I had a visit from a lactation consultant today. Cue audible sigh. I booked it earlier in the week when I had the funny feeling that things were becoming a little pear shaped when Peach was trying to feed. A clicking noise here, a bit of breast refusal there… it all started to accumulate until one day I had trouble feeding her at all. It’s funny how these things creep up when you’re in the thick of it. Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to be able to notice things that are happening right in front of you.
While little P is nothing like the Pixie in the breastfeeding stakes, I was getting a few warning bells over the past few weeks. Apparently things can go a little awry at the six week mark, which is precisely when I started to wonder if she was feeding as well as I thought she was.
Today confirmed it: a posterior tongue tie, a high palette, a shallow latch and a severe case of Overzealous Let Down and Spraying Boob (self-diagnosis those last two). But also: a darling baby who is trying very hard to make it all work.
It’s not panic stations by any means. At least now I know why I had that little persistent voice in the back of my head and I wasn’t making it all up due to past experience (because I have to admit that I do tend to hit the panic button when she so much as looks at my breast the wrong way). I admitted to the LC today that I thought perhaps she would think I was silly for booking her, given I’m sure she sees situations that are a lot more dire. She assured me that one of the mottos she lives by is “always listen to the mother”, because the mother usually knows best when it comes to these intricate matters.
And just how ridiculously intricate is breastfeeding?!
I never would have known it.
Or guessed it.
I often wonder what would have happened in the cave days… would another woman have breastfed our child if we had trouble ourselves? Are there more problems now than previously? Do all our rules and regulations about nipple angles and latch and positioning pay off or cause us more trouble?
Cue second audible sigh. Sigh.
I don’t know the answer.
But my girl is thriving is every other possible way, so we will continue to iron out these things together.
When you’re carrying a baby around for what feels like 99% of your day, and you’re very lazy/stubborn when it comes to putting on your sling, you get pretty nifty doing things with one hand. Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do with one hand thanks to my babies. High five to motherhood skills!
Chop vegetables. Albeit a bit chunky, but chopped nonetheless.
Put jackets on bigger kids. With a bit of yanking.
Make cups of tea. Including a slightly risky manoeuvre in order to get the stove lit.
Go to the toilet, pants down, pants up, etc. Yeah! (Skinny jeans = an extra ten points.)
Type, write blog posts, reply to emails, and so on (eg. this post right now).
Bark commands at anyone within a 500 metre radius. Just kidding, I can bark commands with or without one or two handed gesticulation. I’m very talented like that.
Wash dishes. Ok they aren’t great, but useable. If it is the difference between eating and not eating…
Put loads of washing on. This one is not much fun as it also requires a deep squat to get down to my machine. That combined with seemingly dissolved pelvic floor muscles and an extra 5kg is a no brainer: avoid if possible. (Avoiding washing is always possible.)
Open packets of m and ms and eat them.
Eat double cream by the spoonful out of the container… I’m not going to lie, this is something I excel at.
So I have to say my skills have increased dramatically over the last five years. I’m not sure how helpful the above list will be on my CV though.
What do you do while wandering around with babe in arms?
I look at this photo of myself from last summer and cannot comprehend it. It was you growing inside me. I watch a video that I took of my stomach bouncing and jostling as you kicked me, and now, knowing you as I do, I just can’t understand that it was you in there, doing that.
That you were so close all that time and I didn’t even know it. That you’re here now and that you were here all that time too.
It’s been seven weeks since Peach was born. She’s a lovely, round, squishy, smiley baby. KB has gone back to work and friends and family have (almost) all had their first cuddles. It seems that real life has continued, as usual.
But here I am, still getting to know this tiny human. Still marvelling at her sounds, her smell. Still tired and up all night and finding my way. Still feeling like it’s new, but old, all at the same time. Still wondering how all this happens, and why.
Still amazed by the fact that we made three humans.
I can’t think of where else to go with this post beyond that. I made humans. The end.
9 = the number of baby jigging steps** it takes me to get from one side of my bedroom to the other.
7 = the number of seconds it takes me to walk the nine steps.
498 = the number of times I paced up and down staring longingly at my bed and the wide mouthed sprawled snoring man in it at 4.30am this morning.
16 = the number of times Peach fell asleep only for her eyes to swing open again as if nothing had happened. What? Oh no, I wasn’t sleeping [laughs], I was just momentarily checking out the inside of my eyelids.
