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Diary of an Exclusive Pumper #1....International Day of the Midwife 05.07.21

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

When I saw Lansinoh running a competition which would see one midwife having a bunch of flowers sent to them, I clicked right away. I thought of my midwife immediately and how I felt so grateful to have had her. She was a huge support for me in a year where support was so hard to find. Thinking about it, a lot of the midwives I met surrounding my birth had some amazing acts of kindness which can't go unsaid on International Midwife Day. But yes, I was due in Summer of 2020. I was a lockdown mum. Unknowingly back when I found out I was having a baby covid wasn't even a word in my vocabulary. When I found out I was pregnant all I did was sit on the side of the bath and just kept looking down at the line that said I was pregnant and couldn't stop going ohmygoshohmygosh. I was in disbelief that I was becoming a mum. Fast forward a few months and I'm at my first midwife appointment, getting lots of bloods done and answering a lot of questions. The next time I saw my midwife was at 16 weeks. We'd done all the paperwork and tests and were checking my tummy. I had noticed a bump near my pubic area and was a bit anxious about it. My midwife reassured me that this was my baby. She also went to hear the heartbeat as we could see where the baby was so clearly. That's where she shared a moment with me, hearing the babys heart beat together. It was especially great as she'd warned me it's not uncommon to not be able to hear it as such an early stage. As my pregnancy progressed, covid rules tightened and some of my appointments got cancelled, instead we'd have a phone call together or I'd be able to message a quick question. Nearing the end of my pregnancy when booking my birth plans I was allowed in person appointments again and am very grateful for them as it was so reassuring having someone with a wealth of experiences tell you about different birth settings. It was hugely empowering having someone tell you about their experience as a midwife on the homebirthing team as well as hospital based birthing. No question was silly. No opinion was wrong. I'm hugely grateful for the dialog we had in person and on the phone. I respected how busy she was so I didn't ever expect quick replies but when they'd arrive they were always so warm. I felt respected. I wasn't ignored when I said I felt my baby was going to come early or when I shared I'd learnt my mother had fast labours. My intuition wasn't underestimates but neither did I underestimate her experience.

"She told me my bump was small and wasn't measuring for the weeks it should be"

She told me my bump was small and wasn't measuring for the weeks it should be. I think if anyone else had said that news, I would have got really worried. I just asked if I could have a scan that day to ensure I didn't get stressed and that's what we did. There was a week where my midwife received 3 updates via voicemail + brief texts. It started on the Monday evening, we'd had our 36 week appointment in the morning but I'd already been in touch a few hours later to let her know I'd had my 'show' the next morning, she replied to let me know that meant all was well and baby could be on their way in a couple of weeks. The next message was at dinner time later that day, to say my waters had broken. And on the Wednesday morning, I said how baby had arrived by 10pm. When I read the update messages now, I can feel how calm I was. Each update, I didn't feel panicked and neither was she. I believe she knew that I was okay. She got my energy. I couldn't have asked for better.

"Whilst in hospital, we found out our little boy had been born with bilateral congenital cataracts..."

Whilst in hospital, we found out our little boy had been born with bilateral congenital cateracts. It was difficult news as it was something I'd been previously told I couldn't pass down. Science has since developed it's understanding and now says different but I didn't know this. I was in shock. But the doctors and midwives in the postnatal ward were supportive and caring and helped when they could. One even sat with me, whilst the doctors told me the news. Having someone there was all I wanted. It was a small act but it helped a lot. We were in hospital for 4 days. It felt like a different life in there. My just about prem baby seemed to be too small to latch. He didn't seem to get it. He'd lose interest very quickly meaning he wasn't getting enough. He lost too much weight and so I was introduced to a pump. The midwife on duty wanted my milk to come in. She said it would help it come quicker and if it came quicker, baby might be more interested in latching. I was pumping for 15 mins, each side every 3 hours. It felt overwhelming to do this so often one hand on my boob and one hand on my baby with the addition of pain. I remember there was one night I felt exhausted, my baby kept crying and I'd had no sleep because of pain and constant medical visitors in relation to my sons eyes. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. A midwife took my baby for a cuddle so I could sleep. It was such a small act by them but it helped me so much. I was so grateful for it.

