06 Feb Motherhood, beautiful and brutal all mixed in one..
We’ve survived the first 4 months.. actually almost 5! It certainly hasn’t been without it challenges that’s for sure! Man motherhood is hard. Those of you that have been following us over on Instagram stories will know that I (just like SO many mums) went through some very challenging times in those first 12 weeks.
When I shared snippets I was always blown away with how many ladies would reach out and say ‘me to’, ‘i’m in the same boat’, ‘thank you for sharing’ or offering their words of support. To those that have been asking for updates i’m sorry it’s taken me a while to get here. Sharing so much online is sometimes quiet difficult and I had to press pause but I’m now at a point where I feel I am able to share. To be honest writing this down has been quiet therapeutic!
I really feel there is so much Instagram V reality the when it comes to motherhood. Pretty pictures in a square on Instagram but often the reality couldn’t be further from those snapshot moments. My hope is that by sharing part of my story is that another mum might reach out and get the help that she so desperately needs (but is too scared to ask for) or just feels a little less alone.
Two and a half years ago I was a new mum. I was such a proud Mum. But I was a new mum that really really struggled. Looking back I was overwhelmed, anxious and in a pretty bad place despite the smiling face. Addison never slept and when I say never I really really mean that. People would say to me “oh is she just not cracking that 45 min mark” and honestly I would think to myself 45 min would be good.
She was constantly unhappy. She was hard, it was HARD. I struggled. It was the hardest year of my life. Initially I thought it was quiet normal to be this hard, I hadn’t really been around any babies, I had never changed a nappy before Addi and I just figured it would get better. Totally nieve. When Addison was about 8 weeks old I vividly remember saying to a friend “she sleeps for about 20min in the mornings.”
NOTHING worked and I felt like I tried ALL the things. I was told from all the health professionals – she’s perfect, she’s developing so well, you have nothing to worry about, she’s ‘just a hard baby’, keep doing what you are doing, your giving her the best start and things will get better.
I almost fell apart that year but its amazing what we cope with when we have to. I told myself everyday she’s healthy, others have it worse and you just have to get on with it Renee. I was lucky to have such amazing support. I had SO much support yet I still struggled. At about 10 months we turned a corner Addison started to sleep and I started to feel a little like the old me. We now have one amazing, strong willed, 2 1/2 year old who knows her own mind, cracks us up every single day and we know will go on to do great things.
When I found out I was pregnant again I felt so much excitement, we really wanted to have another baby close to Addison. I felt the excitement but I also felt a lot of fear. Fear about birth and fear about having another colicy baby.
Brodie was here
On the 20th September beautiful Brodie arrived. I had an amazing birth, hard (obviously) but it was the most incredible experience at the same time, something I just couldn’t imagine after by first birth.
Week one was a breeze. I thought I had cracked it. I was so happy, so grateful and so excited to enjoy this experience rather than wish it away.
It was as early as week 2 that it all started to unravel… I could see Brodie was forming the same unsettled unhappy behaviours. I kept telling myself not to stress she’s a different baby. By week 3 it was progressively getting worse by the day.
For the first 9 weeks I wore Brodie in the front pack for pretty much every sleep. I literally could not get her to sleep anywhere else. Lets just say trying to change a toddlers nappy with a newborn strapped to my front made for some interesting moments. I literally never want to see that bloody front pack again but my god it was a life saver at the time.
Ticking things off
Just like I did with Addi I started ticking things off: Drs visits, weekly chiropractor, lactation consultants, sleep drops, arms up arms down, wraps with zips, wraps with velcro, white noise, tongue tie lip tie checked and treated, probiotics, medication for reflux, flinchlock release therapy. You name it I did it. I was literally going through the exact same things that I did with Addi.
This time I broke down A LOT more, this time round I was so much more aware of the long haul ahead if I didn’t figure this out.
Reflux was established pretty quickly and medication was provided. It did make a difference, feeding became slightly easier but breastfeeding a reflux baby is though. Tough on mum and tough on the baby. There is certainly no cafe feeding thats for sure.
I also found that a dairy free diet made a significant difference as well as cutting out all gassy foods like garlic, onion and cabbage and curry. But things were still pretty awful.. a good day was when I could get a nap over 20min. Add in a VERY busy toddler, a business and I was heading downhill quickly. Postnatal depression was knocking at the door.
I was so sleep deprived that I drove ‘home’ one day to my old house.. that we didn’t actually live in. That’s kinda funny now. I was turning up to appointments I hadn’t booked and I was late to the ones that I had booked. (Seriously if anyone knows me this is NOT me)
Again I was getting the same comments, “She’s got colic”, “you’ve just got a hard baby”. By the books she was thriving – AMAZING weight gains just like Addison. People would say to me “Oh she’s doing so well”, “Bonny wee thing”,”Wow amazing milk, you must be doing something right”…
Week 9 I hit the wall. Tag teaming with hubby at night was getting too much for us both. Living on 40min sleep and having a crying baby 70% of the time was just to much. I felt like a terrible Mum to Addison (despite her dealing with the whole situation extremely well) I felt like I had exhausted all my options and asked my Plunket nurse to refer me to Mothercraft as the last resort.
Mothercraft come at me
I didn’t know much about Mothercraft, I hadn’t had any friends that had been and I had heard mixed things. I think lots of people think it’s a place where babies are left to cry it out but wasn’t my experience at all. In saying that we were already doing a lot of crying so it couldn’t get much worse.
