There aren’t many hard and fast rules on The Motherload® Facebook group. Generally everything goes. Except for one thing – don’t be a dick (#dontbeadick if you will).
But every time I see that hashtag, my tummy drops a little inside and I get that guilty prickle up the back of my neck. Because since my baby crash-banged into the world 16 months ago I have been a dick over and over again. I’ve been unremorsefully dickish to medical professionals, friends, family, my husband and probably (if we’re being honest) my baby too.
What’s lead me into such dickdom? Breastfeeding.
I read somewhere that a key factor in a successful breastfeeding “journey” (does anyone else just sodding HATE how everything is a journey these days) was the determination of the mother. In the face of helpful meant-in-the-right-way advice, maternal determination very quickly become pigheadedness, or dickishness. So I really wasn’t surprised by the recent study that said that only half of women who start breastfeeding are still going at 2 months because you really have to totally not give a shit about a lot of things to get the golden rivers flowing.
Basically, I wouldn’t have made it to 12 months – along with just 0.5% of U.K. mothers – without being a bit of a dick.
So in semi-apologetic fashion (because I’m actually really quite proud of myself), here are the top 10 times Breastfeeding made me a bit of a dick:
- In the delivery room. It was a difficult birth – 16 days late, 3 days of induction, pre-eclampsia, epidural, forceps, episiotomy, etc. After he finally lurched his way out, there was blood literally everywhere – all over the floor, on my husband’s shoes… they did the whole circle of life showing me my Simba thing before placing him wriggling on my tummy. The registrar delivers the placenta (which I’m totally oblivious to) and then spends 45 minutes stemming the flow of blood and stitching me back together again… there are maybe eight people in the room, all focused on that task. What am I doing? Whacking the boobs out of the hospital gown and having a go at this breastfeeding thing. She could’ve been stitching me a new handbag down there for all I cared – I was totally focused on feeding my tiny human being. In hindsight I do feel a leeeeetle bit guilty that I wasn’t paying any attention to the people who were working so hard to save my life!
- On the ward. Poor midwives. We were kept in for five days due to the pre-eclampsia and my medical notes basically read: 11am mother pressed call bell for breastfeeding advice; 11:30 call bell pressed for breastfeeding support; 11:45 mother asked to check latch… you get the picture. But it paid off: initially his latch was shallow and it hurt – we needed all their advice and we needed to keep asking different experts as it turns out everyone gave slightly different advice and we had to keep asking to find the advice that worked for us. Which eventually, it did.
- When my baby had low blood sugar. This one I am actually sorry for. He was 24 hours old, my milk hadn’t come in yet and I’d been on blood pressure medication due to pre-eclampsia. What I didn’t know is that the medication they give you affects baby’s blood sugar levels after birth. So my poor tiny little life was stabbed in the foot to take his blood glucose level every three hours for his first five days of life and was covered in scabs and tiny plasters. We had to supplement, which I hated. I cried every time the Aptimil came out and couldn’t watch whilst my husband cup fed our son because that tiny amount of formula made me feel shit. But my son was getting what he needed. But I still felt shit. 1000% dick.
- In HDU. So I didn’t think I’d lost *that* much blood during delivery – it was about 700mls – but my body had other ideas and I developed severe anaemia on day 2. I had no energy, was shaking and couldn’t regulate my temperature (I thought I was roasting hot when I was freezing cold). Initially we were given three options: an iron transfusion which would take three days to work (their preferred option), iron tablets which would take three months to work, or a blood transfusion which would be instant but was the last chance saloon in their opinion. Until the doctor returned to hear our verdict and I’d deteriorated so much that a blood transfusion was the only option. So a night in HDU with two pints of someone else’s blood dripping into me (thank you everyone who gives blood! It’s AMAZING!). Ten minutes in, I was a new person – alert, chatty, and even more determined to get that baby on the boob in spite of the wires. So my husband and mum took it in turns to hand baby over the wires to me, as I lay there swanning around in all my maternally determined stupor. Fortunately it was in HDU that my milk finally came in and his blood sugar started to stabilise so no more topping up.
- In NICU. Another one to feel guilty about. Although baby was born healthy with a top ranking APGAR score, his ability to breathe through his nose gradually came into question and he started heaving with the difficulty of each breath and was snorting and shuffling on the boob. I was feeding him at the time they decided to send him down to NICU for obs. Being obsessed with the boobing, obviously I asked if we could finish the feed before we went down. And obviously with my son’s health in mind they said no. Sigh. What a dick. I sat by his crib and lifted him and all his wires out for every feed, except for the one I SLEPT THROUGH (terrible mother guilt here) and they fed him my expressed milk down a tube into his tiny belly. And I felt AWFUL. Maximum dick. Just bloody get over it. Srsly.
- At night. Ahh, my poor husband. As all the formula-fed babies in our NCT group started sleeping through, we were still up every 2-3 hours, light on, checking the latch was proper… And on it went until he was 6 months and went into his own room… and then a little bit longer… But then magic! He started sleeping through at 9 months and we caught up on all that lost sleep! (Did we bugger…)
- In front of friends who’d struggled to breastfeed. Another one I am really sorry for. Quite a few of my friends really struggled with the boobing – one had two bouts of mastitis and thrush before the baby was ten days old, and another’s baby just refused to latch, ever. It was awful to know that they’d struggled, my heart broke for them, and we cried over it together, but when my baby needed feeding, I fed them anyway even though I felt dreadful. What a dick.
- In public. Hands up, no-one has ever made a shitty comment to me when I’ve breastfed in public. I don’t know if that’s because I live in a leafy town in the commuter belt, or because I try always to be discreet, or because I look like someone you really wouldn’t mess with (I’m going for the last one!), but I am quite sure that I must have made people feel uncomfortable at some point or another because it’s not a common thing to see a breastfeeding mum. But get me, I don’t give a shit.
- At Christmas. I wore my baby in a sling and fed him all the way through his first ever Christmas dinner. True story. Breastfeeding in front of family is a whole new terrifying experience though and again, I’m sure I made some immediate family uncomfortable. So it goes…
- At 12 months when a doctor told me to stop. I’d gone in to ask about my total lack of periods (we’d like another baby at some point!) and the doctor told me that my one year old baby son had me wrapped around his little finger and maybe it was time to stop feeding him. I sat there in tears, so cross with myself for not standing up to her and quoting the WHO advice to continue to feed to 2 years and beyond, and I left, and I ignored the medical doctor’s advice, which is probably the only time I have ever done that. Super-mega-massive dick.
And now I’m nursing a human toddling toddler, who asks for “boobie” with this stupid hand-flapping sign, and pulls down my bra to get what he wants. I’m sure that would freak a lot of people out but on the whole he only asks for it at home now, so no apology needed – just don’t bloody think about it, weirdos.
But in truth I am so ridiculously proud of myself for making it this far, and even though I only know two mums who are still feeding their toddlers, I don’t care. This is between me and my son, and we don’t care what anyone else thinks. We can be dicks together and sod everyone else. Except all the people I just apologised to up there, which I think is pretty much everybody. Sorry everyone. Love you, bye.
Heather Davies-Mahoney is a radio producer, who can’t help producing in her spare time too. So far she has produced a marriage, a mortgage, a mini-me and a mountain of possety muslins. In her NCT group she is the instigator of Boobs & Boxsets afternoons. You can follow her on Twitter and find more on her blog