Podcast Episode #74

Birth Story: Spilling the Milk with Caitlin

Today, we have a remarkable birth story from one of our amazing mums inside the FitNest Mama membership. Caitlin is the mother of a little boy Hunter, a business owner ‘To Living the Abundant Way’, and has her own podcast ‘Belly and Beyond’.

Caitlin shares her incredible birth story. Hunter was born with a birth defect, a cleft lip and palate. She talks candidly about her feelings when the doctors took him away after birth, his time in NICU, and her worries surrounding how other people would treat him. He has had two plastic surgeries before he was even 1 year old. There will be more surgeries, speech therapy, a potential palate break, and braces in the future and Caitlin shares her feelings for the path ahead.

Caitlin openly describes her struggles with breastfeeding, calling in support, needing a chiropractor, empowering yourself through knowledge, and how FitNest Mama has helped her in her postnatal journey.

I’m so grateful to have Caitlin on the show today and could have listened to her for hours!

Episode Links

Register for my FREE Pregnancy Workshop here

Previous podcast mentioned:

Spilling the Milk with Jodie
4 Tips For Preparing To Breastfeed While Pregnant with Susie Prout

Connect with Caitlin:

Podcast: Belly and Beyond

Website: Living The Abundant Way – Caitlin Robertson

Website:https://www.fitnestmama.com/

Instagram:@fitnestmama

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Birth Story: Spilling the Milk with Caitlin

Transcription

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that this transcription was completed with computer voice recognition software. Quite often unanticipated grammatical, syntax, homophones, and other interpretive errors are inadvertently transcribed by the computer software. Please disregard these errors. Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.

INTRODUCTION

If you are pregnant or you’ve recently had a baby, this podcast is for you. I am your host Kath Baquie. A physiotherapist working in women’s health and mum of three. Join me each week as we dive into all things pregnancy care, childbirth, and postnatal recovery, helping you have a wonderful pregnancy and afterbirth experience. And don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.

KATH BAQUIE

Well, hello, hello! It is lovely to have you join us this week for another beautiful Birth Story which is part of the Spilling the Milk series in this podcast. If we haven’t met before, my name is Katherine Baquie. I’m a mum of three young girls a physio for women and I have an online community, FitNest Mama which helps to provide pregnant and new mothers with the exercises support and resources they need to feel good from the inside out, say prepare for and recover from childbirth. FitNest Mama has workouts at a tired-mum friendly, achy-mum friendly and toddler friendly that you can do in the convenience of your home at the end of a long day whilst your bubba sleeps, or whilst your toddler is running around causing havoc.

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So as I mentioned, I had the pleasure of chatting to Caitlin, today. Caitlin is a mama to one little man, Hunter, business owner ‘To Living the Abundant Way and she also has her own podcast of ‘Belly and beyond’, so be sure to check that out. Caitlin is also a lovely member inside FitNest Mama and she shares her pretty incredible story which includes having a baby diagnosed with a birth defect with cleft lip and palate. Baby Hunter had two plastic surgeries before the age of one. So they’ve had a long road with surgeries and they’ve got a long road ahead as well with surgeries, gum-grafting braces and a potential palate break and speech therapy.

She describes the moment that she was taken into NICU, how it felt to be by herself whilst her husband had gone with the baby and she had just given birth. She also describes pumping milk for 12 months and all the ups and downs that came with that. She discusses how she wasn’t able to breastfeed and the emotional pain that that caused her. She discusses how she’s built her business. Alongside this huge life shift. She discusses how she’s called in and arranged for support services, a doula, cleaners online shopping. So finally, Caitlin shares how FitNest Mama has helped her in her postnatal journey and in particular, how she loved the stretches and exercises which were designed to help ease those aches that new mums do often have with so much holding and nursing of their baby. So sit back and relax and to hope you enjoyed this Birth Story: Spilling the Milk with Caitlin.

Hello, Caitlin! Thank you for joining me today on the FitNest Mama Podcast. It’s great to finally chat. Could you please introduce yourself to start off with? Let us know a little bit about who you are and your motherhood journey. And yeah, let’s start from the start.

CAITLIN

Hi, well, I’m Caitlin. People call me Catie. I’m currently in Queensland, the northern part of Australia and I left Sydney on June 22nd. Basically in a bit of a rush because Sydney 2.0 hit I think that was like Victoria already 7.0 I don’t even know anymore. But regardless, it was a crazy season. So we wanted to go on a road trip prior to even knowing that the second round of COVID was going to hit and we’d already started making plans to hit the road and put all their house into storage. So we did all of that so I am still literally living out of my car basically we house it and Airbnb while raising my 20-month old little boy who I’m going to talk about today. And then between my husband and I we run three companies. Our life is so intense, trying to do it all until just recently without any support services and I desperately miss grandma and date nights. So that’s mean a little bit of a nutshell.

KATH BAQUIE

Oh my gosh, we could just, that could be a whole podcast episode just diving into your life without even touching on your son. Tell me, are you moving from place like city to city? town to town? What’s happening? Are you staying in one place and just moving houses?

