Darcy was tongue-tied. We asked them to check when she was born as its often hereditary. Myself, my brother and my own Mum are tongue-tied so we knew they’d be a strong chance. Cutting the tie is a very simple procedure with minimal pain and usually no bleeding. For some reason, they don’t do the 2 minute procedure when you’re already there, but you have to ring a certain number, a certain person in the hospital to book it to be done ASAP. The midwife who discharged us called the number and left a message for, lets call her Beatrice. (I would name and shame, but I’m feeling nice tonight.)
At home, I was exclusively breastfeeding my daughter and after 3 days my milk came in. For those that don’t know, this is when your body stops producing colostrum – yellow rich concentrated milk – and real breastmilk appears. I was thrilled. Up until it changes you can never really tell if your baby is getting anything at all, because you never feel your breast emptying or refilling. We’d called the day after we arrived home and left two messages for Beatrice to call us regarding booking the procedure. No answer.
A few days on and with her tongue-tie, breastfeeding was really starting to hurt. We called again, we kept trying with no answer, we left messages. Our community midwife rang and nothing. The next day my nipples were so cracked and sore and were starting to bleed. That night around 1 o’clock in the morning Darcy was sleeping and vomited up bright red blood. A teaspoon amount, even a drop was enough to scare me to death. Shouting and shaking Joe to wake up, I rang the emergency 24hr number to the Maternity ward. The midwife calmed me down and told me lightly ‘its just from my boobs’, as if its a perfectly normal situation.
Around day 6 I was losing the plot. It hurt so much and she was constantly hungry. I sat from 7pm until 1am with her attached to me, too scared to remove her incase she cried and it hurt so much to latch her back on. Joe sat me shakily on the toilet with Darcy feeding on me, so that I could go for a wee. He had to pull up my knickers and support me as I was crying so much.
In the morning we tried Beatrice again, several times Joe rang. He rang through the switchboard to different departments desperately trying to find anyone that could help us. He was shouting down the phone, so upset seeing the state I was in over something that took only minutes to fix. No one could physically locate Beatrice and in some stupid bureaucratic move, she was the only one capable of booking the appointment. We weren’t even allowed to go through the man who was actually doing it!
I begged the midwife on the phone to let me express and bottle feed Darcy at 9 days old, I was in so much pain and began to dread when she was hungry. She was physically hurting me and I started to resent her. The midwife on the phone told me I shouldn’t bottle feed her. I should ‘cup feed’ instead. But at 2 o’clock in the morning we’d have to drive to Worcester to be taught how to do it. Like lambs to the slaughter we went. I breastfed before we left, praying she wouldn’t cry in the car. We arrived and were taken to the postnatal ward where I produced the 1oz of frozen breastmilk I’d collected that day out of the changing bag. She defrosted and warmed it and began showing us what to do. She held Darcy swaddled in a blanket and tipped a drop at a time into her mouth. It was excruciating to watch. If you tipped too much at once she could choke and it felt so dangerous and unnecessary. Why couldn’t I just give her a bottle?! She was fed the ounce and then passed to me to put her on the breast. Half an hour of that and we left, changing her nappy before we went out to the car park. Before we made it out the main doors she cried to be fed and we sat for another 30 minutes in the deserted dark Costa of the hospital before returning home. Upon arriving home she cried again and back on my boob she went.
I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Joe cup fed her again that night as I watched and jumped every time he did it, crying and begging him to “be careful!”. It was so traumatic. We saw a different midwife at the doctors the next day as my community midwife was booked up and she weighed and checked her over. We’d been told at the previous appointment that she’d lost 8.1% of her weight in the first few days so they’d booked us the appointment to have her weighed again. They are only supposed to lose up to 8% so she’d have to be monitored.
I told her the situation and she couldn’t believe how pushed into feeding her myself I’d been. I felt the need to ask her permission if I could bottle feed my own child. One bottle a day, expressed breast milk, to try to let my boobs heal. Expressing didn’t hurt as much, because Darcy had latching problems, the breast pump didn’t! She told me do two or three or however many because she was my baby and as long as she was healthy I could do what I wanted. She may not go back on the breast, I was told, as they are easily confused but at that time I wasn’t sure I was fussed if she didn’t. So that was Day 9. I gave her my milk, the recommended amount for a baby her age, in a bottle and she slept for 2 hours straight. We went to Tesco and it was like having a new baby and with it a new lease of life. I could put her down, she was happy, I was happy, Joe was happy! Why had I waited all this time?!
Day 10 and bitch Beatrice finally called us. No apology. Nothing. Only one day after struggling with the decision to bottle feed and she called to arrange Darcy’s tongue-tie appointment. We decided not to book it in the end as she would be mostly bottle fed from then on and it was nice to have something in common with her, so silly but for some reason it meant a lot to me. To this day I hold this woman responsible for ruining my experience of something I was really looking forward to and for a time, enjoyed.
Even though my story highlights a lot of bad things about breastfeeding, the bond I felt with my daughter is something I will always cherish. In the early days I felt so empowered, so proud that I was a BF Mummy! I’d take selfies and I look back and smile at what might have been if only things had been different. But what they don’t tell you is that breastfeeding is really hard. Not everyone is capable. There are hundreds of different factors that affect your ability to. But with me I felt myself slipping into Postnatal Depression. I felt useless and hateful towards my child who never stopped crying or feeding off me. I felt the life being sucked out of me, like a ghost I just existed. I spent my days unmoving in the same chair, with tears streaming down my face and forgot to eat or look after myself. I forgot that I was a person. I forgot that there was another option. I forgot to be brave and to forgive myself. I wish I’d have known sooner and been strong enough to be decisive, to release some of the pressure I’d put on myself and enjoy those days.
I’m jealous of the women who had no troubles. Whose babies thrived and they did with them. I’m proud of the time I did it and pleased that I tried.
But life changed for the better, when I found formula…