Breastfeeding Journey

As many of you know, my journey into motherhood hasn’t quite been what I expected (I’ll be sharing more on this another time). Breastfeeding was always something I meant to do and whilst understanding that it definitely wouldn’t come easily, especially the first time around, I had educated myself and believed so strongly this was what I would be doing. Reading countless books, listening to podcasts and following motherhood advocates on social media, I thought I had it mostly sussed out. I even paid to do an online breastfeeding course by the Australian breastfeeding guru, Robyn Thompson. Alas for Gabrielle and myself, breastfeeding was not meant to be. Now this brought up feelings of rejection and a ‘what’s wrong with me?’ mentality. I longed for that time gazing down at my babe in my arms whilst I gave her the best start to life; love and breast milk. A time to bond with just the two of us. Early hours of the morning and all! Knowing that I could sooth my baby by putting her to the breast, reassuring her that all is ok and that I will look after her. I won’t even go into the benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk here but needless to say I’m a big believer in the value of our ‘liquid gold’. As soon as Gabrielle was born she was placed on my chest, skin to skin so she could regulate her breathing, heart rate and temperature. So that she could feel safe and familiarise herself with my smell. Then she could make her way to feed, getting that invaluable colostrum that would help her immune system and gut microbiome develop. ……Except that she didn’t wish to latch…… We hand expressed (when I say we, my amazing midwives helped) and then we attempted to syringe my colostrum into Gabrielle’s mouth but she wasn’t overly fussed. She didn’t cry much, but she did sound awfully gurgley during her first 24 hours earth-side. We decided it best to take her to hospital to be checked out. Now as you may know, I chose to have a home birth (see my previous blog) as I wanted to avoid the hospital system. But here we were 24 hours post birth driving to the hospital. I was devastated…and there we stayed for over 4 weeks (more on this another time)! During our stay I was determined to get Gabrielle onto my breast. I did skin to skin when I could and lots of breast exposure time around feeds. However as the time went on, I had to accept that our reality would be quite different. Due to Gabrielle’s underdeveloped suck swallow reflex, the likelihood of her taking to the breast was minimal. Since then I have also come to accept that she will very likely never take to a bottle either. This has been a hard reality to face. We have quite exceptional circumstances with a bubba who is exclusively tube fed via nasogastric tube (a tube inserted through the nose which goes down into the gut). Thankfully she has from the very start only consumed my breast milk. I have been grateful for a good supply, so plentiful in fact I have had enough milk to help out other babies and mothers in need by donating my surplus. It’s been quite a journey to date and will continue to be as we navigate unknown waters. Whilst I unconditionally love and accept Gabrielle and her unique needs, it has really challenged me. Coming to terms with not being able to breastfeed as I had dreamed of, was difficult to say the least. Motherhood was never going to be easy. I knew this. But it’s funny how we get thrown into extreme circumstances that we could have never have predicted. I don’t know of another baby having the same set of circumstances that Gabrielle has and am yet to meet one. Whilst our situation is very rare, I know we are equipped with what we need to get through this. This is our unique journey and I am embracing it in its entirety. Whilst not easy, I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t get to breastfeed my baby, but each day I get to feed her my breastmilk and know that she is getting all the nutrients she needs to develop and grow strong. She is an amazing sleeper and is such a content baby with a gaze that seems to see right through you. It’s obvious she has been here before. I have chosen to see the positives in our situation. I have dealt with my disappointment, accepting this reality and now I am moving forward with vigour. This is our journey. This is Gabrielle’s story.

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