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

How do I turn this damn thing off?

It’s been quite a while since I posted last, unless you count my response to some trolling. Mel has been gently requesting that I write something, and gently reminding me that “it’s supposed to be our joint blog but I do all the work.” Code for “I really want you to blog, now, yesterday, last week even.” My usual response is along the lines of “I’ll blog when I’ve got something to write about.”

It seems that time has come for me to get off my blessed assurance and crack to it. It does take quite some effort for me to write, while words seem to flow freely from between my lips, getting them out of my fingers is a whole other story. Feelings of inadequacy and the overwhelming sense that it needs to be perfect usually prevent much from happening. Let it be know, it’s something I’m working on, and most likely always will.

Lately, something has been happening in our home. Something that I’m not proud of, and I am trying to change it. I’ve been losing my cool with our eldest son, Lucas. For a while there, it was almost as though if he coughed, I would tell him off, yell, send him to his room or, dare I say is, give him a smack. I’ve only ever smacked him on the backside.

Am I proud of it? No.

Did I grow up with the same kind of discipline from my parents? Yes.

Do I hate them for it? Not at all.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m happy about getting my butt smacked, because lets face it, no one really is as a kid. You hate it. Dad and I were having a talk about discipline once, and he mentioned that when we were smacked as kids, it was more frustration on their part than anything. And it is absolutely true. There are only so many times you can politely ask someone to put their shoes away before you start to sound like a broken record. And trust me, both Mel and I try not to sweat the small stuff, but take it from me, that shit adds up. Real fast!

Everyone has their own opinions on parenting, and it’s all well and good to have opinions, however, what might work for your family and circumstances might be completely the opposite for another. Is it OK to lose your cool at your child? No, I don’t think it is. Have I done it? Yes. Very recently in fact. I did it such a monumental fashion that I’m sure the neighbours were filling out father of the year nominations for me. Did it make me feel better? Not one little bit. I actually felt worse.

It was weeks and weeks of pent up frustration that all boiled to the surface in one spectacular explosion of a verbal tirade. One that ultimately says a heck of a lot more about my attitude towards Lucas in particular, than it does about his actual behavior. The end result? ‘Daddy, can I take a truck to bed?’

It all kind of hit me. What kind of role model was I setting for him? Blaming my son, who is 5, for my lack of self control. It just started to sit wrong with me. I won’t lie to you, he is sometimes not an easy kid to look after. He is highly impulsive, doesn’t listen, does whatever he pleases, regardless of what we ask him, and some days, he just will not stop talking. It has a tendency to wear you thin after a while.

As most of you are well aware, I do a bit of reading, not as regular as I would like. After some talk about leadership with one of my business mentors, I came to a simple solution. If I want to lead my team to victory, I first need to lead my house. And to lead my house, I need to lead myself. Real leadership comes from leading yourself and others will naturally follow you. Not by telling people what to do. That defines a boss, and not someone that I aspire to be like.

What does this all have to do with parenting? Well, my young padawan, parenting is just another form of leadership. While you might not be directly engaged in ‘parenting’ (ie, 1 on 1 time with your child), everything you do, in and out of the home is parenting. Its 24/7, 100% on all the time. It’s hardly a job, it’s life. Whether we like it or not. Once the kids are in bed and you put your feeit up for the evening, crack a stubbie and snap off a couple of rows of dairy milk, yup, you’re still parenting.

Recently, I came to the realisation that I just didn’t want to be like that any more. Not just for my own sake, but absolutely for Lucas’s sake. He

deserves better than that.
So I have started to make a committed effort to lead myself better. To be the kind of father my boys look up to, and aim to be like. To be the kind of man that if we ever have a daughter, I would be happy for her to marry.

It hasn’t been easy, some days are harder than others. The things I do are pretty simple though. I usually stop what I’m doing, take a few breaths, remind myself that it isn’t his fault, he’s just a kid and he is wired a little different than most, and really, does it matter in the grand scheme of things?
He’s got a great personality. Loving, caring, zest for life and can find wonder in the smallest of things (a dead jumping spider for example), so I reckon that it’s a damn good start.

As parents, our kids will always do as they see us do, not what we say. We need to make sure our actions match our words so that we don’t create confusion in developing minds.

I’m by no means a perfect father, nor do I ever think I will be. I am however committed to improvement.

