I just stared at him and said hang on, I am not going home
We all have certain expectations, thoughts of how things are going to be, what the pregnancy should be like, what type of parents we are going to be and how amazing this baby journey is going to be! Because there is no other feeling like giving birth to your baby and become a mother for the first time.
I had a very busy year with falling pregnant in early October 2019, preparing for our wedding in February 2020, my whole family arriving from Europe for a whole month, buying a new house and moving, and of course, working full time as a private care giver. The first three months were super tyring but once they had passed, I felt great, I almost forgot I was pregnant. But then the pandemic hit hard.
I wasn’t able to see my midwife for two months which I found quite distressing but it was still fine for me. I was more worried about not having my husband with me at the birth. We were lucky that by the time we got to that point all of the acute pandemic stage has passed. I was lucky to have a very good pregnancy with no complications. I never gave any thoughts to breastfeeding, taking it as given that I would breastfeed with no problems. My breasts enlarged a lot during pregnancy and all seemed to be fine. Nobody told me to try express some colostrum in the last week or so, all I’ve been told was about mastitis and blocked ducks in our antenatal zoom class.
One Saturday night, a week before my due date I got out of the bed and felt something run down the inside of my thighs. I thought my water broke, but when I looked all I saw was blood. I ran to the bathroom (to be on lino and not to stain the carpet, haha!) just to have a large blood gush splashing all over the floor. We ended up in the hospital as the bleeding didn’t stop after an hour.
I had been checked by a midwife and after a consultation with a doctor (no.1) they decided to keep me at the hospital overnight, just to monitor me and the baby. I was told that they would let me home the next day if I stopped bleeding. On Sunday morning another doctor came (no.2), examined me, stated that I was still bleeding and that that would let me home on Monday morning after a doctor had been as they don’t discharge on Sundays. We went for a 6km walk with my husband in the evening in order to try get things going but not much has happened.
I sent my husband home for the night and then to work on Monday as they were to discharge me and my mother-in-law could pick me up. I couldn’t sleep the whole night, I was getting hot and cold from the hospital aircon and ended up with a stuffy nose in the morning. I got up at 4am, packed all my bags, had a shower, bushed my teeth, made myself a cup of tea and waited for the doctor.
The hospital midwife came at 6am and put baby on the monitor. Baby was fine the whole time, no stress just very happy in my tummy. When the doctor came (no.3) she gave this very big announcement about how they are going to induce me that day! It was a huge shock. Huge shock… for me who was planning an all-natural water birth with minimal interventions, and being petrified of C-section and epidural. I had a big cry in front of everyone - there was about six people in the room and I didn’t know any of them - no support or comforting for me. I felt embarrassed, petrified, lost..
If they had started to talk about this on Saturday night, maybe I would have had time to mentally prepare for this, but it came out of the blue and I was very sad. They gave me an hour to think about it. The hospital midwife came, she was amazing, informed me about everything, answered all my questions, comforted me. I rang my LMC and she came around and spoke to me also about everything and assured me that it would probably be the best way to go about this as they were unsure of where the bleeding was coming from and there was a possibility that it was behind the placenta wall which means that I could bleed out into my tummy. This could kill me and my baby. It was all very terrifying. I rang my husband and he was very surprised also.
After a couple of hours, I agreed to an induction, so they started with two lots of gel on Monday and the plan was to break my waters on Tuesday morning unless I started giving birth naturally. We went for a walk in the evening again, hoping that things would get moving as I had felt mild contractions after the gel. I couldn’t sleep properly; my husband stayed the night sleeping on the floor. I was absolutely exhausted in the morning, my head cold started to be really strong and I started to feel mildly feverish. So here we are I thought, today is the day.
The doctor came (no.4), examined me and said ‘right, well I am happy so you can go home’. Well, that was a bit of a shock! We were quiet for a little bit, I guess processing what she just said. So, she started to talk again saying that she thought for my mental state, I would be best off at home and that I would benefit from being comfortable, and because she had over 30 years of experience, she believed I would be fine and go into natural labour.
My husband started packing things, he was excited. I just stared at him and said hang on, I am not going home. It was this huge situation of confusion, stress, worry … I rang my LMC and told her what had just happened. She was furious, stormed into the hospital and told the doctor off for messing my head up. She was great, but said she’d never seen such unprofessional behaviour. All the hospital midwifes said they had never seen such courage from another midwife in telling off a doctor. My LMC said that I could go home if I really wanted to but I would have to go to her practice every day for monitoring, and that there was no way we would be able to birth in water or in the birthing centre anyway. Also, if I didn’t go into labour naturally by Friday (my actual due date) they would induce me no matter what.
