What I've Learnt In The First Few Weeks
So, she’s here! My beautiful, very longed for baby girl is finally here. It still doesn’t feel real despite her being 14 weeks old. We still look at her and say to each other “how have we made something so beautiful? Is she really ours?” and yes, she really is. After watching various TV programmes and movies that included labour, I expected this really hard, screaming, painful experience would be over within a few hours. What I got, though, was a five-day labour that ended up with the ‘dreaded C-Section” and 3 near death experiences (a story for another time). I would like to share with you today what I’ve learnt in the first few weeks of her life, hoping it might help someone who’s expecting their first.
1. Labour is the unknown: No matter how much you think about it, plan it, talk about it, read about it, practice it, it will not be as expected. The 8 of us in my antenatal class all have very different stories. Most of them gave birth naturally, 2 of us had the operation. One pushed for hours and hours, another only two…. Some had pain relief (I had an epidural and it was bliss!) and one had nothing. Don’t have your heart set on something because you cannot control it. What is important is that baby and you are ok at the end of the day. Listen to your practitioners and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just because you want pain relief doesn’t mean you’re a wimp – you’re giving birth to another human, it isn’t easy, do what is right for you as they wouldn’t give you anything that hurts bubba!
2. There is WAY too much pressure to breastfeed: Within 30 mins of Baby B being born she was latched on – Hallelujah! “A natural” they said. Then, I caught MRSA, E. coli and Sepsis and was rushed to intensive care being without her for 3 days. I couldn’t breast feed as I was fighting for my life so our darling little girl got used to bottles and its done her good to be honest. She’s thriving now and is a super weight. Things were fine even with the occasional desire to breastfeed (as “it’s natural to do so” I kept saying to myself), until we met up with our antenatal teacher, who sat there for an hour convincing me to start breastfeeding again even though I was still on morphine. I was quite upset thinking that I wasn’t doing what I ‘should’ be doing and yes, it has been hard bonding with the other woman who all do that because a lot of the conversation was about either natural birth or breastfeeding to begin with. I’m not dissing breastfeeding at all, all I’m saying is that you need to choose the best for YOU and not feel bad about it. If baby is healthy then everything is good in their book and should be in yours.
3. Babies aren't complicated: Feed, burp, change, sleep, repeat. Learn to trust your instincts and you will learn about your baby quicker than you ever thought. When baby gets a little older add in entertain and tummy time…. Then a little older… teething (which is a whole new ball game of shite). They only need the essentials when they are little despite Bounty, Emma’s Diary, Mothercare and Babies R Us telling you differently. They need very little gadgets and gismos, and deffo not all these creams and lotions at the beginning of their little life. The only gadget that I used to laugh at the thought of which has turned into an absolute lifesaver is the bottle prep machine. When Baby B came home and started screaming for her bottle at 2am, waiting for boiled water to cool seemed like eternity so having a bottle in 3 mins is an amazing thing. A massive lesson I’ve learnt is not to spend hundreds on clothing, especially day-wear for under 3 month olds – you won’t need it; it’s not practical and they grow out of it ever so fast (It is hard to resist those cute outfits but you’ll thank me one day maybe…).
4. The changing bag: I was convinced mine wasn’t big enough but it’s the amount of stuff I put in it. You do not need several hundred mussies, ten nappies and one of everything else you have in the house relating to baby. All you need is (for a new born) a couple of nappies and couple of nappies sacks, a packed of wipes, one or two mussies, a sterilised bottle and spare dummy if you use them, a baby grow and spare sleep suit for the inevitable poop bomb. Most bags come with a fold away changing mat now which is handy. Nothing more. Nothing less. Remember to take it with you wherever you have baby because when I started to go out on my own with her I would run out without it and that doesn’t go to help with a well-timed poohnarmie from little one.
5. Hormones: If you thought pregnancy was bad you have the 4th trimester to look forward to. I was going to write about the absolute, overwhelming sense of love you have when you look at your baby but I know it’s not like that for everyone. We talk about post-natal depression but I still think it’s a huge taboo and quite possibly hard for mums to admit they have it. My hormones have been an absolute bitch and it was not talked about before I gave birth at all. I have been flying high, then crashing within seconds. I’ve been having hot flushes then I am extremely cold the next moment. Immense joy, immense anxiety, you name it, this emotional roller-coaster doesn’t stop when your baby is in your arms and this could go on for weeks, maybe months or years. But this is ok. It IS normal to not be normal. All I can say is talk to your mummy friends, some may understand, others won’t, but keep talking. Please speak to your Health Visitor, midwife or GP. Try find a group to take baby when the time is right. I’ve started using the ‘Mush’ App to talk to some first-time mums around me and it’s been refreshing to know that what I’m going through is normal. Your partner might not always understand because they don’t have all these millions of chemicals crashing around, but tell them so they are aware and you might get some extra hugs (best bit). Join the ASTB Community and get it all out – reach out to the sisterhood.
You will grasp motherhood quickly, you will! And sometimes it’s really satisfying to hear your little one starting to niggle and tell your partner, “oh, he need feeding” or “she’s bored, sit her up” …you will know. You won’t feel confident in the start, it’s a given but you will in time. PJ days are a natural state, I still have them and I’m glad Baby B doesn’t care. So, that’s a few things I have learnt in the first few weeks of motherhood. Not much, but just a few pointers. You go Mumma!
Remember that being a mum is hard, rewarding in time, incredibly, scary and wonderful – all at the same time and your rock it.
Written by Laura