Having a new baby shares a lot with being a junior doctor. The sleepless nights, the constant sense of ineptitude, the crying fits in the bathroom over this constant sense of ineptitude. And the bodily fluids. Oh the bodily fluids. Not since my first job as an F1 in a ‘bottom of the bag’ geris ward in a west London district general, have I been so thoroughly marinated in bodily fluids. Urine is a constant (both my own (thanks to my ruined pelvic floor) and the baby’s); vomit cakes the shoulder of every garment I own; blood still seeps from me, post c-section; faeces dogs my every move (the texture, smell and quantity of which is noted as meticulously as any bristol stool chart). But by far the most prevalent is breast milk. There is breast milk everywhere. Baby cries. Breast milk. Baby gurgles. Breast milk. Moving youtube video of lion and dog being best friends posted on facebook. Breast milk.
Which brings me onto nipples. Everyone talks about the pain of birth. No one talks about nipple pain. Its basically like having barbed wire scraped rhythmically across each nipple for the duration of each breastfeed. “She’s obviously latched on wrong'” says every breastfeeding support worker alive. They then offer me a method of breastfeeding that directly contradicts the advice of the support worker before them, but my nipples continue to bleed and crack and ulcer and scab regardless. i’ve tried all the creams, the cabbage leaves, the burns victim dressing. And still they torture me. I dread her little mouth rooting for a feed. Every 3 hours I’m subjected to 45 minutes of undiluted agony. And I’ve even tried surrendering and giving her formula, but watching her writhe and scream with the subsequent constipation is worse than the barbed wire. So I continue. And I try not to think about the story a friend told me, about his friend’s wife’s nipple falling off as a result of breastfeeding, and having to be sewn back on.
In fact, one of the only ways that being a junior doctor differs from motherhood is that being a junior doctor ends. After 5 night shifts in a row, you get a couple of days off. After a few years of junior doctorhood, you get promoted. This motherhood stuff is for life. Shit.