My head was spinning. I knew I couldn’t go home; I knew I would only worry at every move that I was going to bleed again, worry about whether the baby was alive and all these what ifs … We agreed to have a stretch and sweep and if nothing happened my LMC would come at 7am on Wednesday and break my waters as she was over the hospital doctors. I said ok, it was a plan and was happening. The same day another doctor came (no.5) and told us that she would break my waters personally at 6am as they had loads of inductions that day and needed to get on with things and that my LMC had been notified.
It sounded great (NOT) and at this point I really started to wonder how many doctors worked on this ward as I felt like I had seen them all. I was really over the situation, the hospital, the pregnancy, the delivery … I felt crap, I wanted to go home. They gave me a sleeping pill as I had already run a fever by this point and after three nights of minimal sleep, I was exhausted, mentally and physically.
In the morning we waited, and they moved us to delivery suit at 6.30. At 6.45 a doctor came (no.5) and said she would examine me and break my waters. When she was examining me, she said ‘are you sure that you still have waters intact?’ Well that was a great question. She said ‘I can’t feel any membrane, I think that your waters have already broken, do you know when?’ At that point I got really shitty. I felt really bad from the fever and waiting for the paracetamol to kick in, and I was so tired. Once she said this, all I wanted to do was to rip her hand out of me and scream. I replied with a very, very angry tone ‘do you want to tell me that my waters have potentially broken on Saturday and I have been laying here for three days open for infection with the whole town sticking their fingers into me?’ She pulled her fingers out and said that she didn’t feel comfortable doing this, that she couldn’t feel the waters and that I should get a second opinion.
Second opinion choices were the next doctor that was supposed to come on the shift at 7am or some hospital midwife, or I could call and wait for my LMC. Well I decided I would wait for my LMC thank you very much.
The hospital midwife came back five minutes later to tell me that my LMC couldn’t make it as she already had scheduled appointments for the whole morning. Well for the doctor we wait then I said. Twenty minutes later another hospital LMC came in, she has been looking after me on the past two mornings and she was the LMC that really comforted me, I trusted her. She offered to have a look and I agreed. Within ten seconds she broke my waters and said that I am already 3cm open. Well that was a relief! We waited until 9am just in case the labour would kick off naturally but nothing happened. As the LMC was putting the drip up another doctor came in (no.6). He apologised for the whole team in the hospital and offered to examine me. I politely told him to leave the room and said that unless it was really necessary, we wouldn’t be needing him and that I did not wish to see any more doctors in that hospital. I was over it.
I asked for an epidural at midday, feeling like I had failed and given up on everything. My body had uncontrollable shakes, I felt freezing from the fever I was running, my body was not coping. After the epidural was in, it was a very different story. I had a sleep and gained some strength for pushing.
I pushed for nearly 1.5 hours, thinking towards the end that I wouldn’t make it. My little girl came out sunny side up, hence the long pushing time. My LMC told me that I probably wouldn’t have been able to push her out without the epidural and there would have been a very high chance of ending up with a c-section. So in the end, the bad stuff was good for something else.
My little girl was on my tummy, I was waiting for this overwhelming feeling of love that people are talking about. All I felt was relief, I was just relieved that it was all over and I could leave the hospital soon. I felt this very warm slightly slimy baby on me and all I wanted to do was eat and sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I was stoked with having a baby, proud that I had given birth and become a mother, I just didn’t feel this mad love that people are talking about.
I think that this happened because of the whole prolonged, mentally draining experience of birth. My LMC checked my babies latch and it all seemed great. We left the hospital the next morning to go to a local Birthing Centre as I felt fine. Baby was latching fine and seemed to be feeding ok. Feeding her every two hours. One of the LCs in the centre came by, checked my breasts, babies latch and tried to express some colostrum. We got about 5ml which we fed to the baby and she said that we should be fine.
We got home and started on this new long journey of breastfeeding. One of the hardest things that I have done in my life. Harder than the whole birth. On my girls first weigh in, we found out that she has lost 10% of birth weight. Scary, all of a sudden it started to make sense as to why she was screaming on the breast - she wasn’t getting enough milk. At that point, my mind started to race. I cried every time it got to feeding time. She cried, I cried, my husband would come home from work and find me in tears that I couldn’t stop and I was crying for hours non-stop.
I remember sitting in my lounge on the couch, staring out the window and all I could feel was emptiness. I didn’t feel anything and just wondered if I would ever love my baby. I would cry every time I looked at her sleeping. It felt strange, I felt helpless. My LMC suggested we start topping her up with some formula or some donor breast milk (DBM). I had no idea where to get that so we went and got some formula. She took the bottle just fine, no wonder if she was starving. I yet again cried every time I had to give her the formula. It was extremely important to me that she had breastmilk so that she has all the goodness from it. We decided not to vaccinate and it was so, so important for me that she had my milk until at least six moths.
