Two Years Ago

Two years ago today, I found out that I was pregnant. I didn’t know then, of course, that the end result would be Thomas. I had no clue about the little person he would become, the joy and challenges he would bring in equal measure, or how he would change me.

Two years ago, I didn’t know that the end result would be anything at all. Or rather, I didn’t know whether I was on a road to nothing more than heartache. I worried from the moment I saw that second pink line, which I think is normal for expectant mothers. But alongside the typical fears about miscarriage and carrying a healthy baby to full term, I worried constantly about whether my best efforts to control my own broken body would be good enough to keep my child safe. Or whether my own body’s failings, and my inability to mitigate them, would leave an indelible mark on my child. I worried about failing them before they were even born.

I look back to that day and remember only too well the anxiety that settled heavy in my chest and weighed me down for the following eight months much more than my growing bump ever could. But I remember too the excitement. The expectation and the feelings of possibility for the little life that was only just taking hold and beginning to grow, an entire future just waiting for them. I can’t believe how far we’ve come in these two short years, and how those possibilities are being fulfilled each day. Watching Thomas grow fills me with more pride and a greater sense of achievement than anything else I have ever done.

And now, I’m ready to do this again. I know that when I next see those two lines, I’ll still feel an irrepressible panic. But I know now something that I didn’t know two years ago: That the effort, the worry and the sacrifices are all absolutely worth it. I know my next child won’t be another Thomas, but I do know that I’ll love every inch of them and that no matter who they turn out to be, they won’t fail to bring me joy. I know that they, like Thomas, will be worth it.

Diabetes and My Son

I was going to entitle this post something like “The Fear That Diabetes Might Affect My Son”. But then I realised that although he doesn’t have it himself, diabetes has affected Thomas almost since the moment he was conceived.

He managed to dodge the higher risk of birth defects, and the increased weight gain that comes from exposure to extra glucose in utero. But he was still evicted from my body by medical intervention before he, or I, were ready for it. And consequently he came in to the world through the sunroof, rather than by the more conventional route. No matter how much the medical profession debate it, we still don’t know all of the potential long term effects of being born by caesarean. An increased risk of developing diabetes is, ironically, one topic under scrutiny. If anything should crop up that could be related to the mode of delivery, then ultimately I’d have to attribute it to my diabetes too.

But it didn’t stop after the birth. My diabetes put Thomas at risk of low blood sugars in the early hours of his life as his pancreas tried to adjust. Fortunately he was fine, but as a result of the risk he endured heel prick tests in those precious first hours. I know they didn’t really hurt him, and he’ll have no memory of them at all, but as a new mother, those pricks may as well have been pricks through my heart and I couldn’t help but cry as his screams pierced the delivery room. If it weren’t for my health condition, he’d have been left in peace to enjoy his first feed. It was my first taste of the guilt that comes with being a mother. I felt, however irrationally, as though I personally had hurt my child. My brand new baby.

Since then, diabetes has cropped up infrequently, yet persistently, in Thomas’s life. There have been times when I couldn’t feed him, no matter how imploringly he looked at me or how much he pulled at my top, rooted around or screamed at me, simply because my blood sugar was too low and I needed to sort myself out first. Likewise there have been occasions where I have had to leave him to cry in his cot because I wasn’t safe to pick him up and carry him down the stairs. It’s heart breaking to say no to your child when they want to play because your head is full of cotton wool and fingers tingle with numbness from a low blood sugar. Or when you head bangs a beat and your tongue is drier than the dessert for the opposite reasons. There are tear stains on the pages of one of Thomas’s books, from the time that I cried when the words swam in front of me and I knew I couldn’t read to him.

I know that, once again, Thomas is too young to remember these things. In the grand scheme of things, they won’t matter at all. He may look at me with an expression of confusion and hurt, and he may stick out his bottom lip, or even scream at me, but I know that ten minutes hence all with be forgiven with a cheeky grin and a big hug. And I also know that I sometimes I have to put myself and my health first in order to be the best parent for my child. Anyone who thinks that sounds selfish doesn’t live with chronic health issues, or more specifically, with diabetes.

