Breastfeeding is a natural process in women - and, yet, many, many women struggle with it, especially in the beginning. I did, too. I breastfed my daughter Lily for sixteen months and am now also breastfeeding my son, Finn. While breastfeeding came without any major issues for me, the start of the experience was completely different for my two kids. Lily and I had a rougher start, including two milk blisters, nipple soreness and an intense surplus of milk. Especially as the start with Finn has been so much smoother, I reflected on what helped me to make it easier for me this time round - although I will say I can only vouch this for myself. Every woman is different, as is every baby and breastfeeding relationship. I can also tell you that my tips are far from inventing-the-wheel-new and you might have heard of them from somewhere else before; however, I share how they helped me and what I did during my two breastfeeding starts.
1. Feed the first time as quickly as possible after birth
I think this was the major difference in the breastfeeding beginnings for Lily and Finn. After Lily was born, the midwife and doctors were too busy trying to stitch me up that they didn't help me latching her on. Suddenly, they said I needed to undergo surgery for my injuries and I was wheeled away. As there were some problems with the intubation, surgery took longer than expected and Lily only fed the first time over two hours after birth. By then, she was already really tired again and I had to permanently motivate her to feed.
With Finn, he was put on my chest immediately after birth and started searching. I guided him gently to my breast and he latched on minutes after he was born. The midwives were astonished he latched on so early and well, and it was the beautiful beginning of a wonderful breastfeeding journey. My milk supply was also much more balanced than with Lily, who almost drowned under the cascades of milk spilling out of my boob.
The arrival of a baby is always a cause for celebration - family and friends often want to see the little munchkins pretty much after they've slid out of mama's vagina - or belly - but we mustn't forget that a birth also takes its toll on new mums. Having experienced two births and postpartum periods, I can definitely say that it's wonderful to share your little bundle of joy with the world - but there are also some no-goes I've experienced and heard from other new mums, which aren't great to experience when you've just popped one out.
Babies are a bundle of joy, definitely. However, bear in mind that giving birth is one of the most life-changing events in the life of a woman. Even if everything goes well and you walk away without any injuries (I wonder what that's like), it is a massive undertaking of our bodies and we don't just flip back to how we were before (and, spoiler alert, we never will). From being sore down-under to aching nipples, to baby blues or sheer exhaustion and worry, postpartum holds a lot of fun stuff for new mums. The fact that many visitors expect a vivacious mummy who just dotes on her baby adds additional pressure on many women, who probably haven't showered in a few days, feel sore, are worried the pain will never ease, or worry their child might die during sleep times. It is a wonderful time, but it is equally terrifying.
A friend of mine recently said everyone fusses about birth when they should be fussing about the postpartum period. Birth can be painful, yes, it can be downright traumatic for some women, but at least it's usually over in a matter of hours. Postpartum takes six intense weeks, and, technically, another ten months/one year to get back to a before status - or something reminiscent of that. Postpartum can be pain, sorrow and fear for many women - I know it was for me, especially the first time round. You wonder if your body will ever function properly again, things like going to the toilet can worry you for hours before, and you have to take care of a baby on top of everything. Your pelvic floor is hanging out somewhere and your boobs are massive bulbs with sore tips (read my 5 Tips for a Good Breastfeeding Start here).
So, in this intense time for new mums, what is good to consider and what is best to avoid? I am sure no one committing the "crimes" listed below does so on purpose, but I am sure that plenty of new mums could do without them, so here are the 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Visiting a New Mum.
Finn Anthony is here! If you've read my previous blog post, you know I'd been eagerly waiting for the little man to arrive - and he did the day after writing that post. At 38+6 at 22:44, our beautiful son made his peaceful entrance into the world, almost 4 kg heavy and 52 cm long. Compared to his sister's birth, he took his sweet time and kept us on our toes for 12 hours, but the birth was such a massively different experience from Lily's. In this post I will share how I prepared for my second birth and how it went in the end.
