Let’s Mother The Mother: A Personal Experience Post Partum
Despite being a specialized perinatal RN working at the bedside supporting new mothers learning to breastfeed, I still struggled deeply with feeding back when I had my first baby. In the early weeks post partum I found breastfeeding to be beyond hard and found nothing enjoyable about it.
We struggled with having our preterm baby try to learn the same feeding tricks that a term baby would and I struggled with the utter exhaustion from an induced labour and an assisted birth. Once baby is here the hard work continues with little reprieve.
I remember waiting and waiting for things to click and when they didn’t come naturally I knew that I needed to call for help. I sent a SOS to a friend who was an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and she came to me and gave me the support I needed on how to make things work.
Post partum I had so much extra IV fluid floating around my body that every part of me was ridiculously swollen, including the breasts that were meant to nurse my baby. It all seemed kind of impossible.
When we were ten days post partum we went to the paediatricians for our scheduled check up. He measured and weighed my baby and asked me how feeding was going to which I quickly replied with a short, ‘its fine’. Then he said something that helped me hold things together at a moment where I felt really vulnerable.
“You are doing a really great job Andrea!”
It was the first time someone told me I was doing a good job in motherhood and the difference that those simple words made were unforgettable. I didn’t even know that I needed to hear them until he said it.
Three babies later and I can tell you that learning a new skill, like breastfeeding a baby, when you are beyond exhausted is like having an out of body experience. It really feels kind of ridiculous.
So much information from well meaning health care professionals went in one ear and out the other. I was too tired to hear what they were telling me. I kept hoping that things would just naturally come together and had no idea of the learning curve that was involved for me and this baby.
Over time my body recovered from the long induction and birth and I let myself commit to breastfeeding one feed at a time. I wasn’t commiting to breastfeed exclusively for six months or going for a year and I wast even thinking about the two years that the WHO guidelines recommended.
I was just going to try this one feed and see how it went. If it went somewhat okay then I was going to try it again just once more.
My lactation consultant friends showered me with the support I needed, continually checking up on me as the days went by. My sister, who had had babies, told me all about her nursing experiences and those sisterhood secrets of the early post partum weeks. My husband brought me snacks and made me dinner while I sat firmly in one spot on our couch focused on latching the baby or expressing milk to give.
All together they helped mother me, the new mother. I was never expected to return to normal or pick up where I left off. I took this new role one day at a time and I was allowed to grow into motherhood.
While my village took care of me, I was able to take care of the baby. When I’d spent those newborn nights night cluster feeding, my partner would wake up early and take the baby so I could have some extra sleep. Breastfeeding wasn’t just my issue that I had to learn to deal with on my own. It was a shared supported experience.
My youngest sister, who had no kids at the time, would come over in the afternoon and take the baby so I could have an afternoon nap. Catching up on sleep helped my mental well being and my ability to take on one more breastfeed.
This was my post partum experience and I feel very fortunate that as a new mother I was able to be so well cared for during the transition into motherhood. I wish all new mothers could get the chance to adjust to this new part of their lives while surrounded by people who care about them.
Let’s mother the mother. Let’s take care of her and give her the support she requires so that she can flourish in her new role.
***I wrote this post inspired by the tragic and upsetting loss of fellow nurse and mother Florence Leung. You can read more about her story here.***