Questions asked three weeks postpartum: When will I get the hang of breastfeeding? When does it get easier? Why do I feel like I've taken a step back? Vodka for breakfast? What happens if he gets nipple confusion? What the fuck is nipple confusion? Why won't he stop crying? What does he want? Is baby sensory a comedy show? Why did my husband drink so much port? He can't still be hungry can he? Why am I still bleeding? How can I get rid of wind? Will I ever get a full night’s sleep again?
Will I ever get a full night’s sleep again?
I had my first proper meltdown this week. It came after Rafe had decided to get into a routine of being wide awake, cluster feeding, refusing to be put down and screaming from 8pm-1am for over a week (this routine is still going strong most nights). It was the 7th night and after trying him with a dummy (he wouldn't take it - and yes I know about nipple confusion, but I had to try it) and him being on my boobs for hours and still not settling, I had to walk out the room and go downstairs. I just needed time to myself. And time to properly cry into a pillow for half an hour. My husband managed to rock Rafe to sleep for three hours (SAY WHAT?!) so I know he wasn't hungry. Just wanted to use me for comfort, which he keeps doing in an evening. He can be on and off my boob constantly for a good three hours before he eventually settles at night. Which can be hard. When you've been feeding every two to three hours and not getting much rest in between - it's exhausting - and lonely. I mentioned the other week about loneliness when breastfeeding. The other weekend my parents were visiting and I didn't want to breastfeed in front of my dad as I'm not able to properly cover up yet as I'm too busy trying to get the little fella to latch on properly. So I was upstairs feeding for a good hour while I could hear my mum, dad and husband all enjoying their takeaway curry. And I felt quite upset. And lonely. But I spoke to my friend who has two children and although she said these first few weeks are hard, try and see these alone times as precious moments between you and the baby. He'll never be that small again and will not want cuddles off his mum like this in a few years so to treasure it. So I'm trying to enjoy those moments and I do love cuddles - but I really did want my chicken tikka masala at the time. Also Rafe finds it really hard to settle with me as all he can do is smell milk and he screams the house down so I feel particularly inadequate when as soon as I pass him to someone else he settles. Honestly, the exhaustion, the feeling of being a giant udder has really got to me a few times. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and walk away. Or eye ball some vodka.
When will I get the hang of breastfeeding?
So he's now 8Ib 10oz - so he's feeding well and gaining weight. Which is such a relief. But I'm still struggling with positions. Although he's latching on most of the time, I am almost like a human contortionist/look like Golem from Lord of the Rings to get him on. He's comfortable - but I'm not. My friend suggested the rugby ball hold and my mother-in-law the cradle hold but the one I feel most comfortable with is the cross cradle hold as I can manipulate my giant bazookers. But my back is hanging out. I've left a message with the breastfeeding support worker to come see me as I just want a bit of guidance and help. I feel like I should have it by now - which is both ridiculous and stupid - it's still only week three. But it's so frustrating. And some days I've felt like I've taken ten steps back when he won't latch on. And I just want to cry. And I do. But it's just practice and I need to stop being so hard on myself. Everyone says I'll soon by flopping my boob out, he'll latch on and I won't even think about it. Now that's the fucking dream. When did you find a good position and eventually breastfeeding click with you?
Is baby sensory a comedy show?
We took Rafe to a taster baby sensory class the other day. He slept right through it - so he really enjoyed it. But it was my husband who was the star of the show. Firstly, he didn't have a clue what baby sensory was. So when the woman gave him a hand puppet and he had to sing about Tommy thumb and friends he looked at me like "what the fuck have you roped me into?" I was dying.
Chris went back to work this week and I was slightly nervous. Although he's still on camp so he's back every night (so lucky) - it was the thought of it just being me, Rafe and the dog. But we survived – with minimal tears. And I should count myself lucky he is around for now. My husband also had a night out during the week to celebrate the Royal Marine's birthday. I told him to stay on camp because I didn't want an annoying, mortal man pissing me off. But as soon as he left I wished I'd said for him to stay or at least come back for the night. I was just feeling particularly anxious - and exhausted. But I knew he needed to let his hair down so to speak. Oh and he did. He said that as I was up all night on my own with Rafe - he would take him the next day during feeds. HAHAHAHAHA. Do you think that happened? Do you think he drank so much port he vomited everywhere? Let's just say I can't wait to eventually let my hair down. But at the same time, I'm actually not that interested in having a drink. I still haven't had even a glass of wine (sad times) as I’m paranoid as he's feeding so much and only just started expressing. Mummies who love wine and breastfeeding - what's the rules? One glass and pump?? Help!
