For those of you that have read my first two blog posts you will know I am a mum to two boys. They are now 5 and 3 years old. My boys, their daddy and our puppy are my world and I am aware of just how lucky I am.
I have had two pregnancies and two “healthy” babies. (Although there have been some issues, which I wrote about in my April Blog Post) I know not everyone is so lucky.
But, and there is a big but, I am grieving. I am grieving the breastfeeding relationship I won’t have again.
Both boys have were breastfed. It wasn’t something I thought I would do for long when I was pregnant with Henry.
I was scared about feeding in public and what my family would say. But my husband was adamant that
Henry would be breastfed till 6 months. And do you know what? His insistence that we didn’t have formula in the
house “just in case” was the best thing ever. There were days where I had been glued to the sofa
with a feeding baby all day and simply wanted somebody else to take over.
Days where I just wanted to stop.
But I was once told don’t stop on a bad day and, well because there wasn’t an option, I didn’t.
Henry was fed until he was 14 months old and we cut feeds down gradually from 12 months.
I am immensely proud of this fact. But when he turned a year old my husband and I did start thinking about wanting
him to have a brother or sister. I had lactational amenorrhea while feeding and it seemed unlikely that I could
continue feeding and have second pregnancy relatively close together. Together we decided to stop. As proud as I was to
reach 14 months of feeding, it still hurts that I weaned Henry (who was showing no signs of stopping himself) early.
Was it the right or wrong thing to do? I am not sure, I don’t think I ever will be.
I found out I was expecting again in August 2011, although we had no idea when Baby 2 would arrive as my cycle
had not settled. Our ‘dating scan’ was just that. After a less than ideal pregnancy Isaac arrived 5 days passed his due date in
just 18 minutes. He was a good 10 minutes old when paramedics arrived and nearly 40 minutes old when the
midwife arrived. We had been booked for a home birth, I didn’t ever think we would be doing it unassisted though.
Before the paramedics and midwives arrived Isaac had skin to skin and he had latched.
I naively thought our journey would be easy! How wrong could I be!
Over the first 72 hours of his life Isaac fed for 50 hours. He didn’t sleep and only settled in my arms
(thank heavens for the slings I had at my disposable). I was exhausted and sore. But on Day 5 I thought I was super woman.
He was weighed and had not lost any birth weight, he was in fact 10g heavier. As was common at time I was then left by my midwife and received a phone call on day 10. “Is he feeding?”, “Plenty of wet nappies”,
“how are you feeling?”. My responses were all positive and we were discharged. I didn’t want to tell her it hurt and
he was feeding all day and all night. On Day 11 – he stopped feeding! I didn’t know what to do? Did I ring the postnatal ward
(Isaac was a home birth so hadn’t been in it)? I didn’t have community midwives number as it was on my notes and the
midwives had taken them, and wasn’t yet under health visitor yet. I have since found out that the drop off rate is at one of its highest
between Day 10-14 because of this lack of contact. In the end I turned to Facebook. By Day 16 I was seriously contemplating formula and he had
been given a dummy. If it hadn’t been for the help I got from LLL that weekend I would have given up.
I hoped that Isaac’s tongue tie snip would solve our problems. Although it made it less painful for me and he did feed
for longer stretches it never really got easier. He had reflux and would throw up entire feeds. He cried and cried.
Then at 4 months old his temperature hit 39.9C. He stopped feeding again. Skin to skin helped bring his temperature down
but he didn’t get better. We spent the next 4 days in hospital.
He was diagnosed with bronchiolitis when discharged he still couldn’t latch
so we had to express for 3 weeks. Each breast feeding milestone we reached didn’t feel like an achievement,
they felt like a mill stone. My mothering instinct was telling me I couldn’t stop, my head was telling me I had to.
But I am stubborn and I didn’t. So we carried on and we reached a year.
Unfortunately it wasn’t one of Isaac’s feeding issues that caused us to stop but my health. In 2013 I fell into a
deep depression. I was exhausted from his constant feeding and lack of sleep. I was battling my own mental demons.
I was feeling guilty for continuing to feed while taking anti-depressants but I needed them. In the end I felt so ill I just
said enough is enough. Someone else needed to take over. If I didn’t have a break I don’t think I would still be here.
We had a freezer stock of expressed breastmilk which lasted us a few weeks but by 17 months Isaac was not getting any
breast milk. I had got further than I had with Henry but I felt like I had failed. I still do. I couldn’t provide for my son any more.
This feeling of loss has not yet left and in July it will be 2 years since we stopped breastfeeding.
I used the last drop of milk to buy a breastmilk keepsake necklace to keep the memories alive.
It is my most treasured piece of jewellery.
One day I hope to be able to let these feelings go. At the minute they are still too raw. I started my breastfeeding
peer support training in April (something which was extremely lacking when I was struggling) as I don’t want
others to have the same feelings of loss and confusion. I needed my friends and without them I would have stopped.
Rachel Coy | North East Sling Library