CAITLIN

Well, we were obviously concerned when we left Sydney, we left with literally 10 minutes to spare me basically when and resided in the bush for a couple of days just to like deregulate after the stress of trying to get out before like speed cameras caught us at the wrong time like so intense. And then we realized we left after the date. So we had to back date when we left Sydney. And essentially we had to go into a self-quarantine for two and a half weeks. When we found that out, we were getting close to Coffs Harbour. We luckily had friends there with this beautiful new built house. And we got to reside in the bottom part of the house which back down to a private access to a beach which literally saved our life because I don’t know what we would have done in a studio motel for three weeks with a 20 month buy or he was just over one there would have been horrible. So we got through that we made our way to buyer and we saw our friends and we basically frantically got permission to cross into the Queensland border, knowing what was coming and it was going to close. Soon as we crossed into Queensland, we’ve never left the state of Queensland. And we ended up taking our time because we have a baby and you have to stop once they wake up and find a hotel or a motel. And we basically went all the way up to the Daintree Rainforest. And we went from house to house to house it. So we prebooked house, it’s an event through a site called mind our home, you pay like $50 for an annual fee. And you basically look after people’s prized possessions which often are more important than their own children, pets. So we looked after dogs, cats, our package chickens, like farms, country sides beat sides, like, we have seen the full geography of Queensland. The only downside is you have to do nice exit cleans as in return the home, how you found it, which means if you go there for a week, you settle in, make mess, and then you have to do a deep clean, which most mums only want to do like every one to two months, but we do them every eight to 10 days.

KATH BAQUIE

Oh, my gosh. Let’s go back to the start of the journey. Because I guess that’s why we have you on here, is to chat about your experience in terms of becoming a mother and I know yours is a bit of a different experience. Which is why if I asked you to come on today, did you mean to fall pregnant? Like was it planned? How was the process of falling pregnant?

CAITLIN

I wasn’t trying. I feel like we got blessed and stitched up in the best possible way. But I say that respectfully. And I’m very careful when I share that part of my story, because I’m very aware that that is not the story for other women. And it can take time for other women hearing women say, oh, yeah, I just felt printed a one two can just be like a real cut to the guts. But for me, my particular journey was I had to go on a process of actually surrendering and accepting not only my body, but the fact that my life is now going to be forever different. And I wasn’t really in the place that I was wanting to do that I was still feeling like I just wanted to be in a love bubble with my husband, I wanted to travel, I wanted to go to America and have cocktails on the rooftop in New York, except I sat there feeling sick, nauseous and didn’t drink anything. So I was a little bit annoyed. And as you know, we haven’t travelled since. So that was my last chance to travel and all this mess. And I did it rather tired and sick. But I did spend some time processing the fact and got to a place Hang on. This is a gift. This is a blessing. Regardless of the timing. This is obviously what’s meant to be for our season. And of course when he was born, it was in right in the thick of the first COVID big outbreak and I wanted to go to Europe that year for my 30th and go to Spain and I wouldn’t have been going anyway instead I spent my postpartum hidden away in my family home. But yes, at 20 weeks, I did find out in fact that my son had a birth defect comes under the birth defect category, which is a left cleft lip which basically means it’s six weeks, his lip gum and palate did not join. And you can imagine at six weeks like you don’t know anything. Most people don’t even know they’re pregnant six weeks, they haven’t even realized they missed their period yet sometimes. So like it’s very hard to like, assess why this happens. And I spent many months going around in my head trying to figure out why this happened to us. And medically, why did this happen? I’m a very healthy person. So it kind of really got to me. But yes, we went on this huge journey of now really reconciling with the fact that I was going to be a hospital mum. And I was going to be that mum that has to go to appointments and specialist appointments and your whole world changes when you find out this information in your little motherhood bubble pops.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah, I can really feel for you because not only were you not expecting to get pregnant, so you were trying to come to terms with your pregnancy, then within a few weeks, you found this out. So I can imagine the turmoil that you were in at that stage. How was the rest of the pregnancy?

CAITLIN

It started off hard. As you can imagine, I was emotional. I already had all these hormones pumping through my body that was new to us already nervous about being a mum and then I had all these additional things. I think you’ve really got to reconcile with the fact that your child may look different and how you’re going to navigate that around friends and family. Like for me, I got through it and I was like I don’t really care what he looks like and I love him so much, but then started to get a little bit nervous or how other people going to treat him. How other people are going to feel around him. And of course, the big question mark was, am I going to be able to breastfeed? And you know, your kind of you’re a kid, you think you see mums in the park breastfeeding, you think, oh, that’s going to be me, you just kind of make all these assumptions about your parenting journey, just through naivety really. And as we know, and you’ve probably spoken to many mums, I know many mums, breastfeeding is no simple thing. It has all ups and downs and complications, regardless of my situation that is just breastfeeding is something we don’t talk about enough. So that was the big thing that was really starting to break my heart. I felt like I’d lost this opportunity before I even tried.

