Wednesday 14 December 2011


Sometimes the good things about motherhood do not outweigh the bad.  Sometimes you get days where your head pounds incessantly, an inner thumping that keeps time with your baby’s crying. Sometimes there are days where you should not drive because you are just too tired.  Sometimes, oftentimes it has to be said, the sheer drudgery of it all makes you want to bury yourself under the duvet, cry yourself out and then sleep for two days solid.  But you can’t because if you were to start crying, there’s a strong possibility that you wouldn’t stop.  And the ironic cruncher; who will look after your kids during this two day sabbatical?
I have had many, many bad days.  Days without adult company or conversation (talking to the telly does not count).  Days without a shower and plenty of days without a change of clothes.
I’ve sat on the side of my bed at 3am in the morning, crying louder and harder than the baby with no-one there to help or hear me. 
I’ve walked the kitchen floors at all hours pushing a buggy in the dark, again crying louder than the baby.
Another time Mister Husband was at a stag and I stood by the window in the spare bedroom at another godforsaken hour, with a sick baby over my shoulder. I was bawling my eyes out hoping the Polish chap across the road having a smoke in his doorway would come over to see was I ok. I was so miserable and lonely I would have talked to anyone!! 
I have been depressed and constantly angry due to lack of sleep and frustrated in the belief that I was doing it alone!
Typically I have not spoken of this depression for fear of people saying or thinking one of two things.  (a) it’s well for you to have the time to be depressed and (b) what have you got to be depressed about?  Haven’t you got a roof over your head, a car under you, four healthy children and enough food to feed them?
And a little part of me, believed that as well.  I didn’t want to admit that everything wasn’t rosy in the garden.  The last thing I wanted was for people to think that I couldn’t cope.  I thought it was a normal part of motherhood.  Our second son wasn’t sleeping well at night due to painful teething and a particularly bad bout of chicken pox.  It was to be expected.  Feeling weepy, having no appetite, experiencing irrational anger at the world and everyone in it, racing thoughts, feeling hopeless, the list went on for me.  I had no control over the horrible thoughts about my kids’ safety that popped, without warning, into my head at any time day or night. 
One day I was reading a magazine article; my heart began to beat faster and my breathing changed.  It was as if they were talking about me.  And they had a name for it.  They called it Post Natal Depression.  I read the check list again and ticked all of the boxes.  So I wasn’t going mad after all.  It came as a relief to know I wasn’t irrational and just feeling sorry for myself.  
But I still didn’t talk about it.  Then our third baby arrived. He wasn’t a great sleeper either and when the same symptoms raised their ugly head at 7 months post partum, I told myself it would pass like it did the last time. 
The black dog was back and I just (about) carried on with daily life without seeking any help.  I cried on my way to crèche with the boys, but just a little bit so no-one would know.  I waited until I was on the journey home before I really let go. Sometimes I used to get into the shower just so I could bawl my eyes out and my face wouldn’t be puffy afterwards.  I used to lock myself into the downstairs bathroom of an evening and “get it out of my system” before Mister Husband came home.  Then I would avoid looking directly at him so he wouldn’t know I’d been crying.  The distressing and frightening thoughts of someone breaking into our home when we were sleeping to hurt our kids were back.  Again, I waited it out.  And made everyone miserable in the process.              
When you’re tired everything is hard.  But I resented everyone, especially Mister Husband.  I honestly hated him sometimes.  He got to leave home for the day, do one single job and return at an expected time.  God help him if he didn’t give me a detailed account of his day the absolute second he got in the door.    “Fine.” “Good.” and “ok” did not count.  Mere words.  I wanted interaction.  Sentences.  Long ones.  A funny story or two complete with appropriate facial expressions. I didn’t even give him time to take his coat off.
I dreaded the sound of his footsteps coming up the stairs.  The bed was my refuge, both physically and mentally.  It was the only place, at the end of a 15 hour day, that I could call my own where I had both physical and mental space.
Even though I would never, ever do anything to deliberately hurt any of our children, on occasion, I found myself handling them more roughly than I should have. We've all been pushed to our limits and find it necessary to step back for 10 minutes to calm down.
I am of the opinion that it is very important for a mother to be able to say these things because they are normal. And I know it's normal.  First time mams may not realise this and feel that they are doing a bad job. It's important to support each other and be honest about how hard raising children can be!! I am not, nor will I be the only mother to go through this.
All mothers experience these emotions in some shape of form at some stage or another.  Anyone who says they don’t is lying and must be avoided at all costs. If they are, indeed telling the truth, they appear regularly in tabloid magazines, thus have a “team” at their disposal to help them over these stumbling blocks.
