"It's Marshall's Mummy" I heard a lady say as the NICU doors buzzed open. She shuffled in with her syringes of milk as I floated past for our 20 week scan.
At the time I thought nothing of it, but now having been through those doors countless times it is one of the most poignant memories of my pregnancy. 11 weeks later, I was proudly wheeled through at 2am clutching my own syringe containing less than 1ml of milk.
I continued to express every three hours for the duration of our NICU stay and beyond, just as a lot of mums do. My camera roll holds photos of the first time I expressed more than 20ml, 50ml, 100ml at once. I'd send them to Greg and we'd celebrate together.
So when the Consultant told us Margot wasn’t putting on enough weight and needed to be supplemented with formula, it felt like one of the only things I was able to do for our daughter wasn't enough. Just as my body hadn't been 'good enough' to carry her safely to term, I now couldn't meet her needs in this way either.
As soon as we started giving a bottle, Margot would no longer latch on the breast even with a nipple shield and expressing was no longer stimulating my supply. After waiting 6 weeks to be able to feed my baby, only to have that called to a halt after just a week as well, I was heartbroken.
Another thing stolen by the NICU.
Looking back, I wasn't talking to others in this punitive voice, I would be comforting others if they couldn't express enough for their baby or that they'd found it too tough, quoting the mantra "fed is best" and genuinely believing it... but to myself I wasn't good enough, I had failed our daughter. Again.
Looking back now, I see I did my absolute best and giving in and agreeing to formula feeding was the selfless decision Margot needed me to make for her at that time.
I felt embarrassed bottle feeding Margot in public as I felt people would judge me for not breastfeeding. I now know that existed in my head too… or if someone did feel that way it was their issue and not mine.
I guess what I’m trying to say is fed really is best. We’re all doing our utmost for our babies, the way we feed them doesn’t change that and nor does anyone else’s opinion.