But knowing those things in my rational brain doesn’t stop my heart from hurting each time diabetes edges in to a moment of motherhood. It doesn’t stop the omnipresent mothering guilt from eating away at me. Diabetes is an impossible beast to control perfectly all the time, but that doesn’t stop me pressuring myself to achieve the unachievable in order to give my son a childhood where diabetes does not feature at all.

If it’s an impossible dream, though, I want the only diabetes that affects Thomas to be mine. Not his own.

And no matter how strongly I feel the guilt about the impact of my health on my parenting or relationship with my son, it pales in comparison to the strength of my fear that one day Thomas may be dealing with this too. It’s a fear that on a day to day basis I fold up and squash deep down inside me, right next to the place where I lock away any hope of there one day being a cure. But from time to time it rises to the surface in a rolling boil that I can’t temper or tame.

It’s usually provoked by something that might a seem completely innocuous to other parents. Like the time I arrived to collect Thomas from nursery and his key worker mentioned “He hasn’t stopped drinking today”. A “normal” parent would probably put it down to a virus, a sore throat, to hot weather or the fact they hadn’t drunk much the day before. Immediately though, the fear is stalking me that this could be the beginning. The first time his nappy leaked in months and months, down to it being completely saturated in only a couple of hours, I didn’t care about the extra washing or change of clothes and I didn’t rush online to find out how I could better boost his cloth nappies to prevent future leaks. Instead I let the fear swallow me up.

So far, however, I haven’t acted on my fear. I haven’t pricked his heel, or toes, and tested his blood sugars. I haven’t pressed urine dipsticks in to his nappies to see whether there is any sugar lurking there. I’m determined to try to keep this in proportion. To remember with my head that the scientifically calculated risks and probabilities are on our side, even if that means nothing to my heart. Because if I spend his entire childhood watching him with fear haunting my gaze, that will be just as bad as actually living with diabetes.

A phrase that crops up a lot in parenting circles is “I don’t care, as long as they’re healthy”. It’s always said with the best of intentions, but as time has gone on I’ve realised how much I hate it. It often seems to imply that the speaker somehow wouldn’t be happy with their child if they weren’t healthy. I know it is not what is meant, since no one wants their child to be ill, or to live with a chronic health condition, but it’s what the phrase makes me think. I can tell you now, though, that one thing is for sure. If it happens, I’ll love my son just as much as I do today. And it will be my job to make sure that even if he is living with it, it still impacts his childhood as little as humanly possible.

That’s the best that I can do.

Stress, And A Birthday

It’s been a stressful week. Ian has been under extreme stress at work. We’ve all been ill. And then, last Tuesday, at 14 months and twelve days old, Thomas decided that he no longer needs any daytime naps.

Tuesday was also my birthday.

It started out well enough. With the pressure at work there was no chance of Ian taking the day off, but we had a nice dinner planned. I took Thomas to his usual music class in the morning and then had coffee and (birthday) muffins with NCT friends. I fed Thomas his lunch whilst we were out and then we headed home in time for his nap.

Except, Thomas had other ideas.

What ensued was a four hour battle of wills with many tears on both our parts.

If I’m honest, I couldn’t handle it, that day in particular, because it was my birthday. I suppose disappointment comes from unmet expectations, but I’ll admit that I’d been imagining him taking a good lunchtime nap, as he has done more often than not in the last week or so, and time for me to settle on the sofa with one of the DVD box sets I was given for my birthday, a nice big cup of tea and some chocolate. What I got instead was an overtired, grumpy, snotty toddler, who wanted constant contact, more breast feeds than a newborn and absolutely not a second of attention diverted anywhere but on him.

Selfish as it may be, I just wanted some space. I wanted five minutes where I could hear my own thoughts in my head. I wouldn’t have minded cuddles, but didn’t really want a kicking, writhing bundle of tear stained child attached to me limpet style.

