Friday, 31 August 2012


This week we had a review appointment with the laser dentist to check George's mouth following his tongue tie proceedure. It was good news and they confirmed that his mouth is totally fine now. Though this is really good, I was thrown into a steep slide down the rabbit hole as I sat in the "relaxation room". My thinking went something like "If there is nothing physically wrong to stop him breastfeeding and it is poor co-ordination that has been the challenge then if I kept trying then he could get better and he could breastfeed. And then the killer - so it is my fault cause I haven't persevered and gave up too soon for selfish reasons and cause I am weak".

The awful knife twisting and dark feelings that accompanied this were awful and I think for the first time I felt the full weight of the grief of losing that special part of my relationship with George, which has been so important to me in mothering Ella.

I started thinking that I should try again and even contacted the lactation consultant again the next day to get her advice. And I did try again, even just for that day. But it was awful, physically and emotionally. And by the end of the day I knew it wasn't going to work. Both for him and for me.

And so I remade the decision to feed him with formula and though I am sad, it felt right. And today was a much better day because of it.

I am realising that I am going to have to learn to mother George in new ways. My old stand by of offering the breast isn't a possibility. And I have very mixed feelings about that. Because if I am honest, part of me, and not just a small part, is relieved.

I know it isn't the done thing, but breastfeeding is intense. Your body and your breasts are not your own. You walk a line between mother and lover which is often hard to negotiate. I fed Ella to sleep and helping her learn to sleep in other ways has been a long process. I fed her in the night until she was over 18 months and she fed intensely during the day until she was over 2. I wasn't able to go out and leave her in the evenings until she was over a year. At the time I did it because she needed it and I believed in it. But it was exhausting and some of my choices were because I didn't know how to draw a line between my needs and Ella's. I totally support using breastfeeding as more than just nutrition and breastfeeding beyond babyhood. But it comes with sacrifices. And given that I am now in the situation of not breastfeeding, I am trying to focus on the positives while also being a responsive and present parent to George.

Some of the positives are that I have had my first glass of wine in over a year. Today I was able to leave George with his Nana while I went to Ella's first dance class with her. Hubby is helping with some of the night feeds, which is definitely making life much easier. I am learning to help George get to sleep without feeding, which hopefully will mean we have a bit more flexibility with sleep in the future. I won't be the only parent who can get him to sleep. There is a predictability and a pattern to the day that I like.

But it is hard to accept that things are also so different from the way I have done things in the past. No rolling over in the night to feed and staying in bed. Feeds in the night take a long time and I am often up for and hour and a half at a time by the time I feed him, burp him and get him back to sleep. It is a horrible feeling to know that if you don't have enough bottles or formula, that you cannot feed your child. It is also harder to get organised and ready to go out and there is more paraphernalia to carry. And I am continually washing and steralising bottles. It is definitely not easier than breastfeeding. Just different.

So it is bittersweet. I am not going to pretend about it. And I am hoping that acceptance will come as I grieve the loss of what I had hoped for but also embrace the reality of life as it actually is. I wish it were different as much as I like but it is not going to bring me peace or be the best for George.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The onion of identity

Cheesy title i know. It seems that one of my continual 'issues' is that of identity. Who am i? Do i like who i am? Am i being honest with myself or am i trying to be someone else who i think is more acceptable or loveable? Who do the people around me think i am? What do i want them to think?

Before i became a mum my identity was really wrapped up in my job as a high school teacher. I knew the kind of teacher i wanted to be. But i also wanted my colleagues and students to see me a certain way. I wanted to be the hardworking, creative and forward thinking teacher who was up with the latest ideas and had great relationships with her students. In other words, i wanted to be my version of the perfect educator. I did a great job, but also needed to take stress leave and ended up burning out.

As my identity in my work disintegrated, my focus shifted to my biological clock. I had always wanted children and impatiently waited till our situation allowed us to start our family. If you have read my blog for a while you will know that we lost our first child when i was 17 weeks pregnant.

The loss of our baby left me lost. I didn't feel like i was a mother because the grief of the death of a child no-one had ever met seemed as if it had no real acknowledgment. It felt so awful that i just wanted to move on. So i pretended i was fine. But i wasn't. I tried changing jobs but my heart wasn't in it. I had moved on to motherhood in my identity but my nest was empty.

When u got pregnant again a year later i was over joyed and felt all my struggles were over. I could be a mum and know who i was. Well i was very wrong.

Being a mum is the hardest thing i have ever done. It has challenged me in all my most sensitive areas, if you know what i mean. Got an insecurity, an unresolved issue, unrealistic expectation? Parenting will make sure you know about it. And for me, the depression and anxiety i had wrestled with for years, threatened to overwhelm me.

But it hasn't and through the last 3 years i have grown and changed and been the most happy i have been since i was little.

My identity as s mother has grown and i have felt sure of my values as a mum and how i do things. When we finally got the courage to have another child, i said to myself and others that i was looking forward to just getting on with it when the baby arrived and bot having to think it all through from scratch. You know, all the parenting choices such as how you feed your baby, where will they sleep, starting solids, discipline and the list goes on.

