I am breastfeeding Linus. (Right this second actually. I'm getting pretty good at one-handed typing!) I've noticed, however, that people here in the UK don't ask if I'm breastfeeding. When it's come up, they've all asked if I'm "feeding him myself". I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference or just a coincidence that all of the women have worded it that way. Most of them were a bit older than me, so perhaps it's a hesitance to use the word "breast". All of them have praised me for my perseverance and most didn't breastfeed their own children. I know that breastfeeding is less common in the UK. There is a big push to get more women to do it, but I think they've only had limited success. I've seen a few specials on TV that were aimed at spreading the word about the benefits of breastfeeding, but frankly they did the effort no favours by featuring the weirdo militant moms who were still breastfeeding 6 year olds.
Passed out after a good feed.
I knew from the beginning that I intended to breastfeed. It just made sense to me. There are all sorts of health benefits for both mom and baby. And it seems so much easier. You don't have to mess with bottles or formula. You just (as my husband so lovingly put it) "lob a tit out". I get that it isn't right for everyone, but it seemed the logical choice for me.
In preparation for Linus' arrival, I started reading up on all things baby- pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding were all frequent topics of my research. I like to collect as much information as I can to give me a solid base of knowledge. As I read more and more about breastfeeding I found that, rather than easing my anxiety, I was adding to it. You see, everything I read online about breastfeeding seemed to say the same thing:
"No one tells you how hard breastfeeding is. It's SOOOOO hard. Man it's the hardest. You will fail or will think about quitting because it's super duper hard. It hurts and will make you cry. Boy howdy is it hard!"*
All the tales of woe (poor latch, insufficient milk supply, cracked/bleeding nipples, toe-curling pain) freaked me right the hell out. Part of me started to think that breastfeeding would be a real struggle. Another part of me (the gut instict part, that I usually end up giving more weight than any research I do) said, "This is doable. It may be hard, but you can totally do this." I decided that people, in their attempts to warn people of the challenges of breastfeeding had skewed my reading too far to one side. So many women had felt unprepared for it to be difficult that the internet ended up with a glut of warnings.
So in order to rectify this glut, or at least add my perspective, I'll tell you about my experience.
The first 48 hours or so were tough. Linus was pretty sleepy and not interested in feeding on the schedule that made the midwives in the hospital happy. We hadn't quite worked out how to latch properly and hadn't settled on the right hold to use. I felt like my boobs were everywhere and that I needed a couple of extra hands to get him latched on and nursing right. When I did get Linus latched, he would often fall asleep and stop suckling.
On the recovery ward, not long before discharge.
So here are my tips to get through the early hard parts:
-Don't give up! It is hard at first. That is true. It is a new skill that you have to learn. And it's not just you. The baby is learning too! This is one of the most helpful things that a friend said to me. It is a two person activity and the baby has to learn how to do it too, so don't feel like you are doing a bad job if it isn't easy. Just keep doing it and it will get better. You'll both figure it out.
-Keep trying different things When I was in the hospital I tried every nursing position that I'd read about. It tried the traditional crossbody hold, lying down, and the rugby hold (known as the football hold in the US). The traditional hold has never really worked for us. I think we've done it once in the 4 weeks I've been nursing. Lying down has only started working in the last week or so and it's not always a sure fire thing. Now the rugby hold- the rugby hold is our jam! It's the way to go for us and I'd heard that it was a good option for the *ahem* amply bosomed. That said, it didn't work great at first. Nothing did, but... *see above*
-Improvise When Linus was new and very sleepy I found that I had to work hard to keep him eating. I'd read to tickle his feet, rub his back or make circles on his cheeks to stimulate him. There was no way I could do that in the beginning. I barely had enough hands to wrangle my boobs and the baby. I found two alternate things that worked: blowing on his face and squeezing him gently like a bagpipe with my elbow while he was in the rugby/football hold. Now I can feed him with just one hand and he stays awake much better, but don't be afraid to try different things. Don't get too caught up in how you're *supposed* to do things. (Not a bad life philosophy in my opinion!)
-Try not to get too uptight about timing Now this is an area where others might not agree, but I generally let Linus eat when he wants to eat and sleep when he wants to eat. Now that he's 4 weeks old, I'm starting tothink about a schedule, but in the early days I think it's best to just go with the flow. The midwives in the hospital were stressing me out with their insistence that Linus needed to nurse after a certain number of hours had passed. He was fine. Trying to wake him up to make him eat was pretty futile. Once we were discharged and left to our own devices things go MUCH better and less stressful. We've found our own rhythm and Linus is gaining weight like a champ.
