Failing at Breastfeeding a Second Time Around

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.


When I had my eldest in 2009, I hadn’t really made a decision on whether to breastfeed. I certainly hadn’t prepared or read up about it and, to all intents and purposes, I had prepared beforehand by buying everything I needed to formula feed: the steriliser, the bottles, even a tub of Cow & Gate.

This time though, I was older. I knew breastfeeding wasn’t easy, and I spent the weeks before A arrived endlessly perusing the La Leche League’s ‘Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’. I’d waited a long time for this second child and I was going to do things the ‘right’ way if it killed me. I shrugged off the tone of the guide which immediately put me on the defensive and took it for what it was. When A was born, she latched on like a dream. Perhaps this was going to be easy, I thought smugly.

The next day my husband returned to work. He’s on a temporary contract and wasn’t entitled to any leave and hadn’t accrued enough holiday to take much time. I understood his reasons and got on with things. What I hadn’t contemplated was the sheer amount of time BFing took up. It quickly became clear I would have to sit for hours with A to settle her—and almost immediately I began to get sore. I consulted my manual and tried some of the different BF positions suggested. A screamed and got upset whenever I tried her in any position but me lying down, which meant I had to go upstairs a lot and leave my eldest to fend for herself.

Two days after I gave birth, I had to do the school run with my eldest…I barely got myself out of the house in time to get her to school. And then I was accompanied by a screaming, red-faced, furious infant who’d had her feed cut short. I wasn’t able to prepare meals, as A was almost permanently attached to me. One day I ate a grand total of six biscuits. This was followed by night after night of no sleep with a baby who just couldn’t seem to disentangle herself from my boobs. I remember crying when my eldest shouted at me from downstairs, as she wanted me to play with her, and I couldn’t move in case I lost my latch (which I’d spent 20 minutes trying to get right, with aforementioned red-faced, screaming, furious infant).

So I did what they tell you to do—ask for help! I called my local breastfeeding support group. By this point I was dreading every feed—A was struggling to latch properly, which was causing pain, and every feed took hours. The lady I spoke to told me she was sorry, there was no outpatient appointment for 2 days, but she could give me help over the phone. She was very lovely but her advice was that it sounded as if my latch wasn’t right (but she couldn’t show me what I was doing wrong over the phone and I was damned if I could work it out)—and that I needed lots of skin to skin. Great advice if I only had A to look after—almost impossible with two. I went along to a parent and baby club the next day and surprised myself by feeding her in public for the first time—admittedly, among other BFing mums. But it was a start. Another mum commented that my latch didn’t look quite right and that was why I was probably in pain. Apparently it shouldn’t hurt if it was being done right. When my midwife visited me, she told me my latch was perfect. I ended up hugely confused and doubtful.

When A was a week old, I had an appointment with a local midwife to check her weight and general health. The concerned look on the midwife’s face when I was told that A hadn’t gained her birth weight made me feel like utter shit. I’d been trying so hard, the baby blues had kicked in, and now I was starving my child too? She quizzed me about how many wet nappies she’d produced. I couldn’t remember an exact amount—I didn’t even know what day it was. But the fact she hadn’t poo’ed for 5 days, well, that was a massive problem too. She offered to check my latch again but I was so upset I just wanted to go home. My formula-fed eldest thrived straight away; this couldn’t have been more different.

The next day, I woke up to red, angry patches over my left breast. A health visitor came to see me at home and almost the moment she walked through the door, I burst into tears and told her what had happened. She visibly flinched when I showed my breast to her and called my doctors. I got an appointment the same day and was prescribed antibiotics. With a serious expression, my doctor told me I would no longer be able to feed A myself on the drugs he was going to give me. The relief I felt, I cannot even begin to describe. The fact it had been taken out of my hands meant the world to me; I had an excuse that was valid when someone asked me why I hadn’t breastfed. (In my mind, I imagine people asking this question; no one has yet.)

I went home and told the BFing group I’d joined on Facebook that I’d be leaving them, and was immediately told my doctor was wrong, that the drugs he’d prescribed me were perfectly safe for breastfeeding. ‘Nooooooooooo!’ my inner self was screaming, ‘Please don’t let this be a decision that I have to MAKE!’ I decided to use my breastpump instead. My boobs were so sore by this point, particularly after mastitis, that I could not entertain the idea of her trying to latch on. It was then that a bit of advice from a good friend (who is also a breastfeeding support worker) said to me, ‘You have waited so long for this baby. Isn’t it about time that you got to enjoy her?’

It didn’t take long for my milk to dry up completely, even with the breast pump. (I found I had even less time to pump with preparing bottles and I couldn’t manage to get much out of my boobs at all.)

A is now thriving. My eldest has got her mum back and I don’t dread every time A cries for a feed.

