This is not some kind of ‘breastapo’ resistance, nor a list of excuses or an attempt to blame. It is what happened. Breastfeeding is what I would I have liked to have done, but it
write down a number representing our commitment to breastfeeding (10 strong, 1 weak). Mine was 4 and Mr was 1. It was never going to happen you might think. My 4 was a nod to the intense struggle of 2 friends to breastfeed, a struggle that nearly tipped them into depression. But to be honest, I didn’t think this would happen to me. I was, during my pregnancy, resolutely committed to be open to every voice, the hippier ones in the vibrant, liberal city in which I lived and the old fashioned ones from my Irish background. I had the same open approach to my birth, ‘it would be nice to not need pain relief like pethadine, but if I need it, I need it’. I had read the hypno-birthing book, but I didn’t do the course.
At term plus 12, my waters broke as packed up for our induction appointment and later that night, we spent the second stage in the birthing pool and Mr even commented that we were like that couple off ‘One Born Every Minute’. We weren’t, but it was a lovely thing for him to say. Many birthing positions, several hours and much fruitless pushing later, a medical team were called and our dolly was born using a Venteuse. After a cuddle, kiss and loss of blood, I was taken to theatre to get stitched up ‘where the light was better’ (third degree tear).
After an hour and half, possibly more, I was reunited with my daughter where they most lovely student midwife, who had spent much time with me during the labour, guided me as I put dolly on the boob. It wasn’t really happening, but there was plenty of time.
The dolly was full of mucus and not interested in feeding, but at least 5 different midwife assistants helped me get her latched on for very brief periods of feed over the next 24 hours. There are only so many people who should be allowed to poke and prod your breasts after childbirth. I wonder what training they had received. Did they all do the same as some had slightly different approaches? Had they breastfed babies themselves?
I diligently started hand expressing in order to cup feed. Once, so little was there in the cup, that Mr threw it out. A cornucopia of colostrum I was not. (The lady beside me was, she could be often overheard telling relatives of her bountiful supply …maybe this wasn’t the case, but was my sleep deprived version of events)
As time went on, a midwife suggested that the dolly have some formula with a dropper; she loved it and consumed the most she had ever. Then followed a midnight feed that saw the dolly take the boob for a full minute! Released from the catheter, mobile and feeling good, my thoughts turned to getting home. The ward was full, staffed by community midwives brought in to cover sickness and visiting hours were noisy- I was informed that this wasn’t to be without having established feeding so I continued to wake every two hours, attempt to feed, hand express and give formula. Dolly was born on the Wednesday and in the early hours of the Friday morning-anaemic, tired and desperate to get my baby home-I switched fully to formula feeding. It worked: we had regular feeding and the green light to take our baby home.
I could have continued and enlisted the NCT breastfeeding counsellor in my struggles, but I just wasn’t up for the poking and prodding. After so many voices, I wanted the expertise and the voice of one woman-my mum and she bottle fed and that was part of the decision.
As dolly thrived, the guilt came and went. Some conversations really helped. In the end, it was actually talking with committed breast feeders that helped me leave the guilt behind. I take responsibility for my decision and I wonder if sitting down and writing about it will mean I see less of those judgemental or curious faces-I already think so.