-Relax! I think this applies to parenting (and- well- life) in general. Babies pick up on tension and parental stress. If you are uptight about nursing it only makes it harder. Once we left the hospital and the external stressors of the observing midwives (who were only doing their jobs and assuredly meant well) were gone, we were golden. Towards the end of our stay at the hospital I'd been told that I needed a midwife to observe me with Linus appropriately latched on before I could be discharged. As the clock ticked on, my desperation to go home did not make this feat any easier to accomplish. I've been lucky that I've been able to maintain my breastfeeding zen thus far. I haven't cried or gotten worked up about it and I think that's a big reason we're doing well so far.
-Don't get complacent After a week and a half or so of good nursing I started to feel like we had it down and were totally in the clear. Then Linus started doing a weird tongue thing that led to raw nipples. I needed to keep paying attention to his latch and not assume he'd get it right every time. Then today, Linus took an extraordinarily long morning nap. Then we went out to run some errands. Every time we've gone out and about Linus has slept the whole time. I think he finds the movement of the car and, when we get where we're going, his stroller comforting. By the time we got home I was about to burst. I soaked through breast pads, my nursing tank top and and overshirt. It was a mess. And my pump was disassembled and in the dishwasher. I tried to feed him, but was so engorged that he couldn't latch on. I handed a screaming baby over to Ross and quickly washed the pump by hand and pumped enough that Linus could latch. Whew! Crisis averted, but barely. I should have been more on top of the pump being clean and the timing of feedings for my own sake.
-Let your partner help Just because you're breastfeeding doesn't mean that your partner can't be involved. Ross helped with an extra hand in the early unwieldy days. He's comforted Linus while I've gotten settled and recently has gotten to feed him bottles of milk that I expressed. It's easy for the guy to feel left out because breastfeeding is the one thing they really can't do, but that doesn't mean that they don't have a role to play- even if it's just emotional or moral support.
Ross giving Linus his first bottle
So, if you want to make breastfeeding work have confidence that you can do it! It's not super-easy, but it's also not the hardest thing ever. I think approaching it with a positive attitude makes a big difference. I've even managed to nurse in public twice now- once in the cafe at the John Rylands Library and once in a restaurant. I used a pashmina scarf (no fancy, expensive nursing covers required) to cover myself and didn't get any dirty looks or grief from anyone. I don't think most people knew anything was even going on.
Those are my tips, what are yours?
Was breastfeeding easier or harder than you expected?
*I'm paraphrasing and using slight exaggeration for comedic effect, but this was the general gist of what I read.
There's another reason I was MIA last week. My parents were in town to meet Linus and we were just soaking it all up. They arrived 16 days after Linus was born and, though not being here when he was born was intentional, I think the wait to meet their first grandchild nearly killed them. You see, my parents planned their trip based on the fact that I was due on March 7th and on the idea that it was important for Ross, Linus and I to have time to ourselves to bond as a family unit before they descended on us. This was all well and good in theory, but then when Linus actually arrived on the 1st, I know that the 17th seemed a mighty long way away!
Since before I was even pregnant, I was so excited for my parents to become grandparents. I was lucky enough to grow up with some amazing grandparents who made me feel loved and special all the time. I have a very special relationship with them and look forward to Linus having a special grandparent bond too. It will be hard, given that we live so far apart, but I know we can make it happen! My mom is so kind and loving that everyone knows she'll be a great grandma. My dad, unbeknownst to most people, is a total softie who goes ga-ga over babies- so I knew he'd be completely adorable.
My mom was exactly like I imagined she'd be. She kept herself busy looking after everyone. She did dishes and laundry for me. She held Linus and loved on him. My dad was not like I imagined. I thought he'd be sweet with the baby. I was wrong. He was OBSESSED! He would have held him every second of all 7 days they were here if he could have. It was beyond adorable. He played jumping games with Linus. They took naps together. He walked Linus up and down our hall when he was fussy. At one point, I saw a very strange sight. My mom and dad were sitting on the couch together. Mom was holding Linus and Dad was sitting next to them with his hands over Linus' ears. On noticing my befuddled look, Mom explained that Dad had been concerned that Linus' ears were cold. Yep- he was acting as a human earmuff.
And now, some pictures from our week together.
Grandpa waiting (impatiently) for Linus to wake up.
Grandpa's first time holding Linus
Grandma gets her turn.
Grandpa/Grandson Double nap
Me and My Son
We went on an adventure one day. We took the tram a few stops south to Heaton Park (the largest municipal park in Europe!) to go for a walk. It's a huge park and made for a very pleasant walk. You feel like you're in the middle of the country on a grand estate (which it once was) even though it's in the middle of a busy area of north Manchester.