KATH BAQUIE

So what did they tell you during pregnancy? Did they say that you wouldn’t be able to breastfeed? Like I’m not an expert in this condition? So yeah, to enlighten me, what did they say?

CAITLIN

I love the medical space when it’s needed. But they also sometimes don’t have that gentle touch that’s needed for a new mother. And of course, I had a male obstetrician, which is quite common, and they’re very straight, they’re very black and white, they’re very matter of fact. So it was very dogmatic. They can’t give you any absolutes about anything. So you know, they could say, well, if this happens, it could be like this. We don’t know the measurements of the clips, we don’t know how extreme it’s going to be. And we don’t know this, it’s not going to be like this. And you just start to get to a point where there’s all these question marks and all these ifs, because they can’t make any necessarily guarantees. And basically, we couldn’t actually assess the actual pallet. Because to be able to do that inside the womb with like a proper scan, he has to be laying back with his head tilted back, and his mouth actually open. And like how many times you have a scan or a baby does that like it’s so hard. And he actually he really didn’t want us to look at his face. I know that sounds silly, but I went in for like seven or eight scans. And it was just so frustrating, we would sit there then I get off the bed, I go for a walk to try and get him to move. And every time he would cover his face with his hand, or he turned his head away, and they literally couldn’t get a good shot of his lip, let alone the palate. So what they were having to do was go through the top of his head through all of the layers and try and ascertain from like a top view how much of a millimetre space there was on the lip, like it was really silly. And in the end, they said, there’s just no point you’re coming in anymore. Like he doesn’t want us to see your face. We did all the hard scans, the brain scans, they asked me if I wanted to do any further testing, like genetic testing or any correlation to links to anything else. They also offered me an abortion, even though it was between 22 and 24 weeks, that’s legally allowed in New South Wales under a birth defect which by that point, I was highly offended and mortified that I even get asked that question but also had to reconcile that them doing their job. But I couldn’t believe that that was even an option. There was literally nothing wrong with this baby. Like it was so healthy. There was no reason nothing like it was just maybe a one in 100 or 1000 chance that it could be connected to something really serious. So it was all these different waves and all this information we had to navigate. And we did indeed meet the surgeon and she took us through the process of what surgery like what’s the recovery like, the whole process until they’re like 18. Like you get your kids whole life in like a medical report in like less than 20 minutes. And you’re just like, well, well, well, that’s just take it step by step. I don’t think I’m ready to think about my Cuban 18 is still growing. So there was a lot there was a lot we had to kind of medically get through and I guess to protect my own mental health, I went into a bubble and I just kind of didn’t want to know any more about the information. I just knew he was healthy. And then I went into full birth mode and stopped worrying about the other side.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah. And I’ve spoken to have one other birth story with the lovely Jodi, whoever’s listening, if you want to scroll back, and Jodi’s little baby had a diaphragmatic hernia. So straight after the baby’s born had to be rushed off to surgery. So although they’re totally different stories, I can hear very much similarities. And like I want to ask about once the baby is born. But once you found out about this situation, did you dive into much birth preparation? Or was that not really important for you?

CAITLIN

So because I felt like those things happening out of my control. And as you learn very quickly, lots of things happen out of your control and parenting and you learn to go with the flow. I focus on the things I could control and that could empower me and could impact me in a really positive way. So I actually became obsessed with birth preparation, like obsessed. I fell in love with every aspect. I wanted to empower myself so that I had the most beautiful birth and I could do whatever I could to ensure that I felt heard that I understood medical lingo that I knew what happened in the birth room. I hired a doula because I really wanted that extra support. I didn’t get into the midwife program because I went overseas the day after I found out I was pregnant for eight weeks to America and Canada. So I didn’t have that access to talking to the hospital. So I actually missed out on getting into the midwife program. So I went into the GP midwife program, which basically meant I didn’t have that continuity of care, I when I rocked up to have my baby, I got whatever midwife was on duty at the time. So I wanted a consistent person to support me through my pregnancy and my birth and my postpartum it was just one little thing I felt like that could just help me in amongst all the chaos in my mind. And she was amazing. She just literally made me feel so strong, and so courageous than her being taken away from me because I had to pick between her and my husband because of the hospital rules. I ended up doing zoom with her and it didn’t matter. I still felt like she was there for me, right until she dropped me off at the hospital and obviously took me up and then they kicked her out. And then she was on Zoom. And then she was back at her house like a week later. And she was there for me four weeks after I actually paid an extra package for her to be there for me for like 10 weeks after Hunter was born. So I really set my life up from postpartum food cooking. It lasted me three months, we hired a cleaner. I had friends helping me do things I called in all the support, I just threw out the fear of asking for help. Because I was like, I can’t do this without a tribe. I literally need every single person that’s willing to help me. And I just called them all in and got ready for this big journey.

KATH BAQUIE

Okay, so you prepared for birth? Amazing. Did you do a few different courses? Like what did you do to prepare for birth?

