When I was pregnant with Elijah I was monitored more closely than I had been with either Isaac or Xavier. Not because I had a high risk pregnancy, but to allay my own anxieties.
Close monitoring is a double edged sword. On the one hand you have the constant and necessary assurance that your baby is still living, on the other every single growth abnormality is picked up. At 34 weeks, Elijah’s head measured large and his femurs short. I imagined dwarfism and a host of other Dr Google supplied diagnoses. He was born in perfect proportion.
This is the sword – reassurance comes with no guarantees and the slightest issue gains momentous proportions. The promise of rarity echoes hollow when you have been the one-in-whatever.
Yet, somewhere deep down I knew Elijah would be okay. There was a motherly instinct that was difficult to grasp at times but existed nonetheless. Instinct can be hard to access once it has been tainted by fear, but it remains. Instinct does not disappear after loss, but it can be crowded out by doubt and distrust. It’s hard to trust your gut when your head is full of anxiety. But if I took a deep breath, concentrated, and asked Xavier for a little guidance, my true maternal instinct was still in tact.
Just as I had multiple scans during pregnancy, Elijah has seen the inside of the GP’s office more times than would be considered normal for a healthy two week old. I have needed the reassurance – particularly in the lead up to Elijah turning the same age as Xavier when he died. But with that reassurance has come multiple weighings and with those weighings a concern about the lack of weight Elijah has been putting on. He weighed 3.5 at birth and 3.2 at discharge. Within the following week he only put on 60 grams. My GP suggested a formula feed once a day to increase his weight. I left in tears. My milk supply is fine – gushing in fact. The advice insinuated that formula would be better food for my baby than my milk. Breastfeeding has always been something I love doing and have never had an issue with. To think I was failing Elijah with my milk after feeling I failed Xavier was too much.
But somewhere motherly instinct kicked in (with help from N and supportive friends) and I knew formula was not the answer. I rang the ABA in floods of tears and the counsellor was fabulous. I booked an appointment with the Mater hospital lactation consultants.
During that appointment they saw that Elijah latched properly. Check. That he had no tongue tie. Check. That there was plenty of milk. Check. Then he was weighed and he had put on 140 grams in 3 days. Check. Check. Check.
The lactation consultant explained that weight is only one factor to measure a baby’s well being. A good amount of dirty nappies proves that milk is getting into baby. The baby’s skin tone and level of contentment indicates their health. She also pointed out that when a baby is in the womb, they are being nourished according to the mother’s body. Once they are born, they regulate their own appetite, which may not match what was offered in utero. I was ecstatic that Elijah had put on so much weight, but armed with this extra knowledge, I won’t panic unnecessarily if that amount of weight gain is not consistent.
I am so glad I followed my instinct. I am reminded that the best expert on my baby, is me. The role of health professionals is to educate and support me – but their role is not to mother my baby. Every mother is the best expert on their own child. We just need to trust and believe in ourselves.