All I could think about was breastfeeding, all I was reading was about breastfeeding. I got on all these Facebook pages about breastfeeding, I read books and blogs. I also started to do everything possible to boost my milk supply. My little girl was only drinking about 30-40ml top ups at that time so she was getting some of my milk, just not enough. I started to eat porridge for my breakfast and lunch with a heaped tablespoon of brewer’s yeast. I took Fenugreek, Blessed thistle, Milk supply supplement, probiotics designed for breastfeeding, I drank 2L of breastfeeding tea a day plus 2,5L of water a day (yes that’s 4,5L of fluids a day), I took homeopathic spray to boost milk supply, Milk supply tonic, Breastfeeding cookies.
I would have hot showers, do breast compressions, heat up boobs before feeding and I pumped after every feed. After three weeks my LMC offered me Domperidone. I felt like that was another mistake on my part but I did it anyway, I was so desperate to have milk that I just took it. I have never been on a medication in my life. I didn’t take any antibiotics for the past seven years, yet there I was in the state of mind where I would do everything just to have the milk.
Pumping was the one thing that I hated the most, I always only got about 10-15ml from both breasts after 30mins of pumping. It got me to the point where I felt like I was rushing my little girl off the boob so that I could pump so that I still allow enough time for the milk to form again for the feed. I realised that I was not enjoying the baby at all, I was not having this great time with my newborn, all I was doing was looking at the clock and thinking about when and how to pump.
After those 3 weeks I was offered a community LC to come and see us, I agreed to that. She came, an older lady, she seemed really nice, asked me what I was doing for my supply, checked our latch and said that I seemed to be doing an amazing job and pretty much everything I could. She offered the SNS system to try and see if that helped. Then she just stared at my TV for five minutes while I had my girl on the boob and said that she would come the next day with the SNS. We tried it the next day, the LC pretty much just got me soaked with the milk coming out the tube as she wasn’t able to get it in my little girl’s mouth. When she did get it in, she would just de-latch and scream, then the LC watched more TV and left. I felt like I didn’t want to see this lady again as she had been close to no help at all. I tried another four times after that with the same effect, my little girl was just too smart for that type of thing I thought at the time, so that was a no go.
I was also very fortunate at that time that my friend offered me some of her expressed milk that she didn’t need. I felt much better about giving my little girl breastmilk rather than formula. Also, my LMC had another of her clients with oversupply and she also gave me her large freezer stash. So that supply saw us through the next two months which was amazing.
At 5 weeks I still didn’t feel like giving up and told myself that I could carry on like that until 12 weeks, if there was no change then I would give up altogether. Then I found a local private LC who came round, she also checked everything and informed me that I was doing an amazing job. She weighed my girl before and after a feed and said that she is getting roughly 50ml from my boob, well that was a great news. She was only on 50-60ml top ups, her weight was going up steadily so all seemed to be tracking well, I just still didn’t have enough supply. She suggested to have my thyroid checked and up my dose of Domperidone to two tablets 3 times a day. I wasn’t very happy about that but hey, I’d give it a go. Otherwise, she said that she believed I was doing everything I could and that she didn’t have any other suggestions. My thyroid was in perfect shape along with all my other bloods, the nurse said I was in a super healthy condition. That was great news, but I was still a little sad as I was hoping that it would be my thyroid, you know, just to have a conclusion to all this.
So back to square one. At six weeks the Plunket nurse came to see us. She was also an ex-hospital LC which I thought was handy. She also checked everything and informed me that I am doing an amazing job. At this stage I was getting really angry when someone told me this and wanted to tell them to shove their ‘doing amazing job’ up somewhere. Yes, I was getting angry. But I had a feeling that the Domperidone kicked in as my boobs swelled up more and I started to leak milk at night, yay winning I thought.