Although I'm moaning (again) Rafe makes me and my husband laugh so much. He's a little legend. When he does massive farts, or when we change him and he tries to protest and puts his arms up in the air to grab a hold of you and when he snores his little head off - I could die with love for him. So here’s a little a photo of him off to his first Halloween party – our little sleep stealing, boobie loving pumpkin.
P.s Has anyone got any miracle tricks for wind? I feel like we’ve tried everything. And although the health visitor says breastfeeding babies don’t get much wind – this little one does. Help!
To say labour was tough is an understatement but nothing can quite prepare you for after labour. The exhaustion, the blood, the hormones, the tears at two in the morning when your baby won't latch on, that first poo (yours and baby), the aches, the pain in your vagina, exhaustion, becoming a milking machine, your post-birth body, the overwhelming feeling that you are failing and you have no idea what the hell you are doing....but then he makes a little gurgling sound when he's feeding and then all is right in the world. Then the cycle repeats itself...
The First Two Weeks – aka: ‘Shock to the system’
The first night 'alone': We ended up back home earlier than I wanted as only could stay one night in Arbroath due to staffing issues. I still hadn't slept and I still hadn't felt much emotion but on the way back home with the little one in his car seat I just felt overcome with emotion and wept. I was terrified. I don't know how to look after a baby. I don't know what I'm doing. I can barely change a nappy; it takes me half an hour to put his vest on. That first night was horrendous. I wanted to sleep but kept listening out for his breathing and I was struggling to get him to feed. When the midwife came the next day she also said he has jaundice (hence why he looks so tanned - I didn't have an affair with a Mediterranean man!) which has just made me worry even more. But - we made it through the first night alone - through blood, sweat and tears.
The blood: Although my friends told me to expect lots of blood - I was unprepared at how much there was - and how long you are bleeding for. Having that first shower in the hospital looked like a murder scene. Blood everywhere. And just when I thought it had stopped - it began leaking all over the floor – and I’m still bleeding now two weeks on. My advice to anyone is to stock up on as many maternity pads as you can. You will bloody need them.
Exhaustion: When I use to say to my friends who have children that I'm exhausted and they use to look at me with what I thought was pity - I now realise they wanted to punch me in the face. This tiredness is nothing like I have ever experienced. I haven't properly slept since I went into labour. It's like I am in a bubble of exhaustion. It's particularly difficult when it's 2am and Rafe decides to do three explosive nappies in a row and then wee all over his clothes. That's a wild night. I'm trying to sleep when the baby sleeps but I'm struggling to do that. Will I ever sleep again?
Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It's mentally and physically draining. It sounds so dramatic but honestly - it's really fucking hard. I really struggled to get him to latch on to start with - especially my left boob. My breasts are ginormous and my nipple on my left is quite flat so I have to try and hold my ten stone boob, mold my nipple and then try and get the baby to latch on. Some days he seems to be a pro - then other days it's like we've both forgot what to do. Then there are days he is never off my boob (cluster feeding) or the days he has short feeds or does not seem to want to feed as much, or the nights where he has a glorious three hours between feeds and I get some shut eye. There are nights where I am literally crying and praying to God that he latches on. My husband is amazing and if I want help changing through the night he does it for me so I can have a break. But there was one night I wanted to let him sleep so he could let me rest during the day - and I literally had slept for maybe 30 minutes. He came in the bedroom (he's in the spare room as he snores and I can't wear ear plugs anymore…) in the morning and said I looked broken. And I felt it. And I feel like a failure when he doesn't latch on. And I feel like all I am is a milking machine. And it's like a rollercoaster. You have two great days where you think this is it - I've got it. Then the next two days are a struggle and he won't latch on again. And I'm watching his nappies like a crazy woman. (Oooh, it's mustard colour, that's good, oh god it's green, what am I doing wrong?) But when he has a good feed - and when the midwife came on day 10 and weighed him to say he was 90grams over his birth weight (babies lose weight after they're born) I felt like crying tears of joy. It feels like such an achievement and spurs me on to keep going and persevere as everyone has told me it does get easier. (Although the F word has been thrown into the mix a few times. Formula - although the other F word has been thrown around a few times too). The past two nights have been really tough as he has cried and been unsettled from 7pm till around 2am. I think he’s just got trapped wind – hoping it is not colic as that would be absolutely marvellous. My friend who had twins almost a year ago has been amazing. She said to write a note saying "this will not last forever" and pin it up to keep me going. I know this sounds like I'm being so over dramatic - but with the exhaustion, the hormones and just trying to get a hang of breastfeeding it really is so SO hard. So any advice to keep going/make things easier - please let me know.
