When I learned I was expecting my son R I was over the moon. I knew I wanted to breastfeed him and hold him close, babywear and listen to his needs. My husband was 100% supportive and came with me to natural birth classes and breastfeeding classes. I read Ina Mays’ guide to childbirth and the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
When R was born he was a whopping 9lb 9oz and a natural vaginal birth. Everything had gone so well. When all the visitors left and it was just us two I cuddled him all night and gazed into his eyes. I was never happier.
At 2am exactly 12 hours after his birth I had to use the bathroom. I didn’t feel comfortable just leaving R in the cot so I asked the midwife to hold him for a minute but when I got back she said his breathing was rapid and she had called a doctor. I’ll never forget the Doctor examining him and then bundling him up in a blanket and running out the door down to neonatal.
After 10 days of tests and antibiotics and being in an incubator and oxygen tents, jaundice lamps and wires coming from every part of him we were finally allowed to take R home but they still had no answers as to what was wrong. We were to wait for a follow up appointment with a specialist.
At this point my confidence as a mother was shot. All the wonderful plans I had to hold him close and breastfeed on demand had been thwarted. He was bottle fed ebm on a three hourly schedule and trying to mother him in a busy neonatal ward full of advice was enough to make me seriously doubt myself.
At home I felt it was my second chance to be the mother I wanted to be away from prying eyes. We co-slept, fed on demand and took lovely walks in our sling. R was never out of my sight and I was happiest that way. However my confidence as still at an all time low. All the people around me were sure I was doing it wrong. I should put him down, get him to sleep in the cot, stretch his feeds, let him cry etc. My instincts were telling me one way and my ‘tribe’ were telling me another. I started to think that the books I had read during my pregnancy were idealistic and that no one really mothers that way. I had never seen it in real life.
The one thing I knew I was doing right beyond a shadow of a doubt was breastfeeding and when R was 5 moths old already I felt like the only one in the village ‘still’ breastfeeding. R was like a giant compared to all the other newborns in our local breastfeeding group. I knew I needed support if I as going to feed him until he was 1yr. (And beyond as it turned out!) So I called Eithne in LLL Bray to tell her I intended to come along to the next meeting. To be honest I was in two minds as I wasn’t driving at the time and it meant a 20 minute walk to the bus stop and a 30 minute journey on the bus but Eithne was so warm and welcoming on the phone I was sure it would be worth the trip. And worth it it was. At La Leche League I finally found like minded mothers in real life who mothered their children like I did. It was so exciting and refreshing for me. Suddenly I felt a sense of rightness that I hadn’t felt before. I found exactly what my mothering journey had been lacking and that was the courage and confidence to do things my way. I had been doing things my way alright but at every stage I was second guessing myself and wondering if I was getting it right.
Thats not to say that we all mother the same way of course. Not at all but what we do is support and encourage each other to find the best way for our own families. LLL encourages all mothers to follow their instincts and it made all the difference to me.
Five months later R had his follow up appointment with the specialist and we learned he has Larangomalacia which is a rare condition that means he has a floppy larnynx. Thankfully he needs no treatment and it will resolve itself like any other muscle he can tone it up hopefully by the time he is two. Amazingly the Doctor informed me at this visit that the reason R wanted to be held constantly was because he found it very difficult to breathe on his back as his larynx would close in this position. He informed me that had I listened to the well intended advice of others and left him to have a little cry I would have come back to a blue baby. I dread to think now what might have happened had I ignored my instincts to keep Ryan close at all times.
La Leche League taught me to always follow my instincts as a mother and to value them. I could even say that had I never found this group and grown my confidence as a mother it could have meant disastrous consequences for my little boy who is now a walking (almost) talking happy toddler.
Many thanks for letting me tell my story, if it inspires one woman to follow her gut it will have been so worth it.