When things get tough, I ask myself two things in relation to our boys.  Am I glad they’re boys because they will never know the torture that is sleep deprivation with their own children?  Or am I sorry they’re boys because they will have to go out and provide for a family of their own one day and God knows that can be torturous too.
And then there’s the guilt for feeling like this when in actuality you have a healthy family and let’s face it, there are thousands of other people with bigger problems and they just get on with things.     
Sometimes advice is like getting two toasters and three electric kettles as wedding presents – both items unwanted, useless because you already have them and slightly insulting because of the obvious lack of thought.  It’s not advice you need when your family is young, it’s help. 
When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I remember women of my mother’s generation passing on pearls of wisdom such as; when you have a baby, you’re on your own girl.  It’s a man’s world was another favourite.  They also said that I’d know all about it when I have kids of my own.  More recently, an MDs wife told me she could be lying on the floor blocking their way out of the house (they being her two sons and husband) and they would still step over her on their exit. 
I used to wonder how some of these women had become so jaded.  What had happened to make them so negative, so pessimistic, so miserable?
Now I know.  It’s called motherhood. 
On the bad days, when you think, is this what I signed up for?  For the rest of my life?  Are you serious?????  Take deep breaths.  Many of them.  Hyperventilate if you need to.  Remind yourself that it is all a phase and that this too shall pass.
Post Natal Depression is an illness.  There is help available.  Some people prefer on line support and others find it necessary to go to their GP. I have a lovely GP who sat and listened to me and continues to check up on me whenever I attend the surgery for other ailments.  When I felt the clawing hands of depression reaching for me last winter, I got pro-active.  There was no way I was going to go through this again.  I was a text book case for Ante Natal Depression as our last baby was a traumatic delivery, we had moved house and, like a lot of other people, we were experiencing money difficulties.  Unfortunately, I had a very unsatisfactory session with the psychiatrist I was referred to and I opted not to return.  Thankfully, things lifted of their own accord, but no thanks to someone who was unprofessional and unhelpful in his approach to a breastfeeding and pregnant mother. 
I am not a miserable human being, I swear I am not.  But I recognize how my body works and know what upsets it.  Lack of sleep is a huge factor for me. It has a knock on effect.
Even if you are lucky enough to get adequate sleep after childbirth, the huge hormonal shift in your body during pregnancy and the massive dip immediately following childbirth can play havoc with your emotions.  Odd things can happen and it is important to understand this. 
It took two episodes of PND and a brief encounter with AND before I spoke about it to anyone other than Mister Husband. No-one looked at me with scorn.  They asked pertinent and intelligent questions and told me they were sorry to hear I had gone through that.   
When our fourth son was born eight months ago, I took measures in an effort to keep the horrors at bay.  I researched a good supplement with Omega oils, I started to exercise again and tried to eat healthily.
For a while I lived in fear of the depression returning but our fourth son slept for hours at a time from the word go.  When he was two and a half months old, he began sleeping through the night.  This was unheard of for Mister Husband and I and we joked that we were over due a good one.  So far, I am ok this time round.  I have had the odd week or two where I felt overwhelmed but Mister Husband steps into the breach when this happens and up to now I’ve managed to keep my head above water.
I would like to reiterate that Post Natal Depression and Ante Natal Depression are both illnesses in their own right.  They can affect anyone from any socio economic background, any culture and at any time.  Both can be experienced with a first baby but not on the second or third and vice versa.  Support is vital.  The trouble with a depression of any ilk is the tendency to keep it contained.  Someone with depression can function perfectly well on a daily basis but inside, are wrestling with their emotions.  Or the opposite of that and loose touch with their emotions.  If you find yourself ticking only one box on that Depression check list, don’t accept you’re ok if that one little thing is controlling your life.  It is normal to struggle for a couple of days but when those two days run into two weeks, it is time to seek help.  Reach out.  To anyone.  Get out of the house.  Don’t confine yourself.  Even if all you do is drag a brush through your hair, do that much.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Start small.  Do as much as you are able and no more.  Leave the housework.  Don’t try to be superwoman.  The dust and dirt will always be there but those precious moments with your child when they are young, will not.      
Kids are great.  Really they are.  They bring so much to your life.  And when you are in the horrors, tell yourself that your child needs you.  But even more so, you need you.
That is my honest opinion and personal account.  Not my best work, and I have done things that I am ashamed of  but we have to remind ourselves that Mammies are born, not made.