That’s not to say I’m comfortable with formula feeding. I compare myself unfavourably with every woman that has managed to do it successfully. What has she got that I haven’t? How was she able to work through mastitis, personal circumstances, pain, whilst I couldn’t? Why didn’t I prepare myself more? Maybe I just didn’t want it enough. I feel very defensive when breastfeeding is mentioned and I even find myself waiting for comments or dirty looks when I’m bottle feeding in public. (As others have pointed out, it’s unlikely anyone in real life really cares—but hey, my mind is doing weird things to me at the moment.) The weirdest thing for me is trying to reconcile myself to doing ‘what’s best’. Undoubtedly, the ‘best’ thing for our family was formula—but that doesn’t stop the incessant voice inside my head telling me I haven’t done what’s ‘best’ for A’s health.

“Beat Infertility” Podcast: Donor Eggs

The Beat Infertility podcast is a weekly series hosted by Heather Huhman. She interviews people about their infertility journey. A single episode features two main interviews: one with someone who is pregnant or has a child, and one with someone still on their infertility journey.

Last week, Heather interviewed Lauren, one of the RU editors, about her journey to egg donation. Here’s what Lauren had to say:

 

Am I An Impostor?

This post comes to us from the author of the blog, My Perfect Breakdown.


In the last year, I’ve moved out of the world of recurrent pregnancy loss.

Evidently 5 losses and learning that the chances of a successful pregnancy are not in our favour was our end point.

My husband and I, we’ve moved on together.

We stopped trying for a biological child.

In fact, we’ve turned to the most effective birth control on the market (the Mirena IUD) in our efforts to not get pregnant. We just cannot go there.

For us, stopping trying for a biological child did not mean we’ve stopped trying for a child to call our own.

We’ve fully invested ourselves and immersed ourselves in the world of open infant adoption with the added twist of doing an international adoption. It’s complex, it’s expensive, and at times it’s disheartening and frustrating. But it’s also exciting to be waiting adoptive parents. After so much loss and heartache, it truly is amazing to be in a place filled with hope

After hiding from all things baby for years, we are now putting together a nursery. We are receiving baby gifts. We are planning our life to include a child(ren).

And yet, I feel as though I’m an impostor. There are days where I think I am not a mom, I do not have any living children. And we don’t even have a real timeline on our adoption, who knows how long it will take before we actually have a child living in our house? So, while we’ve moved out of infertility and baby loss, and are still choosing to have children, we still have empty arms.

I go into baby stores and I still have an unnerving feeling of not belonging. I feel as though I’m being judged by the other shoppers and the sales people for my lack of a cute baby bump and stories of morning sickness. But, the reality is, probably very few people are judging me. They don’t know our story, they don’t know about our losses and/or our adoption. Really, no-one is judging me, except me. In this way, I am my own worst enemy. And I just end up making myself feel inadequate. I realize this, and yet, I just cannot shake the feeling of being an impostor.

I wonder, will it stop when I am a mom to our adopted child? Will I feel legitimate?

I find myself wondering about the day I start attending baby and mommy classes. I worry about all the other mommies talking about their pregnancies, birth experiences and breastfeeding struggles. I worry about all the other mommies being part of a club and me standing on the outside just wanting to be part of it, like that sad little kid on the playground who watches all the other kids playing. And then, I start worrying about the day my child feels judged for being adopted.

And then I realize, I cannot control the future. I can, however, control how I internalize all of this, and I know I am not doing myself or my child any good by living in a place of self-criticism and inadequacy. Instead, I need to focus on doing my very best. I need to focus on embracing and living my reality. I am a waiting parent, and waiting to adopt is no less valid then waiting to give birth. It is different, but that doesn’t make it an inadequate way to grow our family.

If you like this post, please feel free to share it and please check out myperfectbreakdown.com to follow my journey.

Reclaiming Myself

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.


Please remember that this is my own fitness journey and that any exercise regime you start should be only in agreement with your doctor—and only after your six-week check-up when your doctor has given you the thumbs up to start exercising again. I can’t stress the importance of this: it’s not worth setting yourself back by trying to do too much too soon. It could also be dangerous to your health.

Well, here is my journey to reclaim myself!

For anyone who doesn’t know me, I used to be part of the Twitter IVF community. After I had my baby, our miracle Mia back in 2014, I left the community. It wasn’t because I didn’t care or want to support my friends that I had made over the past four years, but because I needed to leave for myself, to close that chapter, which had mostly been painful but thankfully ended. I kept my friends who wanted to stay in touch. I think after seeing my umpteen fitness tweets, they know I have well and truly left. My main goals are my fitness ones, which I am happy to share with you.

It’s been a year since I had Mia, and I am down three stone [Editor: 42 lbs or about 19 kgs], sat here in UK size 12 trousers and feeling the fittest I have for a very long time. During my teens, I was heavily into aerobics, especially Step Aerobics and cross training. In my 20’s, I trained nine hours a week for four years as a Thai Boxer and Kickboxer in Hong Kong. I could do so much then, weighed nothing (although I thought I was fat at the time!), and took for granted the boundless energy that only the young have!

