independence back. I will breastfeed OUR child until WE are ready to finish our journey, and that is entirely up to Isaac and myself. No matter how much you try and educate people with studies from the WHO etc, views cannot be changed. Breast is best.

The past 21 months have been nothing short of amazing, exhausting, testing and most of all rewarding. I have grown as a person, a mother and partner. My view of the world has changed, and my resentment towards my mother’s decisions all those years ago have finally made sense. I appreciate everything. Every sunrise and every sunset. Since giving birth, the saying ‘life flashes before your eyes’ has finally hit home. Each day rolls in to the next, and each waking moment, I’m able to see our perfect son learn and develop. As a mother, you’re never going to please everyone. Motherhood is about you and your child. What works for you, may not work for another, and vice versa. What every mother needs to remember is; you’re doing a fantastic job! You are enough. You are loved. You are more than just a mother, you are YOU and most of all, YOU know what’s best for you and your child. No amount of information, social media or opinions are going to change the maternal bond you have with your child. I’m so blessed that Isaac chose me to be his mother.

” The life of a mother is the life of a child: You are two blossoms on a single branch.”

-Karen Mazezen Miller

We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression by Mommy in Flats

Lion Fox & Co are privileged to welcome Jamie aka Mommy in Flats. Jamie is from the USA, the youngest of five, mother to four, and wife to one (although some aspects of the idea of a sister wife are appealing). Growing up, she was a quiet introvert who much preferred reading to running around outside or going places with lots of people. Not much has changed…oh wait four kids later and she doesn’t have time to sit still much less concentrate on a whole book. Jamie can be found, running around her house after a crazy two year old, snuggling a sleepy infant, or feeding two (always) hungry growing girls.

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness month, I am kicking off a series on real women’s experiences with mental health and motherhood. Every week day in May, a blogger or guest blogger will share her experience struggling with mental health and motherhood. Check in here to read their stories and for warning signs and advice on how to spot PPD, PPA, and other mental disorders. Please consider buying a PPD Awareness t-shirt, all proceeds go to help mothers in need. Have questions or need support please join the discussion on Facebook.

Did you know that Postpartum Depression affects more American women than breast cancer, than sexual assault, than eating disorders? Sure, you hear about the random woman who shows zero interest in her baby or maybe a woman who can’t get out of bed and thinks of self harm. But, what about the rest of us? What about the ones who continue to put their feet on the floor and carry on day after day. We’re here to tell you that the face of PPD is varied. A smile can mask symptoms of sadness, fear, and anxiety.

In the USA, Postpartum mental disorders affect roughly 20% of new mothers (the statistics are hard to pin down because many women go untreated or unreported- this also doesn’t take into account those suffering with general anxiety, bipolar, and other mood disorders). That’s approximately 4% more than women who will experience physical assault, 8% more than women who will experience breast cancer, and 10% more than women who will face an eating disorder each year. Yet, there is no ribbon for mental health disorders. No fundraisers. No one is walking to end depression or anxiety associated with motherhood. In fact, we’re afraid. Afraid to speak up and admit that our mental health is affected. Afraid how outsiders will perceive us. Afraid what our friends and family will think of us. Afraid of how our status as a good mother will change if we admit just how much we struggle to get through each day.

When someone has a physical ailment, a doctor examines her. She is diagnosed through a series of tests that can (hopefully) accurately pinpoint the cause of her distress. At that point, she can begin to treat it with traditional or alternative medicine.

When you have a mental disorder, there is no definitive diagnosis. Anxiety looks very much like mania or ADD. Depression can mean days spent in bed or it can simply be the inability to focus, irritability, and impatience. A lot of times, these disorders not only mimic each other but coincide. So, the person with bipolar may also suffer from anxiety. Or someone with OCD may also struggle with depression. This further confuses the diagnosis. Often, even when there is a history of episodes, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what one is struggling with. Is it bipolar or anxiety coupled with seasonal depression? Is it ADD or a mix of perfectionism and compulsivety?

If you can get a concrete diagnosis, that is only half the battle. Next, what do you do? There is no magic pill to fix depression or anxiety or even bipolar. It’s all a mix of trial and error. This may be why so many women go undiagnosed or untreated. The road to help is too hard.

I have had four babies. I have had at the very least heavy baby blues with four babies. I have sought help at least two times. Yet, it took a severe series of never ending panic attacks (if I had to describe hell on earth that would be a close description) for me to get real, reliable, steady professional help.

Why? I mentioned to my doctors my second time around that I was struggling badly. I was prescribed estrogen (which I never took since my mom had breast cancer, which puts me at risk) and an antidepressant that didn’t work along with some anti-anxiety pills. I don’t know how many times I visited my family doctor those first few months. Not once did she refer me to or suggest I might want to see a psychiatrist. I chugged on and got over it. Why didn’t she see my pain (pain I was desperately expressing to her time and again) and really treat it? She did (at my request) give me a list of therapists. I thought about calling one of them. In the end, I made it through without any successful treatment (I will be talking more about my experience next week). It makes me wonder why we don’t have more thorough mental care for new mothers (first time or sixth)?