Friday 2 December 2011

My Caesarean Birth Story

I was feeling very anxious for an unknown reason in the run up to my EDD which was 4th August 2009.  I knew in my heart of hearts that I would not see that EDD, I was preparing for week 39. 
As it turned out, I gave birth via emergency caesarean section two weeks and one day early.  It was late on Sunday night and I had been asleep.  My mobile woke me. It was a phone call from my mother in law to say that my sister in law had given birth two hours previously to her first baby.  I remember hanging up the phone and smiling in the dark, delighted for the new parents and thinking how excited they must be feeling.  I was still smiling on my way to the bathroom and wondering should I go downstairs to inform Mister Husband that he was an uncle or wait till he came up to bed.  It was our seventh wedding anniversary and he was enjoying a drink, albeit solitary, downstairs.
 I didn’t get a chance to decide.  I finished my wee and immediately there was an audible “pop” followed by a steady release of fluid.  I was delighted with myself.  There go my waters I thought, fancy that.  What are the chances of two first cousins being born within hours of each other?  And two boys as well.  This is going to be great!  But hold on, surely I should be finished leaking at this stage.  I knew I was retaining a lot of water but this was ridiculous.  Then it stopped and I prepared to stand up.  It started again and this time I felt a large clot pass.  Straight away I knew this wasn’t right.   My waters hadn’t gone.  I was bleeding.  And heavily. 
I banged on the floor with my foot as hard as I could and heard Mister Husband run upstairs.  “Michelle and Ger have a baby boy,” I told him, “All’s well.  Don’t panic but I’m bleeding.”
“Shit, Gwen.  I’ve been drinking.”
I can still recall being as cool as a cucumber as I issued instructions for the phone.  I was going to ring my sister who would come down to stay with our sleeping sons and Mister Husband was to ring his father for a lift to the hospital.  As soon as my sister was on the way, I called the hospital and explained briefly what was happening to me.  I was told I could not wait the twenty minutes for my sister to arrive at our house and then travel another 40 minutes to the hospital.  I was haemorrhaging and needed to travel to the hospital via ambulance and Mister Husband could follow me.        
I grabbed my dressing gown, stuck three maternity pads in my pants, Mister Husband grabbed my hospital bag and within 10 minutes, the ambulance was outside our front door.  I could still feel the blood and knew from a previous haemorrhage that I could pass out.  I concentrated on my breathing as the lovely paramedic helped me into the ambulance, and took my details.  I could feel the beginnings of very mild cramps and despite the air of urgency, I was excited.  I was going to meet my baby!
We arrived at the hospital and I was put on a monitor straight away.  When Mister Husband arrived we asked our questions.  The bleeding wasn’t stopping and there was a strong possibility that I would give birth via caesarean section. It came as a shock as I had had two previous normal births and naturally enough, never entertained for a second that this would not be the case again.  My head was still dealing with all of this new information but I managed to convey that it was of the utmost importance, both to me and Mister Husband, that skin to skin contact should be immediate after delivery and breastfeeding should be initiated as soon as possible.  We were reassured that this would be the case in any event.  I couldn’t explain it, but I felt a strong need to repeat my wishes and stress that they be carried out.  In the event, of course, that I was going to be sectioned.  This still had not been clarified.   
After a short while, another doctor came in, removed the phone from the wall and informed theatre that they were to prepare for an emergency section. Mine. Then she looked at the nurse that had been taking care of me, and asked her for consent forms. 
This was really happening. 
I had to ask them to slow down.  Everything was moving so quickly and it all seemed to be taken out of my hands.  One minute I was being told that there was a possibility of a section and the next; I was shown the baby’s trace and told how he was not doing well.  There was talk of an epidural and how Mister Husband would be coming into theatre with me.   I believe less than hour had passed at this stage.
Obviously the severity of the situation dictated that a section was the only way to go and I signed the consent form, gave it a kiss, and handed it over.  At least, I thought, I would be awake and get to hold my baby immediately. 
On the way to theatre however, I was not looking forward to the inevitable sensation of a surgeons hands pulling and tugging my baby out of my belly and into the world.
Theatre is always a scary place.  It’s so sterile, shiny and bright.  And all those masked faces with smiley eyes.  The fact that you are lying on your back, in an extremely vulnerable position, does not help matters either.  Still though, me being me, I decided to help them and obligingly started to roll over, all the better for them to stab me in the back with their epidural needle.  I just wanted it over and to have my baby in my arms.
Suddenly the goal posts started to move again and this was before any drugs had been administered so it wasn’t blurry vision.
There was no need for me to roll over apparently as I was going to have a general anaesthetic.  My arm was being tightly secured in a tourniquet and the back of my hand smartly rapped as a voice without a body sternly informed me that my baby was in danger and had to be delivered immediately.  There was no time to administer an epidural and then wait up to twenty minutes to see if it would work.  Did I understand?  This was an emergency.  For the first time since I had been wheeled through the hospital doors, I heard the words “placenta abruption.”  It would be two days later before I heard them again, followed by two more, “medical catastrophe.”
What could I do?  Who was going to tell Mister Husband, who was waiting patiently outside the door, that he would not now be allowed into theatre?  I was nodding my head whilst clutching a gas mask as the same voice without a body was telling me to inhale deeply, that I would feel someone pressing on my throat, and just to relax.  Relax now. Relax.  Relaaaaaaxxxx…………….