When I was pregnant with Lily, I read two books on Hypnobirthing and we did a weekend course as well. I was intrigued by the notion of a pain-free birth and the whole theory about the vicious circle of pain and fear. I was convinced I could "breathe my baby out", and, honestly, was completely steamrolled by the actual birth. I vomited, had painful contractions, and felt entirely disassociated from the birth itself.
This time I wanted to prepare even better. I was still convinced that it could be different, but I wanted to change a few parameters. First of all, I chose a birth house rather than a hospital as my place of birth. The most traumatic part of Lily's birth was that were just left alone. The hospital had all delivery rooms full at the time I gave birth and we only had a frazzled midwife looking in intermittently.
At the birth house, I knew I'd have two midwives with me - one staying with us at all times. But I also wanted to prepare mentally. Instead of hypnobirthing, I opted for a course called "Die Friedliche Geburt" (the peaceful birth), designed and taught by Berlin mental trainer Kristin Graf. It's an online course, which was ideal because with Lily around, it would have been hard to visit a course once a week in the evening.
As I am writing this, I am 38+5 weeks pregnant with my second baby and waiting eagerly for his arrival. It's Saturday evening, which means it's my "free" evening, as Jakob is putting Lily to bed on Saturdays. Now, you may think "What a treat", but I have found myself struggling with my "free" evenings. He rarely resurfaces after putting her to bed - as he usually just falls asleep - and I find myself sitting in the living room, bored and wondering what to do. There are so many things I feel I "should" do, like blogging, writing, doing yoga, listening to podcasts, planning work, etc. but I usually end up scrolling through my phone or watching Netflix because I am just so tired.
I assume most people would tell me to go easy on myself. After all, my days are filled with looking after a toddler while being highly pregnant, but I can't get over the feeling what a massive waste of time phone-scrolling is - I don't want to look back at my life and realise I spent most of it numbly on my phone instead of doing something that brings me joy and inner peace. I don't know whether it is induced by my hormonal state - which I hope - but I've had terribly death scenarios recently play through my head. Mostly that I get cancer when I'm still young and have to leave my kids behind, that I won't be there for them one day and these thoughts have catapulted me into a frenzy to do more now... I guess such thoughts creep up more often as a parent, but they really freak me out because they sometimes feel more like a premonition than a fear, if you know what I mean - or, even worse, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Waiting for baby is maybe another reason for such restless thoughts. After he stressed me out when it seemed he wanted to make an early appearance, he's now taking all the time in the world to get ready and we're all so eager to finally meet him and enclose him in our arms. I can say, for sure, I am over being pregnant. I really enjoyed this pregnancy and it seemed to fly by, but now every day feels like treacle oozing slowly down, drop by drop. Every twinge is a reason for excitement, followed by disappointment when it subsides.
Another reason why I was a little bit stressed out about the whole birthing situation was because we prepared ourselves with a mental training this time called Die Friedliche Geburt (The peaceful birth). It is similar to hypnobirthing, but approaches delving into hypnosis a little differently. After Lily's birth experience was rather traumatic for me, I wanted to do it differently this time and booked us into a birthing house, rather than a hospital. But I recently realised that my obsession with having the "perfect birth" caused plenty of stress. I was scared baby boy would come too early and I would have to go to hospital - or now that he might take too long and I'll need an induction. Thankfully, Kristin Graf, the woman who runs Die Friedliche Geburt, helped me get back on track and formulate a Plan B and accept that whatever is going to happen, I can still have a peaceful birth either way. Did you have a birth plan and get muddled up in trying to achieve the "perfect birth", I'd be interested to know...
Anyway, I know this post is a little haphazard, but I'm just free-writing it after having my cancer fear thoughts and I figured why not unload a bit of that energy before going to bed. The settling into the new apartment is going very well and if baby boy hasn't made his entrance until tomorrow morning, I'll seize the opportunity to take some pictures and show you the progress. Especially the playroom is coming together like I imagined - even though there is still tons to do. Today we bought the supplies we need for our own DIY coat rack/entrance hall, and I can't wait to show you the results, it's going to look great!
