Telling the truth

By Jati Wixted

I had what I would call a typical birth. In that nothing really went the way I planned. On the tenth day past my due date and after four failed inductions my “uncooperative cervix” and I unpacked the scented oils and the bikini we’d planned for the birth pool. In their place, we packed giant black knickers and pads resembling phone books, slapped on some red lippy and waddled in for a non-emergency C-section.

I was filled with stories of the trauma related to this, and of course confident in the research that showed I would now not produce milk, and that my body was in fact a bit of a simpleton when it came to its fundamental role.

So it was a wonderful and proud moment when my healthy, heart-meltingly gorgeous (alive) baby boy snuffled out a breast and starting feeding in the operating theatre. Clearly he was some kind of super advanced infant (you could tell the medical staff recognised this by their grand praise) – and did I mention he was alive! So off we popped back to the ward, him feeding, me nursing and everything ever so wonderful.

I breastfed with passion, and the nurses encouragement – coupled with the super cocktail of drugs I was on – allowed me to blissfully ignore that my breasts were cracked to bleeding. The literature in the hospital reminded me that not only was breast best, anything else – even for a moment – was cruelty. There was a charming poster right outside my ward that kindly informed new mothers that just one bottle would forever destroy my child’s gut, rendering him incapable of getting into good universities and unlikely to form meaningful relationships. Right on sister! Preach it. My breasts were working and I was winning at motherhood.

Then my little feeding genius got an infection and off to special care nursery we went. A round of antibiotics through the tiniest tube you ever did see, right into the arm of the most precious thing you ever would see, every four hours with monitoring in between. I did a good job at first. I waddled ‘round that ward, babe in arms, putting one foot in front of the other for hours. I didn’t focus on the fact I’d been sawed in half, and kept on feeding. When the nurse came in to escort us down for more meds for the fifty millionth time that night, I started crying and crying and then well I just couldn’t stop.

The nurse offered to mind him for just a few hours but she let me know they would give him a bottle and she approvingly collected his dummy.

I knew that there had to be something very, very wrong here. What on earth were these crazy, negligent baby-hating specialist nurses thinking! Everyone else had been super clear – no  dummies and certainly never ever a bottle!

Well here’s the crazy irony, that my befuddled brain took a few hours to register. Bottles aren’t that bad, in fact there are far, far worse things. Like exhausted mummies and hungry babies. One bottle will not ruin a digestive system (neither will 2000), and one bottle will not stop a successful breastfeeding journey. The amazing nurses dealing with the poorly (and the critically ill) babies will give them a bottle because it’s a bloody good idea.

My guy got well, I healed and we breastfed exclusively for six months. The nurses at check-ups didn’t like my technique, and I caused them much angst with my “unorthodox” dedication of the good breast to baby and the disobedient breast to pumping.

My little guy was subjected to both lip-tie and tongue-tie laser removal to support breastfeeding, and that was a horrible ordeal but one I would go through again. I ate breastfeeding cookies until I gagged and had a pharmacy worth of cooling pads, nipple shields and paracetamol. In the end I had great supply and a full freezer that allowed me to return to work at (don’t judge now) three months.

I support breastfeeding, I agree that it’s best. I fed in public with gusto and was lightly disappointed that I only received praise and once a kiss on the cheek for my efforts, thanks strange old lady! I wish I’d made it to a year and I felt a great sadness when we stopped. I think it’s easier, cleaner and cheaper. I think it’s just plain nicer! The health benefits are unparalleled. But we need to stop the aggression, the drama and the guilt. This starts in health care and it starts with telling the truth about our journeys.

Jati is mum to Arthur, two-and-a-half. She works full-time where she bores her co-workers with “charming” Arthur anecdotes on a regular basis. Arthur attends daycare where he bores his co-workers with fire truck stories on a regular basis. They plan on living happily ever after with Arthur’s wonderful dad.

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