“Gwen? Gwen?”
I opened my eyes five seconds later to see a tiny bundle dressed in white in Mister Husband’s arms.  Mister Husband was calling my name and handing our son to me for a kiss. 
I can remember smiling like an idiot, kissing both Mister Husband and the baby (our third boy!!!!) asking Mister Husband “how lucky are we?” and then closing my eyes again.
Oh, it was not five seconds later.  It was an hour and a half.  More on this later.
Shortly afterwards.
The next few recollections may not be in sequence.  I apologise.  Bear with me.
There is nothing worse than that “I’m going to throw up” feeling.  Except when you are on the flat of your back, unable to move, catheter in place and looking up at a stern faced nurse preparing a syringe.
I was starting to retch.  “I’m going to be sick.  Can you help me up?”  I asked.
“In a minute.” Stern Face continued with her syringe. 
I was visualising vomit on my face and in my hair.  “Can you help me up?  Please?”  I was starting to panic.
Again I was told, in a firmer tone of voice, “In a minute.”
I didn’t have a minute.  “Can you help me up, please?”  This time I was attempting to sit up myself.
“When I’m ready.”  Unbelievably Stern face was still playing with her needle.  But thankfully, she put it down to help me up. 
I learned the next day that Mister Husband had an incident with the same nurse.  Once our son was safely delivered, approximately ten minutes after I disappeared behind those theatre doors, Mister Husband was called in.    He was present all the while our baby was being checked over by a paediatrician who pronounced him hale and hearty.  He shook Mister Husbands hand and left the room.  Mister Husband was then told that I would be a further thirty minutes or so and he was asked to take a seat in the parenting room to wait.  Someone would be out to him shortly.  After an hour when people were coming and going, but nowhere near him, he decided to ask about me.  He met Stern Face who told him she didn’t know and had no way of contacting theatre, before continuing on her way.  At this stage he was beside himself. The thirty minutes had stretched into an hour and a half.  After another search for a nurse and some reassurance, he was finally told that I would be down in five minutes.  This is indeed what happened. 
Later on that same night, Stern Face put pressure on Mister Husband to have our son bottle fed.  He explained to her how important breastfeeding is to me and that I have previously fed two other children for 15 months each.  It was my wish that this baby be breastfed only and unless there was a medical emergency, this was to remain the case.  It was to be my decision and my decision only.   
Shortly afterwards again.
Trying to breastfeed.  If this sounds like I was out of it, it’s because I was.  Both of us were.  It’s like a dream to me that I managed to crawl, or maybe I was pulled, into a semi sitting position, to offer my breast to our son.  He half heartedly took it but it seemed, like me, all he wanted to do was sleep.
I wish I had been warned about the unbelievable tiredness that would come afterwards.

Shortly afterwards yet again.
Tea and toast time. Manna.  Absolute manna.
 Please sir?  Can I have some more?

Yet even later.
It was time to decide what to do.  The baby was still too sleepy to feed and I agreed for him to be cup fed in the nursery.  Those two nurses were fantastic.  They were understanding and supportive.  He took one ounce.  It was also time for Mister Husband to go home and tell the big brothers that their little brother had arrived.  We decided to call him Liam.

