Why was I left feeling like I’d failed?
I was asked a few weeks back to write a guest post at MumsNet on behalf of Tongue Tie UK, a very small organisation with a very big challenge; to raise awareness of the issue of tongue (and lip) ties and the impact they can have, and how they can be dealt with. They asked me because of something that happened very very early on in Hope’s life … this is the piece I wrote … it’s been shared some 200 times on Facebook already and commented on by over 100 people on the post itself or on Facebook at the MumsNet page and has been retweeted and commented on hundreds of times on Twitter .. I’m overwhelmed by the response, and also deeply saddened by all the stories of babies and their mothers affected and not supported or treated…
If you had a baby with a tongue tie do share your story .. here or at MumsNet and consider supporting Tongue Tie UK … and if you know someone who is pregnant and about to give birth, then suggest they get their newborn checked for tongue tie, and if you know anyone struggling to breastfeed their baby get them to see if a tongue tie is the problem …
Here is the the full text of the post:
“My daughter was blue when she was born – premature, blue and grunting. Although they sounded very sweet, the kitten-like noises she made were because her lungs were struggling. I’d scarcely had a chance to say hello when she was whisked off to the SCBU. When I saw her again a few hours later, she had a nasogastric tube, an IV drip and a pulse monitor attached to her.
I tried to breastfeed her, but felt all clumsy; she was tiny, her mouth seemed so small, and we couldn’t get it quite right. I was given a breastpump and I expressed a few millilitres of what everybody helpfully referred to as ‘liquid gold’, dripped into her via the nose tube. She kept unlatching. I thought it was the nose tube causing her discomfort, or me holding her wrong as I tried to avoid contact with my c-section scar – I was sure it was all my fault.
Feeding became very stressful. I was constantly frustrated – we always seemed so close, but just missed getting it right. We were kept in hospital as she was a little jaundiced and my heartbeat was erratic, but also because I didn’t feel confident with breastfeeding. People came and went, fiddling with my boobs and showing me different holds, but nothing worked. I’d had a caesarean, and was then separated from her for the first few days of her life – I already felt as if I had failed her somehow, so breastfeeding became even more important to me. I felt like I could do nothing right, and this sense threatened at times to engulf me.
One day, whilst advising me on positioning for breastfeeding, a lactation advisor said something about a tongue-tie. I had no idea what she meant. At that point my baby started to cry, and we didn’t have a chance to continue the conversation.
I was so relieved – but why had I been left to feel like Hope’s problems with feeding were down to me? And, having just given birth, why did I have to go to a different hospital?
A few days later, on my slow shuffle back from dripping my precious pumped milk down through the nose tube, I saw the very first midwife I’d met when I was pregnant. She was delighted to meet my girl and asked how I was getting on, so I told her about the breastfeeding problems. She looked into my daughter’s mouth and sure enough, she found that Hope had a tongue-tie. The little bit of skin under the tongue that joins it to the palette was too tight towards the back of the tongue, meaning the tongue was sitting high in her mouth, which is why she could only suck in a very shallow way.
It was a huge relief to understand what the problem was, but there was nothing our hospital could do. We had to travel to a different hospital over an hour away with my 16-day-old baby to get help. The consultant confirmed that our daughter had a posterior tongue-tie and offered to snip it there and then. The procedure took all of 10 seconds, and I think caused me more angst than it did my daughter. I sat in the hospital cubicle topless, while my husband went to hold the baby as the tongue-tie was severed. I heard a very brief cry – it made me cry too – and then she was carried in, looking like a small, bloodied vampire. I put her to my breast and immediately she started feeding.
She nursed voraciously for 20 minutes, the antiseptic qualities of breastmilk starting to heal the very small wound, and then she slept all the way home. I was so relieved – but why had I been left to feel like Hope’s problems with feeding were down to me? And what would have happened had I not spent time with the lactation advisor who first mentioned tongue-tie? And, having just given birth, why did I have to go to a different hospital?
As with most things, it was down to funding. And perceived ‘lack of evidence’ as to whether posterior tongue-ties really do have an effect on breastfeeding (or, for example, language development). It was only when I began speaking to friends about it that I realised how many of them had been through similar experiences. Some had reluctantly given up on breastfeeding, and some – those who could afford it – had gone private to get the tongue-tie treated, or they had taken a long journey to another NHS hospital. All of them, like me, had had no idea what a tongue-tie was until the moment their newborn was diagnosed with one.
I firmly believe that tongue-tie should be highlighted in all antenatal classes. We were incredibly lucky to have such a diligent and knowledgeable midwife, who was willing to discuss something the hospital she worked in didn’t recognise as an issue. Without her support, our breastfeeding journey would have failed before it started – and my daughter and I would have missed out on the joy that nursing has given us.”
#TongueTieHour is a space for parents and other people to share experiences and discuss tongue-tie and lip-tie, every Monday (from September 2) between 3pm and 4pm on Twitter. It is organised by Tongue-Tie UK, which raises awareness about tongue-tie and lip-tie.