Coach Real Talk with Raylee

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My darkest moment was the first time that I felt like a failure as a mum.

Becoming a parent was something that I always knew I wanted, and looking back, was really the only thing I knew I wanted for sure.

The first 30 or so years of my life, I lived not  following my passion - I wasn’t that fond of my job, but I was good at it and climbed my way through the ranks to be successful (or so I thought!). It was pretty standard as in I met a boy, fell in love, and we moved in together. Our time was spent working, and then drinking and partying. He wanted to follow the traditional route of getting married and buying a house before we added kids to the equation, so that’s what we did. My biological clock was ticking pretty loudly by this point and my attention had moved from “having fun” to really wanting to grow our family.

When I found out I was pregnant the first time it felt like everything changed. Suddenly I wasn’t just responsible for myself, but every choice I made would directly impact my child. And it also became glaringly obvious - I had no fucking idea how to look after a baby! 

I did what every newly pregnant mum probably does - I bought all the clothes, new furniture and read “what to expect when you’re expecting”. I had it sorted right?

Elroy arrived by emergency caesarean and it was love at first sight. We were so in awe that we had a real life baby. Being a caesarean birth I was told it might be a longer process for my milk to come in. I was not prepared for what breastfeeding is really like when you start. While we were in hospital, for the first 24 hours I couldn’t even get out of bed due to the operation, and if Elroy was crying and needed to be fed, I had to buzz a nurse to come in and pass him to me from the crib. I had no idea how to sit, how to hold a baby to feed and what a “good latch” looked like. My mum didn’t breastfeed any of her children and I was the first one to have a baby in my friend group and out of my sisters, so it felt like no one I knew could help me. To make it worse, it also felt like every time there was a shift change, a different nurse would come on and they would tell me a different way to sit or hold Elroy to make it easier. And the pain - having a baby that was hungry and trying to extract milk that wasn’t there yet was torture. But I was determined to breastfeed, I knew it was what was best for him and really wanted to do it. 

The day we came to be discharged, they weighed Elroy and in time since his birth, he had lost 12% of his body weight. He wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital at that weight so the nurses gave him a bottle of formula and quickly weighed him again to check that his weight had gone in to the “allowed” range of a 10% weight loss. I had no idea what was happening. They advised me to feed him as much as possible (I thought “aren’t I already doing that??”) and that a health nurse would be in contact for a home visit soon. 

The next few weeks were a blur. I was totally shocked as to what it meant to feed a baby every 3-4 hours. The time starts from when you start feeding, and a newborn can feed up to 30 mins each side, add burping and nappy changes, and I would put Elroy down and it felt like then the time was up and he was due for his next feed. He was such a good sleeper I thought I was killing it. During the day he would have stretches of 5 or 6 hours, and I was so tired I would let him sleep - this was a different tired to anything that I had felt before, there was just no where to catch up on sleep. The longest stint I was getting was about 3 hours and there seemed to be no end in sight of when I would get more.

The health nurse came and when she weighed him, he hadn’t put on much weight at all. He still wasn’t back to his birth weight (by this stage he was 3 weeks old). She was very concerned that he wasn’t being fed enough. She told me I needed to pump after each feed and then give him that milk as well. I needed to do this around the clock for the next 48 hours. So sleep for the next 2 days went completely out the window. I set an alarm to feed Elroy every 3 hours. If he was asleep I had to wake him up; if he fell asleep on the boob I had to wake him so he would drink. I would be taking his clothes off to shock him into being cold to try and keep awake. Then once he was back in bed I was trying to express as much milk as possible to supplement these feeds and increase my supply so he would start putting on weight. And still the pain, my nipples felt like they were on fire. 

The nurse came back and Elroy was back to his birth weight - great! But I hadn’t slept more than 20 mins at a time, my husband was back at work by this stage and I had no idea how I was going to maintain this schedule. 

I continued on for another 2 weeks - I was getting more than 20 mins sleep, but not by much, and I still wasn’t enjoying feeding. Where was the loving bond you hear about? Every time I fed Elroy it still hurt, and I felt like I was doing everything - ice, heat, sun, creams - nothing seemed to help.

I remember so clearly one night, I was feeding Elroy on the lounge. I had fed him on one side and burst into tears. Gav asked what was wrong. I was in so much pain and I honestly just wanted to get him away from me. I was crying because there was no way I wanted to feed him from the other side. I would have thrown him across the room rather than feed him anymore. But you have to feed him was the response from my hubby. Yes, and that’s why I was so upset. I had to feed him. Even though I was in excruciating pain, and even though he wasn’t thriving from what I was supplying. In that moment I made the decision to start him on formula the next day. And then I knew I was a complete failure. My baby was not yet 6 weeks old, and I couldn’t even feed him properly. The one certainty I had in my life in being a mum, and I was already failing at what we are biologically built to do. He was 6 weeks old, and I couldn’t provide the most basic and essential food for him.

I’ve since learnt (am trying to learn), to not be so hard on myself. That even though breastfeeding is natural - it’s a skill that every mum and baby need to learn together. It can be a beautiful experience, and it can also be a horrow show.

Love Raylee XO

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