Week Three Realisations

Sunday, 31 December 2017

While I can't say I'm an expert, I'd say that I finally feel like I'm a little confident in what I'm doing. And what I mean by that is that I've mostly got the breastfeeding sorted, I know how to change a nappy, I can successfully bathe a baby and my shushing and rocking is down pat! Jackson has hit the three week mark and so I thought I'd share a few things I've learned along the way. Oh, and I know there is a whole lot more learning to be done but I'd say that the first couple of weeks are the most intense.

It's okay not to instantly fall in love with your baby.

I've heard from so many Mums and Dads that their connection with their baby is instant. As soon as they entered the world, they were in love and couldn't imagine life without them. Well, it's safe to say I haven't quite got there yet. I still just feel like a robot, catering to his every whim. And that's okay. Because it's just what life is like for the first bit. But I know that soon he'll start responding to us, we'll get smiles, giggles, cries.. He'll know that I'm his Mum and that connection will start. I'm not worried. It's not that I don't love him (how could I not) but I'm just the kind of person that needs to understand someone and their personality before I can really start a relationship. 

Breastfeeding is hard.

I wrote about my experience here but I still think it's worth a mention. Despite it being the "natural" way to feed your baby, it definitely doesn't come naturally so if you're having problems please don't just "tough it out" - see someone. You shouldn't be crying through feeds, filled with anxiety at the thought of trying to get your babe to latch on. And if it's not working, know that you did your best and "fed is best" so jump on that bottle and formula and look after you. 

Babies change constantly.

One day your baby is in your womb, the next they're out in the big wide world. It's an intense experience for them, and one that takes a little getting used to. So just when you think you've nailed the parenting gig, just remember your baby will change on you. They're growing and developing everyday and so what worked yesterday, might not work today. I know. But! I hear there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe when they're 18 and moving out? Ha! Just stick it out. From experience, patience and flexibility is the only way you'll get through it - and just the knowledge that eventually, they will settle and fall asleep.

Give yourself one task to do everyday.

People say to just sleep when babies sleep but the reality is, being surrounded by washing and dirty dishes can be a bit of a nightmare. My midwife actually gave me some great advice and that was to set one achievable goal for yourself a day. That way, you know you'll feel like you've achieved something that day without putting too much pressure on yourself to get it all done. And just give yourself a break if you don't get it done - even though it feels like you're just sitting around, feeding and changing baby, you're helping a sweet little thing grow and develop and they couldn't do it without you! It's pretty massive really.

Say yes.

Running on empty is a real thing and it's pretty nuts how little sleep you get at the beginning. So when people pop over and ask if you want help/dinner/a hug then say yes. Make the most of it because every little bit helps when you're exhausted. And don't forget it's not just you, it's your partner or support person too that needs a little care so for the sake of both of you, just say yes.

And there we have it! I know there's still lots to learn and a lot more to come, but I feel like this is what I needed to hear before Jackson came. It's not much, but I think it just makes you realise that being a first time parent (or second/third) is hard and there's no "one size fits all" approach. There's no miracle holds, magic milk or special sleeping trick. There are no rules, just that you do all you can to look after your little babe and that's honestly all they need. You are enough so just do your best because it's perfect.


It's Feeding Time.

Monday, 25 December 2017

So guys. Breastfeeding. Yep. The seemingly natural act of feeding your child that has actually ended up being quite a controversial topic. And perhaps, surprisingly, it's something that a whole lot of women have an issue with - myself included.

See, boobs are funny things. They come in all different shapes and sizes. They aren't symmetrical. Some of us love them, the rest of us don't. And then there are nipples and again - they can be wonky, inverted, uneven, off centre. Some women produce a lot of milk (even too much) and some can't really produce any. There are ladies out there that have never had one problem with breastfeeding, and others who have cried through every feed for weeks and weeks with bloody and cracked nipples, desperate to stick with it so they can feed their wee ones the "right" way.