I’d love to hear what tips and strategies you guys use to keep calm during those stressful parenting moments!

Cheers,
Chris

 

 

ADHD: What it’s like in our household.

I honestly don’t know where to start with this post.. as trying to navigate from start to finish is a slightly overwhelming task for me. So to give this blog a bit of context I’ll explain to you some ADHD facts as quoted from the Royal Children’s Hospital website.

Lucas was a bubbly baby, with a big personality.

‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a developmental problem which results in poor concentration and control of impulses. The three most common symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity and overactivity. It can impact upon children’s learning and social skills, and also family functioning. Every 3-5 in 100 children in Australia have been diagnosed with ADHD and it is far more common in boys than girls.’

When Lucas was born he was the perfect newborn. He slept, he ate and he barely made a fuss. It wasn’t until solids were introduced where I noticed that something was a bit off. He was very sensitive to textures, and I’d spend more time cleaning up his vomit than actually feeding him. So to make it easier for everyone (mostly me), he practically ate the same food just to ensure that it stayed down. Can you believe that even today he can vomit caused by a certain texture? Not that long ago, he threw up on himself because he had berry seeds in his smoothie.

Just before his first birthday I introduced him to Gymbaroo, which is a program specifically designed to educate parents on child’s development. At Gymbaroo there is gym equipment for your children to move, climb and develop their strength. There is also a play mat area where each week the educator discusses topics of children development. This includes balance, coordination, fine and gross motor skills, speech, auditory, visual processing and body awareness. I noticed that Lucas didn’t flourish like the rest children, and he was always ‘that’ child. You know.. the one who squeals, snatches, unable to participate and is so disruptive. In the end it was just too stressful to continue, and we had even won a term which we barely attended because in the end I’d be turning red with frustration.

Taking Lucas to parks, playgrounds, play centers and birthday parties were and still continue to be a stressful event. When he was around two/three years old he was terrorizing another child, trying to snatch their bike away. On my way to sort out the issue, the mother grabbed him by the shoulders and screamed ‘NO’ in his face. It stopped me dead in my tracks. Have you heard of the fight or flight response, well I am neither of these. I freeze! Always!

Another incident occurred in a doctors surgery, where I was trying to calm him down and he just wouldn’t listen to reason. The doctor picked him up by the ankle and held him upside down. Again, I froze, looking dumbfounded. Looking back it at it, I should have approached the mum and addressed the doctor about their behavior. Because, lets face it, we are the adults and we need the control.

Our biggest issue to date with Lucas is his impulsivity. Last year, when I was heavily pregnant with Flynn, Lucas went on a walkabout. We have a tall Colorbond fence, and Lucas decided to open it and take our pets for a walk. After an hour of searching for him, we knew we had to contact the police. There is a massive golf course that runs through our suburb and my fear was that he would decide to go for a swim and likely drown. Once the police arrived, they had a helicopter on standby in case it was needed. Thankfully I always ensure that our pets are tagged and this is how he was located. A lady called me to say that not only did she have our dogs but also our son who invited himself in for a cold drink of water. He was having a grand old time.

It wasn’t until Kindergarten where someone else noticed his behavior. During his first term of school, his teacher suggested I take him to a pediatrician just to ensure that everything was okay. Eight months later, due to a very long wait list, he was finally assessed. It only took 45 minutes to diagnose him with ADHD. But we weren’t really given much, except to attend a seminar on positive parenting. When we were approaching the final week of Kindergarten , we spoke with the school on how his behavior could improve as he was scoring as a below average. Chris and I learned that WA does not have funding to support children who have ADHD. Soon, hopefully within the next two years, we will be relocating back to the eastern states.

There is still room, lots of room, for improvement from our part. We try so hard, but our own ignorance and frustrations taint our ability to be patient with him. It’s a big learning curve for us, and we try hard to ensure that he is on the right track. He does not consume processed or refined sugars and he eats a mostly plant based diet. We supplement magnesium to help him control his behavior. We try and give him a structured day so he knows what to expect, we give him small goals to complete so he feels accomplished and has something to work towards. We try to avoid negative words like don’t, didn’t, isn’t and wasn’t. Most important of all though is that we tell him we love him.

 

Much love

Melanie xoxo

 

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