I tried every trick going to get him to nap. Rocking him, singing to him, breast feeding him. I even left him to cry when I knew he was really over-tired and needed it. I may possibly (ahem) have even mislaid the baby monitor for ten minutes at this point. But as he got more angry, I got more frustrated and we ended up going around in circles. I know that I wasn’t helping the issue, by being anything but calm, patient and rational.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually shouted. At the point that he was lying on the floor kicking his legs and banging his head and fists, I told him to go ahead and have a temper tantrum and that I might just lie down and have one too.

Patience; Have I ever mentioned that it’s not my strong point? I suppose in the end we were more like two toddlers than mother and son. (If you want to judge me, go ahead, but only when you have dealt with a child who will not sleep, and fights the sleep their body is desperately telling them to have, over and over and over again for 14 straight months.)

It was far from how I’d imagined my birthday to be. Between the frustration and tiredness, and the guilt and shame at my inability to deal with it without raising my voice at a baby who really doesn’t understand and was not deliberately trying to wind me up (no matter how much I may have believed that in the heat of the moment) it ranks as one of my worst, if I’m honest. And poor Ian bore the brunt of it all, with a string of text messages from me about how he wouldn’t sleep, and finally a plea at around 5pm to come home early because there was no way I could face bath time and bed time with such a sleep deprived boy on my own. I may also have said how he was never going to go to sleep now, we’d be up and down the stairs all night and so much for a nice birthday meal, or words to that effect.

Ian did indeed come home early. He took Thomas from me and somehow managed to get through bath time without too many tears and get the boy to sleep in his cot without any screaming at all. Which all just made me feel worse for completely failing for the whole afternoon, when Ian made it look so easy.

Despite my predictions of doom, we also managed to salvage a good evening, with cheese fondue, candlelight, some bubbly stuff and DVDs in front of the fire.

Lovely Bubbly

Cheesy

Lovely Cheesy Feet

I went to work on Wednesday, but the naptime battles recommenced on Thursday. But at least it wasn’t my birthday again.

A Blog Comment is Not Enough to Respond to Kirstie Allsopp

I ventured back on to Twitter for the first time in over a year last week. That very morning happened to be the morning that Kirstie Allsopp vented her spleen at the NCT via Twitter. Since it seems that I follow Kirstie, I happened to catch it. I was a bit indifferent, to be honest. I could see where she was coming from to a degree, but it wasn’t something I felt strongly enough about either way to get involved.

Back on Twitter last night, I followed a link to a blog post which she made as a follow up: 140 is not enough for the NCT. If you haven’t read it, the general gist is that the NCT cause women to feel guilty if they fail to deliver their babies via a natural, drug free labour, or fail to breastfeed, because of their pro-natural stance and their focus on natural birth in their antenatal classes. The NCT is allegedly responsible for a widespread feeling of inadequacy amongst new mums.

And suddenly I was drawn in. To the point that I actually left a comment.

The problem is that my comment, despite being on the first page, is now lost amongst so many others. So I wanted to get this down here as well, because I really believe in what I wrote (and was heartened to see a couple people specifically agree with me).

I still agree with Kirstie, up to a point. She’s absolutely right that in an ideal world, women shouldn’t be left feeling guilty about their birth experiences, or feeding choices. She’s also right that the NCT are potentially in a position to spearhead the sort of changes women in this country need to see.

But she’s fundamentally missing the point about what those changes are and why they are needed. It is bordering on naive to assume that it’s simple to stop women feeling guilty about anything to do with parenthood, when it’s a cornerstone of the experience. And I think she is wrong to place blame so directly at the door of the NCT, apparently crediting them with some sort of power or influence over women that I simply don’t believe they have.

The fact of the matter is that women do feel guilty and disempowered by the experiences they have during labour birth. But this isn’t, cannot be, due solely to what one parenting organisation allegedly teaches in its popular antenatal classes. In fact, I find the assumption that women are incapable of making up our own minds about what sort of birth experience we would prefer, and that we have no expectations at all about birth until we step in to our NCT classes at 30+ weeks of pregnancy ridiculous at best, and patronising at worst.