52 = the extra laps I did after she was finally asleep, just for good measure.
I don’t have a mathematical brain but I’d say that the above algorithm took a fair percentage off my recommended/preferred nightly hours of sleep.
So. Six weeks. The six week mark. A wonder week if I remember correctly? I’ve spent the last couple of nights like this, it’s been the first time since she was born that I’ve had to work really hard to get her back to sleep. They’re tricky, aren’t they? The way they look so deeply asleep one moment, then wham, the eyes are wide open again. But then you feel that comfortable warmth as her body finally relaxes and moulds to you. Got her!
It’s a strange kind of walking meditation, if you let it be so.
Pixie hauls herself onto my lap while I’m breastfeeding Peach. She grabs each side of my face and forces me to look at her while I’m ushering lots of “careful, careful, careful of the baby.” She looks at the baby. “I love your baby, she’s beautiful. ” (“luff”, “boo-full”) she says. She thinks momentarily. “Now your baby has come out, there’s room for me in your tummy again.”
This has been a common thread of late, Pixie commenting on the appearance of the baby, and the vacant accommodations she has left behind. And how she would dearly like to climb back into said vacant block. Please.
I look at this enormous creature perched precariously on my knee, her gigantic deep brown eyes staring at me, eagerly awaiting a response. I’m confused. Only three weeks ago this huge being was my baby. I would pick her up like a tiny doll and balance her on top of my rounded stomach. I would play with her soft curls and wipe vegemite from her stained baby lips. Now she appears in front of me like a monstrous Japanese cartoon; all eyes and head and face. She reaches out a finger and pokes the side of Peach’s face. “Can I kiss your baby?” (“tan”, “tiss”) She asks, sick of waiting for a response to her request to climb back inside me.
She kisses the baby then pulls my hand away from where it is rested, cradling Peach’s back. She holds my hand and makes sure I can’t touch the baby with it.
We are all adjusting to this new way of life, this new being who is suddenly in our family and in our space after an eternity of pregnancy. Adjusting to my constant “shhhhh’s” and “careful’s!!”. Adjusting to the crying, to the constant commands of this tiny person.
And then I see my eldest two daughters playing and hugging and kissing each other. I see them holding hands tonight while we walked to get fish and chips. I see them giggling together and whispering rude secrets (namely about poo). And I remember when Pixie was this tiny thing in my arms and Bird was the giant child poking and prodding. And I know everything and everyone will be just fine.
The big girls are at kinder, the baby is asleep. There are vegetables roasting in the oven for a frittata for tonight’s dinner. The washing has been put on and some episodes of Mad Men watched. Papers and pencils have been thrown into drawers and doors to messy bedrooms closed.
Newborning, the third time around… things are chaotic with three, but surprisingly there is an overarching sense of calm that comes with a little bit of knowledge and previous practice.
In the night when Peach is wide eyed and grizzly, I’m not in a flood of tears wondering what has happened to my life. I cuddle her close and breathe in her milky scent. I close my eyes when I can and go through that mental list – milked? changed? warm? tired? comforted? I remind myself how quickly this phase passes and life moves on.
Before I go to bed at night I quickly line up supplies for my nightly motherly duties – terry cloth towels, a few nappies, wipes, a full water bottle and a snack. I breastfeed in bed and close my eyes when I can. Nowadays nothing gets in the way of precious sleep time – if I can help it.
I’m slowly recovering from the birth and while life does not yet have a new flow, I have a new vision of how things are going to be. I know these sleepy newborn days don’t last, I know this round baby will soon open her eyes fully and begin to see the world around her in a new light. I know things will be busy and full when friends and family slowly move on with their lives and the food arriving on the doorstep and the kinder pickups gradually diminish.
Part of me is nervous, but the other part knows (read: hopes desperately) that I’ve got this.
You were cradled in my arms, all bunchy and squished. We were in bed. I was most likely eating something. (Food tastes so good in the days following childbirth, don’t you think?) We were surrounded by loving family. We were at home.
A few hours earlier I felt your soft hair flowing through my fingertips under water, moments before I held you for the very first time and felt your skin against mine. I looked down in surprise to find you were a little girl, not a wee boy as I had thought during my pregnancy (due to nothing more scientific than a dream three years prior).