For me, it hasn't been easy. We did learn about how to correctly latch in our antentatal classes but it's quite different practising on a doll vs doing it with a real life, squirming baby. There are also different techniques that may or not work for you, and unfortunately for me - I seemed to have a "bung boob" where, no matter how much the midwives helped me, I just could not avoid pain. And funnily enough, most of us have one! That's the boob that either baby doesn't really like (they totally have a preference) or is maybe a bit more sensitive, harder to latch on to.

I was suffering with crazy nipple pain on my left side, especially during the "latch" and every time I had to go to feed him I was hit by crazy anxiety because I knew how much it was going to hurt, but also that I didn't have a choice but to feed him. Luckily I didn't have too much cracking, and he seemed to be feeding well (which is basically the only thing that motivated me to keep going) but it just felt like someone was cutting my nipple off. And then rubbing it with sandpaper while he fed for half an hour. Seriously. And when he began cluster feeding, I absolutely dreaded having to keep swapping sides - one feed every three hours was enough but he was feeding constantly for hours and it's not like I could say no!

None of us could really figure out what was going on and I think we were at a point where it was like, well, if the actual feeding isn't unbearable then maybe I should stick it out and hope that eventually my nipple would get used to the pain and toughen up a bit. But mentally, I couldn't handle it. The fact that I ended up in tears most nights, so upset that I was going to have to go through the pain, worrying that he wasn't getting enough milk and feeling like a shitty Mum made me realise that actually no, I don't have to put up with this. So I got in touch with Cathy from Holistic Baby. She took our antenatal classes and is also a lactation consultant and my goodness, what a difference she made! Straight away she knew exactly what I was doing wrong. She made us sit and watch the same video she'd shown us in class, and demonstrated each step. And then, low and behold, Jackson latched properly and probably had the best feed ever! He was happy, my boobs were empty and I felt like I could tackle anything!

But you know, this just goes to show how much pressure we put on ourselves, as women, to do things as we think we're meant to. Obviously breastfeeding is cheaper, easier (if you can get it right) and a lot less fuss but I think we need to be kinder to ourselves if it's not working. Despite it being the natural way to feed your baby, sometimes it's just not meant to be and that's okay! It makes me sad to think of these poor new mums who are sitting there, struggling through every feed because they feel ashamed or pressured to stick with it, when there are alternatives out there that will lead to a better experience as a mum, and a better bond with them and their baby.

Even I started looking at alternatives because I just wanted to make sure Jackson was being fed properly and I was so desperate to find a solution for all of us. So while I'm lucky that it seems to have come right, I still believe that fed is best - regardless of how you go about it. And seriously, if you're having issues, get a second opinion and reach out to a lactation consultant. The act of breastfeeding is so different to what you'd actually think, but once you have that one on one time with someone who genuinely wants to make your journey a comfortable and easy one, you'll feel 100% better! And even if it doesn't help, you'll know you've done anything and probably find it easier to accept that it might just not be right for you and your baby.


Our Birth Story

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Well, I guess it's about time I introduced you to our newest family member. On Monday 11th December at 5.08pm, Jackson Manaia Key decided to enter the world after a twenty hour labour (thanks dude.) Weighing 8.6lb and measuring 54cm tall, he wasn't a small guy and needed a bit of help coming out. I blame his Dad actually. I think Rob's super chill personality may have trickled through to little Jackson who was obviously too relaxed to make a quick appearance.

To be honest, we weren't too sure how the labour was going to go. Initially we were booked in to be induced due to Jackson being a wee IVF baby. I'm not going to go into why we opted for IVF (let's save that story for another day) but I was referred to an obstetrician who informed me that I would be induced at 40 weeks on the dot. We were currently going to antenatal classes at the time and after hearing about induction and the medical interventions that usually go hand in hand with it, Rob and I weren't too keen but also weren't sure about the risks involved with IVF pregnancies. We did manage to push out the date to 40 weeks and 6 days - just to give us more of a chance to give birth in a more natural way. We did however go in at 40 weeks and 3 days, mostly because of how adamant the doctor was and we felt like we didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.

Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be so on the Friday, we went in to be induced. I was all hooked up to the monitors, baby was looking good and we were just waiting to get everything started. Then another obstetrician came in. Basically, they wanted to know why I was getting induced because to them, an IVF pregnancy wasn't enough of a risk to be in there at 40 weeks. And according to the induction guidelines, the cut off is actually 41 weeks for IVF. Obviously, we were under the impression that we didn't really have a choice so to have a doctor come in and question what she thought was our decision was a bit confusing.

There was a whole lot of umming and ahhhing... I mean, we had kinda geared ourselves up mentally to go ahead with it but then here was this amazing opportunity to forget about induction and really give natural birth a proper go. So! We went home. The doc basically said that there was a chance the induction wouldn't work because my cervix and baby's positioning wasn't as favourable as they had thought and I had just as much of a chance that I'd give birth naturally before having to be induced at 41 weeks. Although this was a total spanner in the works, I think we were both pretty grateful. Confused and a bit frustrated with the advice we were initially given, but hey - it all worked out in the end because on the Sunday night (two days later) I was on my way to hospital to give birth.

What then followed was twenty hours of awful contractions, dropping heart rates, talk of medical intervention and a crazy quick transition stage. I'd have to say that what started out as a pretty slow and stagnant labour ended up being a real whirlwind that I'm still a bit confused about.

At 9pm on the 10th December, my contractions started - about 8 minutes apart and pretty sore but not too bad. At about 11.30pm we started timing them as they were getting closer together and were more intense. At 1.30am we were on our way to the hospital to see how far along I was, and you can only imagine how gutted (and a little embarrassed I was) when it turned out I was only 3cm dilated. Baby was posterior though, so each contraction came with the worst back pain, meaning my contractions were a lot stronger compared to how far I was along. We were given the option to stay or come home, with my midwife suggesting that we try and rest at home. We'd probably be a bit more relaxed and the contractions were more likely to move along so up we got, heading home at about 3.30am. By 6am they had progressed, I was 5cm dilated and we were on our way back to the hospital where they got us set up in a delivery suite.

From there, it took about 6 hours to finally progress to 7cm, so they were getting a little concerned with how long it was all taking, and even more so when they discovered I had actually gone backwards and was now 6cm dilated. We started talking interventions and the plan was to break my waters and then go ahead with augmentation which is where they give you the drip with the hormone to get everything going. My waters were broken at about 2.30pm and from there, things really ramped up. Once my waters were broken, Jackson kinda fell into place and we were away! But. I was on the gas, they were monitoring baby, and the contractions were the absolute worse so I have to be honest, it's all a bit of a blur from here.

I do know that there was a lot of changing position, me begging Rob for the epidural, melt downs over him being on his cell phone (frantically trying to update everyone because it all progressed so quickly) and me swearing at him for not giving me my drink bottle fast enough. What I had thought was going to take 3-4 hours ended up taking one and before I knew it, I was trying my hardest to push that little guy out.

I gave birth on my back, but honestly it was the last place I wanted to be. Due to the back pain I was having, and the bands around my tummy to monitor baby, I think it was just too much pressure so we were going between what felt comfortable for me, and what was safest for Jackson. And then they brought out the stirrups which resulted in me getting leg cramp (which is hilarious because seriously, labour is the last place you want to be suffering from a cramp ha!) But! My body did as it should and before I knew it, I was following my body's natural cues to push and with the help of a ventouse and a little cut, Jackson entered the world and I felt the most relief (and burning pain) I've ever felt. Seriously, after twenty hours (actually - probably any amount of time), there is nothing better than feeling your baby come out and being able to just finally rest. And of course, give them a cuddle and look at them for the first time!

And there we have it. It was a crazy experience, one that I'm not too keen to go through anytime soon but an incredible one regardless. Recovery has been okay - it is a bit overwhelming dealing with a new born when you can hardly sit down, don't want to poo and barely walk but I'm feeling a whole lot more like myself now. And we get to finally enjoy our wee man so really, there can't be much better than that huh?

