I hate to admit it, but I am sort of a know-it-all. Actually I am a know-it-all. I don’t know the roots of this attitude exactly, but I certainly know that it worked out terribly for me as a new mother.
You see, when I was pregnant with my daughter, instead of asking veteran mothers questions, I Googled and Googled then Googled some more. I read all the “How To” motherhood books I could lay my hands on and YouTubed “little” things like breastfeeding, changing baby diapers and washing babies.
I remember a mummy friend suggesting to me to go for classes on motherhood at one of the local hospitals.
“What for?” I shrugged.
BEGINNING OF MY DOWNFALL
“They can teach you how to deal with your baby as a new mum,” she replied.
“I’m a reader,” I replied, slightly annoyed.
“I have read all I need to know about motherhood, I do not need those lectures on the same.”
And that marked the beginning of my downfall.
My pregnancy was smooth. Everything went like Google and the book What to Expect When Expecting said it would.
After twelve hours of labour, I held a healthy, beautiful baby girl in my arms, ready to start applying the knowledge I had accumulated in excess on the poor little child.
“Breastfeed the baby immediately,” the doctor advised, as had Google before her
I put my baby girl on my breast, just like YouTube had taught me. But….nothing!
“Why is she not breastfeeding?” I asked anxiously, turning virtual pages in my head trying to think of which page in the books I had read had some advice on breastfeeding.
The nurse, a sturdy woman who looked like a retired weightlifter, lifted my breast and shoved it into the baby’s mouth. To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement.
The baby struggled to feed for the next two days. Eventually, she had to be put on formula. Needless to say that I walked out of the hospital on the third day with wounds for breasts.
In retrospect, I should have refused to leave the hospital until I could breastfeed without pain or anguish. But I was itching to go back to my other bible at the time — Secrets of the Baby Whisperer — to learn how to breastfeed.
WEEK OF TEARS
I spent the next six weeks crying each time the baby breastfed whilst madly searching online for solutions. I bought creams, popped painkillers and prayed, but nothing seemed to work. And then I decided to do what I should have done in the first place. I asked for help.
I called up my friends who were mothers. I called up my friends’ mothers. I talked to people on Kilimani Mums and Pregnant Mum Support Group on Facebook.
I got encouragement, suggestions and cheap, workable solutions for my problem. I was referred to a lactation specialist who, thank heavens, was also a trained counsellor. She charged me consultation fees, yes, but gave me so much value for my money that I almost cried in gratitude. I used breast shells on her recommendation and little by little, my healing started.
The shells protected my breasts from further damage or contact with my clothes. I also kept moisturising and holding my baby the right way so that she could latch on to the breast properly.
“Speak positive things to yourself. Tell yourself you are a great mother. You wake up three or more times at night to feed your baby. Tell yourself you will breastfeed without pain one day. You carried her for nine months. Laboured for hours and finally got her. She is a healthy, beautiful girl. You must be doing something right,” I remember her saying.
I went to the supermarket after that talk and got myself yellow sticky notes. I wrote down every word that she had said, even added my own like: “You are beautiful”, “You are a great mum”, “You have such a cute baby” and stuck them on the bed’s headboard.
My husband was puzzled when he came home later that day and I could see him struggling not to ask what was going on.
“I am tired of negativity in my life,” I offered before he could ask.
He nodded. Perhaps understanding that it was not in his place to understand what was going on. The journey to pain-free breastfeeding was painful, slow but totally rewarding in the end. I learned the hard way that friendship and advice from people that care for you cannot be Googled.