I can honestly say it was the best decision I made to be brave and ask for that help. The best part was that I got to focus on Brodie without worrying about anything else and as a second time mum I had found my voice, I felt confident to ask questions, push back on things I didn’t agree with and I knew what was important to me. I was on a serious mission that week to get to the bottom of what they hell was going on.
Eventually I got the answer..
Eventually I got the answer and it all came back to the thing I wanted to be able to do the most. Breastfeeding.
I spent time with a lactation consultant who was so helpful, we discovered that Brodie had a high pallet so this on top of the reflux was making feeding even more difficult. We also discovered and it pains me to say this but despite Brodie doing so well weight wise (i’m talking 90th percentile) she wasn’t getting enough from me. The feeds were such a mess it was just a bloody never ending nightmare. She wasn’t getting enough in a feed to satisfy herself to fall asleep and towards the end of the day my supply just wasn’t there, add a little (or I should say a lot) of stress into the mix and it was a recipe for disaster.
I can fix it
I learnt new some new feeding techniques which were helpful but totally impractical with a toddler. Having my certificate in nutrition for lactation I was secretly a bit excited to try and sort out the low supply issue – nothing like learning from your own experience right?
I tried my hardest to get the feeds better and increase my supply. Breastfeed for an hour, pump then top up with the bottle.. but then we had breast and bottle confusion (of course we did) and Brodie didn’t want either. The nightmare continued. Breastfeeding teas, supplements, calorie increase, limited exercise – you name it I was trying it all.
Exclusive pumping and bottle feeding
Two weeks after Mothercraft I decided I was done with the breastfeeding, the anxiety that would wash over me before every feed was horrible. The stress meant I wouldn’t have a let down and I was just DONE.
I really wanted to keep feeding Brodie breastmilk so I decided I would try and exclusively pump and bottle feed. It’s been a bloody mission but switching to bottle feeding was the best decision I made. Almost instantly we were feed, play, sleep repeat – omg this is what it’s meant to be like? A happy content baby is all a Mum can wish for.
Pumping has been a journey in itself – I’m now onto my 4th breast pump, i’ve over pumped and completely exhausted myself trying to increase my supply and i’ve given myself mastitis from not pumping enough. THE JOYS.
Low milk supply
My supply has continued to be a drama despite knowing all the tricks and trying all the things with my diet, supplements and different pumping techniques it turns out i’m just not a very good cow. I’ve even tried medication which helped but made me feel like absolute shit. The lengths we will go to!
I pumped almost every feed off for 2 months yet still literally have nothing in the freezer. Every single feed is a victory. Eventually it became pretty obvious I wasn’t able to keep up with Brodies needs (she’s a hungry gal!) and at 14 weeks reality was I had to supplement with formula.
Initially I was super gutted, I felt like I had failed and I know so many mums will feel me on this. I’m a type A personality, I wanted to nail breastfeeding and the fact it hasn’t gone to plan.. well it really pisses me off. I also know the stats, I know the benefits and breastfeeding is really important to me but when the milks not there the milks not there.
No one teaches you about formula, there are no books on formula at the birthing unit, there are no apps to download to help you make a decision about formula feeding. Isn’t it crazy there it still feels pretty ‘tabu’ yet there is a multi million dollar industry for those who can’t/struggle or don’t want to breastfeed for whatever reason.
Introducing formula once I got my head around it has helped so much and has actually meant that I have been able to keep going without the pressure. I am so grateful for formula. In all honesty I don’t know how long I’ll be able to sustain the #pumpinglife but for now I feel I have found a happy medium.
Lessons I’ve learnt
Weight should not be the only measure
Babies need sleep and mine little darlings were not getting any. Yes they were making incredible weight gains but they were not getting any sleep. No medical professional suggested I could have a supply issue, no medical professional suggested I should try bottle feeding, it was something that I came to on my own through trial and error. And the difference is totally unbelievable.
Trust your gut
If something in your gut tells you it’s not right then chances are it’s not. Push hard, get second opinions, ask for help and don’t take no for an answer. You know your baby better than anyone. I wish I pushed harder my first time around.
You do you
Some will say what I’m doing is bloody crazy #pumpinglife, others will say I didn’t try hard enough to exclusively breastfeed… but if there is one thing i’ve learnt the second time round is that there is no ‘right’ way and you just gotta do you. Bottle feeding, breastfeeding, formula feeding – neither make you more or less of a mum.
Happy mum happy baby
We hear this all the time but my god it is so true. I’m honestly enjoying my girls so much now that I made the changes and figured out what works FOR US. Brodie is now so content.. dare I say it almost bloody text-book, of course we have our moments like we all do but she is so happy, so content and so am I. Things are so much better.
You got to look after you
My gosh I have had to remind myself of this old chestnut a lot over the past 4 months… but if your not looking after yourself how can you look after those little darlings?
Take your vitamins, drink water, sleep when you can, get some fresh air, eat healthy – even if you have to order meals or get a family member to make them for you and ask for help if you need it. It is so important and honestly I do really think that I wouldn’t have coped if I didn’t do these basic few things for my health. Motherhood has certainly increased my passion for womens mental and physical health that’s for sure.
So there you have it.. there is a snapshot of some of my postpartum challenges and triumphs. If you are still here thanks for reading. Motherhood is so hard right? I always say beautiful and brutal all mixed together. We all have a story and I think the more of us that can step out and share the stories, the struggles and their mum wins the better. Because somewhere out there, there is another mum going through the exact same thing.