Stephanie Burrows is mother of 18-month-old Ailith and is a stay-at-home mum from the UK.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the birth, although it was the only thing throughout the pregnancy that I was worried about as it is such an unknown. Luckily however the birth went smoothly and although it was a long labour the support I had from my husband, midwives and the doctor helped me through it. They all ensured it was a safe, smooth delivery and nothing as bad as I had built it up to be in my mind.
“I had heard from family and friends who have had children that it’s a love like you’ve never felt before and it truly was. The love and protection I felt for Ailith was instant. From the moment I saw her, nothing else in the world mattered except this little girl in my arms. I felt like together we lived in our own little bubble of happiness and contentment.
“All the staff at the hospital were great and I received wonderful care and attention. I stayed there for two nights after delivery before being discharged. I definitely enjoyed having my own room and knowing that if I needed help or support the nurses were only a buzzer away was reassuring. It was actually nice to have that space away from the ‘normal’ day-to-day life at home to help me get used to the fact that she was finally here. It also served to make me not feel guilty about spending the time lying in bed all day. Once the adrenaline of birth wore off I felt like I’d been hit by a train!
“It’s was always going to be exciting, yet nerve-racking, going home for the first time with our new baby. Not having the nurses on call when I needed them was a scary thought but it felt so nice getting home and settled into it as a family. The first few nights went well, if a little sleepless.
“But feeding was not as easy and straightforward as I had thought it was going to be. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from it, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the challenges that I came across. We had a few feeding problems early on and the staff in the hospital helped me to improve the latch and ensure everything was going okay in the beginning. Unfortunately, however, after three weeks I developed mastitis. The possibility of infection was a topic touched upon during my antenatal classes but I was not fully aware of the symptoms to look out for. Sadly the mastitis progressed and overnight I had an abscess that was size of a golf ball grow to the size of a tennis ball which then had to be surgically removed. I was left with an open wound that had to close up and heal naturally.
“It was a very challenging time for me, not only the surgery and then the daily visits to the hospital for cleaning and dressing the wound - all whilst caring for a newborn - but also because I had to make the decision to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula.
"It was a really difficult decision to make and I had many moments where I felt lonely and sometimes even judged when I brought out a bottle to feed my baby."
"It would leave me in tears, feeling like I had failed my daughter. So I would have to remind myself that I was not the only one and there are various reasons as to why some mums don’t breastfeed their babies. I cannot thank the midwives at Healthbay Clinic or my incredible surgeon at City Hospital enough for their care and support during that time.
“What surprised me most was how natural everything felt to me in becoming a mum. I didn’t read up on what to do with your baby whilst I was pregnant and still felt as if it all came naturally to me. I was also amazed at how much having a baby taught me about life and what I learnt about myself.
“During the first six weeks of being a mum I adored that new feeling of love I had for my little girl. I felt the happiest and luckiest I’ve ever been. I was fortunate as I had a smooth pregnancy - I actually enjoyed it! - and a smooth birth. I hadn’t expected how quickly she would change in the first few weeks but I loved it and was fascinated watching her slowly learn about the world I’d brought her into.
“If there is anything I wish I’d have known before becoming a first-time mum it’s that I would have been more aware of the support that is out there for breastfeeding. Also that I had read up more on breastfeeding as I had no idea it was going to be such a challenge for me.
“For anyone approaching their due date be aware that everyone is going to want to rush over to meet your new addition, but make sure to limit visits. I only had family and very close friends visit when in the hospital. Then I made sure my husband didn’t allow too many people to visit early on and when they did to ensure they didn’t outstay their welcome. It’s a brand new world you’re living in and takes some time to get used to.
“My other piece of advice is to accept help. Accept the meals that friends and family offer to make for you, when your friends come to visit let them have the baby snuggles whilst you have a long shower and make yourself feel human again. Remember you also need to recover from the delivery so make sure to accept any assistance offered and rest as much as you can to give your body a chance to regain strength.
“Lastly, you’re always going to worry if you’re doing the right thing for your little one, but you’re doing the best you can and that’s enough.”
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo