Sunday, 5 December 2010

Welcome to my pity party.

Whine ahead. Feel free not to read if you want. I’m just letting it out.

In the January of 2006 I had a miscarriage at 8 weeks. Three weeks later the day of my follow up appointment at the doctors, my husband told me his niece was pregnant - due just a few weeks after I would have been. The feeling of despair post loss knowing I would have to watch her the whole pregnancy knowing it should have been me was just awful.

It became a little easier when I became pregnant again with Seamus the following June. But I admit I totally avoided her for that first few months because I just couldn’t handle it. She got offended because I stayed away and stopped speaking to me. Our relationship is still strained now.

Those of you that know me well will be aware I had a traumatic loss in July this past year at 21 weeks. My baby was due in November, and I was really hoping to be pregnant again by now however my body just isn’t co-operating and I am still even after five months awaiting my first period. It sucks.

This morning we get a big announcement that my husband’s niece is pregnant again, and she is due in July 2011. So yet again I get to watch her, and this time she is due around the time that we will be facing the first anniversary of Finn’s death. This is going to suck, and probably going to cause another big rift in the family as she, and no one else his side, is going to understand why I’m avoiding her like the plague. But what can I do.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Formula company website giving misinformation to breastfeeding mothers

You might remember this website, it was set up as some sort of response to the Ban the Bags campaign. It's funded by the Infant Formula Council, and they state that banning formula samples in hospitals is "withholding information and support from new moms". Way to entirely miss the point.

Anyway, I stumbled on their site today and found a section entitled "Ask RN" where a lady named Barbara Dehn is giving advice to mothers on breastfeeding and formula feeding. Some of the advice is fine, other is extremely suspect and some outright damaging. Take this gem:

From ghana

my baby is 3 days old, but the mother don't have breast milk can i feed him with formula

Most moms find that their milk doesn't "come in" until day 4-5. I would suggest that you continue to put the baby to the breast every 2 1/2 to 3 hours around the clock. If the baby is making wet diapers (5-7) day, then they are getting nourishment. If there aren't wet diapers, then by all means supplement with properly prepared formula and talk to your baby's doctor or midwife.

No mention of colostrum, and the wet nappy advice is wrong, wrong, wrong. A 3 day old baby would be expected to have 3 wets in a 24 hour period. Not 5-7.

Sara Calloway
From Ohio

I am really stressed out about my 4 month old's weight. We were at the pediatrician's today and she weighs 11 pounds 5 ounces and is 33.5". She is exclusively breastfed and seems happy but the pediatrician wants me to start supplementing her with formula. My lactation consultant, on the other hand, says that she is eating plenty and just seems to be on the small side. She feels supplementing my daughter won't make her consume more, she'll just get less breastmilk.

She has about 9 wet diapers a day, and poops every day or two, so I'm pretty sure I have enough milk. She eats about 8 times a day and 1 or 2 times at night. She does not seem unhappy, her hair is shiny, skin is soft, and eyes are moist. She is alert, rolls over both ways, and if we sit her up, she'll stay unsupported for a several seconds.

The pediatrician sent me home with samples of formula but I don't want to introduce those risks unless I truly have to. I wasn't worried before but now I feel like maybe I'm starving her. Is her weight normal? She was 7lbs 1 oz at birth and 20" long.

I'm just very confused over the conflicting advice and I'd like a variety of opinions to help me decide what's truly best for her.

Thanks in advance!

This is a very good question. The average weight for a 4 month old who was born on time is 14 lbs. Your daughter's weight puts her at the 10th percentile. You didn't mention how tall you and your husband are. You say that she's 33.5 inches long, but I'll bet you mean 23.5. If that's the case then, her length is also in the 10th percentile. It's very possible that she is just a small child and will continue to be small throughout her life.
Here's what I know from almost 30 years as a nurse.
You can bring your daughter to your lactation consultant and weigh her before you feed and after to see how much she's drinking. You can also offer her some pumped milk to see if she's still hungry after a feeding session at the breast. If you do need to use formula, I want to reassure you that it is a safe and healthy option that many moms use, because they can't exclusively breast feed. Formulas today are designed to be closer to breast milk than ever before. Yes, you're right, breast milk is ideal, but if you have to use formula, you can rest assured that this is a safe nutritious source of calories, proteins, fats and other vitamins and essential nutrients that a baby needs to grow. good luck and let me know what happens.

No mention of how much baby is actually gaining per week, just giving a weight isn't really helpful, as baby could have been quite happily gaining on this curve. She's right that some children are just small. But the rest of the reply just sounds like a formula ad.

Debbie Demi's Mom
From California

im breastfeeding and everyone says its the best for the baby is 2 and a half months. but "good" food is expensive so i try to eat as healthy as possible but my baby's bone crack all the time...could it be that my milk isn't nutritional enough?? or could it be more serious? and if my milk isnt good enough what formula is best?

Hi, I'm not sure what you mean by your baby's bones crack? It may just be that you're hearing the new cartilage rubbing on itself. If your baby is growing according to your pediatrician, then I would guess that your milk is the perfect food for your little one. Be sure you drink plenty of milk, or get cottage cheese or other dairy ( 4 servings at least) every day. Continue taking your prenatal vitamin and look for fresh fruits and vegetables in season, because they cost less. If you're concerned about the economy, and really, who isn't right now, aim for using eggs and chicken to get plenty of protein. Good luck

What the fuck? Did she really just tell that mama that she has to drink milk to make milk? Is this Old Wives Tales 101?

