Needless to say the past week has been traumatic. In fact, I don't even think there is a word for it. I think my husband and I are still in shock. To see our son, go from having a sniffle, to a coughing fit where he couldn't breathe, to being admitted to hospital needing oxygen and to be tube fed, to find out he has a heart murmur, for it to be confirmed he has a medium sized hole in his heart - all in five days, is beyond frightening. But the fact the little man is back to being a milk monster and his first smile was in the hospital shows we have one tough cookie for a son.
So what's the next step for this little one?
I guess I should start from the beginning. So I told you about the cold he had which started last Thursday night. As the days went on, it started to get worse and he developed a cough. On Saturday he sounded really chesty and full of snot but no amount of snot sucking was helping. But he was still feeding okay and after seeing the doctor for my check-up, she advised me just to carry on what I'd been doing and ride it out. Saturday night I had to wake him for a feed which I've never had to do before and he just was so tired and not really fussed but Sunday morning he fed okay. But when my husband was changing him, he shouted for me to come upstairs and Rafe was coughing violently and going red - he looked like he was choking. It was really frightening. He calmed down and started going to sleep but rang 111 who booked us in at Arbroath out of hours. The doctor saw him cough and checked his breathing and wasn't overly concerned but wanted to get him checked out by a pediatrician at Ninewells. He also asked us whether we knew Rafe had a heart murmur - we said no. But again, he wasn't overly concerned - he just said to get it checked. It was quite a shock to hear him say he had a heart murmur but he seemed not to be worried so we were reassured a little.
When at Ninewells getting checked over, his cough started to get worse and he started to get really sleepy and seemed lazy when feeding. Like he was exhausted. They decided to admit him and we were put on Ward 29. Chris had to leave and I tried feeding him again but he was just so so tired. Then he just seemed to deteriorate. The nurses suctioned his nose which was horrific. She said I could leave the room but I didn't want to and he just screamed and screamed. His oxygen levels and heart rate were worrying the nurses so they wanted to tube feed him to give him a rest. When they inserted the tube I have never heard him cry like that. And he just kept looking at me as if to say why are you letting them do this mummy? It was heartbreaking. The next few days he pretty much stayed the same and were like a blur. He just slept and slept which for such an alert baby was awful to see. He just looked so fragile with all the tubes on his little face. They started him on hourly, then two hourly feeds but had to go back to one hour as it was too much for him. You could see his little chest working so hard. The doctor suggested just giving him an IV drip and no milk but thankfully he managed on the one hour feeds again. It was hard to give him a proper cuddle because of all his tubes, which was so upsetting. And I had to express like a mad woman. The pump was amazing but practically pulled my nipples off so really felt like a cow. I became a little obsessed with expressing and feeding him with my milk to be honest. Like he wouldn't get better without my milk. I think because I felt so helpless, I felt that as long as I was still feeding him my milk, I was helping.
Rafe had an x-ray the night we were admitted and at around 5am on Monday I woke and saw a doctor trying to soothe Rafe so I got up. She said that he had bronchiolitis and from the x-ray, although it wasn't very clear - he looked like he had a hole in his heart. I think I just went into shock as didn't quite know what to say. She said they were common and don't necessarily mean the worst as some people don't even know they have a hole. But on Tuesday AM a doctor did a heart trace and confirmed he did have a hole in his heart and then the following day, a paediatric cardiologist from Edinburgh saw Rafe and told us that it was a medium sized hole. It wasn't small enough to close on its own but not big enough to warrant emergency surgery. He said he wanted to see him in a month once he has recovered from bronchiolitis and decide what needed to done and if surgery definitely had to go ahead. They also want him to get the RSV jab as his heart might not cope as well as it has if he gets another virus. So although relieved the hole does not need operated on straight away - Chris and I both feel in limbo. There's still a strong chance he may need heart surgery which is terrifying. But trying to remain positive. He showed no symptoms before it was detected, it was only discovered because of the bronchiolitis. A lovely woman contacted me after my last post and said her son had been in a similar situation and they were adamant he needed surgery but the hole did close up on its own. But like she said, people say not to worry but you only get one heart. And he's so tiny. I can't even bare to picture him on an operating theatre.