During most of my 30’s, I was always involved in some sort of sport until I met my husband and our infertility and IVF journey began. Then came a big slump in my training and mental well-being. I was so scared of doing anything that could affect my chances of conceiving or, later, carrying the baby—I miscarried Mia’s twin and was petrified for most of the pregnancy that I would lose her, too. (Thankfully she stayed with us, the little fighter that she is!) I’m now in my 40’s, and feel in great shape—possibly even back to where I was in my 20’s!

If you’ve had a baby and want to get back into some sort of exercise routine, then you should consider what you can practically do, how much time you have, and what will keep you motivated. Think about whether you need a workout buddy to stay motivated, or a personal trainer, or just more time. Here are a few tips:

Community: I highly recommend joining a social media community in your area. For me, it was the running community. I follow UK Run Chat on Twitter and Run Mummy Run on Facebook. Both have been great for making contacts, gaining support, and learning some priceless tips from those who have been where you are—as in starting off—and will cheer you on, pick you up if you need it. I do regular virtual runs with a lady from Run Mummy Run, and also have a meet up coming up with some of my UK Run Chat friends and I can’t wait.

Scales: Ignore these as much as you can! Although I mentioned my weight loss earlier, I rarely weigh myself now. Not because I am at goal weight or anything like that; it’s just not a great reflection on true fitness progress. A tape measure is your best guide—make sure to measure yourself say once a month. Plus, use your clothes as a measure, too! It works, really! When you start exercising, your muscles will weigh more and this will affect the scale. It’s not a true reflection of how much work you are putting in.

Start off small: After I got my six-week all-clear from the doctors, I started doing long walks with the baby in the pram—wow, what a shock to the body! A month or so later, it had laid the foundation to start gentle Zumba a few times a week. As I had a c-section, I made sure I just did the cardio option rather than anything core-related and it was enough to get my heart rate going, sweat flowing, and muscles sore!

Seek professional advice: I had a bit of maternity money [Ed.: a government stipend paid to pregnant women] left over and decided to spend it on a personal trainer. This has been one of the best things I could’ve done. Sian, my trainer, is qualified in training women post-baby, and if you have the money, I would highly recommend going down this route. Sian has been very careful with how she has trained me. We’ve only just started doing major core work—10 months after I started training with her. Another plus is that the trainer can advise if you have the right posture/form to get the most out of your training—something a DVD can never replace. I continue training with Sian once a week over Skype now that I have moved, and we do circuit-type training, which is very challenging. The sense of achievement afterwards is immense!

Set yourself a goal: For me, it’s booking races. I have three half-marathons coming up—one in September, one in March, and another next June. It keeps me focussed and continually training. Goals can also come in the form of clothes: buy trousers in a smaller size or splash out on something like a massage or whatever your favourite treat is—it spurs you on! New workout clothes can also be a great incentive: now I have a Garmin watch and good trainers to run in, I feel like a proper runner. This helps with mental attitude, which is as important as physical fitness. My favourite quote is, “Your body can do anything: it’s your mind you have to convince.”

Lastly, feel grateful for what you do have. At the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t recognise my body—but it carried me through the toughest time of my life and then carried a baby… (just!) I am writing this on the last day of my 42nd year and since I had Mia, I’ve run a half marathon and two 10k’s. I have much to be grateful for, and every day I learn how to better myself—something which benefits my family, too.

I’ll finish with something my mum told me. All her life she said she hated her legs—until she worked in an artificial limbs unit and was then very grateful for what she had. If you’re looking at yourself now, wanting to change a few things, know that the support is out there to achieve those goals. Be grateful, be accepting, be patient and with everything, be yourself. Good luck. xx

Lifting the Clouds

This is a piece written for us by Someday Mama, a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community.


Infertility was a dark cloud that touched every corner of my life. It was always with me and affected everything I did and sadly soured many of my relationships. And until that cloud was lifted, I wasn’t able to fully open up my heart to true love and happiness.

And for me, this cloud could only be lifted by one thing. Motherhood. Everything else was a temporary high or desperate distraction from the heartache, but it never truly went away.

Since having my babies, it’s like I’m seeing the world for the first time in many ways. Not only because being a mother allows you to enter a completely new realm of the world, but also because the black hole in my heart has been mended.

This has, in turn, shed light on many people I’ve pushed away and relationships that have suffered because of my pain. So consumed with my own pain, I pushed a lot of friends and family away. Turns out it’s really difficult to have a relationship with someone entirely self-absorbed…not to mention, ready to snap, if anyone said the wrong thing or looked at her sideways for not having kids.

I have already started mending some relationships that I truly have missed.

I am looking forward to rebuilding many more old friendships that have been lost and even forging new ones.

But I would love to apologize and make right by those who were caught in the crossfires of my battle to have a baby. Unfortunately, there are some offenses I may not even know, or remember, that I caused as another joyous effect of the cloud is that you try your best to block out and forget those miserable times.

