Mummy blogger @ebonycurtis_ had her first baby at only 16. Now at 22 she’s pregnant with her third (it’s a girl!) and is planning on trying to breastfeed for longer than she did with her first two. We asked her to share her story for our blog to help make other mums aware of the importance of education in breastfeeding and the importance of following your own intuition.
My breastfeeding journey started when I was only 16-years-old, I was so young and not as educated as I am now about the benefits of breastfeeding. I wouldn’t say I failed in my breastfeeding journey, but I look back now and realise all the influences that led to it being cut short.
After a 29-hour labour and a surgery to repair a significant tear, I finally held my daughter in my arms after six hours of being separated. The nurses had previously syringed colostrum out of my breasts to make sure that she would have something whilst I was in surgery but looking back I so wished they had immediately placed her on my chest and allowed her to be with me while I waited (hours) to be taken into surgery. If these were the circumstances now I would have spoken up and told them that she was coming with me. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to survive, I remember turning to the nurse in the waiting bay and asking her ‘Am I going to die?’. I thought I was losing too much blood, in reality, I was fine, but this was such a traumatic birthing experience.
When I finally held her, it was magical, but breastfeeding was anything but that! I had so much discomfort with trying to get her to latch, after hours of trying I gave in and the nurse bought me an electric pump. I hadn’t slept in two days and was exhausted so when night fell the nurse offered to take Ruby from me, so I could rest. Little to my knowledge when I woke later that night I was informed that she had been given a bottle of formula and not to worry because she was sound asleep. At the time I did not think anything of this, nurses and midwives know what they are doing right? Well, looking back nearly 7 years later I am outraged that my daughter was fed formula without my consent and I am positive that this breaches some form of hospital guideline or regulation. But being so young the nurses knew I wouldn’t say anything.
My journey continued like this for two months, trying to get her to latch with no success so I continued to exclusively express. I tried everything from creams, to nipple shields and lactation consultants but it never got any easier. Every time I expressed I would wince in pain, shed tears and sweat because it was excruciating. I returned back to year 10 to graduate high school when Ruby was only six-weeks-old. I would walk to the ‘sick bay’ at lunch and recess to express my milk so that she would have a supply to take to childcare the next day and overnight. I am so proud of myself for trying so hard for those two months but when I returned to school I just couldn’t do it anymore and decided to wean her on to formula. It was difficult and exhausting, but I was proud that at least I had tried.
When I fell pregnant again in year 12, almost three years after having Ruby I was so ready to breastfeed, to give myself those 12 months off that I deserved and bond with my baby. I graduated year 12 at 22 weeks pregnant and was determined this time to make it a little longer and give my new baby those vital nutrients.
I decided on an elective caesarean section after the traumatic birth experience and 3.5-degree tear with Ruby to prevent any more damage being done to my body. When Archer was born I didn’t know what to expect but they wrapped him up in a blanket with no opportunity to have that skin-to-skin contact that I missed with Ruby.
After I had been sown up and pushed around to recovery I went into shock, I started vomiting and shaking unable to hold Archer. After a few hours my body had settled down and I felt well enough to hold him and was he hungry! Much to my surprise, he latched instantly, and I felt absolutely no pain! I thought what a breeze this was in comparison with Ruby and was sure that I was going to get a much longer journey with him.
But I was wrong, he was so hungry all the time. I was feeding every half an hour for the first three months of his life. He was never settled, and he never slept. I was overwhelmed with stress and sleep deprivation that after three months I just couldn’t do it anymore. When switching him to formula he slept in four-hour blocks almost immediately and became a much happier baby. Looking back on this I am not sure why he wasn’t settled because I know a mother’s milk provides all the nutrients that a baby needs. But I had managed to get further than I did with Ruby and felt accomplished that I had given him the best start regardless of how exhausted I was.
Baby Number Three
Now I am pregnant with baby number three, three and a half years later. I know not to put any pressure on myself, but I know where things could have been improved. I am aiming for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) but whatever my birth outcome I will finally have my skin-to-skin contact with my baby, which not only increases my chances of breastfeeding but enhances the vital bonding time between a mother and her baby.
I am again having 12 months off studying, finishing up this November three years through my arts/law degree and allowing myself precious bonding time with our soon-to-arrive baby girl. I am so excited to see where this journey takes me and knowing how much more educated I am on breastfeeding. I refuse to set a time-frame for this journey but know that it will be much smoother because I am more in control and relaxed.
I know that breastfeeding has so many benefits, but I would never judge a mother on how she chooses to feed her baby because I know first-hand how difficult and exhausting it is. If one thing is certain there is nothing quite like the wonderful and sometimes wild journey that breastfeeding is.
You can find Ebony on Instagram here