We are moving back to the North East next month (long story!) and he will be seen at Freeman Hospital which just so happens to be the top place for paediatric cardiology so he'll be in the perfect place. Just need to try and keep people and children with colds from giving him kisses and cuddles but easier said than done in the winter! Especially as I have picked up a cold from being in the hospital. I do want to wrap him up in cotton wool until the next doctor's appointment but know I can't do that. Just going to be the hand sanitizer police for a while.
Seeing Rafe lying there so helpless and fragile was heartbreaking. It was also an exhausting five days - mentally and physically. We were in a ward with other babies with bronchiolitis - a couple were only three weeks’ old. It was awful in the night when the machines monitoring their heartbeat and breathing were all beeping and they were being suctioned and crying their little lungs out. I'd look around the room at the other mums and we'd give a knowing little smile with tears in our eyes as if to say: "this is fucking horrendous isn't it?" My boobs were like Niagara Falls as so many babies were crying I just leaked milk everywhere. Some teeny tot who was three weeks’ old was left overnight by his mum and because the nurses were rushed off their feet, there were times in the night when he just wanted a cuddle, but nobody was there. It broke my heart. It also broke my heart to see Rafe so poorly - but as the nurses said, children get ill very quickly and bounce back so quick too. And boy did he bounce back! He started to be more alert on Wednesday PM and by Thursday he had his eyes wide open and he started to get hungry. It was so hard as he kept looking at me to feed him but I couldn't in case it hindered his progress and he was getting upset. We tried a dummy but he just aggressively sucked it and cried when no milk came out. On Wednesday night they started him on three hourly feeds which he tolerated. So on Thursday I was able to try breastfeed him - as well as him still being tube fed. It was a struggle and there were lots of tears as he struggled to latch on properly as opening his mouth was hard work. But Thursday night we had an okay feed and on Friday morning I went over to his cot and the little champ saw me and smiled at me for the first time. It was an amazing thing to see. One of the best moments of my life. We managed an okay feed again that morning and the doctor said he could go home. He could have a cough for six weeks and he still has a sniffle but just need to keep an eye on him. I'm watching him like a hawk - especially his breathing as he does look tired after a feed but just need to remember it will take a while for him to recover. But I'd rather be over cautious - even more so because of his heart.
I don't think you'll ever be prepared for your child being in hospital. You just want to take all their pain away. Like I said before, I'd be ill for the rest of my life if Rafe never was. My husband has been my rock these past few days. Although he's just as upset as me, he has kept morale up, made me laugh - and kept all the nurses entertained too, with his stories. He loves telling a good story....
The staff at Ninewells are incredible and words cannot thank them enough for the care they gave our little one. Although I obviously never want to be back there again! And I never want to see that bloody breast pump ever again 🙈 I just wish I could say I'll never have to see my baby boy in a hospital bed again. I just hope and pray his little heart will heal itself. As one of my friends said, he has Marine blood in him so he's a strong little boy - our little fighter.
Thank you so much for all your messages - I'm sorry I haven't replied to them all but they mean so much. There are some positives to all this. Even though seeing him this ill has been awful - at least they detected the hole in his heart early on.
I'm still going to keep posting - hopefully get back to writing about my pit tits and poo explosions soon!
I probably won't post for a little bit as this little soldier is in hospital. His cold and cough got worse and on Sunday he sounded really chesty and a little breathless. Then he had a coughing fit and he looked like he was choking, which was so frightening. Long story short - he ended up being admitted to hospital. He has bronchiolitis and needs a little bit of oxygen and is being tube fed. When they were checking the little man's chest they discovered a heart murmur. They did a heart trace and found he has a hole in his heart. We've seen a paediatric cardiologist who told us the hole is medium sized. Not small enough to close on its own but not big enough to need emergency surgery. They want him to recover from bronchiolitis and in a month they will see him again to determine what needs to be done and whether he needs surgery. Seeing your baby in pain is the worst feeling in the world - you just want to take it all away. I'd be ill all my life just so Rafe would be okay. It's been a tough, devastating, scary few days. But he's on the mend and already looking to me for milk so the milk monster is returning! Don't know when we will be out of hospital but hopefully not too long. But he's our little fighter. ❤️
Before Rafe came into the world and during those couple of weeks post birth, everyone said the first six were the hardest and that it would get easier - breastfeeding would have clicked and I'd be less shell-shocked. So to me six weeks were like the holy grail. I just wanted to get to six weeks and I thought baby and I would be skipping through the streets in harmony as I breastfed with ease, saying fuck you to those unbelievably difficult first weeks. There has been no skipping…But not to dishearten those who are battling through the first week after baby's arrival - it is easier. Actually - I don't want to use that word as it's not 'easy' - it's just (for me), I'm slightly less shell-shocked and I'm not holding the baby like a watermelon. But still feel like I'm winging it half the time. And I'm still bloody exhausted. It's like the tornado has stopped, but there are still gale force winds some days.