In reality, women feel guilty when the reality does not meet their expectations. But there are multiple influences on women which shape their expectations. The media, books, friends and family experience, cultural expectations and just plain personal preference. Not what they are told from a single source. Most women have far more intelligence than that. And most women are also their own harshest critics.

I’m a case in point. If you’ve read any of the archives, you’ll know that I desperately did not want a caesarean for lots of complex reasons. But almost as strongly, I simply wanted, still want, to give birth vaginally. I find it difficult to articulate exactly why I feel this way, and this post is not really the place. But from a discussion I started on a popular parenting forum last year, I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.

I was destined to feel disappointed in myself if I failed to achieve a vaginal birth. I was well prepared for a caesarean by – you guessed it – my NCT classes. I knew all about the practicalities of the surgery and what would happen before, during and after. But no parenting class could have dealt with complex emotions and prevented the feelings I was left with. Even if the NCT had told me that caesareans were actually the very best thing and we all should be having them, I’d still have felt the same way. I felt as though my body failed me – for not the first time in my life – because it failed to act in the “physiologically normal” way, and the way I wanted it to. At then end of it all, my son was born, but I did not give birth. I didn’t resent the medical intervention per-se, I just hated the fact that it was necessary. I feel sad because my reality was very far removed from my ideal birth experience – an ideal that was formed in my head long before I even fell pregnant, let alone signed up to NCT classes.

I have been fortunate to be able to breast feed Thomas, but given how important that was to me, I’d have been similarly devastated had breast feeding not worked out. But my feelings of failure and fear would have been related to my own concerns about the potential risks of cow’s milk based formula and autoimmunity – bugger all to do with whether an antenatal teacher, midwife or health visitor had simply told me that “breast is best”. I’d have felt awful because my belief was that for us breastfeeding was indeed best. The mismatch between reality and desire would have have been hugely difficult to overcome.

Obviously it is impossible to ignore the very many comments that Kirstie has received from women who claim to have been negatively affected by their NCT experiences. The NCT has a responsibility to provide accurate information in a balanced and non-judgemental way. Clearly there is room for improvement if women are genuinely being excluded from post-natal reunions because they had a caesarean or epidural (for the record, that would have left a post natal reunion of one in our group – and even the one had a ventouse!). However what we cannot know is exactly how those women would have felt had they never been involved with the NCT. I strongly suspect that self-imposed expectations would lead to the majority of these women still feeling exactly the same emotions regardless.

So the question becomes, who is there to pick up the pieces? And the answer, all too often, is no one. It was certainly a battle for me to get follow up and support to deal with my birth experience. Other women I know who had traumatic experiences have still not been able to get any follow up support to help them deal with this. Antenatal classes cannot cover every possible outcome before the event, but tailored, individualised follow up support could, and should, be available.

It may be true that the most important outcome is a healthy mother and a healthy baby, but to tell a traumatised new mum that she should simply “be grateful” for those things is an enormous insult. It implies that she isn’t. But being delighted with your new baby and regretful about what you experienced to get there are two separate things. One doesn’t cancel the other out, and women deserve proper support and help to cope.

This is the issue that Kirstie is missing: The almost universal lack of post natal support for all women. Not just women who attend NCT classes. Not just women who have caesareans. Or those who can’t breastfeed. But every woman who becomes a mother. Every woman who wants it deserves access to proper post-natal support to help them deal with the unique experience they have had and the challenges they are facing in the early weeks.

We are facing an epidemic of women feeling traumatised, guilty and inadequate about many aspects of parenthood. Rather than pointing fingers of blame, rather than attacking the NCT for what they are, or are not, doing in their antenatal classes – which in reality affects only a small minority of new mothers – let’s start looking for proper solutions to benefit ALL women.

Born, But Not Given Birth

There have been lots of struggles in these first weeks of parenthood. Breastfeeding, Nappies. Sleep. All the obvious contenders.

But right now the thing that I’m still struggling with above all else is coming to terms with how Thomas came in to the world.