So I hope you know, if you tried to reach out and offer comfort and you were pushed away for “not understanding” the space I was in, I’m truly sorry.

Processed with Rookie Cam
Processed with Rookie Cam

Solids, Purees and Weaning, Oh my!

The current WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines recommend that full term babies are breastfed up until the six month mark for them to achieve optimal health, development and growth. Whatever your feeding choice, formula or breast milk, unless your doctor has advised otherwise (such as in the case of premature babies), please do not start too much earlier than this. There is an interesting new view coming out of Israel (Peanut Allergies in Israeli and UK Jewish children) but until the guidelines change, please follow your doctor’s advice.

Weeks before we started Beans on solids, we had noticed a sudden change in her behaviour around food. Slowly but surely, she had started to try to grab food out of our hands and was noticeably interested when we had food around her. As we sped towards the sixth month mark, I felt it important to learn how on Earth we were going to feed her since I wasn’t terribly good at the whole breastfeeding malarkey (a long story for another day!) The first thing I did was to sign up for an NCT (National Childbirth Trust) postnatal course on introducing solids. The second thing I did, was to invest a small fortune in every recommended weaning gadget on Amazon possible. Finally, I bought three highly praised books:

  1. Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner
  2. Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett’s Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook
  3. Dr Rana Conway’s Weaning Made Easy

I had a few worries going into this unknown territory, the biggest being that I have quite a few food allergies thanks to Oral Allergy Syndrome and I was concerned that Beans would have a similar reaction. If I eat food that grows on trees raw, my face swells up and my tongue and gums blister. Not much fun and definitely not fun if it’s your baby going through it! Another worry was that how would I know that she was eating enough, after all, we had an extended stay in hospital thanks to not knowing how often she needed feeding (I wasn’t trying to neglect her, I had no idea thanks to not picking up a single baby book because I didn’t believe there would be a baby.) There was one final fear that lay rooted in my past. In the late eighties, early nineties, there was a baby food scare where shards of glass were found in pre-prepared baby food jars and packets. Would I be able to make every meal? Would I be able to feed her the baby crack that is Ella’s Kitchen without a complete fear?

So first things first, the course. In the UK, local Sure Start centres regularly offer weaning courses but sadly, at the time I was freaking out  calmly thinking about weaning, there were none running so I signed up with the NCT. It cost £32 for a four hour session and was held in a local hall with around six other parents and carers. They went over feeding experiences so far, then went over purées and baby-led weaning. Was it worth it? Nope, not really! They briefly touched on first aid, then told us to get first aid training to ensure that we were ready for gagging but that was about all I remember. At Beans’ weigh in the next day, I had a chat with her health visitor who really did give me good advice about working out whether she shared my allergies (by introducing one food at a time and checking nappies) and calmed me down about amounts that she should be eating. That advice was for free, not £32!

Not really knowing where to begin with what I would need to feed Beans, I asked my fellow Rainbows and Unicorns for what they found indispensable and what was basically just spunking money up the wall. The indispensable were things like long sleeved bibs, ice cube trays, plastic boxes and mashers. The stupid stuff was don’t buy rice cookers, baby food blenders or baby food steamers. If you already have food processors and steamers, they will still work for your babies too! Obviously, you will need plates and spoons galore. The silicon and mesh feeders are great when you first start out but are surplus to requirements when they’ve worked out how to eat fruit. The look Beans gives me should I get the mesh feeder out for a strawberry or two! The Annabel Karmel  lollipop moulds were also mentioned in the thread and my goodness they’re a lifesaver! They are easy to clean and put together and should your child be teething, they are fabulous! So far we’ve had papaya and banana ice lollies and they have gone down a treat.

Right… The books! Initially, I adored Annabel Karmel. She fed into my need for exact rules with her meal planners telling me how much to give, how many meals a day and what to feed Beans. On days where my husband was around, I would make masses of purées ready to feed Beanie. Y’know, to stop the chances of the shards of glass that were in baby food almost thirty years ago. When we started, if she liked the food (all of the fruits and sweet potato), she would excitedly grab the spoon out of my hand and feed herself. If she didn’t (all vegetables apart from sweet potato), she would squeal and turn her head, refusing point blank. I became a bit bored. I could see that Beans had good co-ordination, what was the point of feeding her like this? Most food does not come in purées. Was this a real life example of what food is?

We switched over to Gill Rapley’s method of Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) or in other words, giving your baby real food. (Weaning Made Easy by Rana Conway is like a halfway house between BLW and purées.) Beans was copying us and our eating movements before we started weaning. She would do a chewing movement with her jaw and bring her hand to her mouth repeatedly whilst watching us eat. This covers some of the rationales for doing BLW- self feeding and motivation. One of the major differences between purées and BLW that I have noticed is that food that Beans had originally rejected, she will now pick up and chomp quite happily (apart from carrots and peas. There is NO WAY she will eat those!) The main thing I have to remember is to cut food to a length slightly longer than her fist so that she can pick up and feed herself easily.