It's been challenging this week as Rafe has his first cold. It literally breaks my heart to see him poorly. God knows what I'm going to be like when he has a sickness bug or when he gets his injections. (Dreading that day). It's hard as he doesn't want to feed as much which obviously worries me. And when he does feed, he struggles as his little nose is blocked and finds it difficult to latch on. Thankfully, mum friends have come to the rescue with their own remedies to help get rid of a cold. The doctor (who I saw for my six week check) and pharmacist weren't massively helpful as there is nothing you can really give a 6 week old. Apart from breastfeeding (as packed full of anti-bodies) saline drops and Sterimar spray, which someone recommended. One friend also recommended a snot sucker. I thought this was a joke. But no they exist! And are a God send. My husband has been sucking the snots out. Literally. Which is pretty minging. My husband hates blowing his own nose so high five to him for doing it. He pretty much almost vomits every time he does it. Being a parent is so glamorous. Hoping it clears in a couple of days as feel so sorry for the little lad and we all need sleep.
So for me, this week, breastfeeding really hasn't clicked quite yet. But I have been reassured by others who have told me it took 8 weeks - some 12. So I need to not be so hard on myself - and compare myself to other people. I am finding breastfeeding easier and some days I don't need to think about it, it just comes naturally. But other days (thanks mainly to Rafe being poorly) we have taken a step back. Which is really frustrating. And thanks to me, the nursing pillow manufacturers are still in business. After buying three different types of pillows - turns out just sticking to my own bed pillows that I used from the start - is the most comfortable for Rafe and I. Winning at life.
I had my six week check up with the doctor on Friday. I think my husband was at the door waiting with bated breath to see whether she said I can have sex again. 😂 I found the whole thing a bit pointless to be honest. She basically just asked whether I was bleeding still (very slightly, hardly anything) and whether I was still sore (I'm not but just don't feel the same down there – but don’t need to carry around a rubber ring). She said she doesn't normally examine people unless they want her to. And to be honest, I wasn't massively fussed about showing anyone down below - so was relieved and she said it sounds like I'm healed. She said it's amazing how after labour, your vagina and cervix look like a dog's dinner (don't know if that's the correct medical term) but within weeks, the body heals itself, which is amazing. And I guess it is. I can now exercise (well I presume I can, she didn't say I couldn't) - but at the same time, it's the last thing on my mind. I remember when I was pregnant thinking when the baby sleeps, I'll do a workout in the house - or I'll go for a run with the pram, or take him to the gym with me. HAHAHAHA. Okay Faye, you do that. Maybe when he is a bit older - but I can't imagine him waiting for a feed while I attempt a workout - and to be honest - I really am not arsed. I still feel like I look like a bag of sand but I'll deal with that when I am skipping through the streets....and plus, I had to try and run after the dog the other day and I felt like my uterus was going to fall out so doesn't bode well for the next time I do want to go for a run. But my friend did say she would come round and do personal training sessions with me to ease me in – so I’ll let you know how that goes! The doctor also asked me a few questions to see whether I had postnatal depression. Well she basically asked if I was okay. I said yes. I definitely don't feel like I have postnatal depression but I do still have moments where I feel overwhelmed - lonely and all over the place emotionally. But also I feel totally in love with this little person my husband and I made. But what struck me is what the doctor said - it hit the nail on the head for me. She said the loneliness in the early days are hard. The days turn into nights and it's just days of feeding and changing, feeding and changing. And once the cards and the flowers have dried up, people forget about you. Everyone else can get on with their lives as they always have - but you can't. Things are very different for you. But it is worth it she said. I thought it was rather poetic and also summed up how I was feeling - and I did drive back from the doctors ugly crying. Then when I got home, I was breastfeeding Rafe and I looked over at a photo on the fireplace of my husband and I all dressed up at a family wedding not long after we started going out - no bags under my eyes or saggy boobs. We were so drunk and I just about remember dancing away together, loving life - him lifting me up and us then stacking the dance floor on top of each other. Basically a standard night out when we first got together. Made me think about how different my life is now - and how I don't recognise that person or my 'old' life. But - although it has, hands down been the hardest six weeks of my life - and I know being a mum is and will always be the hardest job in the world. His beautiful eyes looking up at me makes everything right in the world - and maybe this new life is unrecognisable to what it was before - but I'm pretty sure my husband and I will be that drunk again soon and falling head first on the dance floor together. Difference is - we will just have our beautiful little boy - and a horrific hangover to nurse the next day. Now I look forward to that...
