Category Archives: Birth

World Breastfeeding Week: 1st to 7th August

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Shame on me: I didn’t even know that there was a World Breastfeeding Week. I knew there were loads of campaigns, I saw several on TV whilst living in Brazil, but I had never known it had a name (and even if it was the same thing).

I consider myself very lucky, because, although it seems natural and instinctive, breastfeeding can be really hard. I remember like it was yesterday that Laura didn’t latched straight away, she simply wouldn’t grab my breast and feed. At the hospital, on the night she was born, a nurse told me I should give her formula because she was going to be hungry. I did; as, because I was a first time mum and one of the worst nightmares of a mother is to let their children feel hungry. The other nurse who helped me feed her said I shouldn’t worry – we gave her a tiny little bit of formula on a cup and that was it. Some babies simply don’t feel hungry at birth and even if they are hungry, they only take a few drops of milk because their stomach is just too small. Laura was born on a Saturday and it was only on Monday that the midwife who came to my house for the check up showed me I had plenty of milk. All I needed was to be patient and keep trying – it is a learning process for both mother and baby; it seems obvious (mouth + nipples + suck milk = feed) but it requires practice. Another thing to consider: babies do lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first week of life. It doesn’t mean that they are hungry and not eating. Again, I consider myself lucky because I had good assistance in the very beginning and didn’t go with formula straight away.

The “problems” weren’t only at birth. Breastfeed can hurt like hell. The nipples get very sore and it requires a supernatural strength not to give up, especially during the growth spurts. With Laura, I felt an awful pain through the milk ducts as well, like someone was cutting them open with a sharp knife every time she had a feed. But after the three first months, it was gone. Everything. Sore nipples, sharp pain.

Beatrice was a much easier baby at birth – she had a feed as soon as she was born, the umbilical cord wasn’t even cut and she sucked like she was starving. The nipples were sore in the beginning, but it is all memory now. And I didn’t have the sharp pain I had with Laura – thankgoodness. I don’t have loads of milk, but I think I have enough. I also ensure I drink enough liquid all day long and take my vitamins on a daily basis. Bea is a bit clumsy when drinking and she gets easily distracted when there are people around or we are in a different environment. Our favourite position is lying on a bed (preferably mine), facing each other. We are both relaxed and she seems less distracted (although she still seems to “play” during her meal time).

I understand that some women find it difficult and give up breastfeeding, but in most cases it’s lack of support. Breastfeeding is so important for the baby and it is such a practical way to feed the baby (anywhere, no bottles needed) that every woman should look for support even before the baby is born. All mothers should try to breastfeed their babies but don’t feel guilty if you cannot. The most important thing to your child is your love and to be looked after. Being stressed will only make things worse.

Personally it is one of my favourite parts of motherhood so far. I’m happy I was able to carry on breastfeeding Laura until she was 20 months old (she decided she had enough), even working full time and long hours. I’m happy I can provide Beatrice with all the nutrients she needs, as well as give her some of my warmth and comfort.

For more information on the World Breastfeeding Week, click here.

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Beatrice, 8 days old

Beatrice, 2 months old. Photo by Helen Schryver

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Two weeks

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And two weeks have gone by so quickly. Or maybe not.

I’m pretty sure most mums avoid comparing the new baby with previous one(s), but also can’t help comparing them. It is not in the bad way – I would say it is almost for “educational” purposes.

Laura was a quiet baby for… a day or two. Then she showed that she had strong lungs and an appetite of a lion. She would only sleep in our arms, with us sitting on the pilates ball or rocking chair. Maybe I walked a lot while pregnant, so she was used to movement.┬áBeatrice was a quite baby for almost 12 days. She is was so peaceful that we would even forget about her. She sleeps used to sleep in the moses basket or the pram for 3 or 4 hours in row and sometimes I had to wake her up for a feed. But at night… hmmmm… after 11pm or midnight the colics kick off and keep us all awake most of the night. The poor baby suffers so much. I think Laura also suffered with winds/colics because we gave her Infacol when she was a month or two old. The health visitor suggested giving it to Bea as well, but I was wondering if I should wait.

We gave Laura a dummy sometime between 4 and 8 weeks (I can’t remember exactly, but we were desperate) and had it up to last December (roughly 2 years and 1/2). I was hoping to avoid dummies with Beatrice but it will depend on how good she is to be calmed down. I don’t like the idea of dummies but I’m also not 100% against it. If we decide to go for it, I will aim to remove it by 12 months.