The Next Day
Monday was a wash out.  Immediately on waking up, I thought of my two boys at home and I began to cry.  I was missing them already.  There was a morphine drip in the back of my hand for my convenience which was a major contributing factor to the incredible tiredness I was feeling.  I even found it hard to talk.  I refused food.  I watched, completely redundant, as Mister Husband and the nurses changed Liam’s nappy and lifted him in and out of the cot in order for me to feed him.  He had to have another top up that day.   If I felt like crap, he must have felt worse.  I wish someone had told me that Diaphene and Ponstan were an alternative to morphine.  In my case, a much better alternative. 
My catheter was removed that afternoon and I was helped out of bed.  To say I felt like a ninety year old woman with severe arthritis, is an understatement.  The sexy white support stockings did nothing for my self esteem either.  I told myself I bore a striking resemblance to Nicole in Home and Away but had more than a sneaking suspicion I was more like poor old Colleen when she goes to Bingo!
I remember hobbling down the corridor clutching the arm of a nurse.  I walked from my ward to the next ward and had to turn around.  I was exhausted.  Never before had I wanted a hot shower as much as I did that evening, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  I just was not up to it.  Plus, it was time to get breastfeeding established.  I had to call the nurses when I wanted to feed Liam and although he still wasn’t very interested, I was delighted to discover that it was indeed possible to feed sitting up.  The fact that I still had a nice round belly helped.  I was able to prop him up on that and all the extra padding, protected my wound.
After the first day, things began to get clearer.  I was able to have my shower, but needed a chair to sit on for fear of becoming dizzy.  One nurse told me not to do this alone but another led me into the bathroom and showed me where the alarm was if I needed it.  I was left to my own devices after that.
Thankfully all my fears about breastfeeding post caesarean proved to be unfounded.  Liam was feeding well once we got down to business.  He was still sleepy but was actually feeding so I was happy and his nappies were an excellent indication that he was doing ok. And my milk came in at about the same time as it did on our second son, which was day three.     
What I was not prepared for nor advised about was the havoc a section would wreak on my innards.  Oh my god.  I didn’t have a bowel movement until day three and the night before I had to call the night nurse and plead for some kind of relief.  I knew what I was feeling was not “after pains” although I was experiencing these too.  I was full of wind, gaseous, my tummy was so distended it was rock hard and feeding Liam that night was extremely difficult.  It was like being pregnant with twins who were having a rave inside me.  My stomach rocked and rolled, popped and gurgled and hissed until I was given a peppermint capsule.  I was extremely sceptical as I swallowed it down but within ten minutes, I was releasing wind for Ireland.  The relief was extreme.
The scar itself was not a problem.  It was the maelstrom of emotions after the operation that took me by surprise.  Nobody tells you about this.  I hated the fact that other people had to look after my baby for the first couple of days until I was in a position to.  I felt completely redundant.  I was also ambushed by feelings of guilt over my other children being at home without their mother.  I felt bereft and when I spoke to Mister Husband and the boys briefly each morning, I was in floods of tears afterwards.  Tears because I missed them so much and although, I was the first thing they mentioned when they woke up, I was quickly forgotten as they went about their daily business.  There was also, a very, very brief, scary moment that maybe this was not my baby sleeping peacefully in his cot at my bedside.  After all, I was unconscious when he made his dramatic entrance into the world.  Too late, though, I had already bonded and no-one was going to take this child away from me, be he mine or someone else’s.  Mister Husband later reassured me that he was our flesh and blood.  If I needed further proof, I only had to read the many emails that were pouring in from family and friends proclaiming that he was the spit of our oldest child and announcing that Liam “has his Daddy’s head on him.”  Another thing that I had heard about, and indeed, experienced the second time I gave birth were the fabled after pains everyone talked about.  But these were different this time round.  Much, much different.  They were so sharp, so vicious they literally took my breath away.  It felt like there was a fist taking hold of my entrails, twisting hard and yanking downwards with great force, so much so that I was woken up at times with my fist stuffed in my mouth in an attempt to stifle a cry of pain. 
Because I had haemorrhaged at home and lost more blood as a result of the operation, I was severely anaemic.  A healthy haemoglobin count is 13. The day before I was discharged, I was 7.5.  I was given an iron transfusion and warned that it would take up to five days to “kick in” but almost 5 weeks again before I would feel the full benefit of it.  
In the days after being discharged from hospital, I parked myself on the couch in the front room out of sheer necessity.  It was truly an enforced maternity leave.  The after pains were still coming as brutally as before and I was slightly worried about my blood loss.  Breastfeeding can mean that blood loss is minimal but I had stopped bleeding on the day I left the hospital.  The PHN seemed to think I should be bleeding more and a doctor advised that unless I was bleeding heavily, there was nothing to worry about. But I wasn’t bleeding at all.  There was also a huge build up of pressure in my pelvis.  That, coupled with unbearable cramping at times, made me very fearful of an infection or another haemorrhage. 