Well my darling pixie babe, you have been full of surprises this past year, some which have delighted, others which have perplexed your tired mama.
Your lively nature and determined spirit is contagious. You make us laugh each and every day. You squark and kick your legs when you don’t get your own way and we all know better now than to refuse your commands. We simply obey. We cuddle you at night and touch your face and kiss your cheeks. We rub your tummy and feed you and tickle your toes and smooth our hands over your skin in the bath.
Happy first birthday my sweet, vivacious girl. My life is forever changed for the better with you in it, you bring me daily joy and a love so deep and complex and fulfilling and all-consuming that I am completely and utterly addicted to it, and to you.
We love you deeply and dearly little pixie. May your second year be just as bright as your first, and on and on.
Tomorrow I am spending my very first night away from my little Pixie. I’d like to say I’m nervous and apprehensive like I was the first time I spent a night away from Birdie, but I’m nothing of the sort!
I will be in the midst of the photos above with an ace lady eating chocolate and being cosy and talking and walking and drinking coffee… HANDS FREE. I’m all a jitter just thinking about it. Better go pack!
What are you doing this weekend? Hope you’re looking forward to something, where ever you happen to be.
Three months later not a feed goes by without me wishing I was nuzzling her into my breast, not the silicone teat of a bottle. As I watch powdered formula slowly dissolve in cooled boiled water, I feel cheated. When I see the ominous can sitting on my kitchen bench, I glare at it angrily.
There are times too that I am so thankful for it, so thankful things have worked out, so thankful to have a healthy and thriving baby despite earlier challenges, so thankful to have a backup. But nothing can heal or replace the upset I feel at our breastfeeding journey being cut short.
I watched this video yesterday, have you seen it? It’s fantastic, a poem by Hollie McNish about her experience of people judging her for breastfeeding in public. No mother should ever feel too embarrassed to feed her baby in public.
As I watched the video, I longed for her problems. I wished it was me deciding what to wear in the morning so that I could easily access my breast. I wished it was me swearing about ugly breastfeeding bras as I clip myself up in the morning. I wished it was me contemplating the weather and feeling the icy air on my stomach as I lift my shirt at the coffee shop for my baby. I wished it was me having people glare at me for flashing a small piece of flesh while they sipped lattes or walked their dogs.
Instead, I feel embarrassed about placing my bottle of cooled boiled water on the table. I feel eyes on me as I scoop powder and swirl it around in the water while I chat to a friend. I anticipate their thoughts, wondering if I am lazy, if I couldn’t be bothered, if breastfeeding wasn’t for me or if I didn’t think it mattered. If they think I didn’t put the effort in to breastfeed, if they think that I’m not educated, that I don’t know that breast is best, that I don’t care. I wonder if they wonder these things, I wonder if they judge me. I feel judged, maybe because once upon a time I was the person at the other table, breastfeeding my baby and making what I thought were innocent assumptions about the women who didn’t.
Last night I was rifling around in my bedside table drawer looking for a pen. I found a few bits of paper torn from a notebook, dated 10 September 2010 when Birdie was five months old. On the paper were scribbled words in blue texta. I thought I would share them with you today, for although things have been different with the Pixie, my thoughts about breastfeeding haven’t changed. I would do anything to be able to feed her again. I tried a few weeks ago, after I got out of the shower. I thrust a breast at her, knowing full well I have no milk, knowing it was weird. She just looked at me with the expression what the hell are you doing? And I asked myself the same question and went to get dressed.
Here are the notes I found last night:
A single tear drifts across the bridge of your nose as you suck.
A gentle dance along your smooth skin.
You’re lying sideways, longways. Horizontal. A perfect palm lays across my breast.
Skin to skin.
I can feel the outline of your tiny hand on my skin.
Slight, unconscious movements.
Your perfect face is barely moving but for shallow breaths.
Inside your mouth your tongue pulls at my nipple, bringing forth abundance.
Your eyes are closed but just moments ago they curled and rolled with the most basic of pleasures.
The very heart of humanity and beauty and life itself is caught in this single moment.
This one single moment of truth, of real, of substance.
I almost don’t want to write this post. For fear of it breaking this thing I’ve got going on. This thing that has lasted 24 hours so far: the Pixie can go to sleep… BY HERSELF… WITHOUT CRYING… Do I dare press post and see those words illuminated [semi-] permanently on my screen?!