CAITLIN

So I did the She Births course, I absolutely loved it. I did it in person, I was able to do it in person, you do it with your partner, and you do it over two days. And that was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Like, I would even go and do it again for another baby just because I loved it so much. It empowered my husband, he walked out of that weekend. And he said to me, I really matter in the birthing space, don’t I? I said, you really matter and he ended up doing more work. I feel like I’m actual midwife when I was birthing. And I saw this huge shift in him. And he felt empowered and educated. And I also feel like I walked down. I was like, I’m going to roll this baby out. Like I just felt so confident.

KATH BAQUIE

Oh. That’s great. And talk us through the moment you realize you’re in labour.

CAITLIN

I did acupuncture. So I thought acupuncture be a really good way to bring on my labour. I’m really into natural sources. So I did that three times. And then I really wanted my baby born on Easter Sunday. So on the Saturday I booked acupuncture in the evening with this beautiful lady had 20 years’ experience in Chinese medicine. And I said go hard. I want to be in labour tonight. And she went so hard and it hurts so much. And I literally went into labour two to three hours later, I lost my mucus blog after having a bath. And I had the baby 24 hours later.

KATH BAQUIE

What stage did you go into hospital?

CAITLIN

When I got there? I was five centimetres. And I in my head felt like I was going to be more than that. But then my doula was very conscious, there’s an extra centimetre that they actually don’t tell you about. Really, you’re six, you’re doing really well just keep going. And that was at 6pm. And he was born at 10:15.

KATH BAQUIE

So at 10:15 your midwife checked you and you were five to six centimetres dilated. And then your baby was born three hours later. Did you have any pain relief?

CAITLIN

I had the gas that was the only pain relief I had. Oh, and I had a bottle of wine at home a bottle of red wine over 12 hours of labouring at home with a lot of food and a lot of water. I had about eight litters of water and I didn’t stop eating until I literally got in the car. And that by that point I was starting to really not cope was in the car. But I ate for literally 14 hours everything I could find in the house and I just filled myself up and I had sat outside on my patio eating and drinking wine with my husband and my doula for like three hours that actually helped take a bit of the edge off. But when I was actually in the hospital, the only pain relief I used was the gas and I hated it. It worked. But I hated the feeling of the gasping over my mouth. And I felt like it was muzzling me and I couldn’t speak and that was actually a really hard part for my birth was allowing these 10 breaths on this gas mask. But it did work and it did get me through and I probably wouldn’t have coped without it.

KATH BAQUIE

And for the pushing phase, did you get the urge to push or did they tell you when it’s time to push? How did that happen?

CAITLIN

They were the opposite. I was so annoyed at COVID and the situation of losing my doula that I was actually I just didn’t stop pushing. I just kept pushing and kept pushing to the point I remember being on the birth stall, and my husband was behind me and I was literally pulling down on him. And I remember the midwife looking, she’s if you keep pushing like this, you’re going to tear yourself. You need to slow down and listen to me. And I’m thinking I tear my vagina, I don’t want to tear my vagina and no shit, I got to listen to her. And I remember that she’s like, I only want you to push when I tell you to push. And it was really starting to get to that point where, you know, your crowning and the head starting to come out. And I just was so over it. And I’m saying, I’m just over these, I’m done with this shit, I want to put my pajamas on like a frickin over it. I was like that. Two hours of just kept on saying I’m over, I started getting like, visions of me going and getting a C section. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. She ended up just talking me through it. And I just didn’t stop pushing. I think that’s obviously why he came out maybe a little quicker, because I was just so angry.

KATH BAQUIE

Okay, so your baby came out. And what happened with the cleft palate? Was that that was the first time you’ve seen your baby, like what was running through your mind there?

CAITLIN

So we’ve gotten through the birth, I’ve ended up birthing him kind of standing over the bed with a mat underneath and I think getting down on my knees and for the final push of him really coming out. And of course, my husband was behind me and the midwife was beside me. And all I could think about was I just, I just want to have a shower and go to bed. When my husband got to see obviously it was a boy, we didn’t know he was a boy. So those excitement coming from behind, it’s a boy, it’s a boy. And then all of a sudden, my mind went, oh my gosh, is his palate effective. So I just start yelling, “Is this palate affected? Is his palate affected?” And Of course, the pediatrician comes, in the obstetrician comes in, and immediately they just take your baby away, it’s very different to allowing you to kind of pull your baby out which you say whether it’s a C section or a vaginal birth, and you generally get to hold your baby, as long as they’re breathing, that wasn’t like that. They took him straight away, put him over a member on the side. And you know, assessing him checking everything. So okay, they probably are a bit over vigilant to be honest, like they didn’t need to be that worried. He wasn’t going to stop, there was nothing wrong. There’s no open wounds that they’re probably a little bit dramatic. They could have just let me had a moment. That meant that I had to rush cutting the umbilical cord, because obviously he’s been taken a further away from me and my husband wanted to do that to that became really rushed unnecessarily. And essentially, they called back and they were like, yes, hard and soft palate affected. And I swore. I just remember going, “Waaaahh” and just being so annoyed, because I’m like, that’s it. Breastfeeding is over, I got to get my pump on. This whole kind of world of disappointment just fell over my body. And I was like, I can’t do this right now. I actually can’t cope, I can’t do this, this is all just too much. And essentially, I didn’t have to worry about it because they want to whisk them off to NICU. They put him on my chest fairly quickly didn’t obviously bother trying to latch or have that bliss moment that you so dream of when you’re a mum. And my husband knew exactly what I wanted for him when he came out. So he just went into dad mode straightaway and left me and I obviously had to find fracture tears that needed to be stitched up. So Hunter’s already down in NICU.That was it, I think got like 60 seconds to two minutes with him or something, create one photo. And I didn’t see him again then for like, ages. James was down there for like five hours because I had to shower rest for the mess that’s everywhere, as you know. And it was just a very disjointed experience. And I remember thinking, having this overflowing love and heart for women that struggle when they’re babies born or have postnatal depression. I’m thinking I wasn’t at that point. Remember the this is This isn’t good. This is not how you’re meant to feel when you have a baby and no one talks to you about not feeling good. When your baby comes out. It’s all these Instagram photos and these instant peace moments and this love you and your husband crying and you get the photo. We didn’t get any of that. And I felt very disconnected from my baby. It’s now in a box downstairs in a room and everyone’s watching me be a mum. It’s awkward.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. Because I can’t even imagine, you know what was going through your mind for those five hours where you’re not seeing your husband, you’re not seeing your baby. Do we getting updates like, did you know what was happening?