So I hope I can get round to doing that tomorrow and wish you all a wonderful night - mine probably won't be because I'm at the stage where I need a toilet every five minutes and turning around requires a two hand operation to take my belly with me (lol).
I'm sitting here in my new kitchen, finally seizing on the peace that's gently settling on the apartment as Lily is being put to bed by Jakob and the construction workers have left for the day. It's been just over two weeks since we've settled into our new apartment - and having gone through a flat move in each of my pregnancies, I can only say: I don't recommend it.
With my 36+5 pregnancy weeks belly, I waddle through the new place, eager to put all hands on deck to make it the perfect home, but I have to concede to my limitations. The baby will be here before I get to the entrance area (for which we will use board and batten technique for the first time, I'll keep you posted), and the room that will one day become our adult space with office and sex couch (more on that in a future post), has been fittingly dubbed The Chamber of Secrets because you can neither find nor see anything for all the boxes piling up to the ceiling.
No, my perfectionism will have to rest - especially as the Braxton Hicks have been pounding my belly for three days on end now, I can barely sleep, the builders are drilling through the day, and Lily needs to be gently settled into her new home amidst all this mess as well.
I can feel my energy draining away with each passing day, so concessions had to be made - and if the bedroom gets painted after the baby comes, so be it now. (I'm actually having second thoughts on the colour anyway...a piece of advice: don't choose apartment colours while high on hormones).
But I don't want to sound too negative - I already LOVE this apartment. Not only is it twice the size of our previous one, but it has a really nice flow to it and the bathroom is bigger than our first flat altogether. I know we will make wonderful memories here - especially when the terrace is finally finished and we can access the garden easily from our kitchen door. It's all going to come together in a most wonderful way - and I will show you when I've decorated properly.
I think one of the reasons why it doesn't come easily to decorate the apartment from the get-go is - apart from the huge belly - my thoughts starting to circle around being a mum of two under two. I feel immensely lucky to have two children basically back to back with my endometriosis - and thinking that only three years ago we were told we might not even be able to have kids! I've wanted to be a mum for the longest time, and especially my time as a full-time nanny cemented my love for the role of homemaker - and yet, it felt so immensely different becoming a mum and parts of me are already drowning in the role, so I've started wondering how I will get everything going with two kids at home. Already I am a far more impatient and emotionally unregulated mum than I envisioned myself. I always wanted to be this incessant pool of calm and patience, the person that always exuded warmth and gentleness. Who never snapped, who never lost it, who never sat crying in bed because the transfer from the car seat to the crib didn't work out as planned (we've all been there, right?)
How will it be when I have TWO sick children who need my attendance all night, who are vying for attention and mummy time - can I get my shit together and become this patient, eternally kind super mum? Well, to make long matters short, I won't. There is, sadly, no button to make you a super mummy. However, maybe that's good because we're just humans, too, and our children will live in a world of actual humans, not super mummies. So, maybe, having a little temper now and then isn't the end of the world...
With our son planning his entrance into our world any minute basically, it feels like the last days before a huge exam. You've done the studying, you've gone over every note in your folder, you've done your work - and, yet, you don't KNOW what will come. Maybe the questions will throw you off, maybe the main theme will be a completely different one from which you anticipated, maybe you paid attention to the wrong details while studying. You can prepare as long and hard as you want - but you cannot GUARANTEE that you will pass the exam with flying colours. And that's scary.
Honestly, I find the idea of a second child much scarier than the first. Because you already know your shortcomings as a mother and wonder how much more strain you can endure. With Lily, I could still pretend I would be this super mummy and have all my shit together. There was no way to KNOW what kind of mum I would be - where my strengths and weaknesses would lie. Now I know, and I know of the days where I can barely handle her, so I can't imagine how I'll get through these days with two little babies.
