Donating Breast Milk

Max is very pleased another baby is benefitting from the milk he couldn’t use.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that I donated some of my milk but I wanted to use today’s post to talk a little more about that process.

When I had my first, Alexandra, I wasn’t really aware about donating milk or even using donor milk so when I stopped breastfeeding we just switched straight to formula. Because I was so unwell I didn’t even express and so our journey with my milk was over – I went cold turkey and my milk dried up eventually.

With Max, I started expressing the day he was born despite the fact he was nil by mouth. I’m still expressing now so he’s having four bottles of boob milk a day and one of formula. Because he hardly drank anything in the early days when he was poorly, we ended up stocking up the freezers in both hospitals he was an inpatient at and when we fetched both batches we had around four litres of milk in our freezer.

My plan was to gradually use the freezer stock (as there’s obviously a time frame when you need to use it by) and replace it with ‘newer’ milk. This meant I could potentially stop expressing at some point but still give him boob milk from the stockpile. However at six weeks he was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy which meant I had to cut out dairy and soya to carry on feeding him. It also meant we couldn’t use anything from the freezer as that had been expressed before I cut dairy from my diet.

The thought of throwing away my milk which had taken so long to get made me feel a little bit ill! So I began researching how I could donate it. The milk bank nearest us said they normally only took milk as an ongoing thing from moms who were breastfeeding but had an over supply but when I explained the situation they were willing to take the stash. However once they started filling in the paperwork they said it wasn’t possible for me to donate because I have had blood transfusions in the past. This for the same reason that I can’t now give blood – there’s no test they can do to rule out that you haven’t been given CJD (mad cows disease) from the blood so they ban you from donating in case you pass it on. Annoying but I can see why! Donated milk is extremely heavily screened before being sold to neonatal units.

So I turned to Facebook. I joined a couple of sites including one called Human Milk for Human Babies. I posted on there explaining how much I had to donate and some details (they ask you to include things like any medical conditions you have/medications you’re on, whether you drink etc). I got one really weird message but then within hours I got a comment from a lady who was pregnant and had supply issues with her previous two babies so was stockpiling donor milk so her new baby wouldn’t struggle with weight loss in the way they had.

The lady came to pick the milk up from us, which felt a bit weird at first giving someone what is essentially your bodily fluids! But once I met her and chatted to her for a bit I felt so glad it was going to be used and not thrown away! She’s now had her baby and keeps everyone (there’s quite a few people who’ve donated milk to them) informed on a Facebook page which is lovely. Because all the milk is labelled, she was even able to tell me they were using my milk the other day!

It’s lovely to know I’ve been able to help another family and it’s really changed my viewpoint on donor milk – in fact I feel a bit gutted I don’t have enough of a supply to regularly donate but I’m already having to supplement with formula.

To anyone out there with an oversupply – or anyone who knows they can’t breastfeed due to a medical issue but desperately wants to use breast milk, milk donation is definitely something worth looking into!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Bonding – A Rush Of Love?

Before I had children, I subscribed to the theory that you would experience this magical, other-worldly moment when your baby was placed on your chest and suddenly the stars aligned, you became a mother and you loved this being more than anything else you’d ever seen or known. It’s a popular theory touted around by the media and, I hate to say it, often by other mothers too.

For some people I don’t doubt that’s what bonding with their firstborn (and all their subsequent children) was like. For some I suspect it all falls into place.

For me, I loved Alexandra from the moment we knew she existed. Despite hating being pregnant, I already felt protective over this little being growing inside of me. When she arrived, again I felt protective over her. I felt like she was my child and I needed to do right by her.

But I didn’t feel like a mother.

I felt like an amateur when I watched the midwives swaddle her and rock her to sleep. I felt like I should have L-plates on when other mothers offered advice or support. And ultimately I felt like a failure as I returned home after nearly three months to begin the process of becoming a mom, when my husband and others had stepped in and filled in that role for me as I lay in a hospital bed for the first weeks of Alexandra’s life.

As well as repairing myself, I had to repair my confidence. I felt scared to take her out, I felt scared to be on my own with her, I felt like I had no idea how to be her mother. She was (and still is) beautiful, precious and amazing. But I still didn’t feel like she was truly mine.

I’d say it took until she was about six months old for me to start enjoying her properly. Now, she’s 20 months and I genuinely enjoy every day (not all of every day, that would be ridiculous), I find her hilarious, she’s like my little friend who I can laugh with and have proper conversations with.

