I received a pretty exciting message the other day. My bras were ready to pick up. Real bras. With underwire and all. After almost two years of maternity bras, they were finally being retired.
It wasn’t easy to get to this point. Let’s go back to where it all began…
I was pretty sure that I was going to breastfeed my babies when they arrived and so being the good student I am, attended a few classes. Easy. Nothing to it. The baby/ies will drink when they want and it will all go smoothly and according to plan. I approached breastfeeding with the same naivety I approached everything about parenthood.
Fastforward to the day of birth. A great deal of that day is a blur (I think it was a combination of the drugs and the fact I had to choose FOUR names for two tiny human beings that they’d have for life) but I do remember doing some snuggling with the boys and trying to get them interested in having a drink. Something about chin to chest and face to breast ?? They were ‘topped up’ on formula while we were in hospital because at 7lb 6oz and 8lb 12oz they needed the sustenance.
There was a whiteboard in our room that recorded what time I fed them, which side and then recorded the formula top ups. I wasn’t supposed to feed them again for three hours and when I did, I had to tell the nurses. It was all very clinical and, I would learn, not at all what my reality of breastfeeding would be like. This was stressful. A little bit because after having my entire insides sliced open, babies etc ripped out and sewn back up again, it was a bit tricky to move around let alone pick up one or two babies and feed them and also because I realized I did not like to break the rules and I was terrified that I’d get in trouble from the nurses. I had good reason. One midwife told me that I wasn’t allowed to have visitors, shut the door, drew the curtains and left me in there. Now, it wasn’t like I had a throng of people turning up at all hours. I had Shane, my parents (and NB, my dad had just been told that his bowel cancer had spread to his brain and he needed to start treatment toot sweet so that was a bit stressful and it was also really important to me that he was there) my aunt and uncle and a couple of good friends. That’s it. Prior to this episode, the same midwife had told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to breastfeed two babies because I had polycystic ovaries, had a caesar, had twins and because, she told me, it’s not that easy. I have never been so happy to see my mum and my tea cup ever.
Finally, I was able to go home with my babies and a state of the art electric breastpump. When I got home, I just started doing things the way I thought they should be done and based on pretty sound advice from mum. I fed the boys when they seemed to need it. Which, to be honest, was very bloody often in the beginning. I wasn’t very good at tandem feeding at this point so I fed them individually which meant that I spent about 23.5 hours a day feeding. The instructions for the breastpump were that I should express after every feed to ‘help bring my milk in’. I could not wrap my head around this. By the time I’d finished feeding, changing and resettling one baby I had about 2 minutes before I had to start all over again and I’d rather spend that time having a cup of tea, a shower or a pee. When the nurse came to do a home visit, she asked if I’d been expressing. I confessed that I hadn’t and was prepared to get in trouble like a naughty school kid. She told me she thought I was doing the right thing to be feeding the babies rather than the pump. I loved her right then.
Gradually, the boys and I got better at the whole breastfeeding caper. We were helped by the lactation biscuits that mum made after dad researched the recipe and Shane was dispatched to Horsham for the ingredients. And, here’s a little tip, beer; something about the brewer’s yeast apparently. Along with the flowers lining the shelf in hospital was a long neck of Melbourne Bitter from a friend who knows me too well and I did enjoy the odd half a glass of the amber stuff whilst I was breastfeeding.
As time went by, their favourite thing was to sit on the couch and have a drink in between bites of raisin toast watching The bloody Wiggles. It was when I could no longer sit down without them self serving (at about 18 months) and when I was still feeding them lots of times over night that I decided that it was probably time to start weaning them.
It took three weeks. I enlisted the help of Shane and mum to help distract them and banana smoothies to fill the void. For about 19 months breastfeeding consumed my life and now it’s a distant memory. And I’m ok with that so it must have been time to stop. But I will say this, for me, breastfeeding was more than providing nutrition. It was my ‘go to’ tool for everything and was guaranteed to soothe even the crankiest baby. It meant that when I didn’t know else to do and I still had hours and hours until reinforcements in the shape of Shane arrived, I could sit on the floor and feed them and we’d all calm down. It meant that I didn’t have to remember to pack bottles etc on our many trips back home because I’m sure I would have forgotten them more times than I remembered. It wasn’t always easy that’s for sure. I remember the cracked and bleeding nipples – ringing mum to see if it was still ok to feed. In the middle of one night I couldn’t get Paddy to latch and we were both frustrated. Shane suggested I ‘try the football hold’. I ripped into him – asked him where he got his lactation qualifications from and asked when was the last time he’d fed a baby amongst other things but tried it nonetheless and wouldn’t ya know, it worked. Bastard. I remember with too much clarity the pain of mastitis. But I’m also really thankful for all the special one on one time that I got to spend with each of my babes, the times it was just us against the world and how lucky I was to have these two tiny humans in my life.
I’m pretty happy that my new bras have been able to shape these half empty goon bags into something resembling breasts but I must admit, those maternity ones are very bloody comfortable!