Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blocking out the noise

As ashamed I am to admit this, when my daughter was first born, I somehow got it in to my head that babies only need to feed every four hours. I think I picked this up from a well-meaning friend who was adamant this was the case, on the basis of her nieces and nephews... who were bottle fed.

For some reason, this tiny nugget of technically correct but actually irrelevant information (as I was breastfeeding) got lodged in my head and I spent the first few days of my daughter's life trying to stretch out the time between feeds to four hours.

This happened five years ago and those first weeks were all a blur so, to be honest, I don't think I got very far with this project and it did not last very long. My baby was hungry a lot more often than every four hours and, when I mentioned this to my Maternal and Child Health Care nurse during our first appointment, she looked at me like I was insane and instructed me to feed my baby when she was hungry. So I did.

And as I said, I don't think I stuck to this agenda for very long, so its impact on my daughter's health was probably quite minimal. That said, I had significant problems with my milk supply, to the extent that I was on medication for a year to build it up so that my daughter would start gaining weight. I also started her on solids at four months but she remained in the fifteenth percentile for her weight for the first two years of her life.

I still get anxious on the rare occasions when she doesn't each much.

I'm not saying any of this to blame my well-meaning friend. I know for a fact she was only sharing her knowledge out of love and concern, and has only ever been supportive.

And I have a doctorate. It's not like I'm dim.

But GEEZ am I impressionable, sometimes downright suggestible, when it comes to other people's advice/opinions/experiences!

My Chinese Medicine Practitioner has three children aged 24, 16 and five. When the eldest was born, she was instructed to place her baby to sleep on his tummy, to minimise the risk of cot death. When the second was born, she was instructed to place her baby to sleep on her side, so to minimise the risk of cot death. When the third was born, she was instructed to place her baby to sleep on his back, to minimise the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Spend five nights on a maternity ward and you will see that it does not take nineteen years for opinions to change. Midwives will discount information imparted by lactation consultants on the basis that they "haven't been in the job very long". Lactation consultants will retort that Division Two nurses have no place giving breastfeeding advice. They will communicate none of this to each other, mind you. They will just lob it at you, along with a whole raft of World Health Organisation charts. Add sleep deprivation, recovery from major surgery and raging hormones into the mix and you may just find yourself laughing inanely at the A4 signs tacked to the wall with slogans such as "Trust your maternal instincts!".

One of the reasons I was delighted to finish work was the freedom from the various well-meaning comments and questions I'd field from colleagues, acquaintances and complete strangers on public transport. Yes, I was quite aware that my tummy was massive, thank you very much. And, no, I was not looking forward to the sweltering Summer.

These days, I find myself dreading trips to the grocery store, as well as school drop-off and pick-up. Wow! Yes! I am still pregnant! No, it's not really a question of "any minute now". And yes, I am aware that my tummy has "dropped". And yes, every person I meet tells me that "the second one always arrives early". Wow, do you really think I was overly optimistic scheduling my daughter's birthday party two weeks before my due date? No, I don't really want to hear how early your babies arrived.

I wish I could say that I've been smiling and nodding and let it all slide off me, as if I were wearing a teflon coat. The truth is, it's gotten under my skin. And is a huge part of the reason why I wish I didn't have to see anyone, day in, day out.

An additional scan and a visit to my Obstetrician on Monday confirmed that my baby is a healthy, normal size (not that dissimilar to my daughter) and that there is nothing to suggest that he will arrive early. We had a gentle but frank discussion and we have agreed on a way forward and that's nobody's business but ours. After the baby is born, all going well, I'll be transferred to a very swish hotel with which my hospital has an arrangement... thereby avoiding the breastfeeding/weight chart mafia and random well-meaning visits from colleagues from the university where I work (which is located right over the road).

As with last time, I will respectfully but strongly suggest that all but immediate family reserve visits for when we are home and settled.

In the meantime, I'm going to work a little harder at blocking out the noise.


  1. People are excited for you. A baby coming into this world is such a miracle - they just want to be a small part of it. They just want to connect with you in some small way so that they too are a part of that miracle. "it takes a village" means that its noisy - and chaotic - but there are some great bits too.

    Best of luck with it all...

    ... and to add my bit to the noise - baby #4 arrived last year - late & my biggest baby ever (4.4kg). He was supposed to be early and a runt... There are somethings we just can't control :)

  2. Glad to see your continued practice of self care - you certainly have the right to do what you need to in order to keep the 'extra noise' to a minimum if that is what you need. Good luck in the weeks ahead!!