I’m both proud and endlessly grateful that he made it here safe and sound and healthy and normally sized, unscathed by his exposure to my chronic health problems and medication whilst in utero. Of course I am. A healthy baby is obviously the most important outcome of any pregnancy. I would not trade that for anything, and especially not just an “ideal” birth experience. But perhaps I feel so let down because there is nothing to suggest that a trade off would have had to be made. I did not have an “emergency” caesarean, where mine or Thomas’s lives or health was at risk. There were no signs that he was unhappy in there. I simply had an uncooperative cervix and a baby who was not yet ready to make his way in to the world.

The issue was forced. Because modern medicine said it was the best thing to do. Because modern medicine can interfere.

And who am I to argue with modern medicine, when it’s the only reason I‘m here at all, never mind able to have a child. It’s easy to forget that less than a century ago, diabetes was not the incurable chronic condition it is today, but an acute, fatal illness. Almost my entire life has been borrowed time that nature did not intend me to have.

I know all these things. I am suitably thankful. But it does not change the fact that Thomas was born, but I did not give birth to him. I did not bring him in to the world myself.

I’m dependent on modern medicine for my very survival. I wanted to be able to do this thing on my own. Quite aside from all the fear and anxiety about spinal anaesthesia and caesareans that I felt before the experience, in addition to all of that, I simply wanted to give birth vaginally – actually give, like a gift, birth to my son – and the fact that I couldn’t feels like yet another failing on my part and the part of my broken body.

I’m not usually let down by my strength of character though. I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and when someone tells me I can’t do something, I usually do everything in my power to prove them wrong. Do it anyway.

This time, though, I failed myself and, by extension, my son. I agonised for weeks about accepting induction. I wish I had held out. The way things ended up, I could have had frequent monitoring and an emergency c-section at the first sign of trouble. Trouble that may not have come. And at least I would have known that caesarean was completely necessary and my only option.

I know that I can’t know for sure that it would have been OK to wait. But I do know that induction was not OK either.

I caught sight of the scar across my lower abdomen today. It neat and tidy, fading already. It represents the start of motherhood. Thomas’s entrance in to the world. From that point of view, it should make me smile. But every time I find myself fighting tears. It’s a visible reminder of all my failings.

I think I’ll regret this until the day I die.

Top Tips For A Diabetic Pregnancy

Plan – Going in to pregnancy with more than 3 months of folic acid behind me and an excellent A1c made the early weeks much less stressful for me than I think they may otherwise have been. Aside from being less worried about potential complications, I didn’t have the problem of trying to drastically adjust what I was doing in terms of diabetes control. I’d already built in lots of good habits, so was free to focus on responding to the changes caused by my new hormonal status. I hated the thought that diabetes could be the thing to stop us trying to conceive once we were ready, but getting everything stable before we started was absolutely worth it.

Sort your hospital care out carefully – This is something I didn’t really do, and I ended up changing hospitals during the first trimester, which made for a bumpier ride than was probably strictly necessary. Think about the logistics of travel to your hospital both for frequent appointments, but also when it comes to actually giving birth. If there is more than one option locally, find out both about the general maternity services, but also what sort of experience they have in managing pre-exisitng diabetes in pregnancy. Ideally, you want to already know your diabetes consultant and DSN, and have a good working relationship with them.

Get used to lots of appointments – It can seem overwhelming. It can seem annoying, especially if you have a full time job to factor in. But all the appointments are there to make sure both you and the baby are well looked after. Try not to view them as an inconvenience and enjoy the unparalleled access to information about your pregnancy. Many non-diabetic women will be bemoaning the fact that they see their midwives so rarely.

However, Don’t be afraid to question what you are told, or what is usual “policy” – A lot of the care for pregnant women with diabetes is based on “one size fits all” policies. It’s essential that you are an active participant in the process though. If something is being suggested make sure you ask why. Ask what the alternatives are and what the risks and benefits of different approaches are. You can’t give informed consent if you haven’t been fully informed. It is often policy to see women with diabetes every two weeks, but in the early weeks, this felt excessive to me, as I was travelling a long way to talk about excellent blood sugars that we could easily have discussed by email. Remember that it is your body and your pregnancy. No one can “tell you” what to do. But at the same time, be sensible and respect the advice and experience of your health care team.