My girl also didn’t require as much topping up. I told that to the Plunket nurse and she said to try a couple of days with smaller top ups then weigh in and see what happens. She was a really good weight at this point so we weren’t worried about her starving. I dropped the top ups completely as I knew that she didn’t need them and she was very happy after feeding. All went well for four weeks, the I started weaning off the Domperidone because I was getting huge headaches (I never had headaches in my life), I also realised that I had gained 8kg in those 3 months!!! My supply dropped again! I wanted to pull my hair out. This is not happening I thought. I found another donor, a lovely lady that had a daughter of the same age, she gave me so much milk. So we started with top ups again, but this time I tried to only give three bottles a day of 80 ml, she had days when she wanted 160ml per top up and that was when I cried again. Nobody understood why I wasn’t having enough milk, all the signs were there, my breasts got bigger, we didn’t have any problems in the family, I was healthy, I had enough ducts. At 12 weeks I dropped the pumping, it was driving me mad and I really wanted to actually start loving my daughter and giving her the attention that she deserved. It was a huge relief. When I ran out of our freezer supply, I tried to find more milk. I had contacted the Mothers Milk charity multiple times before but always been too late and they closed their intake for recipients. I never realized how many mothers in NZ were desperately seeking milk. When I contacted them in the middle of October, they were so kind that they accepted me even though they weren’t accepting mothers at the time. They also suggested to have a chat to their Breastfeeding peer supporter. I agreed to that as I felt like maybe I didn’t want to give up yet.
I sent our short birth and breastfeeding story via email and she suggested to have a chat. So I spoke to this lovely lady on the phone, she was on the South island and me on the North, I just thought this is ridiculous, how is she gonna help me without seeing us. We spoke for two hours and at the end she told me that she believed that my little girl had a tongue tie and a high palate… rubbish I thought, she can poke her tongue out. But all the signs were there, she was choking a lot on the bottle so I’d left her on a number 1 teat at four months, there was no way she could go to a faster flow, she gagged really easily. She was starting to try to blow raspberries but she couldn’t poke her tongue out at the same time, I had no nipple damage. I sat on that thought for couple of days, in the meantime she sent me the name of a local LC that concentrates on diagnosing tongue ties as she was previously a children’s dental nurse. I thought why not and contacted her. She came the next day and as soon as she walked in the door, she said that she could see that she is tongue tied without looking into her mouth. I didn’t believe her. She spent an hour with us, checked her mouth, talked about all the things that she does and it all fit into the description perfectly, all the signs were there… it was obvious to a person that knew what they were looking at. Add the fact that I had a lip and tongue tie when I was a child as well, only mine got snipped when I was 6 or 7 years old because I couldn’t talk properly.
I still didn’t believe it and said that once the dentist said it was true then I would believe. Yes, it was a shock, but it made perfect sense! It was there the whole time and nobody picked it up. Everyone had been looking at problems in me and nobody looked at my baby. We booked at the dentist the next week and they confirmed without me telling them anything. I just said I would like them to look at her as I have low milk supply and they just straight away confirmed that she had a high palate, lip tie and posterior tongue tie. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop. Five months… five months I had tortured my body and soul for something that could have been done in three minutes. I could have avoided it all! It took me two weeks to get over this. It was a very dark two weeks with again lots of tears and anger.
The next day, she was able to blow proper raspberries, she could drink form number 2 teat no problem (and only three days after that teat no.3). She could drink from her water bottle without spilling it everywhere and choking. I completely stopped taking Domperidone a week before the procedure.
I now am able to fully breastfeed except for one bottle before she goes down for her night sleep as that has become habitual, but she has reduced the amount from 120ml to 70ml, possibly thanks to introducing solids now as well - she is 6.5 months. I am able to express about 50 ml with a haakaa pump in the mornings which she has at night time. I still get occasional headaches now, over two months after I stopped taking the Domperidone.
I am proud. I am proud of myself, for sticking with it and for the fact that I kept searching and needed closure. I had to know why I didn’t have milk, if everyone was saying that I should have milk and there was no reason why I didn’t have it. It drove me mad; it was so hard! It taught me to love my daughter limitless, it made me appreciate myself and also to believe in myself.
I became a zombie in the first three months, but not because I didn’t get enough sleep, only because I was straining myself mentally. I don’t know why I couldn’t give up, on one side I wish I did as I could have made it much easier for myself, but I guess I felt this passion in me. I learned so much about breastfeeding and breastmilk. So many things that I had no idea about. It annoyed me that nobody informs you about what to do when you don’t have the milk, you only know what to do if you have too much milk (which could be a huge problem too, don’t get me wrong). Everywhere I went there were billboards, adverts, headlines that breastfeeding is important and you need to breastfeed and how natural it is, I wanted to scream, scream at all those experts and send them into dark.
But as I said, I am looking at this experience with a positive mind now. My whole birth was beautiful in a way, we both came out from it fine and very healthy, and most importantly I have a beautiful baby girl! The breastfeeding story is still a little raw, but I am happy that it got solved, even if it wouldn’t have made any difference to my supply, I know it will make a difference for my little girl in the long term. I have the most milk supply now, that I have had in the whole 6 months, and all just thanks to proper sucking. I am happy that I know exactly what to do in the next round if there will be one. I am grateful for all my family and friends that supported me so much! And I made new friends through it too. I love myself and finally, I love my baby girl unconditionally.