The first poo: Never in my life have I been so scared to have a poo. Going for the first wee after labour was scary enough and I needed a good ten minutes to brave myself to do it. But thankfully it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. But the first poo. The fear. Oh the fear. The thought of having to push again - and also the fear of bursting my stitches and the pain was so scary. But the thought of it was worse than it actually was. I was advised to bend forward with my elbows on my knees to help. And I'll leave it at that. I'm sure you don't want to read more about my bowel movements. But to anyone about to do that first poo - you can do it!!
My poor vagina: Don't look at your lady parts in the mirror after birth. James and the giant peach springs to mind. It's swollen and bruised and because I am sitting down most of the day (on a rubber ring) the pain gets worse during the night. I'm told it is healing well and the pain is just tightening but the thought of anyone (my husband obviously) going near me is terrifying.
Muscle pain: It was about day three when I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a bus. My back is in agony and every part of my body aches. I think you don't realise how much of a workout labour is - just a shame I haven't got a sick pack after it.
Hormones: People told me that when my milk comes in (day 3/4) I will be highly emotional. And that's so true. I think I have cried every day - a lot of the time over nothing. I really feel so sad for our not so little puppy who I think feels a bit left out so I keep crying about him. Then I cry because I am so tired. And then I cry when I look at Rafe and think - we made you. That overwhelming feeling of love you're supposed to feel straight after birth, arrived the day after and it's a feeling I can't describe. I love him more than I ever thought I could love anyone. And when he sleeps through the night I will love him even more.
My husband: People say having a child will test your relationship and that is so true. You're tired, you're terrified and you haven't got a clue what you're doing - and I'm crying for no reason and he has to take the brunt of it all. But at the same time, seeing him with Rafe makes me fall in love with him all over again. And he's amazing. He's pretty much doing all the changing and things around the house. It makes me feel so lucky he's home as if things hadn't changed - he would have left me at day 3 and then not be back till next month. I know you do - and I would have got on with it, as I'm doing now but to put it bluntly, it would have been fucking horrendous not having him here for these first six weeks.
Jealousy: This will sound a bit odd but because all I feel at the moment is like a milking machine, I feel like I am not able to enjoy cuddle time as much as other people are. Visitors get to cuddle Rafe when he's all snuggled and sleepy - where as I see him move and stir I instantly get my boob out. And I feel like I'm still taking so long to change a nappy and dress him. It's just all quite overwhelming. But again, I know it will get better (please).
My body: I was so self-conscious when I was pregnant about my weight gain and body but at the moment I don't give a shit – kind of. My body looks like a bag of sand but I've just made a tiny human and I'm not going to look like Cheryl Cole (or never did/will). I weighed myself the other day out of curiosity as I stopped weighing myself quite early on as I was traumatised by how much I had gained. I've put on two stone but I know that it would have been much MUCH more when I had an 8Ib 1oz monster inside me. I also tried to put on pre-pregnancy jeans - you know, just for shits and giggles and they just came over my knees (was hilarious...). It's crazy how much your whole body widens like a fridge. I wasn't going to share these photos as I feel quite embarrassed about how I look but I wanted to be 100% honest. So this is me nine days’ postpartum - and when I was four weeks pregnant. I remember thinking I needed to lose weight before I was pregnant. HAHAHAHA. What a tit. I feel so unattractive but at the same time - my body has just grown a beautiful baby boy and if I look like a bag of sand - well I look like a bag of sand.
Baby blues: This is real. I don’t think you realise how much it will change your life, but I don’t recognise myself. Obviously it’s only early days so I haven’t got into a routine yet (I love routine so this is hard) and I’ve been out for the odd walk but I’m pretty much on the sofa every day waiting for Rafe to wake up to feed. And I don’t mind that but it can feel quite lonely. Even though my husband is here – it’s in the night, at 3am when you’re all alone, with this tiny human sucking on your boob that you feel quite lonely. But again, I know this feeling will not last forever – and I do feel better(ish) every day.
I feel like I've moaned on but I just wanted to be honest. It's a tough old battle these first couple of weeks (and will be for longer) but it's also a joy. And trust me, I feel so beyond lucky that I have been able to fall pregnant, carry my baby to full-term and hold my baby boy in my arms. Seeing those beautiful eyes look up at me and hearing him gurgle when he feeds literally makes my heart stop and I know all the difficult days will be worth it once we get into a routine and I'll look back on these days and think - "we did it son!!"