Waiting for the tram
There are fields containing free-roaming livestock that help you feel like you are in the country. The animals have plenty of room to roam, but are fenced in. The park was full of people out for a walk. There were families, mums with strollers, teens with dogs and elderly couples. It is such a nice thing to see people out enjoying the weather and grounds. My mom commented on it as you don't often see that sort of thing in Texas! People would be driving or at the mall in my home state ;)
A long-haired cow of some sort.
A family feeding the donkeys
By the boating lake, which is home to geese, ducks, & swans
On Friday, we went into town to officially register Linus. Here in the UK, you have 6 weeks after the baby is born to register them. That's when you go to a council office and meet with a registrar who takes all the pertinent info and issues your child's birth certificate. We joked that it wasn't too late to change Linus' name.
Grandpa can't stay away at a morning snack break.
After a brief meeting with the registrar, we had two versions of Linus' birth certificate- the free short one and the £3.50 long version (which you need to apply for a passport). It just so happened that Manchester had a special visitor that day. The Queen and Prince Phillip were visiting Manchester Town Hall so we stopped by to see what was going on.
Just after getting the Birth Certificate in front of Manchester Town Hall
There were anti-royalist protesters, a police marching band, and vendors hawking souvenirs. It was a fun atmosphere and not too crowded. The VIPs were in having lunch, so we didn't get to see them, but it will be a fun story to tell Linus when he's older... that the Queen came to town to celebrate his naming ;)
Checking out the festivities
Plenty of police on-hand,
the people in the background in front of the statue were anti-royalist protestors
After deciding we weren't going to get to see the Queen and her hubby, we went and got some lunch of our own. A waiter was cooing over the baby and asked his name. When I said "Linus" he made a face that indicated he didn't really approve and then asked if it was a girl's name. Um, no... no it's not.
a family portrait
the snuggly version
So those are some of our adventures with Linus' grandparents. They were sad to leave at the end of the week, but hopefully we'll get to visit them before too long!
Did you have a special relationship with your grandparents?
Has royalty ever made a visit to mark an important occasion in your life?
I'm still here.
So's Linus. And Ross.
I've been adjusting to new mommyhood. It's going really well, but I haven't quite gotten around to adding blogging back into the mix. I will. This week. I'm aiming to post at least 2 weekday posts in addition to my weekend posts. I've got lots to tell you!
This blog won't be going all-baby-all-the-time, but as it is about my life it will (I expect) have a large element of baby stuff. I'll still be talking about cultural differences and things non-baby, but right now I'm pretty baby-focused so I make no promises ;) But getting back to blogging is my reason to be cheerful this Sunday.
Are you familiar with the concept of Push Presents?
They've become increasingly popular in the last few years and seem to be a somewhat polarizing topic. There are those that expect some expensive blingy something and then those that find the idea distasteful, claiming that the baby is the only present needed.
I "get" both responses. Linus is the ultimate present. He is amazing and I can't imagine my life without him. It's incomprehensible to me that he's only been in the world for 11 days! It feels like he's always been here. I certainly didn't need anything to reward me for bringing him into this world. The sentimental side of me, however, thinks that having some small something to commemorate the birth of a child is nice. It doesn't have to be something expensive or fancy...
Ross and I had talked about push presents before I gave birth, but nothing specific. I knew he was aware of the concept and that he knew my thoughts on them. A few days after we got back home from the hospital, my push present was delivered. Ross had warned me that he'd gone with a practical one and that he may have taken "push" literally. I was intrigued.
The items that arrived may have been offensive to some women, but I was SO excited. It wasn't exactly a sentimental piece of art or jewellery like I might have imagined (but there's always Mother's Day for that... hint hint), but... it was totally awesome!
I've hated (HATED!) our vacuum cleaner ever since I moved here. It's clunky and the canister is difficult and messy to empty. I'd put this Dyson Digital Slim on my Amazon UK wishlist a while ago, without any intention of actually getting it, just because I thought it was cool. Let me tell you- this thing is AWESOME! (AWESOME!!) It is cordless and light and handles great and does a great job. The filter canister empties easily and the attachments all store neatly. I love it. Whenever I've used it, Ross smiles at me and makes a joke about pushing the vacuum cleaner.
The other item is the Vax Home Master. I haven't gotten it out of the box yet, but I am super duper excited to try it. According to the internet reviews, this thing can clean anything- from carpets to the oven. In keeping with our efforts to eliminate as many chemicals as possible from our home (especially now that Linus is on the scene), it doesn't use any thing besides steam to get the job done! No cleaning solutions or products required. We already have a little handheld steam cleaner thing that I've used in the kitchen, but this is going to take it to a whole new level! I'm pretty sure Ross is nearly as excited to play with this thing as I am.
I decided, before Linus was born, that marking the birth of a child isn't something just for mommum. I decided that Ross needed something special to mark his becoming a dad. I thought for a long while about what I could get him that would be sweet and appropriate to him. I found just the thing!