Test, test, test, or better yet, use a CGM – Honestly, I don’t think I have ever tested my blood sugars quite as much as I did during my pregnancy, and I don’t think I could have coped without a CGM to tell me which direction I was heading in at ay given time. The only way to have any chance of keeping your blood sugars as close to normal as possible is to know roughly where they are as often as possible. Testing, and writing down the results, is absolutely essential. You also need to be prepared to act on those results too.

Try to eliminate the lows – When you have the risks of hyperglycaemia drummed I to you frequently, lows can suddenly seem like a friend. Whilst it’s true that mild hypoglycaemia pose no threat to your unborn baby, it can carry risks for you. Frequent lows can lead to loss of the warning signs, which in turn increases the risk of severe hypoglycaemia, which may in turn put your baby at risk. Bouncing back from lows is also a major contributor to high blood sugars and a lack of overall stability. Eliminate the lows and it becomes easier to remain steady. Honestly.

Carb count carefully – eyeballing, or scientific wild guessing are no longer acceptable. The only way you can dose accurately for the food you eat is to know exactly how much you are eating. That means that wherever possible you need to weigh and measure your food. And you need to read food labels.

Low carb can be your friend – Eating low carb is a sure fire way to reduce or eliminate post-prandial glucose spikes. Low or no carb foods are also fantastic when you are hungry at a less than ideal blood glucose level. But don’t go mad. I had ideas pre-pregnancy that I would stick to low carb, and a limited range of foods whose effects I knew, for most of the pregnancy. This isn’t necessary and will make your pregnancy seem to last a lifetime. There is also some evidence that restricting carbs too much can be bad for your unborn baby.

Superbolus is definitely your friend – Minimising the post meal spike is one of the most challenging aspects of good control. The superbolus is a pump technique whereby you take some of upcoming basal along with your pre-meal bolus, and then reduce your basal rate to prevent a later low. This is much more difficult if you are not on a pump, but taking a larger bolus and then eating some of the carbs much later on is also a rough approximation. Bolusing 30 minutes before eating, especially in the morning, also gives your insulin a head start to increase the likelihood of its action matching the absorption of your food.

Don’t panic about occasional highs – this is so much easier said than done. I remember having a full on, tear soaked and snot-ridden melt down the first time I had a high blood sugar. People will throw around all sorts of analogies that are cheesy, but true: the occasional visit to the sweet shop for your baby won’t do them ay harm. It’s a fact of diabetes that highs happen, and you won’t be able to eliminate every single one. Just do your best to minimise them – with frequent testing, accurate carb counting and regular adjustments. Look at the bigger picture when faced with a high number. Frequent and sustained highs are much more of a problem than occasional spikes. It’s also easy to focus on the highs, so writing down all your results can help you to see that they probably aren’t as frequent as you think.

Night times really matter – If you can get your night time basal insulin sorted to keep you steady and in range all night, this not only gives you almost a third of the day within target, but also gives you a good waking blood glucose level which starts the day off much better physically and psychologically than a high or low number. It’s worth making the effort to test overnight frequently. This gets easier in later pregnancy as sleep gets harder!

Get comfortable making adjustments yourself – If you are the sort of person who tends to rely on medical staff to make the bulk of the changes to your insulin regime, get ready to change. The adjustments needed in pregnancy are too frequent to wait between appointments, or for someone to keep calling you back. By all means seek advice as often as you need it, but get used to trusting your own instincts. You live your diabetes every day, so you really do know it best.

Remember that the old rules don’t always apply – Four will probably not be the floor, unless you have severe hypoglycaemic unawareness. 3.5 will suddenly become an acceptable fasting level. Correction doses are no longer reserved only for numbers above , or 10, or whatever you used to use. 6.5 is now a number you can and should correct. You no longer have to wait 3 days to see a pattern. It’s OK to make changes on the fly.