A lot of people worry about choking when you follow BLW. To be completely honest, whilst there is the odd little gag from Beans, we haven’t had any serious choking. I think, in part, it is to do with the fact that she is in control with what is going into her mouth. Generally, she moves food in and out of her mouth without even biting hard on it. If she does bite down, most of what she has chewed off comes back out so there’s little chance of choking. If your baby isn’t moving food to their mouth by themselves, they are probably not developmentally ready for BLW. Try to resist wanting to feed your baby! They will get it eventually! There are some simple ways of avoiding choking such as making sure your baby is sitting up (either on your lap or in a high chair) and not giving them foods like peanuts, not for the allergy aspect but rather the fact they are hard and easy to aspirate. Another part that I cannot recommend enough (and not only in regards to feeding) is receiving some sort of first aid training. As a teacher, I have child training but infant is seen as separate. During a trip to a baby show, I did a short course of Red Cross, which taught me the correct way to stop a baby choking — this is probably a major factor in why I am not so worried about gagging.

The amount of food that Beans is currently eating is reasonably minimal. For example, the food she has been offered today was a Weetabix  soaked in milk and covered in fromage frais and half a banana for breakfast; lunch was toast with mashed sardines, cherry tomatoes and lemon juice and cucumber with pear for afters; dinner will be home made meatballs and pasta, if madam decides to wake up! Out of all of that food, she licked all the fromage frais off and had two sticks of banana, chewed two fingers of toast and ate the toppings off the other slices and ate one slice of pear. Weaning Beans is a slow process and her milk is still a massive source of her vitamins and minerals. Generally the advice in the UK is that once weaning has started, you still run breast milk or formula alongside their food until they are eating full meals. As your baby eats more solid foods, the amount of milk they want will decrease and once your baby is eating plenty of solids several times a day, they may take less milk at each feed or even drop a milk feed altogether. Official advice is not to wean your child off breast milk or formula until they are a year old.

One of my most favourite things about BLW, and specifically the cookbook assigned to it, is that the recipes are made supposedly for two adults and a baby. I say supposedly as if that is the case, the portion sizes are HUMONGOUS! My husband and I eat a lot but my goodness, there are always left overs. The food is really healthy and tasty too. Suddenly we’re eating so much more healthily and the best bit of all is that we all sit at the table together. We sit as a family with Beans in her Tripp Trapp, me holding her plate (so that the food doesn’t become airborne) and her daddy laughing at the faces she pulls as she tries all these different foods. My baby girl gobbling up fistfuls of food. Her grin when she spies her fromage frais or strawberries.

We’ve come a long way from those initial days in hospital, baby.

Selfish

Becoming a mother after miscarriage has made me a very selfish person.

When my son was first born, and in the days and weeks that followed, I wanted to be the one to hold him. To snuggle him. To love him. Even when I craved adult interaction and had a desire to show him off to friends and family, a part of me secretly didn’t want any visitors. More visitors meant more people. People other than me, holding my baby. My body, my heart, my everything would literally ache when he was in someone else’s arms. Sure, I had that motherly instinct of wanting to fix it when he cried, but it felt like more. It always felt like more.

So many mothers told me this was normal. “He’s new,” they would say. “It’s the hormones. It’ll wear off and before you know it you’ll be wanting out the door by yourself just for some peace and quiet.”

I was hesitant to believe them. Even on the hardest days during those first few weeks, when I spent more of my waking hours crying because of anxiety or postpartum blues instead of being happy, I  never wanted to be away from him. Even when I was feeling off and distant, and holding him made me sad for whatever stupid reason and I let my husband hold him, I sat nearby. I watched them. I watched him.

But they all said it would change, so I waited. The early months ticked by, and I waited to feel different. To feel any way other than wanting to be with my baby, all the time. And in the first three months of his life, I was away from him for exactly one hour. I enjoyed a nice brunch with my cousin, but not a second went by that I wasn’t bothered by that “left the oven on”-type of feeling.

Returning to work was torture. I cried on my way in every day for a week, and then the Monday of the second week. I struggled to get anything done when I got home because I just wanted to spend time with him. Over time, it got better, and I stopped crying, and coworkers told me things like, “You’ll get used to it and then you’ll love being back at work again,” or, “You’ll appreciate the little things, like peeing with the door closed!” or, “You’ll be grateful to be able to talk with adults.”

But they haven’t always been right. While I’m glad to be back on track with my career doing what I love, and while it is nice to take my time peeing, and while it is a relief to have some mature conversation…the feeling hasn’t gone away. I still would rather be home with my baby. I don’t mind peeing with a tiny audience of one. I can invite people over to my home anytime. I want to work from home.

Everyone—friends and family alike—tells me to get out. Go out. Have a date night. Have some kid-free time. Leave the baby with someone and go enjoy myself.

I don’t want to. I really don’t. I’m not sure how many times in how many different ways I can say this.