I was so glad to be getting out of hospital, I had neglected to ask what I should be aware of in the event of an infection.  Typically of me, I thought of the questions to ask after the fact.  Again, too late when I was home, it occurred to me that I hadn’t received any after care advice either.  I’d had various people at different times visit my bed side with leaflets on contraception, sterilising bottles, post natal depression, pelvic floor exercises and a how-to register your baby pamphlet.  Bearing in mind that this was my third child, I considered myself to be fairly well versed in those matters already, but was pretty clueless in the caesarean section area.  Which is exactly why five days after discharge, I went back to the hospital presenting with the above symptoms.  Only to be told that they were all perfectly normal and to be expected.  At the same time, I was put on a preventative course of antibiotics.  Just to be on the safe side.  I also replenished my supply of pain killers and Arnica.
Your stomach is your fulcrum, your prop, your support and it is only when you have what is considered to be major abdominal surgery, you discover just how often you use your stomach muscles.  For everything.  Coughing.  Sneezing. Laughing.  Even brushing your hair.
There is a six week recovery period post section and during this time you are advised not to drive, to refrain from hoovering and carrying out any heavy housework duties, anything, in fact, that requires a pushing and shoving movement.  Carrying and lifting anything heavier than your baby is also very much advised against. What they don’t tell you, is how you’re supposed to carry on about your daily business without doing any of these things.  How do you ignore your toddler who has his arms outstretched for a hug, to be lifted and comforted after he has had a tumble?  What do you do when you’re down to your last drop of milk and cannot drive to the shops for more.  You can’t even walk there and back.
Mister Husband and I are blessed with very supportive families who rallied round in our time of need.  But I was still struck by how useless I felt.  There were days, especially in the first couple of weeks, where I was literally unable to get out of bed.  I suffered from sensory overload. I can recall one morning in particular.  I had overdone it the day before by having a family breakfast in town and then pushing the buggy around for a half an hour.  I was so exhausted the next morning, the sounds of our boys were like shards of glass piercing my brain. Mentally and physically over whelmed, I was reduced to tears. 
One of the little luxuries I was looking forward to after I gave birth, was being able to roll over in my sleep without having to get out of the bed to do so.  Three weeks after the section and I am no closer to this indulgence.  I may not have to leave my bed in order to change sides but I am still cuddling up to a pillow to take the pressure off my scar and I still have to be careful getting in and out of the bed. 
I realise I am only midway, at the very least, through the recovery process.  It is not going to happen overnight.  If some of what I’ve been reading of late is to be believed, the complete recovery time is a year at the most. I have read my fair share of pregnancy books and there is always a chapter concerning caesarean sections and a little piece at the beginning, imploring the reader not to skip.  And they are all the same.  They cover what it is like to have a section; the prep before theatre, what happens in theatre, tips for the mothers partner in theatre, tips for the mother in theatre, where to look, where not to look etc. etc.
I have yet to read a segment, any segment, on the recovery process.  Nobody mentions how in the early days the scar can become red and raised, often with a burning sensation at one end.   I never knew that numbness is very common.  That this can last for a year or more, indeed some women never regain full sensitivity.  Other women have complained of a breath taking pain in their shoulder.  This is deferred pain from the section and not the beginnings of a heart attack.  Another side effect is adhesions caused by scar tissue often needing more surgery to repair which in turn, can cause even more scar tissue.   There is also a one in one hundred chance that a section scar can rupture with a subsequent labour.   The difficulties of going to the bathroom are ongoing.  Haemorroids are a distressing pain in the proverbial.  But the hardest reality of a section, I am finding, is the knock it can have on your confidence to bear another child.  I am discovering that my family dynamic might have been changed forever.  At this very moment in time I am nervous, scared even, at the thought of becoming pregnant again.  I used to think that four or five children would be great.  Our family was going to be finished by the time I was forty.  But that has all changed now.  It’s something I’m not completely comfortable talking to Mister Husband about as he has already said that his family is not finished yet.  I can only hope that whatever decision we make will not have a detrimental effect on our relationship. For me, this last pregnancy was going to be a practice run for our fourth baby, one which I was hoping to have at home.  The fact that I had an abruption of the placenta could render me an unsuitable candidate for a home birth.
Certainly the odds are slightly raised that I could haemorrhage again.  All of these things, and more, have, at some stage, run through my head after the section and whereas I firmly believe that it is up to the individual to do their own research and have an arsenal of questions, at the same time, it would be so much nicer if a brief beforehand or immediately afterwards, was given.


Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Other Mother

It was car crash TV at its best.  Had Super Nanny, Jo Frost, been on the sidelines, she would have had a field day!  Social services would have been very interested indeed in the scene that was unfolding but funnily enough, several passers had no interest.
It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon in early October. A mother and her two small children were in town.  The baby was safely strapped into his buggy, watching everything the way only a nine month old can; with great interest.   The two and a half year old was dawdling behind the buggy, stopping to look into the shop windows, shouting with delight at the Halloween decorations.  He held in his hand, a packet of paints just minutes before purchased in the pound shop.  Earlier on that day, he had helped paint a pumpkin and a witch on the windows in crèche and his mother reckoned it would be a nice treat for him to do the same at home. 
She was wondering now, however, how she would deal with the inevitable mess and was it such a good idea.  Maybe she should wait until he had gone to bed and do it herself, that way he’d have his window decorations when he woke up the following morning.  But on second thoughts, if that night was to be anything like the previous night when the baby, who had an ear infection, was up hourly, she would be fit for nothing except bed herself at 9 o’clock.   Ah, she’d wait and see, she decided.  You never knew with him these days, he could change his mind as soon as he got in the door and want to watch a DVD instead.  Say nothing for the moment.
She slowed the buggy for the twentieth time in order to chivvy him along.  God, but he could spend a lifetime looking at the same paper decorations. 
The rain was getting heavier, the baby would need his tea shortly and it was heading into rush hour traffic, at this rate they wouldn’t get home for at least another half hour.  And she needed to get milk.  Why didn’t she think of that when she was in the Supermarket? 
“Come on!” she called again, loudly, pausing to shush the baby who was beginning to complain.  “Hold my hand, we’re going to cross the road now.”
The toddler was very definite in his response, which was no and upped his pace, but only to overtake the buggy.  His mother called him back and he turned his head to grin at her and walked a little bit faster.  They were approaching a roundabout in the middle of the town and no amount of calling him was having any effect.  She was afraid that if she made a dash for him, he’d break into a run and step off the footpath.  She pushed the buggy a bit faster and the toddler matched her speed.  He was looking at his paints and not paying any attention to the direction in which he was walking.  His mother shouted at him again to stop, wait but he paid no heed.  He turned the corner and she lost sight of him. 
Dragging the buggy to the wall and leaving the baby where she would not be able to see him, she put on the brake and broke into a run.  It was only ten seconds but it felt like ten minutes before she caught up with her errant boy, and with the pressures of the last few days plus the tiredness of the weekend catching up with her, she dropped to her knees and grabbed him by the upper arms.  Her son threw back his head in laughter at this great new game but his merriment quickly changed to shouts of anger and resistance as his mother began to voice her frustration.  Her face was twisted in anger as she shook him a little to get her point across.  This wasn’t the voice of reassurance that he was used to.  This wasn’t his mother laughing with affection, her eyes crinkling up at the corners, at his usual shenanigans.  The hands that normally caressed his head as she passed, were holding on to his arms just that little bit too tightly for his liking.   The mouth that usually kissed him with such affection and praised him so often was now being used to scream at him so loudly.  This wasn’t the mother he was used to. This was some other woman saying these horrible things to him, threatening to kill him if he didn’t listen.  Telling him he would be killed stone dead if he walked out in front of a car and how bold he was for not listening. 
This was someone who looked like his mother but did not sound like her.  He screamed back at her in retaliation as people walked past and this stranger got to her feet, and yanked him by the arm, back to where his little brother was left abandoned in the rain.
It was a long walk for the toddler, across the road and through a busy car park, into a hallway where the car ticket had to be paid and then up a moving stairs to the second level where the car was parked.  The grip on his arm hadn’t eased up and his screams hadn’t either. 
This “other mother” was now putting him into his car seat, none to gently and strapping him in very firmly.  Wham!  The “other mother” shut the car door.  The baby was put in his seat and that door slammed too.  Another slam as the boot was closed on the buggy. 
The lady got into her seat and the toddler watched as she put her face in her hands and took a few deep, shuddery breaths, willing tears not to come.  His screams subsided as he sat back and watched her carefully. He waited until she took her hands down.   She looked like his mother again but when she turned around to look at him, he wasn’t so sure.  She looked like the “other mother” again for a second as she glared at him.   But this time she didn’t say anything.  She turned back and started the car.     There was silence for the journey home.  Nobody said anything.  Even the baby was silent.  The toddler kept a wary eye on his mother who, every now and again, stole a quick glance at him in the rear view mirror.   
The red hot anger had abated and guilt was stealing in to take its place.  That should not have happened.  He was only a baby.  What was he thinking now? 
She could have handled the situation so much better.  She should never have spoken to him that way.  It was unnecessary and there would be no lesson learned, except maybe to fear her.
An afternoon that was supposed to be enjoyable, ending with a treat, was ruined because she lost her temper. 
She had turned into someone who lost control of the situation and let things get out of hand. 
The car pulled into the driveway and she turned off the ignition.  In the couple of seconds it took to remove the keys, a little voice piped up.
His mother answered immediately, her voice much softer. It was the voice he was used to only there was still something different about it.  He didn’t realise it but it was the voice of guilt and remorse.
“What is it, Con Shine?” his mother asked, using her pet name for him.
“I a good boy, mammy?” he asked, looking for confirmation.
Her heart almost broke.  “Yes, Con.”  She told him.  “You’re the best boy in the whole world.”  
  Con is my son.  And I am the “other mother.”

Sunday 27 November 2011

Hippy Hippy Milkshake

From August 1st to August 7th people, mama’s everywhere, are celebrating and paying homage to World Breastfeeding WeekThis year’s theme is Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers and the Irish Parenting Bloggers have organised a blog march to show our support of this and to help raise awareness. 

During World Breastfeeding Week, there will be two posts published every day documenting our own experiences of breastfeeding. 

