Pregnancy guilt

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I wasn’t planning on becoming pregnant, and when I did it became less of a celebration and more of a waiting game, counting down the days until the next milestone.

Days and days of repeated pregnancy tests until I could get a GP appointment, then more days waiting for a scan. The scan was shocking, I was sure it couldn’t be true.

After that came the announcement and then the fear…now I’ve told people what happens if “something” happens?

A colleague (actually there were 6 pregnant colleagues at the time) was pregnant following a lot of time and treatment, and 2 friends of mine (both of whom have since had babies) had struggled for years and almost given up hope of pregnancy, so I really understand how lucky we were to become pregnant so easily.  However, it didn’t feel amazing, I just felt scared and guilty.

How was it that having never even had a pregnancy scare I fell pregnant so easily?

What did this mean?

Would something happen to the baby?

Did I really deserve this?

 

When people asked me if I was looking forward to the baby it was difficult, I hadn’t really wanted one so it was hard to get excited about it.  Yes we had agreed we would have a baby at some point, but the timing wasn’t great, having just moved into a derelict house we didn’t get planning permission until January 2013 (I was due in April) so we were living in difficult conditions and then had a race on to get somewhere suitable for a baby in time.  Financially it was always going to be difficult, but coming at a time when expenses were so significant was a bit of a nightmare.  I remember a midwife coming round to take an urgent blood test and having to let her into our room which was piled high with boxes and had a curtain over the door to try and keep the dust down, I was convinced she would report me to social services!

I spent so much time stressing over the house and finances that having a baby to stress about wasn’t ideal.  I remember dozens of sleepless nights worrying about high blood pressure and the birth before I got myself signed up to pregnancy yoga and antenatal classes.

I was convinced that because we had it so easy something was bound to go wrong.

After each midwife appointment I would wait anxiously for the next one, even when they became fortnightly I would start counting down to the next appointment on my walk home.  I didn’t feel my baby move until very late.  He was clearly nocturnal as he could go all day with not even a flutter until about 1am when he would have a jiggle for half an hour or so then go back to silence.  It was only when I was quite far along that I could rely on any sort of movement, even the tricks of cold water recommended by the midwives didn’t frighten him into movement!  Generally my pregnancy was really easy, which should have made me relax and feel better…but it didn’t.  It was just another nail in the box convincing me that something was bound to go wrong.

With hindsight and having spoken to other mums and read other blogs, I wonder if pregnancy guilt is in fact something that just comes to us all, however we become pregnant, for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance.  I have a friend who was trying for a baby for a few months and when she did fall pregnant she didn’t realise and had attended a party and drunk alcohol.  It was easy for me, an outsider, to reassure her that she shouldn’t feel guilty, having lived a healthy and active lifestyle for six months while trying to fall pregnant then having 2 G&Ts when you think you’re not is NOT a reason to feel guilty.  Now, however, I can appreciate why she felt so bad about it.

Perhaps it’s the pregnancy hormones, or a sudden realisation of the wonder of the human body, or a massive reality check, or simply a practice run for the guilt that is to follow as a parent!  But I do think something sets off the guilt mechanism for a lot of women during pregnancy, at a time when one less stress really should be the order of the day.

Breast of both worlds…?

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So breastfeeding (bf) has been in the news a lot today (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-26592340), it’s interesting because my views on bf are rather mixed, prior to getting pregnant I didn’t brelike bf in public, it made me uncomfortable BUT I have always felt very strongly that the right to bf in public is one which must be protected.  When I became pregnant I was adamant that I would bf until 6 months, it never occurred to me that there were likely to be any issues or difficulty, surely it’s the most natural thing in the world…?

Naturally I duly attended my NCT bf session (without partners) and prepared myself to feed easily, quickly and without messy time consuming formula and sterilising.

Those who know me will know that the birth didn’t exactly go to plan, but who cares, this couldn’t affect my ability to bf surely…

Well at first baby wouldn’t latch, a midwife in hospital resolved this with some rather painful grabbing and shoving…it wasn’t great but I was so desperado to be home I didn’t really care because technically it meant the baby had fed so I could be released.  BIG mistake.  The first night we were home my tiny baby produced extraordinarily loud noises and refused to feed…he did however sleep through the night.  BAD, apparently very bad.  Long story short when the midwife came out the next day the Turk was immediately sent out for formula, babe hadn’t fed for 24 hours and was at risk of being pulled back into hospital.  “Wake the baby every 3 hours and feed some formula, I’ll be back tomorrow.”

We got through the day (albeit rather traumatised as my view on formula was that it was effectively like poisoning my baby) and set the alarm for 3 hours when we went to bed.  Luckily revived Jem didn’t allow us to miss his feeds and duly woke up every 2 hours for his formula.  The next day with the help of nipple shields he managed to latch and our difficult, frustrating and painful bf journey began.  I’m not going to lie it hurt a lot, and no amount of lactation consulting or forum whinging helped.  I became acquainted with “lipstick nipple” (google if you must) and tears at feeding time, I had a further formula panic when he wouldn’t feed one evening, but that didn’t go down very well and my lactation consultant took the view that missing a feed wouldn’t kill him (…whereas formula feeding clearly could given the look on her face when I mentioned I’d broken into my giant tin of SMA…) and a friend directed me to fussy evenings on Kellymom.com.

It did take 4 months of pain and struggling before it got easier, not helped by my frequent hysterical refusals to bf and the Turk’s shrugged shoulders and comments of “just get formula then” (note to younger self: take the Turk to the NCT bf session) but at 10 months it’s so so much easier for me than formula.  Admittedly I feel frustrated that Jem won’t take a bottle so my nights out were a no go until recently, but now I’m through the other side I think the difficulty is like childbirth, you forget just how bad it was.

Where am I going with this, well the answer is I’m not sure.  For me bf has been really positive (in the long term) and I don’t intend to stop until I go back to work at 13 months…and (shock horror) maybe not even then!  Knowing what a difficult journey it has been I have been really delighted to see the amazing rallies today of bf mothers supporting the right to bf wherever and whenever you want.

That doesn’t mean that formula is bad (and I have learned it’s certainly not evil), but it’s not right for everyone.  I have friends who formula fed from birth and have great stories about this, I have friends who switched to formula at 6 weeks but their babies still don’t sleep through the night.

Personally I admire mums who are mums, I don’t care how they feed their baby.  In fact as well as admiring bf (because I know how hard it can be) I also secretly admire formula mums, and not only because they have to do a lot of work to feed their baby.  I spend a significant amount of time wondering how bottle feeding mums get their babies to stop crying when they bang their heads, as sticking a boob in Jem’s mouth can solve pretty much any problem in his life (hence why I’m now actually scared of stopping…they must have another trick…?)