And finally, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who got in touch after I shared my birth story – really was overwhelmed with everyone’s comments. And it was lovely to hear other people’s birth stories too. How would people feel about me collecting their birth story and putting them all together for other expectant mums-to-be? Not to scare them! Just to give an honest account of all the different experiences people have had bringing life into to the world - the good, the bad and the ugly. Let me know what you think!
It's been almost a week so feeling less raw (me not my vagina) so thought I'd write down my birth story. I was aware that you can plan all you want but the baby has other ideas on how they want to enter the world - but still feel a little shell shocked. The relaxing, natural water birth I had planned was far from the reality - well apart from the no drugs part - but trust me I wanted them all at one point!
So for over a week I'd had signs. Mild cramps, a little show - but nothing major. Then on Thursday (5th October) in the morning I didn't feel Bear move much so I went into Arbroath Maternity Unit and after being monitored, Bear's heart rate dropped so I had to be taken to Ninewells (Dundee) to be checked over. Everyone was calm and there were no blue lights in the ambulance so I just tried to be relaxed. When I got there, there was talk of being induced but after being monitored and scanned - they were happy to let me go home - plus Bear was wriggling loads. The doctor said it could have just been his head moving into position and had got a bit squashed. They were still happy for me to have the baby at Arbroath too. I'd been having mild tightening’s while on the monitor so they said it would hopefully be soon. Deep down I felt that something was going to happen within a day or so.
We came home in the afternoon and went to bed early. I woke up at 2am and knew this was it. Although I had previously had mild contractions - period like pains - they felt different than before. I started timing them and they began to regualte quite quickly. I tried going back to sleep but was impossible, so got up, had a cup of tea and bounced on my ball and then woke my husband up at 5am to take the dog out. I wanted to see whether the walking stopped the contractions but they started to get more regular. I rang Arbroath and they advised to stay at home as long as I could. So I thought it would be a good idea to clean the house. As you do! It got to midday and I went in to be checked over as I thought some of my waters may have come away (they hadn't – it was just more of my mucus plug). I was checked over and was 3cms dilated. I decided I was fine to go back home as contractions were still manageable so we went to grab a KFC and literally within the hour my contractions were coming on thick and fast - and were much more painful. (I didn't get to finish my KFC sadly). My waters broke in three separate gushes and I knew something had changed. We went back to Arbroath and the midwife who greeted me wanted to hold off until the midwife who had saw me earlier came back from a community visit. However, she then saw me have a contraction and wanted to check me over herself. She checked my pulse and the baby’s heart rate and immediately wanted me on the monitor. My heart rate was sky rocketing and the baby's heart rate began to dip. All of a sudden the baby's heart rate dropped to in the 70's and the midwife screamed out for someone else to come in the room and things started to get more frightening. Two other midwives came in wheeling oxygen which I was told to start breathing in really fast to help the baby. I will never forget the look of panic on the midwife's face. They called an ambulance and told my husband to go to Ninewells immediately. When he left my contractions suddenly became so painful and I felt like I wanted to push. They checked me and I was still only 5cms. The paramedics came and they strapped me into a stretcher which was horrendous. I was desperate to move during my contractions as they were so painful now but I was promised gas and air once in the ambulance. The pain was pretty bad now and I took a breath of gas and air - well they might as well have given me paracetamol. Pardon my French but it did sweet fuck all. Like absolutely nothing. Although the blue lights were on - it was still a good 20 minutes to Dundee. I kept screaming at the paramedic and the midwife that I couldn't stop pushing. They said it might just be my baby moving position but it was uncontrollable - my body was pushing and I couldn’t control it. They pulled over to see whether anything had progressed but said they hadn't. I think I kept saying "I'm pooing. I'm pooing" too. You really do lose all dignity - not that I had much left.
After what felt like the longest journey ever I arrived at Ninewells and the midwife who looked after me the day before was looking after me. My poor husband's face when he saw me. He'd left me when I was able to cope with the pain but I was screaming I was pushing and was visibly in a lot of pain now. The midwife who came with me in the ambulance told the midwives I was only five cms so they got me and Bear hooked up to a monitor and as Bear's heart rate was still dipping they wanted to put a clip on baby's head to monitor more closely. As she was doing this she said: "okay Faye you can push, you are fully dilated." I felt like screaming "I bloody told you!!!" So in the space of 45 minutes I had gone from being 5cms to fully dilated and I think my body was just in shock as there had been no gradual lead up - just feeling okay to HOLY FUCK this is the worst pain of my life. I think they thought as this was my first baby, my labour could not have progressed this fast.