Sometimes I look at her and feel overwhelmed by how much I love her. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. What’s also true is that didn’t happen the day she was born, it was probably about a year before I ever had that feeling. That’s not to say I didn’t love her – I did. But I had no idea how all-consuming that love could be, that the bond could deepen to a point where it would fundamentally change me as a person, that one day I would feel truly like a mother.

This time round I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps because I’d already been through that process with Alexandra, perhaps because I was well this time, perhaps because he was so poorly or perhaps because I got to spend so much one on one time with him in hospital, it was almost an immediate feeling with Max. And that’s not to say I love him more than her, I love them equally although in different ways (and at different times depending who’s crying!).

Of course during my second pregnancy I had times when I wondered how I would feel about this baby. They tell you your heart will expand and it does. There was a little part of me that never healed after our first experience – a little Max sized hole in my heart that doesn’t take away from how much I love Alexandra but reflects how much my heart needed two little babies to love!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Take Two: Week 33

Apologies about the lack of post last Thursday, or any sort of update since my ‘I’m in hospital’ post. The good news is I got out of hospital on Wednesday evening – but I then managed to completely break our laptop and could not for the life of me log in on my mobile hence the silence the following day.

Last Saturday (March 11th) was when I turned 33 weeks which seems a long time ago now. I celebrated by being allowed out of hospital for four hours to eat some real food and go to the park with Dylan and Alexandra, the latter of which LOVES parks because not only do they have swings, they also have lots of ducks which are one of her favourite things in the world.

Everything was still very normal and stable when it came to my blood pressure and other obs, yet they were still talking about keeping me in until delivery so I’d kind of resigned myself to being there for the long haul. However on Wednesday my obstetrician decided that, if my haematologist and cardiologist agreed, I could go home later that day.

With the former having said yes during my appointment with him, it was over to the hospital over the road (in a mad rush because it’s their policy to send patients in a taxi – even though I had been walking over there by myself whenever I wanted to get off the ward – and there had been some kind of mix up with the booking. So I ended up running across without my notes because they couldn’t give me them). There had then been some sort of issue where my echocardiogram was booked in for a different day, so I had to wait 1.5 hours for that.

After all that I finally got discharged in the early evening and was able to come home. It has been glorious to relax at home and spend time with husband and toddler. It’s significantly reduced my Netflix consumption though! And my family have very nicely passed a delightful cold on to me so I’m struggling to sleep even more. But for now it’s three lots of monitoring a week and the aim of 37 weeks still.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

Take Two: Week 32

Well this isn’t going to be the 32 week round-up that I was expecting, mostly because last Monday at 32+2 I ended up taking residence in hospital and it looks like I’ll be here until baby arrives. I debated just not mentioning it on here, but it’d pretty hard to do a weekly update without doing so – I thought I might get away with it for a week but five weeks is pushing it a little. It was actually Dylan who persuaded me to include the fact I was here (I didn’t know if it was a little attention-seeky like those people who post pictures of themselves with a cannula in or tag themselves at the hospital and then go through the whole ‘are you okay hun?’ ‘I’ll inbox you’ comments saga). He said actually the fact I’m a ‘high risk’ and have ended up here is what makes my pregnancy different and surely that should be included on the blog.

Anyway, I’m here. No great panics, I just had some short-lived symptoms like slightly elevated blood pressure. Everything has been utterly stable for the past week but so far the doctors have wanted to keep me here just in case anything creeps back up. Baby is absolutely fine, moving and growing well – there are no concerns for him which is fabulous.

I’m on the antenatal ward which means while there are some women here just for monitoring like me, a lot are here for induction. I’ve heard more contractions in the last week than I ever wanted to, I’ve heard a woman give birth in half an hour (from first contraction to baby arriving), I’ve also heard a woman who showed off an interesting range of farmyard noises for an entire night. Before I was moved into a side room by myself, I discovered how loud a pregnant woman could snore and then didn’t get much sleep the night after worrying if I was snoring.

I spent far too much time wondering what the ‘PET Centre’ was across the road before I googled it and found out it was sadly just a type of scan and did not involve puppies and kittens. I’ve secretly enjoyed being one of the least heavily pregnant patients which means I get to the food quickest when it’s served, and then wondered why the hell I bothered when I’ve had to choose between Unidentifiable Mush 1 or Unidentifiable Mush 2.

I’ve felt like I’m on a holiday somewhere really hot as they insist on having the heating full blast (they can’t even control it on the ward for some bizarre reason) so it’s windows open and fan on 24/7. I’ve laughed at the fact I’m allowed to walk over to the hospital over the road to go to the café there but they want me to take a taxi over to the same hospital for my appointment there tomorrow?! (I can actually see the entrance from my window it’s so close!).