I planned the pregnancy and birth carefully to avoid a relapse of depression and have had awesome support from my hubby and family, midwife, therapist and doula. The pregnancy was really difficult but i got through it without depression taking hold. But plans don't mean you have control.

The birth went well and even though i had hoped to deliver at home, i was very grateful and happy when George was born with help of a ventouse in hospital. I then thought we could just get on with it and enjoy our new addition. I would do all the things i believed in; breastfeed to at least 2, co-sleep, discipline gently, babyled weaning etc.

George had other ideas. He couldn't breastfeed. We decided, after trying lots of options, to bottle feed and use formula. It was the right decision for us. But i wasn't prepared for how much just changing how i feed George had formed my identity as a mum.

I have been big supporter of breastfeeding and fed Ella till she was 27 months. I realised i had worn this as a badge of pride. When i was in the depths of depression and Ella was only a few weeks old, being able to breastfeed her was the only thing which made me feel like a good mother. This was at a time when i believed she would be better off without me.

And here i am now. Feeling good and loving life, but not breastfeeding. So who am i as a mother? Well obviously my identity as a mum is something deeper. It  isn't my practices as a parent. As i look at both my children i know, probably for the first time, that i am a mother because i love my kids with all of me and even that seems to small.

I love the child i never met and was a mother the moment she or he was concieved. Ella is a joy to know and a delight and George is my beautiful wee man.

None of us are what we do. Putting energy into doing i the hope you can create a sense of self is at best pointless. Instead our love for our family and friends and those who love us are what define who we are.

I hope i can teach this to my kids and hold onto it myself.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Celebrating George

In the midst of the struggle I love my son. He is gorgeous, observant, settled. He crosses his hands and his feet when he sits on my knee, like a patient old man. He loves to stretch his arms up as high as they will go and has strong legs. When his sister talks he moves his head to find her. He loves to watch and clouds and trees outside. He would much rather go to sleep in my arms than anywhere else. His legs are getting roly poly and his has a beautiful double chin. When he has his nappy changed he tried to have a conversation with me with his eyes. Sometimes when he sneezes the sneeze seems to disappear and all that comes out is a sigh.

That is what I am celebrating and marvelling at right now. I love you George. Welcome.

To catch you up...

If you are a friend on FB then this post will be relatively redundant but since I haven't posted for a couple of rather eventful months I will give you a quick synopsis. Then I plan to write a lot about what we have been through and continue to deal with. Writing is feeling extremely important to me right now and one of the best ways to keep my head straight.

So the rest of the pregnancy passed with continuued exhaustion but positive anticipation of our little boy's arrival. I had a few hits of absolute terror at how I would possibly manage with two children but as the due date approached the desperation for the pregnancy to be over, outweighed it.

I got pretty impatient at the end and tried to get things going before he was due. No luck. Patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me. However, George Charles Paul W. was born on 20th July at 8:25am. It was so wonderful to finally meet him, and to look forward to being a family of four. (Will write in more detail about this)

Unfortunately since his birth we have discovered he has a posterior tongue tie. He was hospitalised and on a feeding tube for a few days as he couldn't get enough food through breastfeeding. Once we got home he still couldn't breastfeed so I pumped and we supplemented with formula. He struggled to even manage to feed from a bottle and needed constant breaks to burp and avoid choking. This was very frustrating for him and stressful for us. After lots of research and asking for advice we saw a laser dentist and had his posterior tongue tie and lip tie lasered. This seemed to make breastfeeding work and removed the pain for me. But after a week it became clear that he still wasn't getting enough food and he wasn't latching properly or using his tongue properly. We tried another couple of options but came to the conclusion that bottle feeding was going to have to be the way we fed him until we could see the dentist again and see what else could be done.

In the mean time I have come to the end of my reserves and after a very hard pregnancy I decided I couldn't keep pumping and so we are now mainly using formula and I am just pumping for comfort and to prevent a return of mastitis.

I am feeling quite lost and confused about everything. So many decisions and also wanting our family to be able to live a more normal life after me being out of action for so long. No matter which way I turn there are sacrifices which need to be made and it is very tough deciding which are acceptable and which are not. What I am learning is there is no right decision. There is just the best one for now.

I planned this child so carefully to avoid having a relapse of depression. When I take my two little pills each morning I know that without them, the last few weeks would have tipped me over the edge. So I need to make my wellness a priority. It feels incredibly selfish. But is also essential because George and Ella need their Mum and hubby needs his wife. And I need to be okay.

I feel like this journey is getting to heart of a lot of the things I have held so dear as a mother and have formed my identity and having them stripped away is very painful. But I also see glimmers that it is important to let go and know that my identity is not in any of the things I do or believe in as a Mum. Who I am is deeper than that. But that is hard to hold onto as I grieve what I wanted to give and share with George. The way through this does not seem clear at all right now and I think the realisation of what it means for me is just beginning.