CAITLIN

You don’t know anything until your partner comes back because they don’t have time to go down there. Check your baby come back up until this is public holiday weekend. So they’ve got less staff higher rate, different staff on duty casuals and then COVID on top of that. So he did come up after a good few hours and said everything’s okay. Everything’s happened as you wanted, like, how are you all of that? And then obviously, they want to get you checked into your other room. They want to get you out of the birthing suites because other women are going to come in. But yeah, it was different. And I had to really go through in my mind once I’d showered and put my clothes on, gone into my permanent room. You know, in the other wing of the hospital I had to and he was now in NICU being looked after. Technically didn’t need me. Didn’t need my breast milk or food because technically he’s now on tubes for fluids. I just had to rest and I needed to now instantly go into how do I hand express colostrum which that’s my one regret that I didn’t do as a mum was prenatal express that is the one thing I really wished I empowered myself with because it would have given me a bit more relief on the other side with backup frozen colostrum.

But I had to go into these learn how to start extracting my colostrum putting it into a spoon extracting into a syringe. And now I had to walk down to NICU to see my baby and put syringes on its pillow so they could squeeze it into a tube to feed my child. Like, it was a really weird experience. But I think my mind went into, okay, what do I do to make sure that my baby’s okay? So I just switched my brain off. I think at some point and probably had a bit of an aftermath, you know, sadness that lingered for a couple of weeks after that, but I was like, I’ve just got to get this colostrum. So I set my alarm for every three hours, wake up, squeeze my colostrum. Take it down and same, and most of the time went down and he was asleep. So I kept missing him and I didn’t want to wake him up. So I go back up and I’d lay down like when’s he going to wake up again? It was just, it was just weird.

KATH BAQUIE

And how long was he in special care nursery for?

CAITLIN

Sunday night, Monday night. And the cleft nurse came in Tuesday. Being a public holiday Monday, the general team for cleft babies, aka the clef nurse, the surgeons, all of the team that run in the hospital aren’t coming in on public holiday Monday, so I had to wait till Tuesday. So as a result, he had to stay in NICU until they got the all clear from the team. And when the cleft nurse came in, she was mortified. She’s like, why is this baby a NICU? Cleft babies don’t go to NICU. Get him out of here. Unplug this thing. She kind of get annoyed at like, you know, the team down there. And as a result, that entire team had to go into a cleft baby training to know exactly what to do when babies are born, or the midwives got trained in bottle support, how to use the bottles, and all these midwives are coming into my room, seeing how we were feeding and all these different things. Because I’ve never seen this before. We didn’t know this is what happened. And they all wanted to get trained, so they could be better than next time this happened. So I kind of joke and say he created all this change. He’s a bit of a change maker. And they instigated all of these like things to happen. That NICU thing I got through, I got through that and it was fine. And I’m actually kind of glad I experienced it. Because if there’s any mums listening, and your baby has been to NICU for much more serious reasons than my baby, you’re literally my hero, NICU mums are some of the strongest, bravest mums I’ve ever met because he has a whole other world down there.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah. And it always sends shivers down my spine. Whenever we talk about it. Were you and your baby discharged home at the same time?

CAITLIN

Yes, yes, yes, yes. So by the time that cleft nurse was it on Tuesday, I think that they had to just take off all the, you know, their sheets and everything. And I’m pretty sure he was up in my room by Tuesday afternoon. But we didn’t leave till Friday morning. We had to do hearing tests, we had to do another heart check. They wanted to check one of his hips from birth. And then we also had to learn how to use these bottles for feeding that you can only access basically through one side a very specifically designed bottle. So of course, I had to learn how to use these bottles. And I wasn’t discharged until the Friday and he was born on the Sunday nights we were in hospital for quite some time probably for an average month. And once he got the hang of using the bottles, then we could all go home together.

