This is where we chat to real parents about all the real sh*t that goes down when you have little ones enter your life. From the heartwarming to the hilarious but also the hard times and heartbreak…
After suffering the heartbreaking loss of a miscarriage, Karen was ecstatic to find out just a couple of months later that she was expecting once again. However, the joy she felt was also coupled with stress and anxiety of potentially losing another baby. As well as navigating it all throughout a global pandemic and lockdown without her usual support network.
“Although the pregnancy was not the way I would have imagined, having experienced the loss made me value each day even more,” says Karen, mum to 11-month-old Joshua. “I wanted to connect with my baby in any way possible.”
Here we chat to Karen about pregnancy after loss – and going through it during a pandemic. As well as some of the less talked about breastfeeding challenges and the importance of seeking support.
Who calls you mum?
I am a mum to Joshua, my 11-month-old cutie pie. Joshua is a curious boy with a fascination for wheels and light switches and loves corn on a cob. He is our world!
Can you tell us a little bit about your motherhood journey?
My pregnancy journey was nothing like I would have imagined it to be. I had experienced a miscarriage a couple of months before which left me heartbroken. When I found out I was pregnant again, this time with my rainbow baby, I could not have been more ecstatic. My prayers had been answered.
Shortly after finding out I was pregnant, I experienced unexplained bleeding which continued until about 17 weeks. Although the doctors were not certain of the cause, they suspected that it was due to a hematoma. Due to the uncertainty and previous loss, I was stressed and scared that I may lose another baby. On top of this, there was the announcement of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I only announced my pregnancy at 6 months! This means I had no one to celebrate it with other than my hubby. A lot of this time was spent in isolation as we were in lockdown.
Although the pregnancy was not the way I would have imagined, having experienced the loss made me value each day of pregnancy even more. I wanted to connect with my baby in any way possible. I would play my favourite songs, smile every time I felt little kicks, talk to and rub my belly continuously. It was really important for me that my baby felt my love every single day….
The day my baby was born, my world changed in a way I could have never imagined. My heart was overflowing and continues to overflow with love.
Can you share a little bit about what it was like to be pregnant during the pandemic?
I got pregnant with no idea what was coming. That I would have virtually no support and my baby would not even get the opportunity to meet his family. The journey has been isolating and tough.
I think many of the mums out there can agree that experiencing pregnancy during Covid has been really strange. From the day the announcement was made about Covid, I was continuously watching the news and making sure I was up to date with what was happening. People were panic buying and doctors appointments were very difficult to get.
On my baby’s 1st birthday, he would have spent most of the days of his life in lockdown. He has been in the same space day in and day out, looking at and engaging with us only. He has NEVER met his grandparents and this to me is the hardest part of it all, it is time one can never get back. They will never know what he looked like as a baby, they will never know his baby smell, see his facial expressions and I know they are dying to smother him in love.
When we go out, he can’t quite see people’s expressions as their faces are covered with masks. A mask that he just loves to pull off.
It is not all doom and gloom. It has also been a very reflective period for us. I am so grateful for my health and the health of my family. I am incredibly grateful for my marriage, my husband who has supported me almost as much as a village would. I am grateful for video calls that keep my family abroad connected. I really feel fortunate to be part of a first world country that has largely kept Covid at bay.
We continue to put in effort wherever we can to stay positive and connected. I’ll be doing his cake smash as an online family event so we can at least share that with family and friends.
Can you share a little bit about your breastfeeding journey with Joshua?
I think the biggest misconception I had about breastfeeding is that “it comes naturally”. In my instance, it really did NOT come naturally. It took about 4 months for breastfeeding to become comfortable. Here we are, 11 months later and I absolutely love it.
From the first day in the hospital my breasts were painfully engorged and due to the oversupply, my baby struggled with latching. There were times where he would come off and the milk would just be spraying him in the face. There were even times when the milk would flow out his nose.
Did you seek help or support for breastfeeding and the oversupply issues you were having?
The midwives at the hospital were really incredible and each one would help me with a different piece of advice. The advice was overwhelming at first, but I honestly could not have done it without them. I felt really raw and exposed, but strangely also like I was in a safe space.
One of the techniques I used was to hand express before his feeds. This helped a lot until my milk production eventually settled down. There were times when I would feed on one side only and then catch the milk with a Haaka on the other side. Because there was so much milk, I had to make sure he was getting enough hindmilk.
I utilised every resource I could find, these included midwives, Youtube videos, my mum’s group and the consultants at the family centre. I must have visited the family centre about four times in the first month. There they helped me realise I was not the only mom struggling with this and they also gave me the confidence that it would get better.
I am really proud of myself for making it this far.
Did you feel prepared for how hard breastfeeding would be before you had your baby?
Definitely not! The most prepared I was, was having nipple cream in my hospital bag. Most people speak about undersupply, it honestly didn’t even cross my mind that I may experience oversupply.
Did you do any classes or courses before having your baby?
My husband and I attended the c-section course at the hospital. This course gave us an idea of what to expect for the c-section. I was really happy that the midwife spoke to all the partners about how they can support their loved one after the c-section. My husband definitely took this on board and was great at helping carry our baby to me for feeds and constantly making sure I stayed hydrated.
You’ve recently returned to work after maternity leave, how have you found this transition?
I have mixed feelings… On one hand, I get to have a warm cup of tea, adult conversation and pursue my passions that are beyond being a mum.
But on the other hand, I miss him so much. I am sad that I no longer get to see and laugh with my baby all day. I feel bad for only seeing him over dinner, bath time and bedtime. The mum’s guilt is real.
It is still early days, I am sure that once he is settled in daycare, I will feel really content.
What is the best advice you received when it comes to parenting?
Do what feels right to you. You know your child better than anyone else. Trust your inner “mum voice”.
What is your favourite thing about being a mum?
Putting him to bed and opening a bottle of wine…haha just kidding!
My favourite thing about being a mum is being able to watch my little one grow and develop into his own person. I can experience the world through his innocent eyes and curious mind. Seeing rain for the first time, laughing profusely at a slipper or a squeaky sound and tasting foods for the first time – it’s a whole new world to explore and experience again from a renewed perspective.
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