I could go on and on, but the misinformation is rife here. Really if they're going to dish out breastfeeding advice they should really have an IBCLC to answer these breastfeeding questions. Here's the direct link to the section if you want to refute some of this garbage as well! Have fun!

Sportsman performs circumcisions, WTF

I've been a bit MIA from the intactivist community recently. But as I flicked through my Facebook updates this morning I saw this:

That's right, an American football player travelled to the Philippines to circumcise young boys, and thought he was doing them a favour.


“The first time, it was nerve-racking,” he said. “Hands were shaking a little bit. I mean, I’m cutting somebody. You can’t do those kinds of things in the United States. But those people really needed the surgeries. We needed to help them.”

Now, the whole concept of a SPORTSMAN, untrained in medical procedures, operating on these children aside. The bolded text above is what really bothers me.

Someone explain how exactly these children needed these surgeries?

Now, I'm betting it's something to do with HIV. So these children are out there having risky sex without condoms and they're at risk from HIV are they?

Um, didn't think so. So why exactly is it somehow charity work, needed, for these children to have a circumcision performed by a football player who thinks he's doing some sort of charity work? I mean, for them to actually need the surgery, you'd think perhaps there was some medical indication? Do these kids have foreskin gangrene, or cancer? Frostbite? Or is it yet again, an American pushing the cultural obsession with the foreskin onto children from another country?

Hey, but let's not forget that Filipinos already circumcise their children in traditional ceremonies at 9-12 years of age. There has been a string of deaths related to traditional circumcision schools elsewhere.
So, perhaps Mr Tebow circumcising children in a sterile setting is saving these kids from a worse fate. Can you imagine if he went to Africa and performed "ritual nicks" on young girls to save them a worse fate in traditional FGM? The uproar, quite rightly would be heard everywhere. Yet in circumcising male children, Tebow is some sort of hero. What the fuck.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How did my births affect breastfeeding?

 Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on The Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about Birth Experiences and Breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

I have two children, both whom were/are breastfed. I had two very different birth experiences, although ultimately both were hospital vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding was successful. I hadn't really given it a great deal of thought as to whether the birth made any difference in initiating breastfeeding.

Noah, now 5 was born when I was 27, relatively uninformed about birth, although I was fairly educated about breastfeeding. I took antenatal classes where they taught us about pain relief available but they did not talk about any alternative methods other than drugs, it was all either take the drugs or go natural, there was no other option presented. I didn't see the point in experiencing pain if I really didn't have to, so I opted to have an epidural, thinking I would be painfree and enjoy my birth.

It didn't work out that way. My epidural did not take properly, leaving me numb down one side but still feeling everything down the other. I told the anaesthetist that I was still feeling pain but rather than adjusting my position at all I was just told to be patient and it would start to work. It never did.

On the positive side it didn't seem to slow my labour down, although I suspect it made pushing harder, as despite feeling pain I did not have the proper urge to push that I experienced with my second birth. After my baby was born I was not allowed to hold him at first or breastfeed for some reason until I had been stitched up which took half an hour as I tore very badly.

Breastfeeding was difficult initially. Noah struggled to latch, and I would look longingly at other mothers in the ward feeding their babies formula. The lactation consultant on the ward was useless, she came around when I was already feeding him, said everything looked great and that was it. I credit a nursing auxiliary who was there in the middle of the night when I was struggling one time and showed me how to position my baby properly with my breastfeeding success, as the only person who really gave me proper practical help.

I do wonder if the drugs I was given made some sort of impact on our latching as well. There is evidence to suggest that this may be the case.

My second birth was completely unmedicated. I endeavoured to have a different experience with my first, to avoid an epidural, and chose a birthing pool, still in the hospital, I also stayed home until I was quite advanced (I arrived in hospital dilated to 9cm). Pushing was entirely different in that my body took over and it was much easier compared to the "purple pushing" I'd experienced the first time around.
I still tore, but not anywhere near as badly and they waited to stitch me until baby and I had had our first breastfeed, which we did when we were still both in the water. Seamus had no latching issues at all, I felt very empowered in my birth and confident in my body's ability to provide for my child just as I had birthed him without medical intervention. Our road to successful breastfeeding wasn't entirely smooth, as I think I've mentioned in another post, but at least initiation went smoothly.

I think that drugs given in labour do have an impact on breastfeeding, but I suspect it is not only because of them crossing the placenta and affecting the baby, I feel there is also an element of confidence involved as well, if the mother has experienced a cascade of interventions and ends up feeling that she somehow "failed" or did not get the birth she wanted I think that can affect her first breastfeeding experiences as well on a psychological level.

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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Breastfeeding And Employment: My Experience

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on The Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about Breastfeeding and Employment. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

I went back to work after the delivery of both of my babies and breastfed them long past their first year. Noah to 21 months, Seamus I plan to allow to child led wean.

I feel lucky being in the UK in that we get six months paid leave (now nine months). So I didn't have to deal with returning to work within weeks of having a new baby as my American friends do.

I was full time before I had Noah, worked up to 39 weeks pregnant so was able to return just short of his turning six months old. My work was very accomodating with me changing my work pattern, I returned working two 7 hour days, on a Tuesday and a Friday. I had introduced a bottle to him at four weeks old and had given him a bottle every few days filled with expressed milk to try to ensure that he would take a bottle when necessary without incident. He was happy to be fed by either method as long as his little tummy was being filled. I responded well to the pump and had a good supply.

