A Thank You Letter: To My Cousin

“When I first heard my cousin had a home birth my first thought was ‘what a legend !’ (which I think I actually texted her) followed by a pang of jealousy. I had hoped for a home birth on my first baby but a past medical history (a silly blood clot after a torn calf muscle) meant a hospital birth was my only option. Added to this it was not the un-medicated birth I had imagined. I had an induction followed by epidural, suction, forceps and my little man was left with a small scar on his face just under his eye where the forceps cut to the bone and severed a muscle. Three years later it is still visible when he cries and gives me a pang every time it surfaces.

When a year and a half later I found myself on the precipice (well that’s what it felt like anyway) of moving to Dublin at 5 months pregnant for a new job, with a toddler and my partner working in another city, it was to this darling cousin that I turned for advice when house hunting. I not only got hosted for said weekend of house-hunting but she found our now home for us within walking distance of her. It was so secure to know she was there if, in the middle of the night, I needed assistance and her gentle presence really made me feel welcome those first weeks. What followed was a support which guided me through my pregnancy and early breastfeeding journey for which I will be forever grateful. She introduced me to gentle birthing and her true belief in the process ensured I was diligent in my nightly practise. It really made me feel that a more natural birth was possible as my body was made to do this and my baby was the perfect size for my body. She gave me birthing books, told me her lovely birth story and as the arrival approached I felt pretty hopeful about my gentle birth.

At 38 weeks I had a scan which showed my second little man was already well over 9 pounds (my first was 11 pounds 5 ounces) and I was faced with a second induction the next day or a caesarean the next week. Apart from my hubby my cousin was the first person I called and her empathy – from one birthing mother to another was what I needed. Someone to listen to my fears and agree with me and then to nod me in the right direction: listen to you gentle birthing, and especially the induction tracks as much as you can. I was positive and calmed. Finally after 2 gels and the start of contractions all on their own I was in labour and got through with little more than gas and air. A very good midwife led me through the final hours and gave me my baby to delivery myself, a truly wondrous experience. My cousin was the first person I wanted to tell, as I felt she had been truly instrumental in this journey with me.

A beautiful fair-haired little boy entered our family and, as with my first, I expected an easy breastfeeding journey. Unfortunately this was not the case and after a couple of days I was left with bleeding nipples and a fear before every feed. Again I turned to my cousin who swopped in like a fairy god mother. She brought creams, compresses, cake (essential), all her breastfeeding books and made me hot towels for my breasts. Again a listening ear and soothing words followed by support helped me through. She suggested a lactation consultant and that I contact la leche and she really helped me find the inner strength to persist. Not breastfeeding was not an option and my cousin was there to offer the support I needed. In the end a tongue tie was diagnosed and I continued to breastfeed for 10 months once the problem was fixed (note: although the midwife who called in the first five days alluded to a tongue tie a solution was never suggested or offered).

My little man is now 1 and my cousin is still around, and the knowledge that we share similar mothering philosophies is really great. In hindsight what my cousin was for me was a doula, a kindered spirit to lean on who shared her knowledge with me and gave me the birthing/breastfeeding confidence I needed. This woman, mother, runner, friend is truly gifted and I have an inkling I am not the only mother who has called her late at night looking for an shoulder to cry on and some well-educated advice. So thank you Sylda, I am eternal grateful and I wish you every success in your future endeavours.”

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