Interview with Elle Watmough – Founder of Jagger & Wolf
Meet our amazing Mumma of the month Elle Watmough.
Living in Dee Why on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Elle is 28 and mother (and stepmumma) of gorgeous 14 month old Jagger, Claudia (16) & Jake (14)
Raw and real – Elle discusses with Twingenuity what it was like having a preterm baby & her experience of motherhood so far.
How many weeks were you when Jagger decided to make an earlier than expected appearance?
I was 33 weeks and 3 days… and totally NOT expecting it.
How did it happen?
I woke up on the Saturday morning feeling pretty average. I remember walking down to Dee Why Beach and feeling really out of breath and a bit dizzy. I sat in a cafe for what felt like an eternity before returning home and going to bed. I slept for almost 3 hours and then woke up with an upset stomach. It was then I knew something wasn’t right because I had a friend who went into pre term labour and she told me this was one of the first signs she noticed.
My husband Anthony and I went over to my sister’s house to spend the afternoon with them and about 15 minutes after we arrived I started having quite dense pain that came on then went away. It got more intense over a period of an hour and then I started to feel my stomach almost contract with each bout of pain. It wasn’t a sharp pain, just a dull, heavy feeling mixed with nausea. I told my mum and husband who urged me to go to the hospital (in fact my husband’s words were “you’re too early you cant be having contractions but we better go check it out just in case”.
We went up to the hospital and they put all the monitors on to measure the contractions and Jagger’s heart rate. They confirmed they were indeed contractions I was experiencing and gave me three pill’s, half an hour apart to stop them. I was kept in for the night and the contractions did indeed stop and Jagger’s heart rate remained stable. Anthony was certain that she was coming however I was adamant that I wasn’t going to have her, regardless he went home and packed me a hospital bag.
The next morning my obstetrician came in and told me that it was looking like I would have been having her the night before, but since they had managed to stop the contractions for a long period of time, I could head home and be on bed rest. One of the nurses suggested we have a look at the special care nursery before we leave in case we had to return to hospital, as a baby born at 33 weeks would be spending some time there. As we were walking through the special care nursery I started having contractions again. 10 minutes later I was back in the hospital room and being monitored.
My obstetrician came in and told me that I would need to have Jagger before her heart rate dropped (the second time around it lowered slightly). The next 20 minutes were filled with a whole load of doctors talking to us. I remember not being able to think, or comprehend what was about to happen. It was a really full on time, I just wasn’t mentally ready to have this baby, but we didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. 25 minutes later, Jagger was born via emergency C-Section.
What went through your mind?
A whole lot, but not a lot at the same time. It sounds strange but I went into the hospital on the Saturday thinking I would be told everything was fine and sent home, and here I was on the Sunday being told I was about to have this baby. I didn’t feel prepared at all. I hadn’t finished the nursery, I didn’t have my car capsule, I hadn’t had my baby shower.. all small things in hindsight but these were things that I was using as milestones leading up to the birth of my much awaited baby.
I also felt like a lot of my motherly instincts were taken from me. Born with fluid on her lungs, she was taken almost immediately to another hospital, so I spent 4 nights in a different hospital to my new born baby (she was transferred to Royal North Shore NICU and I was at the Mater). I had hardly seen her face, couldn’t tell you what she looked like and when I did finially get to see her right before she was transferred, she had a giant CPAP machine on and an oxygen mask strapped to her face. I really just wanted to hold my baby, but I felt like that was taken away from me. Obviously the most important thing was that she was healthy and safe and I understood that. But it was such a different experience to what I had been expecting. It all happened so quickly, it didn’t really hit me until that night. I was in shock.
What were the days like after Jagger was born?
