So after a miscarriage and what felt like a million months of pregnancy and endless antenatal classes, I finally had a birth plan that would mean I could be totally in control of my perfect birth, relaxed in the comfort of my own home.
I hated hospitals and had learnt all about the importance of my hormones and how being relaxed was key, so thought well I won’t be relaxed in hospital so planned a home birth; I had the pool ready and everything.
I went into labour on a Wednesday night and the midwife arrived Thursday morning when contractions had got really strong and painful. After she examined me she broke the news I was only 1cm dilated! I could have hit her!! How is that even possible I said as what were my contractions doing? She explained how my son was back to back and so my contractions were not dilating my cervix. I cried and cried and she kept saying how I needed to relax!
Time went on midwives came and went as their shifts finished and after 28 hours of no sleep and full on strong contractions, the 4th midwife decided at only 2cm I was not going to be able to deliver without help and so would need to be admitted – my worse fear. I cried all the way to hospital I didn’t even have a bag packed! Friends and family kept texting waiting for news and I could not believe that having a baby could take more than 1day! On tv they pop babies out!
I arrived at hospital and they carried out tests etc and then found they had connected the machine up for twins and as I was only having one baby the readings over 2hours were all inaccurate – this did not help my relaxation! After breaking my waters they found muconium in my waters and were concerned my baby was in distress, we were now over 48 hours of labour. They gave me drugs to induce and speed up the contractions and then finally at 10pm ish on the Friday night they said the news I was desperate for…10cm you can start pushing!
After pushing for dear life for an hour they sent for assistance and the room filled with Drs etc and they decided to use ventouse to assist, however, this popped off his head twice scaring my husband and I thinking they had pulled his head off! They then used forceps and said with the next few pushes we will ease him out! Well I pushed, they pulled and after 58hours of labour he flew out and gave me a very bad tear! The shock that he was here and the stress and exhaustion of not sleeping meant I didn’t really want to hold him. A midwife shoved him on my boob in the rugby position and then I was whisked off to be stitched up, the whole time I was so anxious and exhausted and I was so gutted things had gone so horribly wrong. It was not the calm enjoyable birth I had planned. I just wanted to go home and be left alone, not poked or prodded. I felt isolated and alone.
My birth was considered traumatic.
We got home and had our gorgeous boy weighed. He had lost weight and the midwife said she would be back the next day. She told me to hand express to help get more milk but I had no idea what that meant or how to do it.
That night my baby did not stop screaming I did not know what to do. Is this what babies do? Everyone said they cried but he seemed to only scream when I put him on the breast?
I phoned the out of hours Dr as I knew something wasn’t right and went to the hospital. I waited ages and the Dr said he would refer me to paediatric Dr on A&E as I didn’t want to just give him formula which was his advice. We waited all night to be seen, still with a screaming baby. The Dr came, watched me feed and said latch was good but to be sure they sent me to the children’s ward where I was then watched at every feed to check his latch. All day the nurse came and went. Again they said the latch was ok so sent me home. The midwife came again on day 5 and he had lost 17.5% of his birth weight and we were rushed to neonatal ward where we were told he was clinically dehydrated as my milk had not yet come in.
I was devastated and angry and felt I had let him down and the doctors that I had seen had let me down. He was given a gastro nasal tube and fed formula while I tried to build up my supply through double pumping every 2 hours day and night. I was in a room by myself and my husband was not able to stay. I now had about a week of literally no sleep! I was exhausted and could not stop crying. My milk only dripped out as I pumped and I felt like it would never stop but slowly they decreased the formula top ups as my supply increased. I left after days of pumping with a breast fed baby! It was hard work and my supply was always low so I had to feed him every 2hours for nearly all of the time I breastfed him. This took ridiculous amounts of commitment but my husband was so supportive and helped me get rest when needed. I am proud to say I breastfed him until he was 19 months and he woke a lot at night as he needed regular night feeds.
I had many health professionals say that I shouldn’t be feeding him at night but I knew he was waking with hunger; he would take big gulps every time he woke and thanks to the brilliant support of my local breastfeeding support group, they reassured me some babies do need a lot of night feeds and it’s ok. It was so great to not feel like a failure.