Other than work, I’ve been away from him for almost an entire Saturday for my best friend’s wedding, and it was simultaneously one of the best and hardest days I’ve had in a while. I wanted to have fun, kick back and have a few drinks, and I did. But part of me continued to long for home, where I knew my baby was waiting for me. It stained my enjoyment of the day. It made the drive home that much longer. It made the stories I heard of what he’d done that day from my family that much more painful.

Hearing about the things he’s done is probably the worst. One of my biggest fears is that he’ll do something big—roll over, say his first word, start crawling, start walking—when I’m not there. Someone else will have that moment, that “first,” forever. They’ll steal it from me. It makes me angry, sad, anxious, and depressed all at once. I want all the firsts. I want every single one. I don’t want anyone else to have them, not even my mother, despite this being her first grandchild. She had all the firsts with me and my brother. It’s my turn.

In fact, only last week, my son rolled over from front to back. Granted, my husband was the one to witness it, and by some miracle he was taking a video with his iPhone and managed to catch the whole thing as it happened…but still, I wasn’t there. That my husband gets to have the “first time rolling front to back” memory doesn’t sting as much as the thought of someone other than him having it, but it still stings. I’m still jealous of my husband—my husband, of all people. I fear the day my baby has a first with someone other than his daddy. I worry how it’ll make me feel. Missing the roll over sent me into a bit of a funk that I haven’t quite been able to shake yet. What will happen next time?

I’m aware of how these feelings have affected my life. I mean, I’ve barely seen my best friend since my son was born. Work friends complain that I never go out with them after hours. My schedule makes weeknight fun difficult, what with working Monday through Friday and having few hours in the evening to eat and prepare for the next day before going to bed shortly after I put the baby down. But even still, I don’t really make an effort to be social on the weekends. If I do, it’s always with baby in tow. With the exception of maybe the tiny handful of “mom friends” I have, I am positive that most of my friends wish I would come out once in a while.

If I’m being honest, I’m perfectly content staying home and doing housework when my baby naps, and spending time with him when he’s awake. Yes, I’m bothered by the fact that I haven’t seen some people in a while, but I just wish they would come over, come to me…and the baby.

My son is nearly six months old. I’ve heard my mom friends continue to talk about how they couldn’t wait to get out without the baby. I’ve even seen friends in the infertility community grateful for some time to themselves. I wonder if my son just isn’t old enough yet, is too young to pester me to the point of wanting to lock myself in the bathroom for five minutes just to have some time alone. I wonder if it’s perfectly rational that I want to spend all my weekends with him because I spend so much time away during the week.

Is it because I’ve lost two babies, that I cling so tightly to this third and only living child? Is it because I spent my entire pregnancy in fear of losing someone I loved—again—and now that he’s finally here, I won’t let him out of my sight? Is it because there’s not a definite chance that I’ll be able to have a second child that I am obsessed with being around for every single one of his firsts?

Motherhood after miscarriage has made me selfish—of my love and affection, of my time, of my son’s time, of all the things he is to experience and learn.

Yet of all the times I’ve been selfish in my life, I feel bad about this one the least.

Do What is Best For You

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.


After years of trying, our IVF daughter finally joined us. Before having her, I had always expected to breastfeed. I bought nursing bras, tops and a breast pump while pregnant—ready for her arrival. I’d seen some friends struggle, saying it was painful, but I was determined that even if that happened to me, it wouldn’t matter. After all, I’d gone through so much to get pregnant; surely I could handle the pain? I’d take such care with what I ate while pregnant to nurture her growing body; surely I would give her the best start in life?

When it came to it, I hated breastfeeding. Everything about it. There was the pain—she would pull her head back, breaking the latch to my nipple, which, within a week, was a bloody scab. It was as bad as a contraction, but was something I had to do for one hour in every three. No matter how many operations I’d gone through, how many injections I’d done, it turned out that I couldn’t handle that pain. I would lie awake between feeds dreading the next one and the pain I’d have to go through.

However, what I never expected was my emotional reaction. It wasn’t the amazing bonding experience I’d expected. Instead, I felt like a cow being milked. I was needed to produce milk, but it didn’t make me feel at all motherly—more like a machine.

I wasn’t even doing it well. She lost too much weight, she was failing to thrive, and they threatened to take her into hospital and told us we had to top up with formula. I felt like a total failure. Not only did I not enjoy what I was told should be a wonderful natural experience, I wasn’t even taking care of my baby.

After 3 weeks we switched to formula only. At the time I felt guilt and shame. A friend told me my daughter would end up in hospital as a result. Midwives kept telling me to keep trying and there was no reason I couldn’t make it work. I would bottle feed covertly, worried about judgemental looks from breastfeeding mums in public.

With the benefit of hindsight (and fewer hormones!), I realised I shouldn’t have felt like this—I was doing what was right for my family. Once I stopped, my breasts weren’t painful and I could hold my daughter without wincing. My husband could be more involved. I felt a much stronger emotional bond as we looked into each other’s eyes while bottle feeding.