So to all those mums’ out there who have survived those first six weeks. I salute you. You're doing an amazing job and you're fucking fabulous. Faye x
So week 5 postpartum. We've had more breakthroughs with breastfeeding (hurrah!), although it still hasn't fully 'clicked' yet. A poo tsunami like I've never seen before. Engorged breasts - or pit tits (I'll explain later). More self-doubt. And rage at my husband over a banana.
I've always been quite hard on myself, lacked confidence - and been a worrier. Worrying what people think about me, my weight - public transport (most specifically getting a suitcase on to a train). And since having Rafe, those feelings have most certainly not disappeared. Though public transport is low on my lists of worries now. Even though breastfeeding is feeling so much more natural to me I am doubting myself daily as it still hasn't quite clicked yet. We still have the odd hiccup along the way (on Tuesday morning I ugly cried for hours as it was like we had both forgot what to do) where he might not have latched on straight away or I'm hunched over and not comfortable. So I'm asking questions daily. Is he really latched on properly? Am I really doing it right? I keep looking at videos of people breastfeeding to see whether I am doing it right. And comparing. Some look exactly like what I am doing - some totally different. But I know when it looks and feels right for Rafe and so I need to just trust myself. Easier said than done though. I genuinely can't believe how much of a struggle breastfeeding is - I had absolutely no idea it would be this hard. And because everyone keeps saying it's the first six weeks that are the hardest - I feel like I'm on a deadline. It should have clicked by now shouldn't it? The rational side of me says everyone is different and it can take longer. The suitcase on the train, no confidence woman who hasn't slept in what seems like a century, worries it will never click. I guess I just need reassurance. That it will click - soon! Because we are getting there. Like some days I do think it has clicked. I've had no pain in my nips for over a week and I have a new V shaped pregnancy pillow which seems to help so I'm getting there. I know everyone is different - but when did it click for you? Was it just a case of your baby latching on straight away and it all feeling more natural?
I also have been doubting myself as the little fella hadn’t had a poo in a few days. He'd been feeding well, had plenty of wet nappies but obviously was freaking out. The health visitor said there was nothing to worry about - the consistency of my milk might have changed and the poo will come - with a vengeance. And oh did it come!! A poo bloody tsunami. How can one little person make such an explosion?!
Rafe is still doing the four hour back to back feeds before bed (stocking up) and most mornings (refuelling), which is exhausting/soul destroying. And he has a really fussy hour at night where he is on and off the boob and cries and cries. I'm told it's normal for newborns to have a fussy period but doesn't make it less challenging. But he has been going longer in the night. Praise the Lord! But because he's going 2.5/3 hours between feeds in the night, my boobs have become quite full and uncomfortable - especially as he only takes one breast in the night. I've had to express a little to ease the pressure. When will my boobs automatically adjust to him going a little longer in the night and I won't need to express a little? As to put it frankly, I really can't be arsed to get up, feed, wind, nurse and then pump at 1am and 4am.
The little chap is still quite windy. And we've tried everything. Infacol, one friend on the patch kindly brought round Dentinox Colic Drops as they worked a treat on her little one and also we tried Gripe Water. But nothing really helps the poor lad - apart from a little massage which normally brings on a monster (very stinky) fart. The midwife recommended Colief but you have to express four tablespoons of milk to mix with the drops before you give it to baby - and it was hard work when I had a hungry milk monster wanting my boob ASAP – and it didn’t work! Has anyone got any miracle cures?