They say "Simply the Best Daddy"
Now, you may be thinking- "Socks? Seriously? That was your big idea?" If that's what you're thinking, then you don't know that my husband loves socks. He doesn't have a sock drawer- he has an entire dresser full of them. He says that his ultimate luxury would be to have new socks ever day. I presented them to Ross when we brought Linus home. He gave a very sweet smile and put them in a special place to "save" them for a special occasion.
So that's how we did push presents at our house.
What do you think of push presents?
My recovery has been great and I feel about 95% back to normal. I'm already in my pre-pregnancy jeans! It's pretty crazy. Linus has been sleeping well and we're getting this nursing thing down. The most helpful thing is that he likes to cluster feed (feed A LOT for a few hours) right before bed, so I can get a 4-5 hour chunk of sleep at night. Hooray! Usually then he'll feed at 6AM or so and then sleep for 2-3 more hours, so my sleep deprivation isn't bad at all.
Yesterday we went on our first family outing. We took Linus to The Trafford Centre and then to Asda. He slept through the whole thing. It was insanely easy. Ross and I walked around the mall and had a nice lunch together. Our stroller is awesome and I could steer it with one hand and hold hands with Ross too. I was a little nervous about how much Linus was sleeping, but I'm trying to take a laid-back attitude and assume that (in general) it's best to follow his lead on when to eat and when to sleep instead of forcing anything this early.
Then this morning. This morning he woke up and wanted to eat for the Olympic trials. I'm assuming he was making up for yesterday and tanking up. I feel like I did nothing but feed him, switching sides back and forth for several hours. After he was finally satiated, I handed him off to Ross and got in the shower. While in the shower I discovered that the conditioner I bought at Asda yesterday is actually shampoo, so I'd shampooed my hair twice (but with different kinds of shampoo) and had no conditioner in the shower. I was able to reach out and grab a little bottle of conditioner that I'd used in the hospital to save the day though! I took my time luxuriating in the hot stream of water. I turned off the water and realized Linus was crying. Time for the milk machine to jump back into action. I grabbed the towel and put it to my head only to find that I'd never actually washed the conditioner out. Ugh. Back into the shower I went. A quick rinse and then I was back in action for another marathon feed.
So, what I'm saying is- I've got this motherhood thing down already! See how smooth I am!?
I can't really complain as I feel like I've got it easy with a great husband and an adorable baby. We're getting it. Blogging isn't making the cut every day like it used to, but hopefully I'll be back more regularly soon.
During my pregnancy, I noticed that women in the UK seem to be much more uncomfortable with the idea of pelvic exams than Americans. I mean, not that anyone really likes a pelvic... but Americans have them annually in most cases. Here in England, pap smears are only every 3 years. During my pregnancy, I never once had to take my pants off- until my water broke. Some of the women in my aqua aerobics class were expressing concern about having to have a pelvic when they went into labor. This struck me as funny. I mean, they know that having a baby means pushing a person out of their vagina, right? It's a little late to be precious about it in my opinion...
But, during my labor experience, I found that this attitude definitely continued. By the time I was ready to get going in the delivery room (full TMI birth story to come), I wasn't too concerned about my modesty. I mean I was getting ready to squeeze a child out in front of these midwives. They were going to see stuff eventually. They've seen lots of other's people's goodies before and they'll see plenty more to come. The midwives were very nice, but seemed to think I was a modest flower. Maybe that's part of their training, and I'm sure many women appreciate that approach. I simply found it funny!
After I'd given birth and was ready to take a shower, the midwife asked if I had a robe or something that I wanted. I guess she thought I'd want to cover up to walk the 10 feet to the bathroom in front of my husband. I was fine doing it naked. He's seen it before. In fact, he just watched me push our baby out of it.
After I moved to the post natal ward, the midwives made the rounds checking on us. My room on the ward consisted of 4 bays separated by curtains, so there was some privacy, but you could hear everything going on around. As my stay continued, I noticed that the midwives continued with their modest approach. I heard women asked if everything was ok "down there"- accompanied by a vague hand gesture, raised eyebrows, and hushed tone. Why are these medical professionals unable to say the word "vagina"?
When we were being discharged, a midwife was going through all the official talking points. My favorite one included that the post-birth period is a highly fertile one. She advised us to be careful if we were "feeling romantic" and to use birth control. Ross and I found this hilarious. (Aside from the exceedingly humorous notion of being in any mood to have sex immediately after getting home!)
Ross declared that if he were a midwife, he'd have fun using a different euphemism every time. And so, we've been on a euphemism kick. Ross has been asking me about my "down there" in various ways. So far, we've had my "attached veranda", "underwear filler", "family vault", "lady town" and many others.
Do you prefer when medical professionals use technical words or euphemism?