Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘maternity unit’

Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.


When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”.  Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 


So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.


When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.” 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”

I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:

“I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you till I die” (oh my goodness, isn’t that just the truth?), and
“you exploded into my heart”  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed… definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn’t be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It’s a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  “To Make you Feel My Love”.

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”  
Once again – isn’t that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I’ve played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.
I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members… please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You’ll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it’s going to turn out really special.

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All The Very Best

Sometimes when you are passionate about something, it’s hard to remain objective.  Especially when the “thing” is something that only 1% of the UK population do, and when you wish everyone could do it because the benefits are so great.

I am proud to say that my second daughter is among the 1% of UK babies who have been exclusively breastfed to the age of six months.  This has been a journey for our family which started before the birth of Alt.D1, and which will continue until, for now, Alt.D2 decides she’s had enough.  


Yesterday I came across this article in the British Medical Journal, wherein the authors detail their findings in research on how the idealistic “breast is best for 6 months” message compares with familes’ experiences in the real world.  It’s a fairly hefty article, but the comments made by the women and their families (partners, mothers, sisters) make interesting reading.  The conclusion drawn by the authors is that despite the all pervading “Breast Is Best” message given to parents, there is not always the support available to enable breastfeeding to be confidently established and continued. 
I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.  BBC3’s excellent documentary “Is Breast Best?” summed up the presenter’s own experiences:
“If you’re experiencing incredible pain, it’s not okay to go through that.  It’s not something you should just swallow and suck up.  I wish I had asked for help. I wish, I wish, I wish I had gone and asked for help and not just suffered in silence.”

It is noteworthy that this investigation centred on families, rather than just women themselves.  For me, and I know that if you ask Alt.Father, he will say the same, support for breastfeeding involves the whole family.  That is not to say that the decision necessarily involves the family, despite well meaning titbits of advice (no pun intended!) from elderly relatives!  What I mean to say is that the father’s role in a breastfeeding family should never be under-estimated.  Without the unending support of Alt.Father, I would not be where I am today.
I’d like to share the story of our journey, and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
My mum told me that when I was born, a nurse held me up and said 
“This baby will never breastfeed, look at the shape of her mouth!”
This was 32 years ago, to a stressed out, confused new young mother, who was trying and struggling to feed her new baby.  Yet despite this blow to her confidence, Mum struggled on and succeeded, managing to feed me for 9 months, and subsequently both of my younger siblings.
So it was with her in my mind that I tentatively pressed the buzzer in the hospital ward time after time during the first 24 hours of Alt.D1’s life.  I called for help, and each time someone different arrived at my bedside, giving me different advice, or no advice at all.
“Is this your first baby?” asked one nurse, “you’re very confident.”
I didn’t feel very confident.  I felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!  My baby was waking every hour, making a noise in an overheated room full of other women without babies (mixed ante-natal and post-natal ward).  I couldn’t tell if she was getting anything from me.  I was sore, tired and lonely.  At 4am, when I hadn’t really slept for 2 days, a heathcare assistant asked me
“Have you got bottles at home?” and fed formula to my baby from a cup.  Alt.D1 slept.  In tears, I sent a text message to Alt.Father:

They just gave her some formula.  I didn’t want to do that.  I feel like the worst mother and she isn’t 1 day old yet.” 
In 30 years, nothing had changed.
I was lucky though.  The following morning, Alt.Father collected us from the Big Hospital and took us to our local midwife led maternity unit.  Still sore and sad, I was shown by my trusted community midwife how to hand express the rich golden colosturum and give it to the baby.  Over the next five days, I was given so much help and support by wonderful women who knew about breastfeeding.  I pressed the bell 100 times, maybe 200 times and I didn’t feel guilty, I felt supported.  I was struggling, but I was supported.
We left the unit with a medical grade pump and Alt.D1 on bottles of expressed milk.  As fast as I was pumping, she was drinking it.  We supplemented with formula, and I spent hours each day in tears, hooked up to a machine.  Alt.Father fed the baby, who cried a lot.
Then the day came of our local Breastfeeding Support group.  The three of us toddled along, and were made welcome, despite the bottles we were reliant on.  We tried “biological nurturing”, allowing the baby to seek out its own feed.  We all felt more confident.  Alt.Father commented at the time that it’s all very well telling us breastfeeding is best for your baby, but nobody had told us just how hard it could be.
With perseverence and the aid of nipple shields (sometimes controversial as they can affect milk supply) we mastered it.  Alt.D1 went on to breastfeed past her 2nd birthday, as if she had read the World Health Organisation guidelines herself!
By the time Alt.D2 was born, I had become involved with the breastfeeding support group, and had attended a training course for Peer Supporters of breastfeeding families.  I was armed and ready to feed my new baby from the moment she was born.  Every squeak she made, I latched her on.  She and I got the hang of it and never looked back.  This time, I proudly read the words “confident mum” written in my hospital notes at the maternity unit, and was pleased that I did indeed feel quietly confident with the breastfeeding aspect (if nothing else!).
So it was with a little sadness but without surprise that I read the BMJ article.  New mums, dads and babies need support.  Healthcare professionals need more training.  They need to care about this.  We are the “alternative” 1% of a population that exists because their forebears did something that like it or not is natural for 100% of the human species.  It’s up to us to encourage our children, daughters and sons alike, to get these figures up.  Let’s hope that in another 30 years’ time, something will have changed.




If you are reading this blog and wondering where you can get help near you, here are some useful links:

NCT Breastfeeding Helpline:  0300 330 0771
Open 8am – 10pm, 7 days a week
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers helpline:  08444 122 949
Open 9.30am – 10.30pm, 7 days a week
Breastfeeding Network Supporterline: 0844 412 4664
Open 9.30am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week
www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk

La Leche League: 0845 120 2918
www.laleche.org.uk

  

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