I've postponed the rest of the baby massage yoga class till January. The more I thought about it, I really didn't want to waste £50 to breastfeed Rafe for an hour and a half in a stranger’s house. He's still so little and cluster feeding so much, I think we won't benefit. Plus, breastfeeding is still not established - I'm still slightly shell shocked, I think we will enjoy it more when he's a bit older - and will actually benefit from going. I think I was so set on signing up to classes, getting out and meeting new mums, that I'd forgot he was only a few weeks old and that although getting out and about is important - it's still early days - and hopefully I will have more confidence by then. Also, my husband will be away for a few months starting January so it will be at a better time. And hopefully Rafe will have settled and not be such a milk monster. Hopefully….
My best friends came to visit this weekend which has been amazing. It's been the first time I've really properly thought that I wished we lived back ‘home’. They 'forced' me to get out the house in the morning with Rafe as I was worried about breastfeeding in public and one of my friends who has two boys reassured me that everything I was feeling was totally normal. She even changed Rafe's nappy for me as I wanted to make sure I was doing it right. Which made me realise I am a neurotic idiot. We also spoke about our husbands - and how it must be such an adjustment for them too. And they don’t get the support we get. Granted they haven't gone through pregnancy or pushed a baby out of their penis but they do have to put up with our irrational hormones. And not getting laid. (Maybe never again 😂) Although they really don't help themselves. We were all rushing around to get out the house on Saturday, five adults, Rafe, a six-year-old and a toddler. I was well aware I was on a breastfeeding deadline and Rafe was already kicking off in his snowsuit as we put him in his car seat. But it's okay husband - you sit on the kitchen table and eat a fucking banana. RAGE. Why do men have no sense of urgency? But hand on heart - I couldn't have got through these few weeks without him.
I always sound a bit negative - so let me end on something to make you laugh! Maybe this is a 'you had to be there' kind of moment but wanted to tell you something that made me laugh for days and kept me smiling through the night feeds. Let me talk to you about pit tits. We were FaceTiming my SIL and talking about women who had boob jobs after breastfeeding their kids had left their boobs looking like dog ears. I was also talking about finding the right position for breastfeeding and someone had advised biological nursing. I said I couldn't do that as when I lie down - my boobs slide down to my armpits and the poor fella wouldn't be able to find them.
SIL: "You have pit tits - like me. That's what my husband calls them."
Me: "HAHAHAHAHAHA oh my God - I have the ultimate pit tits."
Husband: "No you have back tits."
Okay - too far.
Who would have thought pit tits would have made me laugh so much - and sum up my boobs/breastfeeding in two words. So for all the women who have lost their boobs to breastfeeding - or who've always had pit tits (me) I salute you. The struggle is real. If pregnancy and breastfeeding isn't hard enough - you have to say farewell to your tits. RIP.
On that note, until next time! Faye x
Firstly. I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has messaged me and commented on my previous blog posts with advice, sharing their own story and giving me words of encouragement. Hand on heart it means so much that friends - and strangers are there for help and support. Without sounding like a cheese fest - at a time when you can feel quite lonely, I don't feel so lonely anymore.
So week 4.....
You know how they say newborns sleep a lot. HAHAHAHAHAHA. It's all LIES I tell you - LIES. Well Rafe the sleep thief, milk monster doesn't. Literally the other day, he was on my boob from 8am to 9pm. I hardly got a break. And he did not sleep at all. Which was fun. If fun means exhausting. His last feed before bedtime, it’s like he knows he needs to stock up and he is like a hungry shark on my boob. Like if he comes off my nipple, he furiously tries to get it back in his mouth. He’s a milk fiend! I know everyone keeps saying he will settle and go longer between feeds but - when will that happen?
People say when you have a baby your life changes but I don't think you realise how much it does. Just being able to pop out for a coffee without it being timed around feeds, or leaving the house without fifty pillows to help breastfeed. Or simply being able to do what you want to do without a baby hanging off your boob. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t imagine life without Rafe – but I can’t quite remember my life before either.