I have, once or twice, been in very close proximity to trees but as I am the mother of four small boys, the need to pee outdoors can arise.  Trees have come in pretty handy on these occasions and I can quite honestly say I never had the urge to hug one of them.  The trees that is, not my boys.

I also like to smell nice, sometimes even wear the odd bit of make-up and, on occasion, my bathroom stinks with hair removal cream.  On a first impression basis, you definitely would not call me a hippy.  But, I breastfeed my children.  

It is every parents decision how their baby is to be fed and I accept breastfeeding may not be for everybody but it angers me when people are of the opinion formula is just as good as breast milk “these days.” 

It is not.  It never has been and it simply can never be due to its very method of production.

Formula has its place and we are lucky we have a choice, but not so lucky that there is a definite lack of support out there for those who wish to breastfeed.  Those who do choose to breastfeed and encounter difficulties, discover at best, they are confused by conflicting advice.  

Unfortunately though, some advice is just incorrect, thus leading to a premature end to what could have been a very happy and enduring breastfeeding experience for many a parent.

I am quite passionate about breastfeeding but it is not who I am, it is just what I do.  It’s unfortunate that these, my beliefs, can label me, and others, a tree hugging hippy. 

I attend a weekly breastfeeding group where a couple of women are still nursing their two and three year olds.    Some of us encountered few problems but one or two had supply issues, latching difficulties after a traumatic birth or needed a question answered about their baby’s weight.   

As it is a breastfeeding group, the main topic of conversation is, naturally, breastfeeding.  But on a broader scale it is a wonderful chance for a lot of us, me included, to be in the company of like minded parents.  Breastfeeding groups all over the country, indeed the world, serve a dual purpose.

Like the rural transport scheme, they give people the opportunity to be social and prevent them from remaining too long in the confines of their home with a small baby, day in, day out.  

For first time mothers in particular, having a baby is a real planetary shift.  Seismic in its meaning.   

People who, up until now, had been working all of their adult lives, suddenly find their normal routine goes out the window as they are at the beck and call of a teeny tiny person.  

Duty calls like never before as they deal with the aftermath this little hand grenade has created.  Family and friends are not on maternity leave.  Their lives continue as normal. Their social lives continue as normal.   

This is not the case for new parents. 

It can be isolating, lonely, frightening and depressing.   

Attending a mother and toddler group, a breastfeeding group, be it La Leche League, or Cuidiu, can be a life line for many.  It is a chance to have a chat over a much needed cup of coffee and a biscuit at the very least.  

Although you may be a new, sleep deprived and stressed parent, you still care about your appearance so it is a welcome chance to put on a bit of make-up, fix your hair and wear matching shoes once a week.  Because every other day it’s dressing gowns and tied up, unbrushed hair till midday.

Now, anyone for a nice lentil stew????? 

Friday 25 November 2011

Thinking about it now...

My first breastfeeding experience began almost 6 years ago. That’s how old our eldest boy is now. His was a wonderful birth and despite some conflicting advice in the hospital and himself being a very slow feeder, we got on wonderfully and our breastfeeding experience was to last 13 months.
Our second boy literally popped out and into the world ninety minutes after arriving at the hospital. He, too, latched on straightaway and he soon proved to be the opposite of his big brother. Not for him the long, lazy snuggles in his mothers arms, but rather lets get this job done so I can go back to sleep. He was a very efficient feeder from the get go. Breastfeeding came into its own when he fell foul with a horrible bout of chicken pox at seven months. Coupled with three top teeth that decided to appear at once, this chap just couldn’t catch a break. 9 months later, I was six months pregnant with son number three, and he fell asleep for the first time without a breastfeed. At 16 months old, he weaned.
Our third little boy was born via emergency section and for the first time as a breastfeeding mother, it looked as if it was not going to work out for us. He was sleepy and not at all interested in latching on but the second day, when I was feeing a little less groggy, things took a turn for the better and we didn’t look back.
Another little bloke who enjoyed his mothers milk for 16 months. I was 6 months pregnant with son number four and with the joyful prospect of feeding a newborn again, it was with a light heart that I “let him go” onto the next stage of his life.
Our fourth son was a wondeful VBAC and is now 7 months old and as much a joy to feed as his older brothers. Of course, he is doing that acrobatic twist of his head at the slightest noise which makes it practically impossible to feed him sometimes.
I love breastfeeding. It is so calming, nurturing and precious. I love the way all of our boys went into a massive body tremble when they saw me and realised dinner was about to be served. One of the lads used to get excited when he spotted a particular bra I had. That poor chap has no surprises left for his teenage years I fear!
It may have been a challenge in the beginning and certainly after the section, but I am so proud of the fact that I am a breastfeeding mother.
This Christmas will be the first Christmas in 6 years that I am not pregnant BUT still breastfeeding.