Out at Muriwai

Thursday, 9 November 2017

A maternity shoot wasn't really on my agenda so I was pretty surprised when Rob suggested we had one. Of course I was keen, I just wasn't sure if it was something he wanted to spend money on. But holy, when these snaps dropped into my Inbox I realised it was 100% worth it and also, that he's a bit of a genius. The other genius in this equation was our photographer (and now friend!) Patty who captured us perfectly.

We hung out at Muriwai for the afternoon, catching up on travel adventures, avoiding horse poo, attempting to tame my hair after the crazy west coast wind battered us and doing a lot of snuggling (something I'll never complain about!) The whole glowy, "golden hour" vibe was what we were after and luckily the weather played nice and we got some seriously beautiful shots. Now to choose which ones to frame - always the hardest job! 


Please Stop Commenting on My Body

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Today I'm 33 weeks pregnant. That's 33 weeks of watching my body change. Watching my body grow. Watching my body do things that aren't particularly pleasant  and some that are just truly amazing. It's also been 33 weeks of closely monitoring my body and the changes that have been happening.

And for the most part, I've been very lucky with a pretty physically easy pregnancy. All tests and scans come back to us (me and our little guy) being healthy. But mentally, it's been a bit of a struggle.
See, I'm a worrier. Not a, 'stays-awake-all night-thinking-about-the-worst-case-scenario' kind of worrier but I just like to think I'm doing things right. I also like to be mentally prepared for whatever comes my way, which sometimes means that I look into things too much, or I'm unable to brush things off as easily as I'd like.

I have, however, tried to take a different approach in pregnancy. I know that a lot of things are out of my control and what will be will be - so I've really tried to just chill and go along with whatever happens. But it's been hard. When you're pregnant, suddenly you're under everyone's watchful eye. Everything is commented on. By medical professionals. By your family. By friends. By people you don't even know. Suddenly your body isn't really your body anymore, it's something to examine and dissect - to be monitored.

And I understand that. I know it's part of it. And I appreciate the level of care that goes into pregnancy, especially from medical professionals. Because I know that if anything did pop up, I'd be well looked after. At the end of the day, you'd rather be safe than sorry.

What has been grating me though, are the comments on my body. On all pregnant bodies. The, "whoa that's a big bump," or "oh my gosh, you're really popping out!" Even, "what have you been feeding that baby?" It might just seem like a throw away comment, but it can be interpreted as so much more. Every woman, body and baby, are unique. We all carry differently - some women have bigger bumps, some barely show throughout their whole pregnancy. We all start at different weights, are told to gain no more or no less than a certain amount and our weight is monitored for nine months. Some of us even have medical conditions like PCOS, obesity or a history of diabetes, which means we already have to have more weight focused tests and appointments because we are at risk. We might have a history of body dysmorphia or eating disorders and are still trying to come to terms and accept the changes that are happening over the nine months of pregnancy. And your harmless comments can be exactly what a mum-to-be doesn't need to hear.

I have PCOS and a family history of diabetes so when I hear comments like the above, I don't hear "oh a big bump means a nice healthy baby." I hear, "you're eating too much," and "you're not exercising enough," "be careful because you might get gestational diabetes."And although they're usually just light-hearted comments that aren't coming from a nasty place, it's the last thing I want and need to hear when I'm already trying to worry about doing everything right. And that's the thing, you just don't know. You wouldn't say to someone's face that they've put on weight or need to eat more, so why comment on how big their bump is?

Carrying a baby, being the sole carer and provider, and the one person responsible for the growth and life of a little unborn human, is an incredible experience - but it's also super mentally and emotionally draining. We put so much pressure on ourselves to stay on track, to do as we're told, to make sure we're doing everything we can to have a healthy baby. So instead of commenting on our body and its changes, why don't you ask how we are? How we're finding the pregnancy? We know we have a bump. We see it too. We are well aware of how our bodies have changed. And yeah, maybe I'm being a little sensitive (hello hormones!) and need to develop a thicker skin, but I think mostly, people just need to back off a bit. There's so much more to a pregnancy than the size of the baby bump, so how about we talk about that instead?
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