On the other hand, I am counting the days until he is finally here. I loved being pregnant - both times! - but there is a reason why pregnancy becomes so unbearable toward the end. It's like with teenagers, it's nature's way to make parting with them a little easier. I can't wait to be fit again - or at least tie my own shoes. Thankfully, due to my diligent, sugar-free diet this pregnancy, I am in much better shape than during Lily's (partly because she keeps me on my toes, too - remember when they told you the first time round you can't carry more than five kilos while pregnant - laughable to any mum of more children!). However, with every passing day, I get closer to my limit and I frankly have to say, I've had enough already. Being with a newborn comes with new challenges and sleep deprivation, but the pregnancy is thankfully slowly coming to an end.
And so is this post. My tea has been drunk, my back starts hurting from sitting and I feel like I am starting to ramble. I hope I can give more regular updates on the flat and baby number 2, but any day now our everyday life of the past 20 months will be ruptured, mixed up and dealt with a whole new set - we'll see when and how.
When the first - and harshest - lockdown hit Austria in March 2020, there was a call for young writers to contribute to a collection of texts on how the pandemic affected their lives.
Scrolling through old documents of mine, I recently unearthed the text I contributed back then, titled On The Freedom Of Birds. It has an almost eerie feeling to read it now, knowing how it all unfolded, I was pregnant with Lily back then, still working, and we'd just moved to a little village in the mountains. Re-reading this text made me realise why I love writing so much. It is like a little shrine dedicated to the first lockdown, a memory made permanent with ink and paper (or my laptop and Drive). It's almost two years now since writing it, and I wanted to share it here with you as well (as it is not available anymore on the original source).
On the Freedom of Birds
There is this statement that if people continue behaving the way we do, many species may be extinct within the next century or so, whereas if we were extinct, the world would flourish and bud. I don’t know any more exactly what the exact numbers given in the statement were, but it is rather irrelevant for this journal entry. The gist is that humans deplete the world we live in and without us everything else would be much better off. It’s a sad truth, but everything we’ve done in the past, well, since we’ve evolved pretty much, indicates the verity of said statement.
I am writing these lines sitting in my home office in Tyrol, one of the regions worst affected by the corona virus in Europe, and am watching the birds outside as they bicker over the first buds on a cherry tree. Their chirping is undisturbed, their minds not shrouded by a worldwide pandemic, all they can think about is the task ahead of picking out the seeds. While we all sit trapped inside, slowly incarcerated by our minds and economic dependence, life outside seems to continue, even thrive, some may argue.
I live in a ski resort region where tourism in the winter is key – one reason why we became one of the epicentres for corona in Europe, for putting the economy over safety and people’s wellbeing. Until recently, there was a major lightshow and fireworks once a week on the snow slopes to entertain tourists and celebrate the lavish economy factor known as winter sport. Ignoring the major distress such actions put on the forest animals around, they, at least, can breathe a sigh of relief now, probably perplexed by the sudden stillness that reigns over their woods and fields, only disturbed once or twice during the day by a rambler who needs to escape the confinements of his prison (but always within at least a few metres distance to the next rambler).
Despite the non-arguable horrors the virus has inflicted on many people, I cannot help but feel a little smug about it, too. There we are, humans, so arrogant, so superior to everyone else, exploiting where we can, taking and taking and taking from the resources around us. And, BAM, one little disease that is laughable compared to pandemics like the Black Death, and we are all trapped inside our houses, dependent on an economy system that serves itself more than it serves the people. Birds continue to fly, deer continue to roam, dogs continue to sniff – all in perfect oblivion and we reap what we’ve sown.
I don’t want to sound rude or mean to offend people who have been hit hard by the circumstances, but I cannot help thinking this is a massive opportunity to re-evaluate so many issues we’ve faced as a species in the past decades. Outdated school and work systems, an economy system that is so frail it cannot sustain itself apparently (or so we will see), overworked medical staff and shortages that can mean death or life for people. In short, as a community we seem to put money and the economic stability ahead of people, which can be best seen by countries all over the world where measures weren’t taken in time in order to protect tourism and the economy.