KATH BAQUIE

Had there been surgeries and how many surgeries?

CAITLIN

He had two surgeries before he was one year old. He had a surgery for just the isolated lips. So literally just bringing the two lips together and tucking under the nose because it opens up one of the nostrils essentially on the left side. So that happened at four months, which is actually a little bit late for cleft babies. They sometimes get them in at three months, which under normal pediatrician care for general anaesthetic. Normally, kids don’t go under until they’re one-year-old. So cleft babies are a very big exception in that rule. Unless it’s obviously an emergency like something critical is happening. This is obviously not critical essential surgery because he could live for a very long time without these surgeries. So that kind of was a blessing for me because I want to push as long as possible. He was a bit stronger, he was a bit bigger. We’ve got three more hurdles you can imagine a four-month old baby compared to a three-month old baby just so different. And then he had the palate repair which is the hard and soft palate I like to say it’s like if you had a wound on your stomach and you zipped up a pair of jeans on the outside and it kind of sucked you all in and close I guess like you say like zip up your jeans and holding your pelvic floor kind of like that. It’s like someone’s zipped up the skin on the outside of his cleft and brought the bones back together. And it took about three weeks to recover. And essentially then he didn’t have a massive hole in the roof of his mouth. So Food and liquid wasn’t going up his cleft into his nose and back out his nose anymore. He was swallowing like we do, and it just rolls down the back of your throat. So that was obviously massive, because I was watching him eat by this point he started eating at six months, this was eight months of surgery. So he was chewing food from one side to the other. You can imagine trying to navigate around a massive hole in your throat, like I try to navigate with a sore tooth, like it’s annoying

KATH BAQUIE

And starting solids for babies is stressful as it is, I can’t imagine this on top of it.

CAITLIN

I again found it as a moment to be empowered from the loss of breastfeeding and made it exciting. So when you feel like something’s been taken from you, again, I chose to pump milk. So I get the same milk that my body was producing to him but through a different avenue. And I just looked at the first food is that next exciting journey was like, wow, I can control what he eats, what I cook what I prepare, and yeah, there was a lot of gagging and choking, and I think that’s already scary. But he had a bit of an additional gag on top of that, and I would get that. “Oh my God, is he gonna die?” Like moment, often, like every day, and then I started to get used to it and you realize how strong they are. And the gag reflex is absolutely incredible. And nothing bad ever happened. And then of course, it was repaired. And he’s still sometimes gagged.

KATH BAQUIE

Gosh. Wow, what a journey. And has he got any more surgeries ahead?

CAITLIN

Yeah, yeah. So technically, as a child, they would be under the children’s hospital till they’re 18. But they’re actually extending it now and trying to bridge the gap between a child and then moving into the adult hospital because you don’t want to move into a new team when you’re 18. So they’re trying to extend the team because they really believe that the child is with them till they’re more like 2022. So this is a long planning that when you get assigned to your surgeon and your nurse like these people are with you for like a decade. Like it’s a very long journey, we obviously believe for the best always and hope that we can decrease the amount of need from them. But essentially, he still has a gap between his gum. So you know how like kids have their baby teeth, and then they get their adult teeth that’s normally around what seven to nine years old. He can’t have his gum grafting until he’s at a dental age. So essentially, he has a gap in his gum, and it’s shifted. So like he doesn’t have his front teeth that go on like this. He has a gap on the left side. So it’s actually tough. So when he’s he smiles and stuff people like his teeth are crooked, what’s going on in there and like, he hasn’t had his gum grafting, which is where they take bone from his hip, it’s pretty intense surgery, take bone from his hip, they basically smash it up, make it into like this core playdough paste. And then they’re probably have to break the jaw a bit and adjust the jaw and then feel the gap with bone, which is absolutely incredible. But as you can imagine for an eight-year-old, it’s going to be a big one and he’ll be probably what in new one or two.

KATH BAUIE

Gosh. She’s going to be a strong guy, isn’t he? Like emotionally and like he’s just been through so much. He’s a fighter.

CAITLIN

He doesn’t know any different though. He got pissed at me when he came out of the second surgery. So I do remember the look in his eyes that you took me in? We were having fun. And I came out, what the hell did you just do? Like, I remember that look in his eye, like where did you just take me. But the older they get, the more that you can talk to them, and they can process it and you can start to have a mature conversation. So there’s going to be more preparation involved. This time, there’s going to be more how do you how does this make you feel? So I’m aware that the next surgeries, he also has to get his nose reconstructed as well, because the tape that they use to stop the widening of the lip as a baby’s head and face grows, kind of kept it, you know, sucked in, which is very effective. And it’s genius idea that someone created unfortunately, where the plastic part robbed it actually tore through the cartilage at the bottom of my son’s nose. And it was the first time they’ve ever seen it happened to a child, maybe it’s the way his mouth and his nose is shaped pressing and crossing the bottom is cartilage. So we have to reassess in the next two years, how damages the cartilage can we tuck it under and also make sure that it’s not affecting the shape and the bridge of his nose growing because obviously the top of the nose is quite heavy and it’s supported by a rather thin little bit at the bottom. So that will be before the ground grafting. So that’ll be in the next three years and then the ground grafting will be at nine. Then you have to get off the don to work we’ll have to get braces, maybe plate expansion. Maybe check his jaw needs to be broken and you just keep going as it goes on.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah, and Caitlin like what you’ve been through, it’s huge and I just want to say well done.