"During the covid times, midwives, maternity care assistants and any health care professionals were replacement for our partners, our families and our friends..."

During the covid times, midwives, maternity care assistants and any health care professionals were replacement for our partners, our families and our friends. The fellow 3 mums surrounding my cubicle had no one, just like I didn't. The interactions we had with the care team was the only interactions we'd have all day. That's a huge responsibility to have. Not only are they responsible for mother's physical health but mental health too. One midwife told me that she hated the hospital pumps. I didn't really know what she meant at the time. I'd just seen one for first time and just assumed she meant how ugly they were. Another told me to put it up to 10 (which i did and nearly cried). I quickly ignored that advice and went back down to a comfy level. Someone told me that it was okay to have an empty bottle at the end of the session. I'm glad she said that because it helped when that did happen. When I came home, I didn't have anything other than a manual pump. A fast Amazon purchase meant I went for a Medela Swing. A good pump but in hindsight not suitable for exclusive pumpers. I've burnt out 2 in 8 months! I wish there had been more help with this, no one told me you could hire one, no one told me about hygiene or pump bras. I was clueless. I have since created Little Pumpling to combat this. Future pumpers need not be clueless. Email me for early access to the EP workshop. The news of my son's diagnosis seemed to have travelled to the community midwife team as we had someone visit the next day. We saw another midwife for a weight check a few days later. When my child was a week old, he was weighed again and I really clearly remember the lady saying "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it" Brilliant - some support for pumping :) The electronic pump had arrived at this point, I thought I was learning what to do but the phonecall with my midwife helped me even more. She guided me on ways to try breastfeeding but she knew that pumping was working so spoke through some tips to try. She advised to:

  • Watch baby drinking a bottle of your expressed milk whilst pumping

  • Pumping duration increase from 15mins - 20mins

  • Don't watch the bottles filling to ease stress

  • Don't be disheartened if there isn't anything at the end of a session - it's normal

  • Milk should slowly increase weekly not day by day.

It all helped me so much when I was so new to what was going on. She understood and didn't make me feel silly. I felt really silly because I'd been pumping a bottle then feeding which was making the newborn routine really tiresome! Her suggested way cut out about half an hour which at midnight and 3am was extra time asleep and that's all we wanted as a family! Another valuable piece of advice was from another visitor - I can't remember what their role was but they'd completed the heel test. She told me about the 6 6 6 rule for breast milk storage. Six hours at room temp, 6 days in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer. The post-natal experience ended on a high. I was able to have a visit by my midwife. She was able to see us which was wonderful after the rollercoaster we'd experienced. She supported my continued efforts to pump whilst also maintaining her view to try nursing. It was a supportive tone which was so nice to have. She respected that our little boy struggled with the traditional method but was enjoying his milk via bottle. We planned to discharge from her care on our due date. A whole 3 weeks after he was born, 10 days after he had regained his birth weight and a week after his visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital. We did all the discharge checks and everything seemed fine. It felt like a huge journey together and it felt like an end of chapter had been reached. I wanted to hug her goodbye but we were definitely not allowed to do that! I hope you can see that my experience hasn't been all sweetness and light but there have been bits along the way which have made the struggles easier to deal with. I did not feel a great deal of care from every health professional I met but some really stood out. The midwives in the postnatal ward did their best with busy schedules and covid rules. The particular acts of kindness which stand out to me are the introduction to pumping and standing by my side when my baby was diagnosed BCC. My community midwife was amazing. She made me feel no question was silly, she visited me after our eventful birth and supported my pumping with sound advice. All I wish was that post natal care extended further than a few weeks. We are not checked upon after then and who knows what's going on post-op/post-birth. I think it'd reassure a lot of people and eases worries. That's not midwives though. I know that. I hope you enjoyed this first entry of 'diary of an exclusive pumper' inspired by international midwifery day.

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Keep going pumpers 💜

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