Dear Ten Years Ago Me…
Some people might try to tell you that being stubborn is a bad thing, but don’t listen to them.
Being stubborn, right now, as you sit in hospital wondering when your twins will be born, is the best possible thing you can be, for your babies and for yourself.
Being stubborn helped you cope when you found out you were having twins. It was your cocoon when you went into premature labour at 25 weeks and discovered you had severe Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. It was your shield when they told you there was about a 10% chance of both babies making it. And it will be what keeps your head above water when, a week from now, your babies (they are girls by the way) are born at 29 weeks gestation.
It is also stubbornness that will make you fight to breastfeed your babies.
I’m not saying it will be easy. It won’t be. There will be many days when no amount of stubbornness will stop the tears and frustration… but it will stop you giving up.
You will not give up when just hours after your babies are born a nurse will attempt to squeeze colostrum from your confused boobs. It will be painful, embarrassing, and it won’t work, but you won’t give up.
In the days that follow at least 30 different people will paw at your boobs, desperately trying to elicit those few precious drops of thick yellowish milk that you know your babies need. On the morning that you walk down to NICU with that tiny syringe of colostrum you will feel like you have climbed Mount Everest – tired, sore, but elated.
You will not give up when hand expressing produces next to nothing and your milk won’t come in.
You’ll take ‘the mean green milking machine’ home from hospital and you will express every three hours to try and create some semblance of a milk supply. You will take carefully labeled little jars of milk into the hospital each morning, amazed at your ability to make milk.
You will not give up when your meager supply of breast milk can no longer meet the baby’s needs.
You will cry a few tears but you will give them formula and celebrate the fact that they are growing stronger and tolerating bigger milk feeds, a tiny first step towards coming home. And then you will head back to ‘the milking sheds’ – the tiny cubicles along the hallway in the NICU – to double pump every two hours when you can, trying desperately to increase your supply.
You will not give up when the girls are finally shifted to the special care nursery but they show absolutely no signs of wanting to suck.
You will find a lovely nurse who will take out their feeding tubes to encourage them to suck, and who will spend time with you trying to get the babies to latch and suck. Your pediatrician will teach you how to bottle feed a breastfeed baby and will tear strips off any nurse that doesn’t do it correctly.
You will not give up when a nurse yells across the nursery that you have ‘disabled nipples’ and throws some nipple shields at you.
You will go home and cry later, but you will use those bloody shields on your flat nipples and Izzy will have her first decent breastfeed. You will go home walking on air.
You will not give up when you take two tiny 10 week old babies home from hospital who would still rather sleep than eat.
You will alternate breast and bottle feeding, with whatever EBM you have, making up the difference with formula. You will express after each feed, cutting holes in an old bra so you can double pump hands free while playing computer games to escape reality for a little while.
You will not give up when the girls wake up and begin to cry and cry and never stop. You will also not give up when they begin chucking after every feed, and are diagnosed with reflux.
You will keep breastfeeding, and topping them up with a bottle, even though people tell you that is the worst thing you can do if you want to breastfeed. You will keep expressing, and you will eat fenugreek and oats by the bucket full and drink so much water that you spend as much time peeing as you do expressing and take medication, anything to increase your supply.
You will not give up when the babies begin to loose weight, or when their vomit is tinged with pink, or when they refuse to breastfeed and are diagnosed with failure to thrive.
You will cry many many many tears and you will be turned away from the hospital breastfeeding clinic because your babies are ‘too old’ and you will see a terrible lactation consultant who will ask you why you are bothering… and that will make you even more determined to continue.
You will not give up on your babies or on breastfeeding or on yourself.
You can not give up now because you will realise, slowly, that you have some bonding issues that are held together with the threads of breastfeeding your babies. So you will be stubborn, and you will fight, and you will seek out people who can and will help you and things will get better, much, much better.
Breastfeeding will not be how you planned, or even how you imagined it. It will not be how it looks on TV or in ABA pamphlets, or even how it is for other people you know. It will be hard and awesome and horrible and amazing, and you will do it ‘all wrong’ and then realise there is no such thing as wrong.
And one day, ten years and four children later.. you will be proud of how stubborn you were.
Love A much older and wiser, but still stubborn me.
Ten years ago today I was 28 weeks pregnant with twins, and on bed rest due to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. A week later my girls would be born, 11 weeks early, tiny, but alive. There were many things about having premature twins that surprised me, not least of which was how hard I would fight to breastfeed them.
I’m sharing my story as part of the ‘Dear Me’ series to promote the new Online Breastfeeding Cafe, a new initiative of the Australian Breastfeeding Association. The Breastfeeding Cafe aims to encourage people to learn, share and chat about breastfeeding via a supportive online forum and web page and active facebook community. Pop on over and join in the conversation.