I’ve thought many times over the past couple of months that I was just about hitting breaking point – whether it be dramas with breastfeeding or dramas with sleeping. Either way, no sleep plus a fussy baby plus a long period of time with seemingly no end in sight has made it hard for me to focus on the [many] positives.
I had an appointment with the maternal child health nurse two days ago. The dear lady keeps booking me in for extra appointments with somewhat transparent excuses as I think she is trying to keep an eye on me and the bags under my eyes. “Oh goodness, well her head measured 5 millimetres below the average, best get you in for an extra appointment hmm?”
She is a really lovely and sensible lady, and as much as she is trying to support me it has got to the point where the only support she is able to give is a pat on the back and a sleep school brochure. She really, really wants me to go. I feel a very strong reluctance within myself, and I had to come home on Tuesday after the third time she tried to convince me, to ask myself why. I’ve decided it’s a couple of things. One because I have friends who have gone, whose opinions I trust and who have similar parenting styles to me, who have not had great experiences. Two because to be really honest I’m scared that a home-birthing, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, semi-stubborn lass like myself would find it difficult to be open to advice from someone whose methods might be a bit too strong (?) for my liking.
Nevertheless, two days ago I was seriously considering going. I felt like I had reached a point where I had no options left.
I just HAD to get some sleep! But not just me – it was really looking at my little baby’s face while she played on her mat that made me realise something had to change. Her little smiling face, with eyes hanging out of her head. You know that look your baby has when you are know they are just beyond tired? When people say, “Gee they are so awake” and as the mother, you know it’s actually hysteria brought on by complete and utter exhaustion? Well, that had become little Pixie’s regular face. Pale, yawning, face rubbing tired – all. the. time.
Tuesday night at yoga I lay there in meditation, and instead of thinking of popcorn like I usually do, I devised a plan.
I just had to pick one thing, one settling method, be consistent and give it at least four days.
I texted a good friend who has both been to sleep school and had a sleep consultant visit her at home. She suggested this website. So when I got home from yoga to a baby who had had five x five minute sleeps while I was gone (GAH!) I jumped online.
Lo and behold, there was an app. It was 11pm and the Pixie was still awake. I bought it. When she finally went to sleep in my arms I briefly read it through my stinging squinty eyes. I decided then and there that safe sleep space was going to be my “method”, and I was going to stick at it for four days. It doesn’t advocate controlled crying which was very important to me. It advocates responding to your baby but in a consistent and I guess quite a structured manner. It made me feel comfortable because as soon as you reach a point that does not feel comfortable for you or your baby you just go back to whatever works or whatever you have been doing (in my case, rocking). It sounded like something I could cope with and be consistent with.
Yesterday was day one.
First sleep of the day – 25 minutes including me resettling her twice. Not off to a great start.
Second sleep – 35 minutes and I had to rock her to sleep.
Third sleep – SHE FELL ASLEEP ON HER OWN WHILE I WAS IN THE HALLWAY. It only lasted 45 minutes but I didn’t care. For me, this was THE biggest breakthrough I could ever imagine. She has NEVER done that before (aside from when she was a newborn and would fall asleep anywhere). This was on the THIRD sleep on the FIRST day of this new method. I am very aware this is starting to sound like an advertisement on pay tv and I’m sorry, I’m just in absolute shock.
Last night at bed time, again, she fell asleep on her own. She woke four times over the evening but after her feed at 10.45pm she slept… UNTIL 5AM!!!!!!!!
This morning she has gone to sleep on her own – TWICE!
Can you believe this?
And now, the most exciting thing of all – I have literally just had my very first successful resettle at the 45 minute mark. I have never been able to do this.
So I’m sitting here with two sleeping children, because Birdie is sickie and having a once-in-a-blue-moon-day-sleep and I just had to get on here and share this. Because I know there are other mums out there who are struggling like I am was. Because I know there is a point where you feel like nothing and no one can help you. Because I know what it is like to be so absurdly tired that nothing seems good. Before downloading this app I read the testimonials and quite literally thought: this will never work for me. And so far, so far, so far, it is working absolute wonders in a ridiculously short period of time.
I have to go and collect my jaw from the floor now, and maybe have a cup of tea? I don’t know? What do other mothers do when their children are asleep, I have entirely forgotten… And I’m certainly not about to start washing the dishes or anything silly like that!