What on earth is reflux and how can I make it stop? How I just about survived the first six weeks with a new born living in the dark.
I am sure that any new Mums (and Dads) will agree that the first six weeks of your new baby are possibly the most challenging, shocking and down-right exhausting six weeks of your life to date; whilst simultaneously being the most wonderful, joyous and ecstatic.
Considering the fact that you are recovering from pregnancy and childbirth, as well as dealing with hormones that are off the Richter scale; it’s no surprise that you are all over the place emotionally. Then factor in the need to be a mind reader and be able to work out what the hell is wrong with this new little human that cries, won’t feed and is sick… all of the time. It’s no wonder that it is such a difficult time.
Then there is the sleep deprivation that is paramount to torture and clearly a very effective torture device. There is no How to Guide and Google is your friend and safety net as well as your enemy making you paranoid and live in fear. Yes, I did once Google- Do babies have to burp after every bottle?
Add to this the various Mummy Chat Sites that make you compare yourself with other mummies and have the potential to both be extremely supportive and also to make you feel a whole lot worse!
There is also the fear of not wanting to sound like a paranoid mum, not wanting to harass the Health Visitor or Doctor. So, as a new mum with no experience of babies and no instruction manual; how do you know what is normal and at what point do you trust your mummy gut feeling and say something is wrong with my baby?
I sadly left it until the six week check.
Weeks One and Two were heavenly. I was on cloud nine. Deliriously happy. I couldn’t stop looking at this beautiful angelic cherub with blonde hair and a perfect little nose. She was mine. Finally after all those years it was my time. I was a mummy. After a three day induction process and twenty-eight hours of labour (which resulted in episiotomy and ventouse), my baby girl was finally born. Instantly loved and cherished. I couldn’t have been happier. Even the pain from the stitches wouldn’t get in the way. (Well not until the epidural wore off anyway!)
She was perfect. She ate, slept, pooed. It was wonderful. She was feeding like clockwork. Every three hours. Most nights I was even awake before her, eagerly waiting to feed her, to have her in my arms. We shared the night feeds as Daddy was very hands on and wanted to bond. It was perfect. We had our baby, the sun was shining and life couldn’t have been better. Daddy was off work, we even ventured out for days trips and had countless visitors. I was tired, I was sore, but somehow the adrenaline of my baby girl kept me going and the lack of sleep was neither here nor there.
Week Three nearly finished me off. What a shock to the system. Daddy went back to work. The night feeds became my job. After all those years of complaining that ‘I didn’t get a break at work’… well suddenly I found out what it was like to truly not get a break. It was quite honestly the worst week of my life.
That was when reflux started to rear its ugly head… but we didn’t know which enemy we were dealing with back then. I was blindly stumbling along. It never crossed my mind that other babies weren’t like this. This stealth enemy was surrounding us and we were under constant attack. It was a constant cycle of washing, bibs, muslins, change of clothes on hand at all time. She was like a ticking time bomb – I was on my guard for an eruption at all times, yet she still managed to take me by surprise!
Weeks Four to Five we plodded on – surviving on slivers of sleep whenever I could get it. Counting down the hours until Daddy came home and I could sleep for a few hours before the next dreaded night shift in the Nursery Cell began. It was the summer, so I tried to get on with normal life. I was making endless plans – going places, seeing people, entertaining the seven year old, doing the housework, shopping, tea… trying to be a good ‘housewife’- and for someone who hates cleaning, cooking and shopping this was quite tough – I was quite honestly killing myself. So much for the ‘Sleep when the baby sleep’s advice. I must have been insane. People offered to help. I had so many people around me but had never felt so alone in my life. The feelings were overwhelming to say the least. My head was dark. The sun was shining but it was dark. My robotic experience of motherhood was not what I’d hoped for. The monotony of nappies, bottles, sick, poo, no poo, sick and more sick was all consuming. Days ran into one and other. I was miserably happy. Lying to other people, to myself; creating a facade of happiness on Facebook. Pushing people away and feeling alone. Isolated but claustrophobic.
Bottle, spew, sleep repeat… was now my life.
Then she stopped pooing!
She started to go up to three days with no poo. Suddenly my life was about poo and sick… Has she pooed? Has she been sick? Has she kept her feed down? When did she last poo? On poo day I could hope for some sleep, but on the ever extending non poo days I had little hope of sleep and this combined with her little and often feeding which overnight had become every two to three hours meant that I was dead on my feet. I tried all the tricks – cooled boiled water (that is a controversial subject if you ask the health visitor), lactulose, cycling her legs – which seemed to work the best. Imagine a woman resembling an extra from The Walking Dead slumped against the changing stand cycling her legs (please check with your health visitor before trying this) after the 4am feed; whilst also trying to avoid lying her flat to try and avoid reflux… not a pretty sight. Especially when on those special occasions the poo and reflux come both at the same time. A double-ender. It doesn’t get much better than that!