I felt so unsure of what had gone wrong and why my milk had not come that I was inspired to join the breastfeeding support group and get some training. It was brilliant and frustrating I had not known some of it beforehand! After this training I still wanted to know more so started the breastfeeding practitioner training which was incredible and talked about the power of the hormones. I then realised my stressful labour could have been the cause of my lack of milk, that stress effects your milk.
I then fell pregnant again. Great I thought, this time I know stuff like the importance of skin to skin, which my husband had done with our son, and to really be relaxed after birth so it will be fine. I had to have a planned C-section after the trauma of the previous birth and so I felt more in control, prepared and relieved that at least I know I won’t be shattered when my baby arrives and I would have had some sleep the night before….
So, they struggled to get the spinal in and this made me anxious to tears. After 45 minutes of what was supposed to take 2 minutes, they nearly gave me a general anaesthetic which I really didn’t want as I wanted to be awake for his birth! They did finally manage the spinal and the C-section went well. “Phew,” I thought. I spent all of recovery doing skin to skin and when I returned to ward I also carried on with him on me and offered the breast all the time. I was not going to let this one lose weight!
Got home had him weighed… Bum, he had lost weight, but only 8%. Not to worry till 10%!
The next day 14.5%. I cried and cried and felt like a complete failure again! Not just to my baby but also to my toddler who I was going to have to leave again.
This time I knew what to expect and knew they would have to top him up. I really didn’t want them to use formula and I knew there was no donor breast milk in the hosp so I rang my friend and she gave me some of her expressed milk from when her baby was 4 months. I arrived at the hosp with my hungry baby and my friend’s milk. We were sat in the assessment room and he fed from me and seemed content. I then expressed to try and encourage my supply and was getting a few drops. I was so encouraged as I saw those tiny drops as I knew there was hope. I had done it before and could it again, it would just take time. However, this was all going on 3 days before Christmas and I did not want to be in hosp and miss Christmas with my toddler plus in 5 days my brother was getting married! I didn’t want to miss that either! Agggghhhh!!!
As the pressure mounted, the drips slowed. The doctor came in and said, “you will have to stay in.” BOOM! My milk stopped just like that. Shut down, turned off, nothing. I could not get a drop from either side and I could not stop crying. To make matters worse they said I could not use my friend’s milk as it had not been screened. I argued that I knew her and was happy to take what they called the risk. We toiled with the idea of tipping her milk into my pump and saying it was mine but felt too dishonest. I cried so much and my midwife was kind enough to give me a parent room so my husband could stay. I bed shared, fed him like crazy and argued with every health professional for me to go home as I could continue the top ups at home. They prescribed me Domperidone to help with my supply.
Eventually when he had his hydration levels up and the top ups were minimal, I came home 4pm Christmas Eve. I didn’t care about presents or the food or the Christmas Day swim, I just wanted to be home with my boys.
The days continued and I expressed after every feed to increase my supply and topped him up using 2 of my friend’s expressed milk they both kept bringing over. It was the kindest gift I had ever received and made me feel so loved and supported. I used a supplementary system which was a bottle with two tubes, one which taped to each nipple so as the baby suckled he got my milk and my friends at same time. No bottles. No confusion. No extra time. It was brilliant.
I made it to my brother’s wedding and slowly my milk increased and I no longer needed my friend’s milk. I was also able to come off the Domperidone.
Having done more research, c-sections can also delay the milk production plus the added stress so trauma and stress affected my milk supply both times!
So my message would be to try and not to stress! My milk came and I had a very low supply first time but I still managed to exclusively breastfeed. 2nd time my milk came in and I pumped like crazy, fed all the time for 6 weeks and established a great supply and this baby will go 4 hourly!!
The key is the first 6 weeks; to establish supply, feed your baby whenever he/she needs and don’t look at the clock. It can be a lot but its worth it!!!. And relax! The power of your hormones is incredible – they can help make milk but can also stop it!!
I have since been asked, having given birth vaginally and c-section, which is the best way to have a baby? My answer is adoption!!!