When I returned to work though I found the pumping facilities lacking. At first I was told I would have to pump in the ladies toilet. Then someone else found out I was doing that and arranged for me to use the first aid room. However, there was no lock on the room, and water cooler was inside, therefore people would come barging in unannounced. There was a bed and a curtain in there and I took to sitting on the bed and putting the curtain around myself just to be able to afford some privacy.

Then there was the issue with pumping breaks. In a seven hour day, I was only allowed one half an hour break in the day, and that coincided with my lunch. So I would have to pump whilst eating, the first aid room was two floors away from my desk, so I would feasibly only have 20 minutes to pump, with the rest of the time being taken up with washing and drying pump parts, using the toilet, and walking back and forth to my desk. At home I had a baby that would eat every two hours or so during the day. So it was inevitable really that my supply suffered as I was away from him eight hours or so with only one opportunity to pump. At first it was fine but by 10 months or so he started to refuse my breast during the day and he was mix fed from then up to when he weaned completely at 21 months, having two bottles of follow on formula (he refused straight cows milk completely) in the day time and breastfeeding first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

When my second son was born two and a half years later, I was determined I wasn't going to let the same thing happen again. By this time I had looked into child led weaning and wanted to do this with him, I regretted prematurely weaning my oldest and wanted to go at least two years with Seamus. I stopped work this time a month before my due date, so had to return when my baby was five months old. This time, I was told before I went on maternity leave that I would not be able to have half an hour break when I returned, it would be fifteen minutes per day. Completely impossible to eat and pump in that time. So, I decided I would have to change my hours completely in order to preserve my breastfeeding relationship with my youngest son the way I had not been able to with my first. I opted to work three hours a day, five days a week, feeding him before I left and the second I got home. This way I would have one break of four hours each day without feeding including travelling time, but would not have to pump. This worked very well, I did go back to working three days at 7 hours a day when he turned two, but breastfeeding worked much better this time and Seamus is still nursing at 3.5 years old.

What do I think employers could do to improve the situation for nursing mothers?

Firstly, a decent place to pump is important. A lockable room, with a power point and a comfortable place to sit. Not a bathroom. A sink to wash the pump in after is nice but not essential.

Secondly, decent pumping breaks are a must, ideally every 2-3 hours or so. I do not personally expect to be paid for these breaks but they must be available, it's no good having a policy about providing a pumping room for lactating mamas if you don't actually allow them any time to pump. Amount of time allowed for a pumping break may vary between mamas. This should be negotiable.

Some employers allow breastfeeding mothers to have someone bring their children to work to feed them. I was advised recently that my work policy has changed regarding this and this can be allowed. I was told when my children were small that I was NOT to breastfeed on the premises by a senior member of staff. By this time I had already fed my son in the car outside. I never had to do this with my second son so it never came up. But glad to hear that this has now changed. This is very much preferable to pumping at work if it is possible, as it is much quicker than pumping, and allows mama and baby some time to reconnect during the working day!

 Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Nursing in Public: What Makes It Easier For Me?

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!
This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about nursing in public. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

Photo courtesy of user Something to See on Flickr.

My personal thoughts on breastfeeding in public are probably tied in with the sort of person that I am, and always have been. I've never been someone to really worry about what other people think of me. Once I had a baby, his needs came paramount and the delicate sensibilities of random strangers weren't really on my radar.

I do tend to wear breastfeeding friendly clothing to avoid showing off huge amounts of skin to the world, but that is more about making myself feel comfortable, for me I am not that bothered about showing a bit of boob but I'd rather not flash my stomach if I can help it.

Here in the UK a lot of people do not fully understand the law on breastfeeding in public. Some think that it only covers you for six months and after that you can be arrested for indecent exposure. This is not true. A woman with a baby over six months who is asked to stop breastfeeding in a public place can sue under sexual discrimination legislation. Under six months, she can sue under sexual discrimination or maternity legislation. Either way, she is protected.

I really think that when it comes to breastfeeding, there's no way to completely avoid offending ALL people. Some people will be offended no matter what you do. Recently we've had the big story on the Russ and Lisa Show, where apparently Lisa Rollins stated that she thinks breastfeeding should be classed as indecent exposure and criminalized, WHETHER YOU ACTUALLY SHOW ANY BREAST OR NOT. So she would be offended to see any breastfeeding around her, covered or uncovered.
A couple of weeks ago Someone posted a twitpic of a lady breastfeeding in a restaurant, wearing one of those huge tent-like breastfeeding covers, with some kind of derogatory comment about how gross it was.

Another person tweeted that they had gone round to visit someone in their house who then proceeded to breastfeed in front of them, which they found somehow rude. So, even if you stay at home to breastfeed your child, you still run the risk of offending someone who might just happen to come round!

Go to the toilet and breastfeed, and you run the risk of offending someone in there by spending too long in the loo while someone desperately needs to go. How many people who say "take it to the bathroom" would really be happy if they were busting to go but they had to wait for 30 minutes while someone breastfed their child in there?

And then there's the issue of bottles. Setting aside the fact that not all women CAN pump much at all, some babies won't take bottles, but you know that there are women out there who sneer at anyone feeding their baby with a bottle, regardless of what is inside it. You really can't win no matter what you do.

So, I propose this: We stop worrying about what other people think. Breastfeed as we feel comfortable, covered or not, wherever we want, in private or not. Pump and bottle feed if that's what you want to do, or have your baby feed from the source. The law is on your side, and you can't please everyone. So you might as well do what makes you, and your baby happy.

So to answer what makes it easy for me to nurse in public, I would say confidence in myself, and knowledge of local laws regarding breastfeeding.

 Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Rough day.

Today was the funeral for Finn. We didn't have a formal service, but wanted to do something plus I wanted a burial as cremation freaks me out a bit and I wanted a set place to visit him, place flowers etc. The hospital arranged everything, it was just DH and I plus my mum, the hospital chaplain was there and she said a prayer for Finn and for the whole family. I have never seen such a tiny coffin in my life. White, with his full name engraved on the top. We got a beautiful plot under a cherry tree.

We have to wait three months before we can put a headstone on, I intend to get one, and to put flowers on in November when he should have been born, and at his real birthday on July 2 next year.

I should go back to work next week. Not sure yet if I am ready, or not, but now that today is over which has been looming over me for the past week I hope I can start to look forward a little. I know it will hurt for a long time and we will never forget but have to keep a positive outlook, at least for our other two children, who have inevitably been affected.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Baby Friendly Community : What It Means To Me

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about baby friendly communities. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st! 

The Baby Friendly Initiative is a worldwide programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF. Community facilities can become accredited as "Baby Friendly" by adopting the Seven Point Plan for Sustaining Breastfeeding in the Community.

The Seven Point Plan covers many issues surrounding breastfeeding from staff training in breastfeeding inititation and continued/sustained breastfeeding, being welcoming towards breastfeeding families, not promoting bottle feeding, and giving out information about breastfeeding to pregnant women.

As a mother in the UK who is currently breastfeeding, we have some things going for us here in the fact that the UK abides by the WHO code. There are no formula samples or bags given to pregnant women in the hospitals here. In the hospital that I delivered, they go as far as not providing free formula to babies unless there is a medical indication. If the mother chooses before birth not to breastfeed, she has to bring her own formula to the hospital with her. There are formula ads on the TV and in magazines, but only for "follow on" formula, they do not advertise newborn formulas. You don't get handed coupons for formula at the checkout and there are no displays showing formula at reduced price. Breastfeeding in public is protected by law here. And yet, breastfeeding rates are still appallingly low. The last Infant Feeding Survey done in 2005 showed that only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months and 3 per cent at five months. Why?

In my opinion, the biggest problem we face here in the UK is breastfeeding support - it's simply not good enough. This article shows that still not enough hospitals are gaining Baby Friendly status.

I gave birth to both of my children in the same hospital. I was told that while there was a lactation consultant on the staff she was not there all the time, however the midwives and nurses in the Delivery Suite are trained in breastfeeding. I actually found them very good. With my first son, I had cracked and bleeding nipples stemming from some problems latching. I could get him on, but it would take me 15 minutes each time and it was a big source of frustration and tears as a hormonal new mama. The LC came around but at the time he was happily attached and nursing and she just took one look at us, said it all looked good and wandered off again. I accredit our breastfeeding success to a nursing auxiliary who was changing my bed as I tried to latch my son fruitlessly one morning. She got a pillow for me to lay him on so he was the right height to feed comfortably, and showed me how to guide his head properly to ensure he latched the right way. She also advised me to let my nipples air dry between feedings to aid healing. Almost right away this made the world of difference to us. By the time he was 10 days old we had things off pat. I never had to ring the breastfeeding support helpline number that I was given.

Things were rather different with my second son when he was born two years later, however. While everything was fine initially, none of the latch issues I had with his brother, he had a problem with his belly button becoming infected at 10 days old and had to take him back into hospital. There a nurse weighed him on a scale placed on a bed, proceeded to round down the weight and it appeared he had lost weight alarmingly. Born at 8lbs 4oz, he was 8lbs even at 5 days old, they said he now weighed 7lbs 14oz. Then a doctor came around, without even addressing the reason we were there (the belly button infection) and started saying things like many mothers do not make enough milk for their babies, if he needs to eat more often than every four hours then I wasn't producing enough for him, I needed to start supplementing with formula, etc. I argued back with her that my oldest fed every hour and gained perfectly well. They told me that I must feed my baby every three hours starting with breastfeeding followed by a top up of formula. (Recipe for supply failure, right?)

I went home with my confidence shaken despite everything I knew about breastfeeding and my experience, attempted to bottle feed my son with expressed milk which he refused point blank, he just wanted to feed at the source. The next day I rang the Central Delivery Suite and made a complaint about the way I was treated by the doctor. They were horrified at the advice I was given. I told them I was going to continue to nurse him on demand, but to make sure he didn't go more than two hours without a feed, I wasn't going to give any supplements. They agreed this was a good plan of action and arranged for a midwife to come around the next day to weigh my baby again at my house.

The midwife duly came around the next day, took one look at my baby and commented that he really didn't look like a baby that wasn't getting enough, then got out the scales in her bag, saying that she needed to find a spirit level surface to place them on to get an accurate reading. Alarm bells went off in my head as I remembered that the nurse the day before had put the scale ON THE BED which would be nowhere near level. He weighed over a full pound more than they had told me he was the day before, at 9lbs even.

Then at 5 weeks old, we went through a stage of him refusing the breast, or pulling off screaming at every feed. I rang the helpline, but this happened on a Bank Holiday weekend, so all I could do was leave a message and wait for a call back. I didn't get a callback for a full week after I initially rang. This is not good enough. Thankfully I had the internet, online forums where I got lots of supportive and helpful advice and figured out my problem was an extremely forceful letdown as his screaming would start just as letdown happened and was putting him off nursing at all. I used several techniques to combat this like nursing uphill, expressing before latching, etc.