Our goal with this campaign is to show you the many faces of motherhood, to raise awareness, and remove the stigma associated with post (and pre) partum mental health struggles. There is no one experience, no one sign, no one symptom that encompasses all women. We are the face of motherhood and we are here to share. We are here to support. And, we are here to show you that you are not alone. One in five new mothers in the USA will experience some sort of Postpartum mental health issue this year, and here are our faces.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit PANDA for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear that yourself or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and/0r visit your nearest emergency department.}

#motherhoodunplugged

As you all know.. I have two gorgeous, lovable, delightful and amazing little boys that I am so lucky to call my own.

Lucas, the Lion. He is our wild, dramatic drama queen and has an absolute zest for life. From the minute he wakes up in the morning to when he goes to sleep at night, he just doesn’t STOP. He is our wild child, and doesn’t do anything by half, which includes misbehaving.

Flynn, the Fox. He is our quiet, sensitive and content baby boy who loves nothing more than to just sit with you and enjoy a cuddle. He is curious and eager, and loves exploring. Which for now is mostly my face, including sticking an occasional finger up my nose.

Now it ‘may’ come across that I have this gig called “Motherhood” worked out, and that it ‘may’ seem natural to me. Well here is the truth about what motherhood means to me.. Without a doubt it has been the most challenging and anxiety driven period of my life. Mostly caused by my lovely son Lucas, haha lets face it.. he has not been an easy child to contend with.  And seeing how I am laying down some truths, it has only been over the last few months where I finally feel comfortable enough with my capability of being a Mum.

When I was learned that I was pregnant with Lucas, fear stained me. I was 27 years old, so definitely old enough to be able to manage the new role. I was in a relationship, content with where my career was heading, and I thought I was a very mature and responsible person (haha what was I thinking). But shit.. the thought of pushing a child out of my vagina just did not sit right with me. I had never been around babies, never changed a nappy, never burped a baby, never taught how to hold them the correct way. I was way out of my depth!

The pregnancy was shithouse, I suffered terribly with heart burn, gall stones, and ligament pain which often left me unable to walk, sleep, and be sane?! And finally when it was time to give birth my body was like..nuh..not happening. I never experienced a contraction even after my waters had broken, so of course after 24 hours I was induced and finally gave birth to a squashed face little boy. The poor kid was stuck in my birth canal after pushing him out for three hours. His poor sweet nose resembled what you’d find on a troll doll. And my bottom has never been the same after that traumatic event. Hello hemorrhoids.

Lucas terrified me, I didn’t know what to do with him. I kept asking myself, “when am I going to feel that glorious hormone oxytocin?” Honestly, I did not know how to be his Mum. Chris though.. he was beyond amazing, he just got stuck in and did it. He has never been afraid to get his hands dirty, which funnily enough happened at Lucas infant photo shoot. Sharted right into his hand..

I never bathed Lucas, for fear of drowning him. I gave up breastfeeding, because I was not psychologically able too. Anxiety drove me to quit, which is my biggest regret because breastfeeding is something I have such passion for now. Thinking back, I probably had some sort of post-partum depression, but I wasn’t going to admit to that. I didn’t want to be stigmatized, judged and pitied.. Even though I was 27 years old, I was being so immature about it.  Especially now, that I have addressed my own mental health issues and it gave me my life back. People..please don’t be afraid to step up and ask for support. Talk to your GP!

I started to calm down a bit when Lucas became a toddler, but I was still a helicopter parent. Forever holding him back for fear of him hurting himself. Whenever he got sick I mollycoddled him. I was taking him to the doctors for the smallest things. I was just constantly under duress, my poor brain must have been damaged by the constant arousal of the neurons. I constantly doubted myself as a Mum.. But.. I need to remind myself that there was a few challenging factors that most (term used loosely) families don’t face. My husband was away.. ALOT! Most of Lucas life he was absent, which at the time was awful but we had to create a means to an end. We also live in a state which is thousands of kilometers away from family, so being able to reach out for support was impossible. And lastly I was not yet diagnosed with anxiety. Again.. speak with your GP!

Now falling pregnant with Flynn.. It felt different. I was calm about it. I felt at peace with the idea of having another baby. Plus lets face it, Lucas was due for a sibling.. as it had been three and a half years until we finally decided to fall pregnant. Even when there were hiccups along the way, I remained calm. I am actually quite proud of myself as I rarely experienced anxiety at all. When Flynn was born, he was born into a calm and relaxed environment.

Now as cliche as it sounds, I feel like my role as a Mother has been reborn.. A born again Mum. Now it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I have never felt more at ease with being a Mum. When there is crisis, no matter how small, I hold my shit together and get on with it. I no longer compare my children to others, I no longer do dr google, I don’t even have any baby/child related apps on my phone. I just go with my gut and it always leads me correctly.  I now gaze upon my children, and that sweet sweet love hormone just makes my heart strings sing. Now it has taken five years, but finally I am happy with my new role as a Mummy.

Much love

Melanie xx

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