Knowledge is power. Francis Bacon
When I was in primary school we had notebooks with that quote and it always stuck in my head. I never really processed it but it did stick in my mind. Today it is such a strong and meaningful statement to me. I am going through being a second time mom to a newborn and the difference between who I was with my first born and who I am now is night and day. Completely two different people.
You see the thing is, I was going through a lot with my first pregnancy. I was trying to get my first ever driver’s license. If you live in South Africa you know how cumbersome and stressful the process is. I did get it, at 8 months pregnant and finally got my first car! Yay! It was late though, I mean I was 28 years old at the time. My first daughter was unplanned, but my hubby and I knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. So in addition to the license hustle my husband and I decided to get married. This meant a trip to Zambia to tell the folks. We did lobola and had a little marriage ceremony in my sister’s garden. That year, we also moved to our first house together. We literally moved when my daughter was about 10 days old. This was a LOT of change for someone going through their first ever parenting experience.
I really didn’t have time to read up on what to expect and sadly I had never been exposed to little babies. So I went into motherhood completely blind and naive. I also went into it completely overwhelmed by all the change taking place in my life. My labour experience with my second baby, which I will share one day (you have to look out for this because I nearly died twice!), was very different in contrast to my first one. And I thought to myself that I had to share it, because Knowledge Is Power.
The first time I gave birth, I had no idea what pain to expect. I had to go for a natural birth due to a condition I have called ITP, read more here. I also couldn’t have an epidural so I had to rely on Pethadene which really didn’t seem to kill the pain, but rather worked as a sedative to put me into a dreamy state and calm me down. It just didn’t work. I was a crazy screaming woman who thought each contraction was going to kill me. I had no clue about breathing techniques and how to manage the pain. This made the labour duration much longer and painful. I came out of it extremely groggy and incapable of even connecting with my newborn baby. This, and her jaundice, affected our latching which resulted in breastfeeding issues.
This time around I went into labour with a calm and ready mindset. My attitude was mind over matter, I told myself to focus on the end goal with each contraction. And I did. With each deep breath I took, I meditated on the baby I was about to meet. I constantly told myself that I could do it. Funny enough I also used it as a time to talk to God. I focused on taking deep long breaths instead of focusing the pounding contraction pains. I pushed this baby out with more composure than the first all because I knew what to expect. Knowledge really is Power.
With my first child I really tried to breastfeed and the harder I tried the more impossible it became. I was heavily depressed during my baby’s first weeks due to this. I eventually gave up with the conclusion that I had a low milk supply and that I couldn’t breastfeed. Read more of that story here.
This time around I decided to take a more focused and informed approach to feeding. I read up on breastfeeding basics. I spoke to different women who had breastfed. I also mentally prepared myself to be patient and kind with myself during the process and to not let it stress me and baby. Something I failed to do the first time. At one point I thought I would never breastfeed but here I am now, blogging after a feed at 3.19am.
My aunt who is a paeditrician told me the first time I tried that all women can establish a milk supply unless there is a medical reason affecting them. She asked me what I thought happened to women in rural areas who have no access to formula. I was very defensive then and felt that she dismissed my reasons for not being able to breastfeed. I now get what she meant.
With my first daughter I saw a lactation consultant who charged me an arm and a leg. We only had one session though, because I realised it was going to be an expensive journey to take. I paid R 2300 for a consultation and to hire her breast pump for a few days and this was in 2014. This time around I was lucky to get help from an amazing nurse called Sister Dee. She was helping us with a bilibed for my daughters jaundice and lucky enough she also did consultations on breast feeding. This was all covered by my Discovery medical aid. I followed her steps and my breastfeeding dream was achieved! This is a huge milestone for me. We are obviously still establishing the whole breastfeeding routine but at least I have the hang of it.
In addition to the knowledge and support I got this time, I also have to attribute my success this time around to my mindset. Taking it easy, remembering that it can be a slow process and not being so overly stressed along the way. With that said I still get bad nights of feeding and low moments but that is expected.
These two milestones, giving birth and breastfeeding, have been a lot easier with baby number two because I went into it knowing what to expect. There is so much literature available online and in books these days. However, sometimes it can be overwhelming or the information conflicting.
My advice is:
- Read up on the basics of child birth and breastfeeding.
- Attend an antenatal class with your partner and ask as many questions as you have.
- Speak to people you know and trust on what they would advise or have experienced.
- Carefully select who you want with you in the delivery room when you are giving birth. It may be a doula or a close family member or friend. Someone calm yet firm who can help you through the moments of pain. Someone who knows your birthing plan but you trust enough to support you when the plan has to change.
- Actively look for help in hospital from the nurses when breastfeeding for the first time. When you leave hospital if you still feel that the feeding is not working well go to a baby wellness clinic or contact your obstetrician.
- Ensure you listen to your baby and follow her cues. Trust your maternal instinct.
- Be easy on yourself when you feel like nothing is going right and you are messing up. It’s normal. Especially when it is your first time. Sometimes a glass of wine can take the edge of and help you relax. Rescue remedy or Calmettes are also good to take in the early days to just put you at ease in the early days when you might feel overwhelmed.
- Cry when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t try hold it together all the time.
- Lastly make sure you have people to lean on, vent to, get advice or actual help from. Never underestimate the power of a support system.
- Educate yourself. Knowledge is power.
You are going to do great, your best is always enough.