Chaotic because I had just had a C section and had to get in the car and go to another hospital to see Jagger. I was trying to express milk for her and take it over in syringes (she was tube fed for the first week) which I found really difficult. I struggled with the fact that every other mum in my ward had their babies in the room with them, bonding, feeding them, getting to know them, and I was alone in my room, with no baby. That was the hardest part. It was a bit easier when she was transferred back to the hospital I was at 5 days later. Then I was discharged and I had to leave her again. I don’t think I can describe how hard it is to leave your newborn baby at a hospital and go home empty handed. However, I realise that some mums never get to take a baby home from hospital. I really am so grateful for the fact that eventually, a few weeks later, my baby who had been so well cared for, was finally strong enough to go home. I was also incredibly grateful for the fact that she was born relatively big for a preemie (2.2kg) and was quite a good feeder, meaning she could come home sooner. Some babies in NICU were 500/600 grams and were in there for months. I can’t even begin to imagine what those parents were going through. So all in all, although it was bloody hard, we had it pretty darn good, and I am SO grateful for that.
What did you typical day include?
While she was in hospital I went up two or three times a day to feed her. I had to do alternate feedings (1 tube feed then three hours later a breast feed or bottle feed, then three hours later again, a tube feed etc). Feeding took a while and there was approx. 3 hours between feeds so I’d either go back and sleep at my sisters house until the next feed, as she was closer to the hospital, or sleep at the hospital. At night I would wake up every 3 hours to pump and take milk in the next day for her.
What was it like – emotionally?
Incredibly draining. I remember having to ask permission to hold her in the early days. She had so many tubes and power lines and monitoring devices I couldn’t really change her by myself or pick her up. We fought for so long for this baby and she was a total miracle, I really struggled with the fact so much of the stuff that is meant to come naturally was forced in our case. But in saying that, she received the best care, my mental health was checked up on constantly by the hospital and everyone really helped in those early days… going back and forth from the hospital was exhausting along with trying to express etc, everyone really pulled together and helped us out, bigtime.
How did you cope?
They say it takes a village, and it does. I slept at my sisters some nights if I did a late feed at the hospital and was going back early, and Anthony stayed at our house with our two older children. Mum cooked for me to make sure I didn’t get too run down, my family and friends constantly sat with me in the special care unit and helped me get through those LONG days. The nurses were amazing and looked after not only Jagger but myself and Anthony. We just made the best out of a situation that was taken out of our hands. Looking back, it seems so long ago, but there is no denying the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is leave my new baby 30 minutes away and go home every night.
What advice would you offer mothers in similar situations?
This too shall pass. Honestly, it sounds so cliched but it is for such a short period of time. Soon enough they are home, in your arms, thriving and growing. It didn’t harm Jagger’s and my “bond” at all like I worried it would. In fact, it made me appreciate being able to take her home so much more.
What inspired you to start Jagger & Wolf?
To tell other mamas its OK to struggle. It’s OK not to love it every second of the day. It’s OK to not know what youre doing. You aren’t meant to know what you’re doing, its incredibly hard and sleep deprivation sucks! But we are all going through it together, and we need to support each other, whether its through the process of trying to fall pregnant, the process of loss, the process of trying to raise this new baby and do something that should feel so natural but feels so foreign. It’s OK to ask for HELP. It’s OK to be struggling. And its OK to not be OK. It doesn’t make you any less of a mother, infact it makes you human. I think all women should support and lift each other up. I wanted a page where I could be honest and raw about my experience. From struggling to conceive and going down the route of IVF to being told there was a 98% chance we would lose our baby at 14 weeks, theres so many women going through this stuff, we just don’t talk about it, and talking about it makes it so much darn easier.
Quote you live by?
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to try and twist them to fit our image of perfection. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them” Thomas Merton
Favourite thing to do with Jagger?
My favourite thing to do with Jagger is go and sit on the grass at Dee Why beach and watch her watching the birds and playing with everything nature has to offer . So curious, innocent and happy.
I’m so tired I… moment?
When I was incredibly sleep deprived in the beginning I put Jagger’s bottle in the bin and her dirty nappy in the microwave. I didn’t realise for over an hour. #mumfail
Honest and open, Elle bares the high and lows of motherhood on her blog Jagger & Wolf.
We are so grateful to this wonder mum for sharing her story.
Follow her journey here.