So from my experience, the right things are being said and the theory is there regarding supporting breastfeeding. But while doctors are able to opt out of breastfeeding training and access to support helplines is patchy in places, we will continue to fall short.

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about baby friendly communities. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st! 


 Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

I Will Love You

This song makes me think of Finn. I've had it on repeat play ever since...

Fisher - "I Will Love You"
Album: True North

Til my body is dust
til my soul is no more
I will love you, love you

Til the sun starts to cry
and the moon turns to rust
I will love you, love you

But I need to know
will you stay for all time
forever and a day
Then I'll give my heart
'til the end of all time
forever and a day

And I need to know
will you stay for all time
forever and a day
Then I'll give my heart
'til the end of all time
forever and a day

'Til the storms fill my eyes
and we touch the last time
I will love you, love you

I will love you, love you....
I will love you, love you, love you...

Friday, 9 July 2010


The naivety is gone.

When I was younger I always thought that once you got pregnant, that was it, you would have a baby.

I was 25 when we started trying for baby #1. I wondered if it would be easy for us, whether it would take us a while to conceive. Well, we conceived the first month of properly trying. I couldn't believe we had been so lucky. Announced the pregnancy to the parents and everything. Then a week later, we were out in the pub, I went to the toilet and noticed I had started bleeding, bright red blood. An ultrasound a day later showed no baby, just some tissue "retained products of conception" they called it. After waiting it out a week or so and I didn't miscarry completely I had a D&C.

Fell pregnant again while on holiday in New York, this time I didn't realise what was going on but I had a mini period, that didn't amount to anything other than a day or 2 of brown spotting. Tested, positive. 2 days later I had a full on period, ultrasound this time showed nothing left.

We didn't plan to try again for a while, it was a rough patch in the marriage, then around Christmas I conceived again, this time I sat on my bum for the first three months, quit my job in Norwich involving travelling for a job closer to home even though it meant I would not get statutory maternity pay. Went to my ultrasound, perfectly healthy baby. Noah was born the following September.

I started to think that perhaps the miscarriages were a fluke and it wouldn't happen again. When Noah was around 18 months old we started talking about trying again. Again, fell pregnant the first month of trying. This time I got to the 8 week mark before the bleeding started. I miscarried at home and ultrasound showed there was nothing left. At this point I started to think maybe Noah was a fluke and we would not be able to carry another baby. Then I fell pregnant again the following May. Rested up the first three months. Then had the triple test at 16 weeks, which showed a high risk of Downs. The next 4 months I was a worrying mess, my OB got angry at me for refusing an amnio because I couldn't risk losing my baby. I argued with DH as he was of the opinion if this baby was Downs we should terminate. I was fiercely pro life at this point. However, Seamus was born the following February perfectly healthy.

I always knew I wanted three children, but DH was very fixed on just having the two, he found the newborn phase and lack of sleep difficult to cope with. We compromised by saying we would talk about it once Seamus was almost at school age, so this would be in 2011. However fate had other plans and just after we bought a new house, I found out I was pregnant again, we had been using the diaphragm but turns out the failure rate is fairly high even when inserted properly and when using spermicide..

By this time I had got quite accustomed to the thought of having 2 boys, Seamus was still not sleeping great due to his eczema, and I admit that I was not entirely happy about being pregnant again. Still I worried about miscarrying but got past the first few weeks and saw our baby at the `12 week scan. Having only ever got to this point with a healthy baby before, honestly it did not occur to me that anything might happen. I refused the triple test this time and the nuchal scan after our experience with Seamus. DH and I got used to the idea of having another baby and started to get excited. The 20 week scan loomed and I started to wonder.. boy or girl? Having 2 boys already I was really hung up on the thought of having a girl this time. We had names all chosen and I felt I just *knew* this was going to be a girl, to the point I referred to "her" by her name. The boys both went on and on about having a sister. At the back of my mind I thought "It doesn't matter, as long as I have a healthy baby..." but still I was so focused on finding out the sex, and I worried, if I was to have another boy, would I be disappointed??

When I saw my baby on the scan though and they said it was a boy those thoughts quickly evaporated. As I looked at his face, all his parts, I loved my baby.

Then the technician stopped the scan and said those immortal words, "I'm here to look for any unusual features that might indicate a problem in your baby. And I'm afraid to tell you that there appears to be a problem with the heart."

My world came crashing down.

I was so fixated on one stupid, insignificant detail about my baby. I feel so guilty for that.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The end of the road.

Before I say anything else I want to say that I am going to hide the comments in "the other thread". It is painful for me to read them at this stage. I am not going to delete any, I do not agree with censorship, and I will not go to moderated comments unless I really have to. But please, think before you comment.
I have had several DMs from people saying my being open and public about my experience has helped them and others. Much as I have felt at times that it was a bad thing to do, maybe in some small way it is worth it. I initially told about Finn's condition because I wanted input and opinions. I got 5 comments on my original post asking for that, however when I blogged saying that we planned to terminate I got 35 (on the blog alone) I had people looking me up and sending me messages on facebook. I found this rather disturbing and set my profile to private.

I want to blog about this now because talking about it is cathartic to me, working through my feelings, ranting on twitter and whatnot. I also want to respond to some of the things that have been said. I am glad that I did not step away and end up deleting my account. We've had so much support from friends and it all matters so much to us.

