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A Letter to Midwives

I remember it vividly. Sitting in a low, grey chair, behind a curtain with a double breast pump at work, tears streaming down my face. I started crying that morning and couldn’t stop.

It was three days after a hard pregnancy and delivery, and I’d had very little sleep.

The midwife said my fibromyalgia must be pretty bad.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

I want to tell her that it’s not.

I usually cope very well. But she saw me on one of the worst days of my life. After a pregnancy of increasing pain and decreasing sleep. After a hard labour. After three days of very little sleep, with a baby who couldn’t get enough food from me. Hideous pain in my breasts and in my stitches. To top it off my husband wasn’t allowed to stay. So I was alone with this baby from 9pm to 9am.

The midwives on the nightshift didn’t help very much. They latched baby on and left. They didn’t see the pain caused by his latch becoming shallower as he drank. If I took him off to try to re latch, he’d refuse it.

On that last day the best things happened. And only because I couldn’t stop crying.

They taught me to express milk for my baby to drink via the bottle. This meant I was able to see that my baby had enough food, that I could bother my very sore breasts only three-hourly and that I had an element of control.

This enabled me to give my baby breastmilk for eight weeks, instead of just that first week.

We need options. I was committed to feeding my baby, but I needed the option to help me do that. I am so thankful for this, so thankful that they were not judgemental. Cos damn, breastfeeding hurt me!

They also let my husband stay on the final night.

He is why I managed. We took turns feeding, so I got some sleep. I also had a person to experience it all with me. Alone, in pain, with a screaming baby is not a key for coping.

What I want to tell all midwives is that my fibromyalgia isn’t so bad. But there are people who have it worse.

Please educate yourselves so that you can help. Even if you know enough to know that the husband or a support person needs to stay to help.

A person with fibromyalgia is likely to have a higher perception of the pain.
They are more likely to have had a very painful pregnancy.
They are more prone to emotional changes – when you’re in a lot of pain and so tired you can’t think straight, you can’t keep your emotions on an even keel.

So please know this. Please be aware. We need a little extra help.

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33 Weeks and the Toughness Just Keeps Getting Tougher

So far, I have been feeling justified when I have had pain or fatigue that is considered “normal” in pregnancy. When my husband (inevitably) does not understand the effect of the pain, the fatigue and the ongoing nights of no more than one or two hours of sleep at a time, I feel ok to say it is a pregnancy thing.

But I imagine, the fact that, at 33 weeks I am struggling so much has to be a combination of my chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and my pregnancy. My back is so sore that I can’t sit for long periods of time (read: more than 10 minutes). I am so fatigued and frazzled that I am finding it hard to regulate my emotions. My feet, legs, glutes, back, shoulders and neck are so sore that I burst into tears at times – something I have managed to keep mostly hidden from the people around me.

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Even things that are “normal” for pregnant people or “normal” for my previous life and preferences are hard for my husband, in particular, to understand. Why don’t I love having several people over for dinner (when I am spending the whole preparation time trying to stand from side to side to give my feet or glutes a break and when I am spending the whole time they are there trying not to cry from having to sit up and desperately wishing for bed)? Why don’t I love going out after 7pm at night (with the same conditions as above)?

That’s been a real culture shock in adjusting to marriage. Previously, I would go out once or twice a week in the evenings. As a pregnant woman I would prefer never to be out after 5pm! I would prefer to work, rest, walk the dog, cook dinner, have a bath and then lie on the couch with a book or the TV. Whereas my husband loves to go out and have people over (and his family and friends tend to eat dinner between 8 and 9pm!).

Despite the consistent pain and fatigue, I am managing to find joy in my baby and his movements. We have put up the cot and change table and his room is starting to take shape! I am shifting from reading about pregnancy to reading about having a baby, but I actually think I might switch to non-baby related books altogether – my brain needs a break! 

You would be forgiven if you think this sounds a little negative, but to write this down actually goes a little way towards helping me cope. 

Seven weeks to go!