CAITLIN

Thank you.

KATH BAQUIE

It’s not easy being a mum and you know, all these decisions you’ve got to make and all this information you’ve got to learn on top of the normal motherhood stuff like it’s just huge. So you’re doing such a great job. Tell me about your recovery after birth.

CAITLIN

It was pretty bumpy the first three months, and there’s lots of different medical intervention that was needed. And my stress levels were extremely high. I have a pretty high stress tolerance. But this really broke me. And I felt the physical stress affecting my body, my core was holding so much tension, it was like I was always clenching. Even though everything was so weak from having a baby and I wasn’t sleeping properly. Because I was in pain, I was sitting upright a lot trying to hold my baby. So I felt physically saw, because I have a journey of mild scoliosis, there’s a lot of pressure that forms on my lower back and holding a baby sitting up in bed all the time, trying to feed and do things, it just added a lot of pressure to my body. And when I don’t move, my body gets stiff. So it’s like the worst thing for me. So I really struggled from that perspective. And then of course, I was pumping eight times a day. So there was the physical pressure of pumping on my body while also trying to navigate how to bottle feed. And bottle feeding actually, you don’t hold your baby in a very good position when you bottle feed. I tried to keep sitting upright and leaning backwards. But when your busy border feeding one arm, one arm, so all my body got quite dominant on one side, and I got very lopsided, I ended up having to see a chiropractor every single week for 12 months after he was born. Because I just felt like I was a mess.

KATH BAQUIE

Wow, we were just chatting offline before and you mentioned how you’ve joined FitNest Mama, and you’ve been doing some exercises? How has that helped? And what have you done there?

CAITLIN

Well, firstly, I wished I had joined sooner. I don’t even think the program was fully up and running when I needed it. So that is fine. I feel like I’m really exposed. Now for baby number two, I just have become really aware since your program that I probably didn’t work on my pelvic floor enough, I had extremely wide abs separation that kicked in, in my first trimester. I remember feeling the 48 hours that it was ripping apart and I was in agony. And I just now have reflected that. Man, I just want to work on my pelvic floor so much more for baby two. I haven’t gone and got a proper assessment yet, you’ll probably like it a slap my hand because I’ve been on the road, it is one of my top things I want to do. I want to get a proper assessment with a physio exactly like you do up here in Queensland. And I really want to make sure that my pelvic floor is strong, and I have actually recovered or where I’m at. And I want to keep working on like I did your exercises that are in your Facebook group, I’ve never felt more exhausted than sitting there and following your pelvic floor stretch exercises. I was literally so tired. I’m like, if someone was walked up to walk past right now they’d literally think I’m sitting here doing nothing. But on the inside, every single muscle in my body is trying so hard. And my brain was trying so hard. So I know I’ve got a lot of work to do.

KATH BAQUIE

So what Caitlin’s referring to is, if you’re listening pelvic floor muscles that are out of sight, out of mind their internal muscles to the body. I know after three children; I need to exercise them more than I do. And I know motivation or just remembering to do them is a challenge as busy mums. And so quite regularly, I jump into our private Facebook group. And I just step everyone through a set and just from start to finish. And everyone comments done, like you know, tick or done or finish, whatever. And everyone just seems to love that extra motivation. And so what Caitlin’s talking about then is your pelvic floor muscles, they were done after that set, which is great, because that’s how we get them stronger as we take them to fatigue. Yes. So that’s great. Well done for doing that.

CAITLIN

Yeah, I love that.

KATH BAQUIE

It’s all a matter of chipping away, isn’t it? You know, as busy mums, I think we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to exercise and you know, we need to do this, and we need to do that. But at the end of the day, I think if we can give ourselves the grace to have that freedom to just keep chipping away. You know, if we can’t do a lot one day, that’s fine. If we can’t do it the next day, that’s fine. But when you can get back to it, even if it’s five minutes here, 10 minutes there, we can keep trying to be consistent and cheaper way when we can I think that’s the first amazing step to recovery.