Maybe this can be a chance to put importance back on family relations, how we can behave towards each other, and which shouldn’t be put ahead. I am not saying such institutions as economy aren't important, but the birds fluttering outside my window are entirely unencumbered by the virus and the consequences it will have on human-made systems…maybe it’s at least an incentive to take something away from that.
Yesterday I snapped and shouted at Lily. And why? Because she needed her Mama.
It’s been a couple of rough nights for us lately. After weaning just before Christmas, something miraculous happened. Lily started sleeping through the night. We started sleeping through the night. Everyone got some sleep for a change, and I cautiously optimistically thought we had the worst bits over.
Then it started. For every nap, for every bedtime, she needs to be held tightly in our arms. Which is OK. I cherish the closeness, the intimacy. However, about 20-30 minutes after I leave, she wakes up and cries for Mama. She needs to be held again to fall asleep again, she can’t settle herself, not even one fucking time.
So at the moment it feels like there is no reprieve, no respite, no refuge. It’s constant, constant need to cater to her, constantly shooting worried looks at the monitor, praying she’ll sleep for another five minutes so you can get some shit done. It feels like it doesn’t end.
So, yesterday, I snapped. After five-thousand times of “it’s alright, Mama is here”, I snapped. My husband wasn’t home, so there was just conquer, no divide. I had set up for a night in bed with her, but when she’d fallen asleep, I got up to brush my teeth, toilet, drink, and so on. On the toilet – always – I heard her cry and so I ended up in bed, thirsty, full bladder, fully annoyed – I mean I cannot even pee and drink, for fuck’s sake. Then she screamed at me, relentless, angry I wasn’t there, angry I left her.
As I was trying to soothe her, all the bullshit comments you hear from strangers and your own inner voice rose like a screeching crescendo…
You should have sleep-trained her.
It’s your fault if you make her dependent on you.
This shouldn’t happen at this stage anymore.
Maybe if she slept in her own room, she could sleep better.
How on earth will you do it with two children?
She’s just spoilt, she needs to learn she can’t always have her way.
And I broke.
First, I released my anger at my own incapacities on her and shouted at her and put her roughly down into her bed. Then I just broke down and cried like a baby myself. She went calm but then cried “Mama, Mama”, as if in shock what was happening, but the flood gates had opened. I only thought: I. Can’t. Do. This. Anymore.
We fell asleep arm in arm, both crying. Not ideal. And I’ve been feeling terribly guilty ever since.
So why am I telling you this? To gain sympathy? To hear I’m not a bad mother? Or even for masochistic reasons because I want to lure out the beast of social media to rear its ugly head at me, saying: “You’re horrible”, “your child belongs to social services”, “you need to work on your own emotions.” (#gentleparenting #screamingscarsthemforlife #badparenting #yousuck).
It’s neither of those reasons. I am sharing this because, quite simply, it’s true. And the truth is a sighting almost as rare in social media as a unicorn, I feel. There is a flood of well-curated pictures in which we smile, capture a “good moment” (#lovemydaughter #shesthebestintheworld #lovebeingamum #mylifeisawesome)
And while all of these moments are true, too, they are not the whole picture. Sometimes I am tired of being a mum. Sometimes I wish I could watch a Netflix show without anxiously looking at the baby monitor. Sometimes I wish I could read two hours in the afternoon like I used to.
And I know that’s selfish inasmuch that I’ve had plenty of evenings like that (and if you don’t have children, cherish the boredom of a chill-out night on your sofa). I chose this and I must make it work – every day, even on the bad days. And I wish I was the perfect mother who is always calm and an incessant source of benevolence, cocoa and cuddles. I wish I was like Connie’s mum, sometimes.
But I’m not because, I guess, I am…human. After the fifth sleepless night, grinding through fifty tantrums each day where you nodded patiently and kissed their ouchies, it was one too much.