It goes without saying that I am extremely fed up in here, missing Alexandra and Dylan like crazy and just wanting to be at home for the last few weeks of this pregnancy. There’s been a whole lot of feelings going on, too many to throw at a blog post. But baby is well, Dylan is doing a fab job of keeping Alex’s routine going with the help of family and friends, everything is very stable at the moment. So we just have to keep going day by day and accept that we knew this pregnancy would throw some crap at us at some point and we were probably lucky to get away with it for 32 weeks!

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

Rejecting Advice

I’ve written before, way back when I was pregnant with Alexandra, about the kinds of advice you get when you’re having a baby/a parent and how ridiculous some of it can be. Clearly if your mother/neighbour/another mom at a baby group gives you some advice you can decide for yourself if it’s useful or not, thank them and politely move on with your day. It’s your choice whether to accept and implement what they say or completely ignore it. However, one thing I’m finding myself baffled by is some people’s attitudes about rejecting advice which comes from experts (when I say experts, I mean proper trained health professionals, not people who went to a baby class once and now think they’re Supernanny).

Time and time again I’m seeing women calling into question every little thing their doctor, midwife or health visitor has said. Now clearly, you shouldn’t blindly accept what someone says just because they’ve got a piece of paper saying they know what they’re doing. If they suggest something which seems absurd, unsafe or just plain wrong then you have every right to question it with them, perhaps get a second opinion. But what riles me is when people just seem to have a ‘thing’ about saying no just because doctors/midwives are seen as a sort of authority figure.

‘I’m not going to have an induction because I don’t want one’ – now it’s one thing to do your research and decide that you’d rather opt for daily monitor than an induction just because you’re overdue if baby/placenta etc seem fine. It’s quite another to just blindly say you won’t be induced at any point. Surely it’s obvious no doctor is going to suggest inducing just because they feel like it? There’s always going to be a sound medical reason for it if that’s what they’d like you to do.

‘I’m so annoyed because my midwife/health visitor was ten minutes late. I don’t want to see her again’ – well I really hope you’re the person asking for help because your baby won’t feed or your stitches are infected or you just need to cry at someone for five minutes and she says ‘oh sorry, got to go to see someone else now’.

‘My midwife thinks I’m measuring small and wants to send me for a growth scan. I can’t be bothered to go to the hospital, what a waste of time’ – excellent. Going and finding out your baby is absolutely fine and feeling slightly aggrieved cause you’ve probably spent a fair few hours at the hospital is the BEST case scenario here. You just know these would be the same people complaining if a potential problem with their child wasn’t picked up.

‘My doctor says I need to be on these meds but I don’t want to take them’ – you know, cause doctors love handing out pills to pregnant ladies just for the absolute sheer fun of it.

I can’t even go into anti-vaxxers on this post because they deserve a whole post of their own quite frankly! I for one am super glad there are people in this world who spend their life looking after pregnant ladies, helping people give birth and offering advice in the newborn days. I am very glad there are people who know how to keep me and my children safe. I don’t blindly accept what they say but I do know that 99.9999 per cent of the time they are going to be far more knowledgeable than I am and, just because I have access to Google, that does make me a doctor.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

 

Take Two: Week 31

The bump featuring my nephew Zachary

Week 31 was fairly uneventful – although it’s getting to the point now where we’re on super alert in case something happens! The plan is still to get to 37 weeks although we know there’s a chance of induction before then. So it’s one day at a time at the moment.

I’ve been busy working a lot this week. I’m very lucky in that being a freelancer I can pick and choose what I do, but it also means some weeks are busier than others. It’s been a very welcome distraction from the worry of what’s to come! I’m intending to work right up until 36 weeks then having a week off before Baby 2 arrives, but that’s obviously subject to him staying put til then.

Symptoms wise I’m still getting away fairly lightly, and haven’t experienced any of the third trimester sickness (yet) that I had last time. I am super hungry all the time and eating enough for about 57 people, obviously tired and my back is achey but I’ve been very lucky symptoms wise this time. Although, you know, the whole ‘super high risk’ thing isn’t the best so don’t feel too envious of me!

I haven’t actually been to the hospital this week so a midwife appointment was the only thing on the calendar – all was fine there. Knowing we’re only five weeks away now we’ve reached 32 weeks seems very surreal – at this point last time I thought I had ten weeks because I was so sure I’d go overdue. I keep looking at Alexandra thinking she’s only got a very short time left as the baby! So many emotions about that, although she loves babies so much I’m hoping she’ll take to him pretty quickly. Or at least not strangle him.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

Take Two: Week 30

This picture is relevant, honestly…read on.