So I started pushing and tried with the gas and air again but within a few pushes I chucked it away and didn't use it again as it literally did nothing to ease the pain. I asked if there was anything else they could give me but they said I was too far gone. I really wanted to be that person you see on One Born Every Minute who makes no sound but that didn't happen. I wasn't screaming but I was making a groaning noise loud enough for most of Scotland to hear. If I could describe the pain it would be....you know in Indian Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc and Harrison Ford is getting chased by that giant bolder? Well imagine feeling like you are trying to push that out of your bum - and then someone is squeezing your stomach together as hard as they can. Yeah - it's fun. The midwife and my husband kept telling me I needed to push down into my bum more but I swear I was - I felt like I couldn't do anymore. The doctors came in as I was tired and baby was too. She said they would give it an hour of pushing and may need to come help me. "Pet – there is nee chance that I can do this for an hour." I really wanted to move more but was restricted due to being hooked up to the monitor. And they kept trying to get access to my veins in case I needed anything after the birth but I couldn't keep still through the contractions. And yes - you do shit yourself during labour. I kept saying sorry and the midwife said I wasn't but I saw her cleaning it away and could smell it and I knew it wasn't my husband, (I think)…but you honestly really don’t care. Thanks to moving into a few different positions (on my knees, on back, feet pushing down on pads and then finally on my side) and pushing for just under an hour, things progressed. They thought they might have to cut me to help get the head out so I was injected with local anesthetic as the head kept popping in and out. But after listening to my husband to push without sound and the midwife saying that baby had loads of hair and after I gave myself a pep talk "come on Faye!" I got that head out with some little pants. My friends told me that it feels like your vagina is on fire at that point and that's true but I think I'd gone past feeling any pain. So the head was out. It was so weird as baby started crying. But my contractions seemed to stop. I even said: "I've never wanted a contraction so much in my life." Still nothing. So the midwife just said for me to push and Bear literally plopped out at 18.11 on Friday, 6th October (two days before due date), weighing 8Ib 1oz. We wanted my hubby to let me know the sex but I caught a glimpse as baby was put on my chest. But hearing my husband say "it's a boy" was the best feeling in the world. And there he was. All chunky and purple in colour and screaming his head off. I didn't feel the rush of love that people talk about immediately as I think I was in shock. It had happened so fast and in a dramatic fashion that I was literally like "what the fuck has just happened?" And there was my baby boy on my chest. And my vagina hurt. And I had to wait for what seemed like ages for my placenta to come out.
Because the bruiser came out with his hands on his face, which was why it was quite difficult to get out (he’s going to be a boxer said the midwife) and so fast, he had grazed me and I had torn from the inside out. I had to be stitched internally and externally. Ouch. The midwife who did it was a pro and literally stitched me like she was sewing a dress together. And when she had finished, the other midwife looked and said "beautiful". I would have used another word.
They weren’t sure why his heart rate kept dropping but they think it was because he came so fast. He was checked over and was a healthy little man so we were so lucky that rather than stay at Ninewells where I would have been on a shared ward and Chris would have left, we were able to go back to Arbroath that night so Chris could stay with me and have our own room. So after having the best shower in the world and the most amazing cup of tea and toast, we headed back to Arbroath.
I still feel quite raw and emotional about it all as I don't think I will ever forget the panicked look on the midwife's face and the fear that something might be wrong with my baby. I have never been so terrified. But he's here. And he's perfection. I also feel so grateful that my husband was home. Having him there got me through it all – he was amazing, beyond supportive and encouraging and I know it must have been hard for him to see me in so much pain. And I couldn’t fault the hospital staff. Midwives are angels sent from God.
So our little man is Rafe Owen Copp. Rafe means wolf and Owen is after my husband's friend who passed away last year so I definitely think he had his own guardian angel looking down on him.
Now it's the easy part right? HAHAHA FUCK NO. In my next blog post I will talk about after labour. The stuff nobody really talks about. The exhaustion, like nothing I have ever felt. The blood, the fear of the first poo, the unimaginable difficultly of breastfeeding and the pain. But here's a little photo of our little man to end on a positive! Faye xx
Royal Marine Wife. Mum to Rafe.