I swear to myself it will never happen again. I know it will. Many times. Hundreds and thousands of times. And I will feel guilty. Every. Single. Time.
But you know the funny thing. While I was lying in bed, heaving from guilt, my insides churning at the thought of having shouted at her, she was peacefully asleep in my arms.
The next morning when I showered her with apologies, she wasn’t interested in them. She was too busy cuddling into the nook of my neck and smiling at me.
She’d forgiven me the moment I put her into my arms. The crack that shook our bond was healed within moments of it happening.
So, the hope I have is that if she can forgive me so easily, maybe I can learn to forgive myself, too.
#18monthsregression #18monthtoddler #parenting #blogger #parentblogger #mumblogger #motherhoodunplugged
Weaning, apart from birth stories and sleeping habits, is probably one of the most discussed topics among mothers - or at least in my circles. When to do it, how to do it, go cold turkey or gently wean over months, which feeding session to kick first, etc. etc.
Generally, as with most things kids-related, I think the "right" way depends greatly on many circumstances and the temper of your child. A dear friend of mine knew her daughter was an either/or person, so cold turkey it was - and it worked splendidly. Lily and I had a more gradual approach, but I was surprised how quickly and smoothly it actually happened in the end.
Before I delve into the nitty-gritty bits of our weaning story, there is something I have to get off my (now milk-less) chest first. When I got pregnant again, most women I talked to behaved as if this NEEDED to mean I stop breastfeeding. As if these were clearly co-related things. My mum always stopped breastfeeding when she fell pregnant with her next child and a friend of mine also put it quite clearly that a new pregnancy meant quitting breastfeeding her previous child.
I hope you all slid into the New Year well and will have a splendid 2022. I am fairly sure we will have. Come April, we'll move into a new, bigger flat, and in May we will welcome Lily's little brother into our family.
But before we delve into the new year, a little look on what's been going on in the past weeks. Just before Christmas, Lily and I stopped breastfeeding, which was equally sad and wonderful. I will write a more detailed post on our weaning methods in the next days.
On December, 11th, hand in hand with weaning, Lily also finally started walking and is now running through the apartment like a little whirlwind. I am really happy she's up on her feet now, as, first, going outside in the snow is so much easier now, and, second, I can finally put dresses on her, yay!
Just before Christmas, on the 22nd, we found out our little second miracle will be a little boy, which put me straight in a frenzy because I was dead-determined to become a girl mum. Having been raised with two sisters and almost exclusively female cousins, I just sat there, thinking, What the fuck do I do with a boy? I did, however, get over my little panic attack quite quickly and am now looking forward very much to welcoming him into the world.
It isn't always easy for me to blend out the noise from the outside. Lily is inching towards 17 months now and she sleeps in our bed, and only falls asleep with one of us present.
Sometimes I question whether it is necessary to "make it so hard" on us, when other mothers just walk out, close the door and their kids fall asleep in their cots, in their own rooms.
Sometimes I feel frustrated because she needs us - predominantly me - so much. Sometimes I am impatient and even take my frustration out on Lily when falling asleep takes more than an hour and I have to lie still next to her, pretending to be asleep, so she calms down.
Sometimes I just want to leave the room and let her scream because I am overwhelmed and mostly angry at myself that I cannot muster the eternal patience I envisioned myself to have as a mother. Or that I messed up the sleep patterns and she's just slipped out of the sleep window and I know I have to wait another 45 minutes before she will settle.
Sometimes I curse that she cannot play around happily in her cot next to our bed and gently fall asleep herself, but that we need to be there.
What I then usually start when I begin doubting the path we have chosen to pursue with her, is the "beshoulding". "It should be easier", "she should be able to fall asleep by herself", "I should be able to spend the evening with my husband instead of lying stupidly in the bed for an hour with her", "we should try out other things", etc. etc.
I've been reflecting a lot on these frustrating moments lately, and have found a method that works for me - definitely not all the time - but which eases the task a little: I see the time we spend together as a gift, rather than a duty.
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