The exhaustion is tough. When he wakes up for his night feeds, sometimes I can barely lift my head off the pillow. And it’s not just tiredness – it’s the exhaustion of spending all day and night breastfeeding. It takes it out of you. So how is the breastfeeding going? Well the breastfeeding support worker came out on Tuesday and I decided to try the rugby ball hold to feed Rafe. And surprise, surprise he latched on perfectly and fed like a dream. Thanks son. I felt embarrassed that I had called her out. I kept justifying asking her to come out. It wasn’t a wasted trip though as she did give me some advice and encouragement. However, when she left he wouldn’t latch on. To the point he really, really hurt my poor nip that I was crying. It was so, so painful. And it just really got to me. I felt like giving up. I needed to get out the house for ten minutes so I took the dog for a walk. It was Halloween so there were lots of kids and their parents out trick or treating looking at me thinking what the fuck is she dressed up as? As I was hysterically crying (or ugly crying as my husband calls it) with snots on my face, asking my dog, “why can’t I get this?”. But now, after a few days of persevering, loads of encouragement, we are getting there – I think! I don’t want to tempt it but I think the rugby ball position works well for us, he can latch on quite well, not always straight away and sometimes we struggle - but so much better than before. And I’m comfortable – although I have about fifty pillows (maybe four) to support Rafe and I – we are getting there. I’m not sure it has clicked yet – but if feels like it won’t be long. I hope! So I’d say, we have had a breakthrough with breastfeeding. And the health visitor came this week and the little chunk is now 9Ib 3oz – he was 8Ib 10oz last week. So all that feeding and persevering is paying off. I can’t explain the relief. It’s such a rollercoaster – if he doesn’t latch on or feed well, I walk the streets ugly crying – and when he does, I feel so happy. There is no medium. But I think we are getting there….
And thinking about pacing the streets, crying, it made me think about the pressure of breastfeeding. Personally, I want to keep going. I really want to breastfeed - but I don't think there is anything wrong with giving your baby formula. At the end of the day - it's about the baby being fed. Formula or boob - as long as they are healthy, then that's all that matters. Fuck anyone who judges you. But the pressure is real. Pressure from me, the midwife, the health visitor. They may not mean to but it is really rammed down your throat to breastfeed. So when I was thinking about giving up - I felt so guilty. Like a failure. And the pressure is from society too. My friend told me she was out and about breastfeeding - topped her baby up with a bottle and a man - yes A MAN came up to her and said she should persevere with breastfeeding - even if she gets sore. Excuse me - have you had your nipples bleed from trying to feed your baby? Have you cried in the night when they won't latch on? No - so fuck off. Made me so angry. So massive high five to those breastfeeding - and a massive high five to those using formula.
We had more firsts this week. We went to our first baby yoga and massage class. I was really worried as I packed my pillows – what if people judge me for not being able to breastfeed with ease? I still can’t change his nappy in rapid speed – will the other mum’s judge me? Help - I really don’t want to breastfeed in ‘public’. All irrational – but real worries. I got there and the teacher saw me with all the pillows and asked whether I was moving in…cringe. Then when I walked in – there was a man there. Ahh, more fear about getting my boobs out. We started the class and Rafe screamed the place down. So I had to feed him. I was going to go out the room and I thought sod this. I was covered up and it’s not like the other dad wanted to see my saggy ass boobs. So I got my pillows and fed – not quite in public – but in front of strangers. Hurrah to me! And after the feed we started the massage again – and then he screamed the place down. So basically, it looks like I’ve paid £50 for a class to feed Rafe in front of strangers. Winning.
Rafe is starting to become much alert now – and his farts are impressive. Take the exhaustion, the worries, the nipple pain – I am overwhelmed by my love for him. And when he cuddles into you – it makes my heart melt. Then he opens his eyes and stirs and it is time to go back on the boob….again.
We have had loads of visitors over the week which has been lovely but it can be exhausting. I've given up going upstairs to breastfeed. I can't be arsed. I'm covered up so it's not like as my husband said: "you're getting your tits out for a lap dance." Speaking of visitors - my brother is here and he just turned around and said: "I'm so tired. I've only been getting six hours sleep." SAY WHAT NOW?
Best dash, the milk monster is stirring.
Royal Marine Wife. Mum to Rafe.