And on top of all this I was on countdown to the long awaited wedding of my best mate, where I was to be a bridesmaid. So as the wedding got closer, reflux got worse. My babba had been starting to struggle with her feeds. After the first few ‘easy’ weeks suddenly feeding her was becoming a chore. She would only take little bits, hardly anything at all some days and more often than not she would be sick. Was it Colic? Wind? Reflux? As a new mum and non-mind reader I wasn’t sure. I soon reached for any product that might help…. Infacol… Gripe water…. but they had little effect and the sickie treats kept on coming. In fact, Projectile Vomit sponsored by Gripe Water comes to mind… boy those burps nearly blew her head off! And were sure to end with a Bra and Knicker soaker for me! That was a fun week! Not!
So Week Six brought bridesmaid duties and the weekend to have fun. The baby came to the wedding (with two pretty dresses on hand as yes… you guessed it, she projectile vomited on the first one!) My Mum was having her overnight. I had time for me… little did I know how that weekend would nearly finish me off!
Recovering from a wedding hangover with no sleep was one of the most difficult times in my life. That wedding was swiftly followed by another where it was Daddy’s turn to be best man. I fantasied all week about going to the wedding as we were staying in the hotel – I could sneak off after the meal and have a sleep (which I did) and I could even leave the party early and have an early night (which I didn’t) And I wasn’t going to drink too much (which I did…. oops).
The day arrived. My Mum was on baby duty again – we had grown-up time. I felt guilty that I didn’t feel guilty about leaving her. I felt that so many people would judge me as I’d left her two weekends in a row. But quite honestly, I needed that time. I needed sleep. I needed to be me. And I didn’t realise at the time but I was on the knife edge of post-natal depression. I almost watched myself at the wedding in an out of body experience. High on life; smiling and laughing but dark on the inside.
From wedding highs to desperate baby lows. Surviving each week was a major achievement. The five days as a stay at home mum seemed so long and each Friday was a goal to reach. I had posted photos on Facebook of me looking fabulous (thanks to a make-up artist) at two weddings and people had been so complimentary about motherhood suiting me… But I felt such a fraud. The fabulous photos on Facebook didn’t show how I was really feeling. The days and nights were so hard and the desire to sleep and fantasies of sleep were all consuming. I was happy. But I was miserable too. How do you tell people that you aren’t enjoying motherhood? That you secretly want your old life back? That even the thought of going back to work seems an easy alternative? Sleep deprivation has a lot to answer for!
It had been the best and worst six weeks of my life so far. I didn’t even know that it was the reflux devil that was making my life so difficult and was the reasons for her disturbed sleep, her poor feeding and her writhing pain. I needed her to keep her bottles down, to sleep, to burp, to poo… but how?
The baby was gaining weight and so no one seemed to pick up on any troubles, but I knew things weren’t right. Her excessive hiccups, fussy eating, trapped wind, constipation and the amount of sick all told me that something was wrong. But she was a happy baby. She didn’t cry that much and so I thought maybe this was normal. I shared this with the Doctor and she told me in more detail about Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GOR*) and the penny dropped.GOR refers to the contents of the stomach washing back up from the stomach into the oesophagus. It can wash up to the throat, and even be ejected out of the mouth… well clearly on the REFLUX Richter scale my Spewzilla was doing well. I’ve even made up my own acronym… Regular Expulsion of Food Leaving Us eXasperated…. Oh yes, she definitely had reflux.
So, this was why life was so difficult. We had an answer. But how did we make it stop? And then the Doctor prescribed Gaviscon. And life After Gaviscon began.
*Gastro-oesophageal Reflux (GOR) and Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) are different. By definition, GOR is normal, whereas GORD is a disease.
Gasto-oesophageal reflux (GOR) occurs normally in all infants, children and adults during and immediately after meals. GOR refers to the contents of the stomach washing back up from the stomach into the oesophagus. It can wash up to the throat, and even be ejected out of the mouth; in otherwise healthy infants, this can be normal occurrence for a period of time
Gasto-oesophageal Reflux (GORD) is present when there are symptoms or signs that are troublesome, or severe, or chronic, or when complications are present.
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Our blog is written by an amazing Mum and this is her personal account of Living with Reflux. However at time’s she may share stories from other families. Should you have any concerns regarding the health of your child please consult your medical professional. (www.livingwithreflux.org)