My next mothermoon story is from my amazing friend Carmen. I met Carmen about five years ago when both our big kids were just babies and we were both training as volunteer breastfeeding peer supporters. Since then, she's trained as a lactation consultant and she's my go-to- gal whenever any of my doula clients have questions or challenges with feeding.
Her story about the impact your birth experience and the support and care you have can have on your experience of becoming a mum is really poignant given that this week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
When I look back on my Mothermoon with my littlest baby it fills my cup. It makes me remember how well cared for and fulfilled I felt.
This is miles away from how I felt after my first baby. When I think back to those days I feel sick and overwhelmed. Yes he was my first baby so I had that feeling every mum has of 'oh my, what the hell am I going to do now my baby has arrived?! How will I keep him alive?!'. But I also had experienced a traumatic induced labour and instrumental delivery. I felt like birth had been done to me instead of feeling like I had birthed my baby.
This left me feeling deeply traumatised, anxious and then depressed.
I had not planned for the recovery after the birth and didn't even know about postnatal doulas at the time.
When I became pregnant with Orla I knew things had to be different.
I was claiming back pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. I wanted more and I knew it could be different after seeing otherwomen feel empowered and warrior like during birth and the postnatal period. I wanted that!
So my husband and I decided to invest in the care we received as a family. We invested in independent midwifery to ensure a continuity of care. And even though I had to switch midwives part the way through my pregnancy due to the Independent Midwifery UK and Nursing Midwifery case, I still felt continuity because the midwives I had gave me the time I needed to feel secure. I had a birth doula and found a postnatal doula for the early weeks too. Sadly this was before the lovely Sarah had launched her Mothermoon packages! Maybe there will be a next time?! Just don't tell the husband I said that!
So my care was planned and I felt energised. I also started seeing a psychotherapist who specialised in birth trauma to help me deal with the PTSD, anxiety and PND I had experienced after my first baby. This helped enormously and made me really see how unwell and unsupported I had felt after my first.
The birth was awesome. I felt like a superhero, in complete awe of my body and my baby. Orla was born at home where we had planned. I used hypnobirthing and experienced a foetal ejection reflex, so didn't push. It was incredible and by far the most empowering experience of my life. I had the birth team around me that I had chosen. I had my husband and my then 3.5 year old little boy there. Everyone was calm and we were in our own bed minutes after the birth.
I had raised blood pressure after the birth and my baby was a tiny 4lb so I did get a transfer into hospital for a few hours for us both to be checked. I had my doula and my midwife stay with my the entire time so I felt no feelings of anxiety at all. This was a complete turnaround for me. I previously would have panic attacks before scans and felt a wreck in the hospital environment. But this time it was different. I had prepared with mindfulness techniques, I used hypnobirthing affirmations and had my trusted birth team with me. It was all working out.
My tiny girl then went on to have a lot of issues breastfeeding due to her low birth weight and tongue tie. I am a lactation consultant but it felt different being my own baby so I was grateful to have the support of other lactation consultants around me who could reassure me. I worked with my dear friend and lactation consultant Imogen Unger who is a superstar working with teeny tiny babies as she is also a neonatal nurse. So it all worked out with a bit of hard work and cake and we continue to breastfeed almost a year on.
In the midst of 1-2 hourly feeds, pumping breast milk, working on attaching my baby to the boob and cup and syringe feeding I had the team of support I had planned so felt held together and positive.
So although my birth had left me on an oxytocin high my breastfeeding experience was extremely demanding and didn't leave any time for much else.
This is where my Mothermoon came in as a saviour.
We limited visitors to reduce overwhelm and to keep on top of the intensity of breastfeeding. We learnt the first time round how overwhelming visitors can be so did it very differently this time round. We also ate a lot of meals that we had squirrelled away in a chest freezer (the only piece of baby equipment we bought this time round!)
I had multiple Midwifery visits from Neighbourhood Midwives who gave me the time I needed without rushing. And I had my amazing birth doula Sarah Lam visit me to celebrate the birth and look after me and my family. She made me cake (which I didn't share with anyone else) she listened to me and treated me to a closing the bones ceremony. I felt cared for and celebrated as a mum. I knew we could overcome the breastfeeding issues in time with this level of support.
After about a week my package of postnatal doula care started with the lovely Lea Ouai. She was a tonic. She sat with me and we talked about the birth, my pregnancy and my previous birth experience. Some days we would just sit and drink tea (hot tea!!) and then she would help with hanging the washing or any other things I was struggling to keep on top off. She always made sure I had eaten and helped prepare something for us all to eat. She was also able to see that my eldest was struggling with the adjustment with his new place in the family so she would wear Orla in a sling whilst I sat and had some much needed one to one playtime with my eldest Fionn. She was also there to hold Orla whilst I showered. On one of our last sessions we went for a dog walk together to help me feel more confident in juggling the two children and two dogs at once. It's hard to put into words what a postnatal doula does, they just do what you need and seem to have a magic way of knowing what you need before you have realised it.
As I type about my own Mothermoon I have such warming memories of my early postnatal period and am so grateful for the support we had as a family. Without doubt it was one of the main ways I remain feeling so well physically and emotionally.
Carmen is a lactation consultant (IBCLC) and health visitor in South East London. Carmen offers face to face breastfeeding support for local families and online/ video call support worldwide for a number of breastfeeding concerns. Recently her return to work packages are proving popular for helping mums prepare for their return to the workplace whilst breastfeeding, these are available UK wide via video call.
She is also offering a service which offers the ultimate in continuity of care with her Every Step of the Way package. This includes a series of consultations to follow you from pregnancy all the way until you introduce your little ones to family foods at around 6 months old. This package combines Carmen's experience as a lactation consultant, children's nurse, health visitor and a mum of two children.
Carmen says she wants to be able to offer this level of continuity of care to families as she feels this was what was lacking in her first pregnancy, birth and postnatal journey and has experienced the difference it made to her emotional well being when she invested in her care with her littlest baby.
Check out her website for more details:
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