Laura cried a lot when she had her first bath, 24 hours after birth. Beatrice only had her first proper bath after the belly bottom fell off, a week after she was born, and she didn’t cry at all. I used to give Laura a bath every single day, but I’m way more relaxed with Bea (maybe because it is way colder than it was in 2010) and I clean her with cotton wool (top and tail or cat bath) every day instead of bathing her every day.

Because it was warmer when Laura was born, she used to be just on nappies quite a lot and we were always outdoors. Bea spends most of the time in the house and full of clothes (I’m scared that she might catch a cold or something like that). And although I try to massage Bea whenever she is being cleaned or having her nappy changed, the skin to skin contact with her is a fraction of what it was with Laura, to my dispair.

Laura was on antibiotics from day one because of some liquid found in her kidneys – her belly bottom fell off after a couple of weeks because for the antibiotics. Bea didn’t have this. They both had vitamin K just after birth.

Laura was born with 3,120kg, but I have no idea of her height as it wasn’t common practice to measure babies at the hospital she was born. She lost approximately 10% of her weight after birth but there’s no records of her weight by day 10; Bea was 2,920kg and 52cm at birth, went to 2,860kg at day 5 and 3,060kg at day 10.

We kept the house relatively peaceful for Laura. She turned out to be an active and very loud child. The house cannot be kept quiet for Bea (which drives mummy a bit crazy) – I hope she will be a sweet and calm little girl (active, but not loud, if this is even possible).

I had post-natal depression with Laura and started with medication when she was 7 months old; only stopped the pills when trying to get pregnant, last year. I carried on breastfeeding as the GP said that stopping it would cause more harm then good. I’m hoping I can avoid it with Bea, but I have to say that avoiding baby blues in this country is a bit hard, as we can have winter blues even in spring (and summer!).

I put on (a lot of) weight breastfeeding Laura; a month after giving birth, I had lost 8kg of the 11kg I put on during pregnancy; two months after giving birth, I put on the 8kg back. I don’t have high hopes to lose weight breastfeeding Bea. But, hey, maybe things are different. So far, in two weeks, I lost almost all the baby weight I put on during this pregnancy, which was roughly 6 to 7kg. I still have 1kg to go, but as with Laura, breastfeeding makes me ravenous and I eat the whole day, all the time and not the healthier options…

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Post-natal procedures

Right after giving birth, we are still checked by the hospital’s or community’s midwives, until we are discharged by them, which occurs around day 10 after the baby is born. They check both mum and baby and have some routine tests, which include the heel prick test (they take blood sample from the baby’s heel at day 5). Then the health visitor takes over, looking after the baby and to some extension, the mother, but we, mums, have to go to the GP if we have any issues. Also, the 6 to 8 weeks review (for both mum & baby) is done by the GP, and all the immunisations (which start from 8 weeks) are done by a nurser at the GP.

Good to know – part 1

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There are things that it’s best to be left untold, but others you would be happier if you knew beforehand.

In my case, I would have loved to know that post-natal contractions (womb going back to it’s normal place) are much worse the second time around. These contractions exist and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Ok, this is true for 1) normal/natural births and 2) breastfeeding babies. I’m not sure how it works when it’s a C section and formula-fed babies. Anyone?

Apparently breastfeed the baby helps the womb/uterus to go back to its original place, which can take up to 6 weeks. And it can hurt a bit, like colics, or birth contractions. I remember the feeling, but I don’t remember feeling the pain – I do remember finding it quite interesting to feel the internal organs moving around (weird, I know) and the hips tightening. This time, the pain was unbelievable. I felt it straight after giving birth, when Bea had her first feed, still the in the whole mess of placenta, waters, blood and all. And it carried on until now. The midwife came here on Saturday and said that the first 24 hours are the worst, but it will last for a few days – not the 6 weeks though, thankgoodness.

Ah, and good to know: the pain gets worse with subsequent pregnancies. Baby 3?

P.S.: We can take paracetamol to ease the pain, but there’s a limit to the amount of pain killers we take a day – it’s far less than the amount of times you breastfeed.

P.P.S.: By no means I want to scare anybody. Some pains we just have to go through and are part of life. Yes, it hurts and yes, we could do without it, but it’s a small price to pay for the whole experience of birth/breastfeed/have a cute baby to look after.

The poll result

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Ok, nobody got the date right.

