Thursday, 14 May 2015

A letter to Oliver: Tongue Tie & Let Downs

Dear Oliver,
Today I watched a Vlog about tongue tie division, which focused mainly on Breastfeeding problems with tongue tie, and before I knew it I had burst in to tears! The whole time I have been insisting professionals look at your tongue tie I have never once become upset to the point of tears, and I couldn't understand why this vlog, presented by a woman who I have never met, speaking about a child I have no emotional connection with would get me so worked up. Then I realised. I wasn't upset, I was absolutely furious. 
As I listened to this lady talk about the problems she had Breastfeeding due to her sons tongue restriction it occurred to me that I had similar problems with you that I had never actually identified as a problem at the time. You had a shallow latch, fussed a lot at the breast, and seemed to feed continuously. You tried your best though and you compensated the best you could. You were gaining weight and at birth you weighed 4lb 12oz, so I presumed this type of behaviour was "normal" for an underweight baby.
I then looked back further, to when I had just given birth. To a time when if your tongue tie had been identified it would have been a simple case of it being snipped there and then. I remembered our first experience of Breastfeeding. Straight after birth you latched on fine. After that we had problems. I couldn't get you to latch on to the breast, and when you did it would be for a few seconds, at which point you would come off or would fall asleep. I was becoming more and more stressed, worsened by the fact I had maternity assistants coming in to my cubicle every 2 hours demanding I feed you. When you wouldn't latch, instead of spending some time with me and trying to assist me, they put a syringe to my nipple, expressed a small amount by hand, and then fed you through the syringe. I was told that I wouldn't be allowed to take you home until I could "prove" I could Breastfeed. That made me feel awful! It felt as if they were saying I couldn't be trusted to care for my child.
If I wasn't such a stubborn, strong willed person I think I would have given up. At the time I thought it was all me. I wasn't doing it right, I couldn't do this!! Now I know that I hadn't received the right support. No one even looked in your mouth to see if tongue tie could be an issue. Maybe if they had they could have prevented 2 years of speech therapy and all the other appointments that we've had to attend to rule out reasons of speech delay.
I finally had a Breastfeeding team come to the ward and assist me. They helped me find a position that I could feed comfortably in, and that you were responsive to. They still however did not look in your mouth. 
Happy that I could Breastfeed we were discharged & sent home. A Doctor did not even look you over before we left. I had to arrange a visit to my own GP the day after leaving hospital in order for you to have your first checks done. 
I hadn't exactly had the best experience prior to giving birth to you. I was admitted to hospital at 36 weeks pregnant due to preeclampsia which had gone unnoticed by my midwife. My waters were leaking, scans identified that you were losing weight inside me, and I had to stay in hospital with monitors on me for a whole week before there was room on the delivery ward for me to be induced. My whole birth plan went out of the window. I wanted a water birth with no pain relief, and had specifically stated that I did not want to be laid down to give birth. I ended up on the high risk delivery ward, attached to monitors and more or less forced to lie down because they couldn't hear your heartbeat when I moved positions. I only had gas and air, but I'm convinced that if I'd been allowed to follow my birth plan I wouldn't even have needed that. Shortly before I was ready to push they decided to take blood from your head as they felt you were in distress. My poor little boy, you had your head scratched until it bled before you had even entered the world. I had people pushing and pulling on me and I kind of lost it a bit for about 5 minutes. And then you were born! 
The experience in the hospital before and after birth had given me anxiety regarding health professionals, and due to this I didn't reach out for support. Any problems we came across I sought advice from the internet or online communities. If I had felt that I could reach out to somebody, perhaps they may have recognised the tongue restriction. But I didn't.
So yes, I'm angry. I'm angry because I don't feel like you received efficient care. I'm angry because not only did they fail to identify this at an early stage, but  since it has been identified we have been pushed from pillar to post and told that it is definitely not what is causing speech delay, without being signposted to a trained professional. I'm also angry with myself. I wish I had been stronger for you and not allowed a bad experience to cause me to be reluctant to seek help, and to doubt my own instincts for so long.
I suppose if we'd had major problems feeding I would have sought help. But the problems weren't that bad! We managed to Breastfeed for 2 years. And now I guess I feel relief that somebody has finally listened to me and we have been referred to a specialist. Perhaps that specialist will also say that the restriction is not causing speech delay, in which case I will be happy. I don't want you to have an operation. I'm scared. All I have ever wanted is for you to have the right to be examined by a professional who is adequately trained in tongue tie and who can make a decision in your best interests of what action needs to be taken. 
So I'm sorry Oliver. I think the reason I got upset when watching that vlog was because I feel like I've let you down. I let you down because I was let down. And now, at the age of 3 you may have to go through something that could have already been done and forgotten about by now. 
So that's why I cried. And in our years to come I will probably cry a lot more over you. Because as you can probably tell from this story, from the word go you were always going to be trouble!


  1. I am so sorry's so hard in motherhood sometimes. Just when we think we are getting it all right something slaps us in the face. You did nothing wrong and I know how scared you must be about this surgery! We put so much trust in the hands of "specialists". Thank you for sharing this story with #momsterslink and I am so glad to have found a new mommy blog to read!

    1. Thankyou for reading! Yes they do break our hearts a bit sometimes don't they?!