Don’t be afraid to ask for medication for morning sickness – even if it doesn’t seem “that bad”. The effect of morning sickness for women with diabetes is very different than for women without. Whilst there is no doubt it’s unpleasant for everybody, trying to deal with bolus insulin and not knowing whether your food will stay down is an extra challenge you don’t need. If morning sickness is interfering with your efforts for good control, then taking medication is the sensible option.

Don’t expect non-diabetes staff in hospital to have a clue about diabetes – Be prepared to be your own advocate. Be prepared to take care of your own needs possibly throughout labour if you want – but certainly during early labour or if you are admitted for induction. Take plenty of your own test strips and medication. Also take plenty of food and treatments for low blood sugars – don’t rely on the hospital to have what you need when you need it, no matter how shocking that sounds!

Remember to enjoy your pregnancy too – Remember that there is more to this than just blood glucose levels, carb counts and estimated fetal weights. Try to set aside the focus on diabetes at least some of the time and enjoy your changing body shape, shopping for your new addition and feeling them kick and move inside you. Remember that you are a mum-to-be, not just a medical machine.

Remember, it’s only 8 months of your life – By the time you find out you are pregnant, there are only eight months to go. The obsessional focus on everything diabetes is finite. And you have the biggest motivation you’ve ever had. Once the pregnancy is over and you have your child in your arms, it will all seem more than worth it.

Call The Midwife!

Monday was a good day. Our first full day at home. We were visited, as is standard, by the midwife. I felt together enough to be charging around the house to make sure it looked as though I was really on top of everything before she arrived. Thomas fed like a dream whilst she was here. Later, I managed to get two loads of laundry done, we went out for our first short walk – to buy more cotton wool – ate proper meals and Ian and I even took turns to take a short nap in the afternoon. I know – and knew even on Monday – that it won’t last. But it felt good to have started with a “good day” to know that it’s possible.

Tuesday felt more difficult. We had a tough night which included a three hour scream-a-thon. But I still felt in control. The midwife visited again to weigh Thomas and carry out his heel prick test. He weighed in at 3.32kg, well within the acceptable weight-loss percentage, and he fed well again whilst she was here. She arranged to return next Monday, when all being well, we’ll be discharged from midwife care.

Yesterday was where it all went a bit wrong. He was up for what felt like the majority of the night (although I appreciate my perception may be distorted) with what we thought might be wind. He wouldn’t settle or lie still, and kept pulling his knees up to his chest. No amount of winding seemed to get the wind up though. Nothing we tried would settle him, even the boob. In fact, he didn’t feed properly from 11pm on Tuesday right through until the morning, despite all the awake time. He kept pulling away, fussing and crying. Hormones, sleep deprivation, new mum anxiety… all got the better of me and I found myself in uncontrollable tears. I was worried that I couldn’t soothe my own baby, but more worried that he hadn’t fed for so long. Since breast feeding hasn’t exactly come “naturally” to me, I was in a bit of a panic that I was doing something drastically wrong. I felt completely out of my depth, with a baby that needed me to do something that I didn’t seem able to even identify, never mind do.

Obviously there wasn’t very much that Ian could do to reassure me, being just as clueless (and tired) himself, but he did urge me to call the midwife liaison number and ask for a visit, reminding me that this was exactly what they were there for. Of course, in my fragile state, even needing to contemplate doing it made me feel even more like a failure. For a few irrational minutes I agonised about how they would think I was useless, and not at all in control. Fortunately, Ian talked me round.

I got myself together before calling the number, but the moment someone answered, I felt myself crumble in to tears. “My baby’s six days old and I can’t feed him, he won’t stop crying” I stuttered, through sobs.

I have to give credit where it’s due. The lady I spoke to was totally un-phased and very empathetic. She reassured me that a midwife would be round as soon as possible and, sure enough, within an hour, the doorbell rang.

Typically, in that time he settled right down. I eventually managed to calm him by stripping us both off and lying skin to skin flat on the bed in a so-called “biological nursing” position. The midwife pointed out that far from thinking I couldn’t cope, she could see that actually I had the resources to figure it out. She made me realise that I do have instincts, I just need to remember to listen to them. Which was the confidence boost I desperately needed.