There was one answer outside the selected one, 24th May, that said “for a different horoscope”. The date was wrong, but the answer wasn’t. Laura is Gemini (after 21st May), so if Beatrice was born on the 24th, she would still be Gemini. Since she was born on the 10th, she is a little Taurus girl. Different solar sign.

But the closest answers were the ones that said “when grandma arrives: 5th May”. It was only 5 days after they arrived; 8 days before the actual due date, and 12 days before big sis’ birthday.

There there, congrats to the guessers. I don’t know who all of you are, and since I didn’t ask for emails/names, I can’t even send you a “prize”. Haha

The “Ninja” birth

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Disclaimer: don’t read this if knowing details of births is not your cup of tea.

Going home

We got home around 3pm yesterday, I think, but it took longer than we hoped. We were ready to go by 11am, but things aren’t that simple when you mix public hospital + bureaucracy/paperwork + extra cautious staff + other women giving birth at the same time as you are due to be checked out. But at least we got home; they wanted to take me to the maternity ward and wait with other mums that just had given birth, but there was no space available.

The labour & birth

We left the house just after 7am (I remember that because Mr. C’s alarm went off at 7am while we were trying to leave the house). I was in a lot of pain, the ladies at the hospital weren’t in a hurry to let me in the labour ward.

Should I say that I was feeling the contractions all through the night? Actually, it was always there during the day, but I thought they were “only” the innocent Braxton Hicks. It wasn’t annoying during the day but they didn’t let me sleep at night as they were too intense and too frequent.

I didn’t want to wake up Mr. C as I wasn’t sure what to do, and I needed him rested for the next morning. He woke up around 6:30 and by then I wasn’t able to think straight and all I wanted was to go to the hospital and have an epidural to ease the pain.

Yes, I was thinking about it even before knowing if I was really in labour.

I tried to call the labour ward before going – they ask us to call before going to avoid unnecessary trips and overcrowding the hospital. No answer at first. Mr. C was relaxed, not understanding the proportion of that pain – a few screams from the preggie put things into perspective again.

After speaking to a midwife, she said it was ok to go (if you ask, she was really encouraging). We went, by then I wasn’t just in pain, I was also sick (but with nothing to throw up in my stomach). The drive there was less than 15 min. It seems to have taken another 15 to get to the delivery suite.

Our midwife was a girl called Kelsey, very sweet. I got there asking for the epidural and had loads of gas and air (brilliant thing, I wish I had this at home. BUT it doesn’t stop the pain!). She checked me out and dilatation was about 4cm They were quick with the epudural, unlike the previous experience with Laura’s birth. Just before it was actually applied, I had an urge need to push and asked to be checked again: 7cm! They warned me that probably the epidural wouldn’t have the effect on time. I was so in pain that I didn’t care – it was more for the reassurance than anything. And I didn’t know how much longer the thing was going to last. It could be a matter of minutes or hours.

I wasn’t checking the time but it felt like forever, I was in a LOT of pain, the urge to push was intense and this time I actually felt the pain of baby coming out. Just before I started to push, my waters broke. It was such an interesting experience! I didn’t have it with Laura. ­čśŽ

Gas and air was what was keeping me together because as predicted, the epidural wasn’t really doing much.

The push bit is the “old” story: first the head, then the body. Not as quick and painless like the first time, but still a great experience. Apparently the umbilical cord was quite long and was around her neck three times, which made the midwife extra careful and in a rush to cut the cord, despite our request to wait a bit (she waited a few seconds but that was all).

No stitches this time, which is great. Breastfed a lot when all was still being cleaned up. I saw and felt the “birth” of the placenta – the midwife explained all the parts to us.

So, in regards the hospital experience and birth, it was all pretty quick: 2 hours between arriving there and the actual birth. The post-birth experience (baby checks, shower for me, paperwork and lots of waiting) was about 5 hours.

Being in control

I think most of the complaints from mothers I read online is the lack of “being in control” of the whole thing. Midwives and doctors tend to tell us what’s best for us and the baby and because of our fragile state, we tend to accept everything. And then regret later.

My experience overall is that I was in control most of the time and the only thing I couldn’t control was myself. If I knew that it was going to be quick, MAYBE I would have done some things differentely. Just maybe.

When we were trying to leave, I joked a couple of times with hubby about not going through all that if we had a home birth. He agreed, but after seeing the mess it makes, home birth is not on my plans. Yes, this is how “shallow” I can be.

The end