Week 30 really isn’t a milestone in your pregnancy, but somehow because it starts with a 3 and not a 2, it feels like one. I think especially when you know you’ll be delivering in a week beginning with a 3 not a 4, it makes it all seem eerily close. I don’t know if that really makes any sense but I understand it nevertheless!

This week has mostly been the same: feeling a little tired, struggling with my back and mostly just feeling HUNGRY. Like non-stop, I need to eat all the time, I’m angry because I haven’t eaten for ten minutes – although I’ve actually also got to the point where I’m quite looking forward to exercising after the baby’s born. I think about chicken nuggets a lot at the moment (I had not one single McDonald’s in the 11 months that I wasn’t pregnant between Alex and this baby. Now I could quite happily eat one every day. Nuggets are an all-consuming thought for me. I probably won’t get any work done for the rest of the day now because I’ll be thinking about nuggets).

In actual, important news I had a midwife home visit on Wednesday. This is where they normally talk to you about birth options I think (but obviously that’s highly irrelevant for me because I’m not giving birth in the county I live in) and they also chat a bit about breastfeeding. All the normal checks showed up fine, baby had moved again and was head up (I also got to feel his head which was pretty cool, the midwife said it was like a perfect little cricket ball).

Then on Friday it was back to hospital for a growth scan and an appointment with my obstetrician and rheumatologist. The scan went well, they estimated he was just under 3lb 12 and that equates to be just under the 50th centile. He’d moved again and was head down which is where we’d like him to stay! My regular obstetrician was on annual leave so there were some questions I went with which I’ll have to wait til next time to get answered, but overall the appointment went fine. I don’t have to see them again for another month which is longer than I was expecting, but I’m seeing the midwife weekly and the haematologist and cardiologist in two weeks so they’re definitely not leaving me to fend for myself!

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

 

Baby Showers

Alexandra and nana at Henrietta’s baby shower – on a side note, I don’t think my mom’s appeared on the blog before, hi mom!

I was asked earlier in the week about my thoughts on baby showers. It’s something I’ve probably never mentioned on the blog before and that’s mainly because I’ve never had one. That’s not because I’m against them though – I don’t have this big ‘oh they’re so American’ quibble about them that some people seem to have.

When I was pregnant with Alexandra, my best friend Manda and helpers were busy organising my hen do – as many of you know we were intending to get married the same year we had her. So I was actually nearly 34 weeks pregnant when I had my hen do. In some ways although it was a theatre visit and then a meal, so it didn’t take the traditional format of a baby shower, it involved most of my nearest and dearest friends and female family members so it felt a lot like one!

I kind of feel baby showers are normally a first time mom thing so I’d never really considered one this time round. Although by absolute coincidence, my NCT friends organised a lovely second hen do for me (as we’d been forced to delay getting married for a year) and, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was actually about four weeks pregnant with Baby 2. So maybe ‘pregnant hen dos’ are my thing rather than baby showers!

But in between my two hen dos/pregnancies, I actually organised my sister’s hen do for her when she was pregnant with my nephew and that was lovely. We did it at her house and kept it fairly low key – a lady made some delicious cupcakes for us and I bought some bunting and plates/cups to match, we came up with a quiz about Henrietta and I also collected baby pictures from attendees beforehand so that everyone could guess who the baby was (hilariously, Henrietta guessed herself wrong?).

It was a really nice afternoon and also the first time our family had met Henrietta’s boyfriend’s family so that was lovely too – we’ve got a great picture of the two nans together with Alexandra.

I’ve only ever been to one other baby shower, which was five years ago and also held at a house with games and presents etc. It was a lovely day and my friend actually ended up going into labour that night and having my goddaughter the following day! So maybe that’s a word of caution about getting too excited on the day if you’re close to your due date!

Personally, if I was going to organise my own I’d probably follow the same format of it being a relaxed affair at home with close female friends, some activities (but not that one where you put chocolate in nappies – that makes me feel all shades of ill!) and food. That way it’s nice and low key for the pregnant lady and there’s more opportunities to chat with everyone than if it’s a big extravagant affair.

One other trend which also seems to have originated in America, is gender reveal parties (where they get both families and friends together and reveal whether they’re carrying a boy or a girl – everyone guesses beforehand, they do fun things like all those tests you’re meant to do that tell you which one you’re carrying, normally they have a cake or a box of coloured balloons for the surprise). I could genuinely watch YouTube videos of gender reveals for most the day and not get bored, especially when it’s twins!