CAITLIN

Yeah, and I love the accountability of doing it with you in the Facebook, I love that it pops up there’s a notification I love that other people jumping on. So I really love that kind of community sense aspect. But I also really love all this section that’s obviously in your program, which is for postpartum and it’s for like the breastfeeding or bottle feeding and all the stretches for the upper body for me particularly, rather than so feeling like I’ve done this massive epic workout. Now I just want to feel like I can put my shoulders back. That I can open up my pecs. That I can stand tall and strong that I’m not got a sore hip from holding my baby that I don’t have a tension headache that I’m just feeling stiff and sluggish. That’s what really affects my mood more than just like I’ve got to get out there and do like a 5k run personally, it’s all about mobility and movement and feeling like I’m not stuck because I get very stuck. So yeah, I’ve really been enjoying it. I have done other programs before that are Pilates related. And I’m really noticing the difference with you having obviously that complete physio expertise, background and even the way you talk through the different level one, level two, level three, I’m even noticing how much more my brain is connecting with what you’re saying and really using my muscles or activating my pelvic floor in a much clearer way than what I think that I’ve just been doing and just everyday Pilates.

KATH BAQUIE

Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. If you could just share a couple of words. I’m putting you on the spot here. A few words of wisdom or you know, a piece of advice for pregnant mums who might be listening today, what would be your main piece of advice?

CAITLIN

I have two. The first one is, like I said before, I’m a really big fan of prenatal expressing. Its super simple. It’s cost effective. You can literally just buy packs online on this great girl. They’re all my baby shower presents now. It’s not something people ask for. But I don’t care if they’re friends with me, they’re getting one.

KATH BAQUIE

Our second episode was with a lovely Suzie Prout. We talked through preparing to breastfeed. So it’s a Podcast, episode number two, and it’s all about preparing to breastfeed, and she talks about antenatal expressing, so check that out if you’re interested.

CAITLIN

Perfect. Well, I didn’t do that. And I wish that I did. And I just think you don’t know what’s on the other side. And it’s just so nice to have like you. Some people might prepare their food for their postpartum in the freezer. Prepare colostrum. It’s just if you don’t need it, it’s medicine or donate it, something beautiful will happen with it anyway, it’s never a waste. And my second one is just like you would when you buy a house or make a big investment in your life, you get all the details, you pick the bank, you pick the broker, you pick the loan, you pick what interest rate fixed or interest only you go through this massive process to really assess what is the best way for our family to make this purchase. And I see that with every decision in motherhood. When your baby’s in a hospital where the baby’s out of hospital, whether you’re deciding what’s the best way to feed your baby, whether you’re deciding the best way to parent your baby, I just think there isn’t only one way. There’s so many different ways. And often we anchor in our time of need or desperation or weakness or fatigue to one person’s advice, rather than getting many different avenues and pulling back into a little private oasis with your partner and your baby and feeling into what is actually best for you. And I really found that with my decision to pump it would be very easy for a medical person just to come in and say fat is best use a formula, use a bottle, that’s great, but it’s like hang on a minute, let me decide it’s my body. I’ve produced milk, let me just go through all the different ways. You can bottle feed and breastfeed. You can pump and formula feed. You could pump breastfeed and formula feed. You can make whatever equation you want that feels good for you. As long as your baby’s healthy and growing. Like that’s just my biggest thing. Gather all your data. Hide away, and then make your decision without people impressing on you.

KAHT BAQUIE

Oh, I love that. That feeling of empowerment when you have the knowledge and that knowledge to make an informed decision is amazing. So that is so good to finish on. Thank you, Caitlin. Can you please share if someone wants to get in touch with you? Or have their babies also had this issue? Like where can we find you?

CAITLIN

Yeah, so definitely, if there’s any mums out there that have had their child in and out of hospital back, it’s so nice to talk to another I say a hospital mum. But particularly if you haven’t been able to breastfeed or you’re making the decision to pump like I will be anyone’s pumping cheerleader, because there’s hard days when I’ll love you through that decision. But you can find me at living the abundant way with dots in between to @living.the.abundant.way. So I share about natural living and motherhood and health and wellness and really love to advocate for like people like you, and just all different amazing people that are really in this birthing motherhood space that are educating and things that maybe we haven’t necessarily focused on in the last 50 years.

KATH BAQUIE

Thank you Caitlin, thank you so much for sharing your incredible story. It’s been great to hear everything about you and your little boy.

CAITLIN

Thank you so much for having me.

KATH BAQUIE

Well, chat to you soon.

CAITLIN

Bye.

KATH BAQUIE

And before I sign off, remember my team and I will be putting together the show notes with all the links including how to connect with Caitlin at fitnestmama.com/podcast. And also don’t forget if you are pregnant, come and register for the Free Live Pregnancy Workshops, kicking off every fortnight over the next few months free to register at fitnestmama.com/pregnancyworkshop. Have a fabulous day everyone and I look forward to you joining me next week for another episode of the FitNest Mama Podcast.

Thanks for listening to the FitNest Mama Podcast brought to you by the FitNest Mama Freebies found at www.fitnestmama.com/free. So please take a few seconds to leave a review, subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. And be sure to take a screenshot of this podcast, upload it to your social media and tag me, @fitnestmama, so I can give you a shout out too. Until next time! Remember, an active pregnancy, confident childbirth, and strong postnatal recovery is something that you deserve. Remember, our disclaimer, materials, and contents in this podcast are intended as general information only and shouldn’t substitute any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I’ll see you soon!

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