I pushed Michela Celeste out in the world on 10 April at . Gas and air made me high (I've never taken drugs before but my partner says that I kept talking and laughing while lying on the hospital bed). I remember being pain free for most of it, also thanks to a diamorphine (or was it pethidine) injection. Michela being a big girl (she weighed in at 8lb 2oz and was 52cm long), it took me hours to push her out and I was exhausted. I think my first words were: ‘She doesn’t look like me at all.’ Unexpectedly, my partner Michael burst into tears of joy.
I went home on the same day as I was frustrated with postnatal care. The photo above was taken the day after. While enjoying my newborn, I thought of adding a third name, perhaps April (Michael’s surname being Lamb) or Spring but then decided it was cruel rather than cute. Michela is the Italian, feminine version of Michael and Celeste is spelled the same in both languages. I realised later that the reason it came in my head was because it’s a family name. Also Celeste suggests celestial, which given that Michael means God Like, was a sort of synonym – but I disgress again!
The first weeks were a shock to both of us as sleep deprivation drove us mental. We had many arguments and resorted to co-sleeping as Michela hated her Moses basket. I chose to breastfeed, although Michael had a go with the bottle so he could feed her once a day. This was a source of arguments as I had problems expressing breastmilk and didn't want to use formula.
I told my birth story in the NCT newsletter and in a baby magazine and also commented on being an older mum for another publication. Being an ‘old’ mum means you’re more financially secure, can take a career break and you are calmer, less scared by things and more inclined to argue your way if health professionals give you advice you don’t agree with. On the downside, you are more tired so your evening outings are put on hold. I didn’t mind too much and found day outings I could take Michela to. The NCT socials and the sessions at the SureStart children’s centre were more than enough.
Michael took three months off work to be with us and it was the best gift ever. When he went back it was a huge shock and I had to plan my day carefully. I remember being desperate to go to the toilet but having to hold as Michela needed changing and/or feeding. I’m certain my bladder broke Olympic records.
Michela proved to be a nipple feeder and although it was painful, I persisted with breastfeeding. I weaned her the traditional way. Read my experience, plus information on traditional and baby-led weaning at www.simonecastello.co.uk/weaningways.pdf. If could go back in time I’d try a mix of traditional and baby-led weaning.
When Michela was one, I introduced cow milk but still breastfed. By then I was doing a course to become a breastfeeding helper and from the spring of 2008 I started volunteering at a BF cafe in Leyton. As I was still co-editing the NCT newsletter, I was quite busy.
In August we sold our house in
and relocated to London Rugby, where I took over the NCT newsletter and started volunteering at the local BF cafe. If you're curious about it, visit www.rugbybreastfeedingcafe.co.uk/Rugby_Breastfeeding_Cafe/Home.html. The cafe has recently attracted local and national press coverage because it's launching a breastfeeding calendar.
Sadly, we are planning to relocate again. We've been touring all the counties commutable to London, as far as Lincolnshire (I could write a relocation blog with all we have been through) and are now set on Cambridge, where there is less property up for sale, the prices are still high and people are desperate to secure properties. We have been outbid on a lovely house by 20K and we might end up in rental again!
Michela is now two and still at home. In the past year I've been doing a bit of journo work and teaching Italian. The recession has hit the publishing industry hard but as I’m looking after my daughter full time, it hasn't ‘affected’ me too badly. I’m happy to work from home and diversify if things don’t pick up.
My top tip: if you experience any problems breastfeeding, seek help from the start. To find out about the charities who help breastfeeding mothers, read this article at www.simonecastello.co.uk/breastfeedingdebate.pdf