That would never have worked for us as I was so shocked Alexandra wasn’t a boy I couldn’t have kept it secret for any length of time – my open jaw would have given it away! And we were told Baby 2 was a boy at 12 weeks and this was then confirmed again at 17 weeks before the official 20 week scan so we’d have had to keep schtum for eight weeks before any sort of reveal. (On a side note, but related to secrets, I go to write Baby 2’s actual name every time I mention him and then have to stop myself. Dylan has a ‘no revealing on social media before the birth’ policy in case we change our minds at the last minute! But we’re referring to him by name around our friends and family so it’s hard to stop myself typing it too!)

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

 

Take Two: Week 29

Alex has been spending a lot of time practising how to look after a baby. It’s going well…

So here we are, into week 30 and reflecting back on week 29. Less than seven weeks left now til induction. I’ve just quickly read back by week 29 post from my pregnancy with Alexandra (you can read it here if you like) and the summary was the morning sickness was back, I was really tired and it was my birthday that week.

Well I’m happy to report that I’m not feeling sick at all this time round in the third trimester (so far) and clearly, it wasn’t my birthday this week! As for tiredness, I don’t think I’m as bad as I was last time – then I was getting up mid morning, needing a nap in the afternoon and feeling wiped in the evenings. Now Alex, working and various other commitments just don’t allow for that. It is getting more of a struggle to go out and do things, and I’m definitely starting to notice the bump slowing me down a bit now. But by and large we’ve been continuing life as normal here at the EE house.

My last lot of blood results have come back within normal range which is obviously great and there’s no concerns at the moment about myself or baby. He’s very active, a lot more so than I remember Alexandra being, and his little kicks and rolls are now becoming really obvious both on the outside and the inside. Alex was head down, ready to exit for basically the entire time but this one is in a different position every time I get measured.

We think we’ve finalised his name. For a long time we were scouring through boys’ names trying to find ones we both loved. Eventually we settled back on the name we would have used for Alexandra had she been a boy, but were looking for a longer version of it (so he would have a long name on his birth certificate and use either that or the nickname day to day, like we do with Alexandra/Alex) and we weren’t really set on any of them. So we think we’re just going to use the short one as it’s a name in itself and we don’t see the point of giving him a full name he never uses.

Nothing else to report at this stage, which is always reassuring!

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

 

Plans For Baby 2: Feeding

Today I wanted to talk about my plans for feeding Baby 2. A quick recap of the Baby 1 feeding story is that when I was pregnant, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself but ideally wanted to breastfeed. I breastfed Alexandra for almost a week after she was born. It was tough! The first issue we had was that she was hardly making any effort to feed, she would latch properly sometimes but then just sat there doing nothing – not particularly helpful! So we were topping up with expressed milk/formula from the second day I think and everyone at the hospital was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to help her start feeding properly. I’ve heard a lot of women say they didn’t feel supported to breastfeed while staying in hospital but I felt exactly the opposite, everyone spent so much time trying to help me.

I’d like to think we would have got over the first issue if it hadn’t been for the second: the fact that I was so poorly, trying to feed (or do anything) was horrendously painful. I had a scan which meant I had to express and throw all of my milk away for 24 hours which was the most disheartening thing ever – especially as I was expressing a ridiculous amount. It got to the point where I was crying every feed, which probably wasn’t helping Alex with her feeding issues (I’d probably be a bit weirded out if someone was crying at me every dinner time) and the midwives said to me they were concerned she wasn’t putting weight back on and could become jaundiced again.

So Dylan and I had a chat and we switched to formula and that was that. (I realise that was not a particularly quick summary!).

This time round, I would still like to give breastfeeding a go. I think it would be easy (and probably justified) for me to say let’s just formula feed and avoid adding any more stress on to the situation. But I know for me, I would feel incredibly guilty if Baby 2’s newborn days were less dramatic than Alex’s and we hadn’t at least tried to establish breastfeeding. I will still probably feel an element of guilt if we end up formula feeding, but at least I’d have given it a go.

Also I think there’s an element of ‘making it fair’ in my mind. I tried to breastfeed Alexandra, I want to at least give my second child that chance too! I know it’s ridiculous but they’ll never know, it’s not like he’s going to turn round to me in years to come and query why I fed his sister for a few days but didn’t with him, and equally it could work the opposite way. I could end up breastfeeding him for a year and then he would be treated differently to Alex.

I am firmly, firmly in the camp of ‘fed is best’ and really can’t stand the *minority* of breastfeeders who are so judgemental about formula feeders, as if they’re pouring vodka down their baby’s neck. But I do want to give it a go this time and it would be lovely for it to last a little longer than the first attempt.

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x