Giving up breastfeeding allowed me to enjoy my time with my baby daughter and bond with her. That was far more important than any benefits breastfeeding could bring and I don’t regret it at all. Four years on, I’m formula feeding my son, feeling confident about the decision, and can see he is doing brilliantly.

My advice—do what is best for you. As long as you love and care for your child, you should never feel like you aren’t a good parent because of your feeding choice.

Hope to Feed

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.


Before my husband and I embarked on our gestational surrogacy path, I had read about ‘adoptive breastfeeding’. I was amazed and excited that it was even possible! That women, who hadn’t birthed their child, could still feed them from their own breasts. What an amazing thing the body can be!

Deep in my heart, I knew that I would do whatever it took to try and breastfeed. I knew that this could be a way for me to heal some of the loss I felt in not having the ability to carry a child. The loss I still feel even now when my sister-in-law is carrying a baby girl who is genetically my own daughter.

I started doing my research long before our first embryo transfer and found the site, Ask Lenore. This was my first resource and I eagerly devoured all the information she had on her site. I also bought books on ‘breastfeeding without birthing’ and read any articles or blogs I could find on the subject. Having lost the experience of pregnancy, I was so excited to think that there was a chance that I might regain one of the more ‘usual’ experiences of motherhood.

Once we were finally successful with our second embryo transfer and my sister-in-law was pregnant with my baby, I started the process of talking to doctors and trying to get the drugs to start the process. The protocol called for a minimum of 5 months on the medications prior to starting the pumping regime at 6 weeks before the due date.

I was timid at first. I didn’t want to start too early in case we lost the baby. We had a terrifying first trimester, with a sub-chorionic haematoma that kept returning us all to a near-permanent state of fear as my sister-in-law bled yet again.When we were finally given the all-clear and released from the clinic to the midwife-led care, we were almost 11 weeks in. Then began my battle to get my GP to support my plans.

It took calls, letters, emails, print outs of studies, face to face begging and finally a letter from our RE to my GP stating that the protocol is safe and if he didn’t prescribe the medications for me she would be more than happy to do so, to finally gain his support.

At just shy of 14 weeks, I was able to take my very first birth control pill.

The protocol is as follows. Firstly you need to trick your body into believing it is a little bit pregnant.

You do this by taking the active birth control combination pill (BCP), thus increasing your estrogen and progesterone levels, in conjunction with a high dose (80-100mg per day) of Domperidone, a drug originally designed for gastro-intestinal issues but with the handy side-effect of significantly increasing prolactin levels. This combination of medications increases three of some of the hormones associated with pregnancy, thus tricking your body.

Six weeks before the baby is due to arrive you stop the BCP to mimic ‘birth’ and you start pumping around the clock, preferably every 2-3 hours.

I have yet to reach the hard part—pumping.

I am just over ten weeks into the medications and I have noticed a lot of changes in my body. Most noticeably my breasts have increased in size from a 34D (pre-transfer) to a 36E. They are different in texture and composition too. I have joked to my husband that they now look like ‘mum boobs’, saggier, more spread out, spongier. But I delight in every change, even though they are no longer the pert little things they used to be. Now (I hope) they are maturing, changing, preparing to feed my daughter who will soon be in my arms.

There are other changes too.

These could be due to the medication, they could be due to my being ‘psychologically pregnant’—a term I coined for my experience so far! My whole body has changed, most noticeably in weight-gain as I have a Domperidone belly that mimics a small baby-bump. My feet have grown. My hormones are elevated and noticeable. I cry at ridiculous things. It is somewhat miraculous that I haven’t killed anybody.

I am 8 weeks away from starting what I know will be an incredibly grueling pumping regime. I am a little daunted and a little scared.

Mostly, I am excited and hopeful!

When I underwent my IVF retrievals, I discovered a resilience I wasn’t aware I had, an excitement for every injection, every bruise as they were my own personal version of the physical experiences of conceiving and early pregnancy.

So this, too, will be my version of later pregnancy; my baby-weight, my sickness, my stretch marks, my ‘birth’.

Perhaps it will work, perhaps it won’t. I have been told by other inducing mothers to keep my expectations low, that this is the key to success. I do not expect to be able to exclusively breastfeed. My first goal is to manage a couple of feeds purely at the breast.

If I manage that, I will be overjoyed and perhaps I will then extend my goals. Until then that is all I hope for.

It will be one small, but incredibly significant victory.


We are sharing stories this week about our triumphs and travails with breastfeeding in honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2015, coordinated by WABA).*

“This World Breastfeeding Week, WABA calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.”

For more information please visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.

*Disclaimer: Rainbows & Unicorns does not discriminate against how any parent chooses to feed their child. We honor that families always choose the best thing that works for them, whether that is formula feeding, breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or a mixture of any of these. 

My Nursling, Come and Gone.

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.


