26-year-old Russian Anna Chernikova is the owner of Yeti Car Rental and mum to 8-month-old Maxim
"When I first went into labour, I was very calm. It was during a scheduled appointment with my doctor - she examined me and sent me to the delivery rooms immediately. I don't know why, but I wasn't nervous - I even watched episodes on my computer while bouncing on the birthing ball. Then my water broke, and I realised that it wasn't going to be so easy...
"That's sort of how it went once my little boy, Maxim, arrived too. Straight after I'd given birth they showed him to me for a second, and then took him to the nursery to be washed and weighed. When they finally brought him to me, I was so happy! I could not stop watching him and smiling. Our new family was together.
"Although the nurses wanted to put Max in the nursery overnight so I could sleep, I asked to have him in the room with me. How could I rest, when I'd just delivered this amazing baby? I could touch him, kiss him and hold him for the very first time. The whole night, I was looking at him as he slept peacefully. We were back at home the very next day, just 20 hours after I gave birth. I didn't expect the process to be so fast; in Russia, where I am from, they keep you in hospital for a minimum of three days, to see how the baby is gaining weight, helping you with breastfeeding and caring for your newborn.
"At home, suddenly I was doing everything for the first time in my life. And I never knew breastfeeding would be so complicated! I always thought that it would be natural: after the baby is born, he will start eating easily and the milk will come immediately like a fountain. How wrong I was! Max refused my breasts, no milk seemed to be coming out of them, he was crying all the time and I was afraid that he was starving. I had a panic attack, I didn't know what to do. Thankfully, my parents came the next day to help...
"I think that the nurses must have given him formula in the hospital, because when they brought Max from the nursery they brought formula bottles as well and they were surprised that I didn't expect them. Finally my milk came in on the fifth day after I had given birth. And it was the most painful thing ever (worse than delivery, seriously!). My mum showed me how to massage my breasts to reduce the painful engorgement.
"As the first couple of months went on, I really wanted to breastfeed, but Max was still refusing and asking for the bottle. I was pumping, so he was on combined diet of formula and my expressed milk from a bottle. But I didn't give up. I would constantly offer him the breast: before the bottle, during the bottle feed and again afterwards. At night, I woke up only to pump and my mum would give him his feed from the bottle - otherwise we would never sleep at all, as pumping takes up so much time! I drank special nursing tea and took fenugreek to establish a good milk supply. Finally I researched on the internet how to help him and realised that it was probably the latch that had been the problem all along. I positioned him so that the nipples reached the upper side of his mouth and finally he got it! It took me one and a half long months to transform my combined-feeding baby into an exclusively breastfed one, and I was very happy I hadn't given up!
"I knew that a mother's instinct and love is supposed to be strong, but mine was more like a Tsunami. The wave came the minute I held my baby for the first time and it drifted me far away. It was really overwhelming and hard to deal with it. I was afraid, I was so afraid to lose my son! I have never felt anything like this before, but I was so afraid of doing something wrong, afraid that I wasn't good enough, afraid to leave him with anyone, even with my own mum. The strength of love was amazing to me: some people say they start loving their baby when they see them for the first time, for some it happens some time after the birth, but for me, I think I started loving him while he was still inside me.
"I would tell other expectant mums to prepare for a baby, not for your delivery. Whatever you read, you will deliver anyway! I wish the books I'd read had been about the first year of having a baby and how to breastfeed, rather than all about labour and birth; it might have made things a bit easier and less stressful for me."
Photos By Aiza Castillo-Domingo