I think that when I thought about termination of pregnancy before this I thought of a surgical termination. I had more than one DM telling me that my child would feel the pain of the surgery with the procedure. In fact at the stage of gestation I was at, 21 weeks, the only way the NHS will do it is via induction of labour. I have read on abortion support sites that some countries like the US will do a D&E on women having later term abortions up to a point. This would not have been an option for us as we wanted to meet our little man. Essentially it was the same as us opting for the "comfort care" choice (ie giving birth and letting nature take its course) except rather than carrying to term, we chose to induce labour early rather than prolonging the painful situation for a further 4.5 months.

A major what if for me was - what if we had never found out about his condition and he had been born like this with no prior knowledge. From the information that I have been given by the cardiac team at GOSH, babies like this diagnosed at 20 weeks do not suddenly "get better". Sometimes the development of the heart leads to more complications later down the road. But they could tell me with certainty that his condition would not have righted itself. It is however quite possible that further developments could occur leading to his condition no longer being viable for treatment. When we discussed the option of "comfort care" (ie delivering at full term, but opting not to treat but letting him die of the condition) we were told many parents do then opt to treat because once they have met their baby they do not want to withhold treatment. I never considered this as an option because if we were to carry him to term I would want to give him a chance. Either we end it early or we go the surgery route. I see little point in the comfort care choice and would worry that he would suffer.

They assured me that in this case he would not, he would just become sleepier and sleepier until dying from the gradual shut down of blood flow to his body. We would have the option of delivering at another venue OTHER than Norfolk and Norwich and subsequent transfer to GOSH if we wanted to go this route but definitely did not want to go through the surgery. In other words, if he was delivered anywhere BUT Norfolk and Norwich/GOSH it would be pretty certain that my son would die. We had planned a homebirth. Chance are as I see it that had we not known about his condition, my son would have been born at home, become sleepy and I may have even thought I had hit the jackpot and got a sleeper, only to find him dead in his cot a day or so later. Imagine then the investigations, guilt and horror that would ensue. No, I am very thankful that ultrasound is available to diagnose babies like this enabling their parents to make a choice.

Induction started at 11am and he was born sleeping at 20.20pm. We held him, kissed him, he was baptised and we got to say goodbye. They took him away after a couple of hours, dressed him in a blue suit and blanket and took photos, hand and footprints. I received those today in a little box. I have not looked inside yet as it is all too fresh and raw. The hospital are to arrange a funeral for Finn which we will attend, his body will be buried at a local cemetery so we can put flowers on and visit him. This was really important to me as my mum and sister both lost babies and never knew what happened to their babies remains. Honestly I cannot fault the NHS for what they have done for us, they have been compassionate and caring, respecting our wishes as Finn's parents right up to the very end.

I did feel upon looking at him that we had done the right thing for him. I know many will disagree and that is their right but essentially we did this to avoid all the pain and suffering he would have experienced. Putting a tiny one through three open heart surgeries and all that entails, with a high risk for complications and death anyway, and also the impact on our other children would have been huge. I am sure that we will have regrets and "what-ifs" but as our OB said... we made the right decision based upon the information we had and our personal situation at the time. Now comes the slow road to emotional recovery for all of us.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

We chose

We have chosen to terminate the pregnancy. And this is going to be the hardest thing either of us have ever done.

The main reason for me is that giving birth to Finn and having the surgery would mean being away from my other children and especially Seamus, who is three and a half and has never had a night without his mama. He wants me and only me at night if he wakes or if he is upset. He would think that I had abandoned him and I think it might damage our relationship severely. We have told Noah who is almost six and he I think to some degree understands. Seamus' mind is full of bubba, lightsabers and apples.... He will not comprehend what is going on at all.

I feel like I am being forced to choose between my children. Between the one wiggling in my tummy and the two breathing children on the outside.

I also have to consider though what life would be like for Finn. Open heart surgery is a huge thing, to undertake and to recover from. Rather than spending his first weeks of life in my arms nursing and being cuddled, he would spend it mostly unconscious hooked up to machines. Even if he survived the surgeries, his quality of life would not be great. He would need oxygen and regular monitoring. He would tire easily - the specialist told us 10 minute bursts of exercise - whilst watching his brothers play unrestricted. And long term we do not even know if he would survive childhood.

I think that if I did not have two other children to think about or if the likely outcome was better from the surgery our decision would be different. And yet I am still wavering. I lay here feeling Finn move and kick and feel like a terrible mother for considering this. I always said that I would not have a termination unless my life was threatened, or my child had no chance of survival. But you know what? When you're in these shoes, and have to make that decision, the one I never thought I would have to make, there is so much more to consider. It is impossibly hard. And everyones personal and family circumstances are different.

Finn will always be part of our family and we will never forget him.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, 25 June 2010

Baby Finn

I wrote a big post and the BlogPress crashed. Let's see if I actually get to post it this time.

We're on the train home. I got bumped into first class but dh is still in economy. In some ways this is good as it gives me some time to think.

Baby Finn has a very serious heart condition. He has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means that the left side of his heart that usually does a lot of work in pumping blood to the body is underdeveloped. While he is in utero the system he has works okay because the fetal circulation ensures blood can get to all the body parts. There is an extra little opening that closes within the first couple of days after birth. Once this closes Finn would become very ill as his heart would no longer be pumping blood to the body. They can give medication to keep this open temporarily but he would basically need open heart surgery within days of life. This would involve a 3-4 week stay at GOSH intensive care. This is to buy time, he would then need 2 further operations one at 4 months and another at 2-3 years. If he gets through all 3 (chance of around 60%) Finn would be able to live a relatively normal childhood and be able to go to school but would tire easily. Long term prognosis is unknown past childhood/adolescence as the surgery involved (Norwood procedure) has only been around since the 1990s. It is possible at some point he may need a heart transplant.

So we have 3 options. Continue with the pregnancy and go the surgery route. (There is a chance further complications may arise later in the pregnancy making surgery non viable. But right now he appears a good candidate.) 2nd is continue with the pregnancy but let nature take it's course. Finn will not survive more than a few days this way. Or we decide this is too much strain on our family and opt to terminate the pregnancy within the next week or so. We have not decided which route we will go down for sure. I want to give Finn the best chance I can at life but I am also worried about the impact on my other children. So we have lots of soul searching to do.

We really appreciate all the love and support we have been given xxx

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 26 April 2010

What #i2 often forgets about...

During my active time as part of the intactivist community, I've seen many campaigns regarding female genital mutilation, there are many organisations currently working towards ridding the world of this practice. Similarly there are groups working towards ending male genital mutilation, more commonly known as male circumcision. I posted a link to this blog on Twitter earlier I had come across, and had it rightfully pointed out to me that this article like so many others forgets to talk about intersex surgeries. I do think this is important to talk about.

As intactivists, many of us focus on INDIVIDUAL CHOICE. Surgeries on infants and children are performed with the justification that their parents chose it for them, and that it is for some reason important for their genitals to look a certain way to "fit in" with the rest of society. For males, in a country like the US the perception is that it is the norm and a male who is not genitally altered will be teased, will not be able to find a sexual partner, and will experience physical problems like infections. In countries that practice female circumcision or FGM similar reasons are given for cutting infants and young girls.

What tends to be overlooked is that circumcision is not the only type of genital cutting that damages individuals and is often done without their consent by medical professionals before they are old enough to consent.
To be intersex essentially means that an individual has intermediate or atypical combination of physical features that usually differentiate between female or male. It is a normal variation present in humans. There are currently approximately 30,000 intersex people living in Britain, affecting approximately 1 in 2,000 live births. However, the recommendation of many doctors to parents of an intersex infant is to surgically alter the child to more match one sex or the other, on the grounds that later in life they may be stigmatised by not looking the way society says they should. (Sound familiar, intactivists?)

Many subscribe to the System of Belief theory which states that there are only females and males, only men and women, that all men have the XY karyotype, that all women have the XX karyotype, and that nothing else exists outside, despite human biology contradicting this.

Just as with circumcision, sometimes the baby grows up and later regrets the decision that was made for them to assign them to one gender or another. For example Adele Addams was assigned male at birth, due to Kleinfelter's Syndrome where the individual has an XXY chromosomal configuration. She lived as a gay man for several years, and now identifies as a female, eventually undergoing surgery under the NHS. Addams moved onto create Project Silverfish, a support service for intersex and transgender people, describing them as “the most marginalised minority community in London”

The person that really opened my eyes to the issues intersex people face was Penny Sautereau-Fife, whose blog is here. Born with ambiguous genitalia, namely an underdeveloped vaginal opening within a small scrotum, which was surgically cauterized and her family advised to raise her as a male. This felt wrong to Penny for many years and eventually discovered through some medical testing that she was in fact biologically female, possessing a uterus and an ovary but also a penis and a testicle. She has monthly periods but due to having no vaginal opening the blood has nowhere to go which causes her pain every month. Unfortunately for Penny she has a progressive genetic blood disorder which makes it life threatening to have further genital surgery to relieve this. Had she discovered her intersex status as little as 5 years earlier she could have been safely operated on but by this time it was too late for her to be able to survive the surgery.

A British study of intersex people who electively chose to have surgery to "correct" their condition as adults showed a large majority were unhappy with the results, with many experiencing diminished sexual response and physical pain. I can only imagine how much worse that would feel if the surgery were forced upon them when they were too young to consent to it.

What are the risks and consequences of intersex surgery? It is performed essentially for social reasons, yet has measurable drawbacks and risks. In many cases it leads to infertility where gonads are removed, and in 20-30% of cases sexual sensation is diminished. I think the reason people seem to think this is justified with intersex individuals is that it is seen as a birth defect, a disorder. Yet to think this way is to erase the identity of people that are happy with their status and bodies, and do not wish to conform with a forced gender binary. The OII (Organisation Intersex International) in their policy statement on genital cutting points out that there is no evidence that being intersex has any negative effect on quality of life or that surgery is any kind of solution to this. It is true that there are health risks for a small percentage of intersex people (usually mentioned is the risk of future cancer if internal testes are left inside the body) but still the vast majority of surgeries are performed for no other reason than social conformity. In the case of internal testes testing can be done later in life and surgery carried out only when necessary or when the patient chooses.

My own thoughts are that as intactivists, our focus should be on stopping ALL genital cutting of non consenting individuals where there is no medical need. Fitting in with society is NOT a medical or legitimate need. Let people decide when they are old enough how they want their genitals to look and function. To quote the OII:

Because infants and children are too young to assert their autonomy, they should not be subjected to unnecessary surgeries which may irrevocably harm them, and which they may not have chosen as adults. We recognise that cases requiring medical treatment for the maintenance of health or preservation of life should be managed as with any other situation where a child needs treatment.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

To @MrStillwater - regarding circumcision and abortion.

I wanted to put this into a blog post because there is way too much here to put in a tweet or two.

But this is something that regularly comes up when I or others talk about circumcision. We get asked if we are pro life or pro choice, and somebody always says "if you are pro choice for abortion, how can you be against circumcision?"

Well, it's simple, to me.