Wide, sleepy eyes gazing up at me. Chubby little baby fingers absentmindedly grasping my hand. Her warm body nestling against mine. My heart bursting at the seams with gratitude and affection. Watching her drift soundly off to sleep, content and safe. Warm and loved.

This is how I shall remember nursing my baby. My firstborn. The one I feared I’d never hold in my arms. It was something both ordinary and magical. Something I always took for granted I would do. Something (seemingly) every woman around me was able to do. Then the miscarriages began…

Nothing seemed like a “given” anymore. Life without a living child became a possibility for me. When I became pregnant with E, I took nothing for granted. Maybe I wouldn’t make it past the first six weeks. Past the first trimester. To viability. Maybe she’d be stillborn. Maybe something would go wrong during labor and I’d lose her. You’d think that all I cared about, with those thoughts circling my head daily, was that my baby arrived safely. I thought that should be all I cared about, too, but instead, I wanted it all. I’ve never been more grateful for anything in my life, but once she was here, I wanted to do all the things I had dreamed of in years past. One of the biggest things being to nurse her exclusively for six months, and continue nursing until she wanted to wean. Be that one year or three, that’s what I was going to do. After all…what if she was my only one?

We were lucky in that nursing came easily to us. She latched on right after birth, and never stopped nursing like a champ. I like to remember our nursing relationship as all sunshine and rainbows, but there were plenty of mild annoyances. Like the painful cracked nipples the first few weeks (I swear by EMAB nipple cream!), excess lipase (which made storing milk and preparing bottles for daycare tricky), plugged ducts (dangle feeding!), blebs (who knew??), brief nursing strikes (which came with my tears of frustration), not pumping enough while away at work all day, and of course a few bites here and there while the little one practiced using her new teeth. But overall, this was what I had imagined. I may not have been getting much sleep, but at least I was getting nursing right.

The decision to try for a second baby was easy for me. However, I struggled immensely with putting my nursing relationship with E at risk. Was it fair to her? Would my milk dry up? Would I be able to manage tandem nursing? Would I need fertility meds again and have to make the decision to wean early? Would I get pregnant and have my milk dry up only to lose that pregnancy too? Would I forgive myself if that were the outcome?

I decided that in the long run, E wouldn’t know the difference. The struggle was mine. It was a selfish one. I didn’t want to stop nursing, but maybe she didn’t even care! I had nursed her for a year, which surely was good enough. I told myself this, but hoped desperately that  I could keep nursing her until she chose to stop.

When I first became pregnant with New Baby (horrible nickname, I know, but it’s stuck!), E didn’t seem to notice. We continued nursing, and she continued to request it. As the weeks went by, my supply noticeably dropped. It was clear I would be one of the ones who couldn’t nurse through pregnancy. E’s nursing sessions grew shorter. Maybe it was her age and not just the lack of milk, but we dropped down to just a few sessions a day—at naptime, bedtime, and overnights. Sometimes she’d latch on overnight and then decide that was enough. She’d roll over and go to sleep. As I neared the end of the first trimester, it was apparent my milk had completely dried up. She continued to comfort nurse for a week or two. Then, E would latch on, unlatch, then look at me and shake her head “no” while smiling. She continued doing this for a while, never getting any milk. We nursed for the last time when she was 15 months old. She never cried for the breast, and immediately started sleeping through the night. Like magic, she has slept through the night every single night since then. Until just a couple of weeks ago, she’d still sometimes yank at my shirt when tired. I’d ask if she wanted to nurse. Usually she’d say “no,” but if she said “yes,” I’d offer her the breast. She’d come close to latching, but wouldn’t, then she’d flash me a smile and lay back down.

I’m grateful that she’s taken it all so well. As I knew our nursing days were numbered, I made a point to enjoy every moment. Towards the end, I’d hold her just a little longer after she fell asleep. I’d cuddle her closer and look down at her sleepy face, etching those peaceful, private moments into my memory. Still, there were tears. At night after putting her to bed without nursing, I sometimes still feel a pang of nostalgia for those times she needed me just a little bit more than she does now.

I miss it, but like many things, maybe that’s just a part of her babyhood I have to let go. She’s growing up, after all, and as her mother, I need to learn to love every stage with the intensity I did this one, then look ahead to what’s next. Or better yet, look at her now. I will miss my tiny nursling, but every day she grows into something better and brighter. I’ve promised myself to not feel sadness about what’s over, but to revel in the beauty of what she is right now. Because what she is is a miracle to me. A gift I’m not worthy of, but one that I will treasure every single day of my life.


We are sharing stories this week about our triumphs and travails with breastfeeding in honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2015, coordinated by WABA).*

“This World Breastfeeding Week, WABA calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.”

For more information please visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.

*Disclaimer: Rainbows & Unicorns does not discriminate against how any parent chooses to feed their child. We honor that families always choose the best thing that works for them, whether that is formula feeding, breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or a mixture of any of these.