Category Archives: breastfeeding and embarrassment

The night is dark and full of nappies…

Seven weeks on, and there are so many things I could say about having a second child. I’ve drafted and re-drafted this blog post over the last few weeks and every time it’s run three or four pages long… What is the most important thing to talk about? The difficulties? The exhaustion? The new struggle of getting two little ones out of the door on time in the mornings? The unprecedented joys and crushing lows? It’s all there. It’s all relevant. But, for me, I guess the most significant revelation since the big arrival of number two is how much of the following I didn’t know, realise or had simply just forgotten…

  • Labour fucking hurts. I knew this the first time around. Then when Lara got to about 18 months old those sneaky, broody hormones snuck in and slowly wiped out the memories of the screaming-bad contractions, the long hours of pain so extreme I could not bear to stay still. It wasn’t that bad, I thought, It can’t have been that bad if I’m willing to do it again… Seven and a half weeks ago it occurred to me – with crashing immediacy – just how very much I had forgotten how very bad it had been. And although my labour this time around was a lot less traumatic because it wasn’t so long and there weren’t the complications or interventions of the first time around, it still really fucking hurt.
  • On TV a woman will give birth (after about 13 seconds of pushing and not nearly enough mooing) and out pops a squeaky clean, wide-eyed, cooing six-week-old giant. Real newborns do not look like this. My firstborn looked like a small, red, angry little frog when she was born. My second-born resembled a puce, incandescently furious old man complete with nose furrow and milk spots. I say this with all the love in the world – beauty comes later. Eyelashes form, the eyes open properly and then they start to fill out in all their cute, squishy glory. It’s all a work in process…
    newborn annabelle

    Five minutes old and raging…

    week 1 annabelle

    By day six things had improved significantly…

    cute-annabelle-e1503414557935.jpg

    By week three we had reached cute town

  • Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. With baby one we settled into a fairly consistent routine of three hourly wakings and feedings from day one. Baby two had her days and nights the wrong way round for at least the first week, meaning she was up sometimes every 40 minutes at night. Some people can function well with as little as three or four hours of fractured sleep at night. I am not one of those people. In my working days I’d be sluggish if I got less than seven. It’s not just a case of being tired; it’s feeling that soul-sapping exhaustion that sinks through your limbs and into your core, making everything so heavy, so dull and sad that you struggle to see the good bits of the day. Fortunately, with number two I knew – know – it won’t last for long in the grand scheme of things. Just knowing that makes all the difference.
  • Having 13 months of breastfeeding experience does not a breeze feeding number two make. Sure, she got the hang of it faster than Lara did – 10 minutes after birth as opposed to two days – but the exhaustion of trying to feed any which way I could in the first few nights lead to a poor latch, which resulted in a cracked nipple. A graze on one of the body’s most sensitive parts which was then relentlessly agitated by a baby’s mouth every hour or so did not make for a quick, easy healing process. But, barring that little complication, breastfeeding has been easier, on the whole, this time around. There haven’t been any bruises or stretch-marks. Expressing is easier. Supply is better. The process is altogether much quicker far earlier on. It’s like my boobs have settled, with not so much joy as resignation, back into their former roles.

    bfeeding

    No one will ever stare at your boobs with the same intense adoration as a breastfeeding infant. The feeling will not be reciprocated.

  • Small babies are not always consistent. Some nights she will sleep up to 6 hours in one go and not need a nappy change at all. Other nights we’re up every 2-3, nappy bulging, smells emanating. It’s a nocturnal, foul-smelling, eye-rubbing adventure.
  • The jiggly-shuffle. It still works on the evening grumps, although now it hurts my back. This baby is slightly larger than my last one, I’m *sure* that’s all it is.
  • Times can be dark. There are some days – especially in the first week – when people say “congratulations” and a part of you thinks “why?” On the flip-side, there are other days when you want to stop life just as it is because you can’t imagine it getting any better. The lows may be unprecedented, but so are the joys. Watching my firstborn flourish into her new role as big sister. Receiving those first gummy smiles. Having my nappy changing technique described as “like those pitstop trucks in Cars.
    It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s flabby. It’s new. It’s unprecedented, in wonderful ways. It’s Annabelle. She’s here.

     

    annabelle smile

    I woke up FIVE times last night!

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Ode to my breasts, as we finish breastfeeding

Do you remember the time we gave the postman a fright?
We came to the door without doing our top up quite right…
And the time you sprang a leak in the parents room of John Lewis
Who’d have thought being a foodstuff would do these things to us?
Your modesty (and mine) have been well and truly defamed,
And I’m sorry, but your buoyancy will never be the same.

At the beginning, things certainly did look a bit bleak,
We weren’t sure we would make it past the first week.
But then we all got the hang of this breastfeeding game,
The baby gained pounds, though you felt aflame
With pain and colours vividly purple and red,
And you came to view the baby’s mouth with dread.
But slowly you got used to this strange new violation
(Thanks, in part, to a lanolin cream salvation)

The weeks rolled on and the pain subsided,
Into resigned numbness you happy resided.
The bruises and purple-struck nipples slowly faded
And though we had the odd hiccup when you got blockaded,
Nothing really went wrong once we got used to the sensation
Of needing milking, like cattle, on regular occasion.

Oh breasts, I’ve treated you ways you never dreamed of before,
Exposed you to strangers and grandparents in law.
I’ve even fondled you in public to see which is more full,
And written about you on the internet in rhyme – deplorable!

There isn’t a single word of appropriate ilk
To describe these thirteen months of expressing milk…
Painful, blissful, wonderful, worrisome,
Exhausting, uplifting, irritating – but awesome.
This is the most important job you’ll ever do
Yet at times it was a chore I thought we’d never get through.

But to the ignorant naysayers who say breastfeeding is vile
I feel sorry for you. You will never know that smile
When your baby breaks away to beam up at you above,
Surely there isn’t a more pure expression of love?

But enough of this sap, all I really wanted to say
Was that I’m sorry but glad I can finally put you away.
Not just the baby’s, you’ve also benefitted my health,
A job damn well done, if I do say so myself.

Dear breasts, you can rest now, your work here is done
Well at least [she whispers] till I have the next one…

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