Had a mini-tweet conversation with @johnhalton regarding religious circumcision and where I stand on that. As I explained to him, while I am against circumcision, I do not think it is necessary to ban it entirely. I think that the system we have here in the UK, where the NHS does not fund circumcision for medical reasons, and the fact that doctors are reasonably educated generally about foreskins and do not in most cases jump to circumcision at the slightest hint of a problem, is enough to keep circumcision to a reasonable level. Banning it entirely would cause people to go to backstreet circumcisionists and children whose parents chose it would be at a higher risk of botched operations and long term complications.

I'd like to see it be eradicated entirely, as I do ultimately think circumcision of non consenting infants is wrong. But I do not see that happening and especially in America where it is so entrenched in society.

Similarly, with abortion. I do not like abortion. I was pro-life for a long, long time, because I felt that every person, and I do see a fetus as a person, deserves life. Regardless of how they came into the world, and regardless of if they have a disability. BUT - the Baby P case hit headlines here in the UK, and I realised that if we had less abortions, there would be a LOT more abused, unwanted, neglected children out there. I don't have to go into detail about what happened to Baby P but I really think a child is better off aborted than subject to the kind of living hell that child and many others are put through every day.

It goes without saying I think as well that if you criminalise abortion, you remove a woman's right to decide about the fate of her own body, as well as her fetus'. And as with circumcision, you force women to go to backstreet abortionists which as we know from history is very dangerous to their health.

Now, let's compare this to circumcision. Circumcision ONLY affects the person whose body the penis belongs to. It does not affect the parents, or anybody else in the family. So in this case, it seems quite clear who the decision on whether or not cosmetic alteration should take place on said body. With abortion - we can't just consider the fetus, but we also have to consider the woman's physical, mental and emotional health.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Jan Moir does it again

I came across this piece of hate-filled garbage on the Mail Online website today. Some may remember Jan Moir from the national outrage over her piece insinuating Stephen Gately died because he was gay. Well, this time the target of her drivel is breastfeeding mothers.

Where to even start with this?

She's referring to an incident that happened in East Dulwich where a shop manager, Steve Symonds of Mind charity shop apparently spied on a woman in a changing room, ordered here to leave, before spraying her with air freshener saying "Your breastmilk stinks."

Moir admits that this is not a "diplomatic" way to handle this "small incident". She seems to be entirely ignorant of what the law says about breastfeeding in public. Shall we talk about that for a moment?

What Mr Symonds did here is against the 1975 Sexual Discrimination Act, which created legal protection for a woman under the provision of goods, services and facilities section. This covers breastfeeding a child of any age and means that she cannot be discriminated against for breastfeeding in a place such as a shop.

There is some confusion over the 2008 amendment to the SDA which specifically gives additional protection under the grounds of maternity as well as sexual discrimination for babies under the age of 26 weeks.

For her part, Mrs Baker - true to breast-feeding mummy form - was 'amazingly insulted' to be told that her milk was odiferous and challenged the manager for looking into the cubicle in the first place. Now, she wants Mind to announce a clear policy allowing breast-feeding and guaranteeing privacy behind curtains.

Really. What self-righteous humbug. Why should Mind do anything of the sort?

Well, actually, under the law, it is illegal for Mind to do otherwise. In fact they do not need a specific policy "allowing" breastfeeding because women are already protected by the SDA. Mr Symonds did not have the right to do as he did. And does Moir really think it is by any means okay for a man to spy on a woman in a changing room?

Especially as it seems possible that she snuck into Mind with the express intention of feeding her baby there.

Really Moir, we know this how? This is a random assumption with zero basis in fact. Baker states in her account quite clearly that she was trying on clothes, that there was another changing room available, and there was only one other customer in the shop. I'm really not seeing the problem here.

Power to Mind, though, as their chief executive has written to Ms Baker apologising and has ordered an investigation.

Why, breast-feeding is the most natural and beautiful thing in the world, they cry. Well, so is urinating, but no one insists on doing that wherever and whenever the need takes their fancy. Not outside France, at any rate

Really, Moir. If you don't know the difference between eating and urinating I'm never going to eat at your house. Not that I'd want to, frankly.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

High maternal androgen levels while pregnant negatively associated with breastfeeding

That was the finding of a recent study that has been reported by the media in recent days.

The NHS have provided some interesting information about the research itself. Several questions came to mind whilst reading all of this.

Firstly, the study found that women who do not breastfeed were more likely to have heightened androgen levels. It has been suggested this could be because testosterone inhibits milk production, and women who have higher levels may have less desire to breastfeed in the first place. I find this extremely simplistic. Norway is a country where 99% of women initiate breastfeeding, so culturally things are different there to the UK or the US, where they are many, many reasons why a woman may choose not to breastfeed, including lack of support from family, friends or health professionals, bad advice given, social reasons, unsupportive employer/little to no maternity leave, history of sexual assault or abuse, etc.
It also does not take into consideration mothers that have intense struggles with breastfeeding yet doggedly persevere with it.

To really examine whether poorer health among formula fed infants is due to the formula or higher levels of androgens in the mother's body before birth, they needed to compare health outcomes between babies whose mothers that formula fed because of medical inability to breastfeed with women that formula fed by choice or for reasons such as work constraints and sabotage that would have otherwise been able to successfully breastfeed.

Secondly, I feel this research could be very useful in potentially identifying potential breastfeeding issues pre-birth by testing hormone levels and then offering them additional support and help to enable them to breastfeed. To make the jump to "Formula milk is as good as breastmilk" is vastly irresponsible and would do mothers and babies a disservice.