Homecoming

So today's the day!

 

With your tiny new baby in the car seat and your significant other by your side you're about to go home with the little one.  She is beautiful, by the way - did we tell you that enough? It's so easy to fall in love with your newborn and the first reaction to the news is important. You want encouraging, loving and congratulatory words to be flung at you with wild abandon.   What you really want to hear is "Well done! You have performed an actual miracle and made a whole brand new person you clever, clever thing, you."

 

Well why not? You have.   

 

Yes yes it may be what your body was built for but that does NOT mean it's easy. Anyone who has done it will tell you the carrying it and preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for it is tough, but the actual giving birth? You deserve a medal! Weather it was all natural in a mud-pit at the bottom of the garden, under the knife with every drug available to you or anywhere in between it is a feat of which you should be enormously proud.   

 

Now I know you're scared. Terrified, if truth is to be known. The midwives and baby doctors and kind helpful family members have stuffed you full of all the information you could possibly need but the fact remains that you are tender and delicate and now on a whole new level of responsible. But this is what you need to know most;     

 

YOU WILL BE FINE. I PROMISE.   

 

More than fine - you'll be great! Like anything new - and my husband will liken it to a game on your phone, I'm sorry about that but it's his go-to analogy, I can't stop him from rolling it out but if it helps it does actually ring true - you will get better and better at it until you eventually don't question yourself at all anymore. Well, hardly at all. Okay still quite a lot but you'll get used to silencing the doubting voice in your head because your conscious brain knows you're making the right decisions.   

 

There will be days that are full of love and heartwarming moments, and days that are exhausting and make you feel like you're failing at this. You're not.  The main difference between the two of them, really, is sleep, and in the absence of that, there's coffee. 

 

Yeah, that's right; there's a reason there's a whole stereotype about women on maternity leave drinking coffee and reading trashy magazines; it's because THAT'S HOW WE SURVIVE.      

 

So on to survival, then; 

Sleep when the baby sleeps, whenever you can. That's not just a saying, it's a thing.  Remember babies are nocturnal creatures. Power naps in the day will help get you through epic feeding sessions at night, which feel a lot lonelier as the rest of the world is asleep (or so it seems). 

If you're breastfeeding, always have a glass of water to drink when the baby is feeding, you need to stay hydrated. 

Use a hairband on the wrist to remind yourself which breast she fed from last, left or right, so you can alternate.

Demand feed - do NOT try to force yourself or your baby into a routine, it will not work and might drive you ever so slightly crazy. Feeding the baby every 2-3 hours (from the end of one feed to the start of the next) is a good guide but if she's hungry more or less often then roll with it. 

Listen to the midwives, they've been doing this for years and are a wonderful resource.  If you have a lot of conflicting advice then rely on your instincts, they'll tell you what is right.  If you are struggling with breastfeeding, try and find a breastfeeding cafe near to you. 

Eat as much fibre as you can. Bran flakes, Bran muffins, Broccoli, supplements, etc.  There is a very good reason for this; the next time you visit the loo for more than a quick wee you're going to think you're giving birth again and you'll be scared. Fibre helps soften your stool and will make it less painful. I'm so sorry for the TMI! 

Day 4 - please look out for day 4. You'll be tired, emotional, your milk will come in and you'll be tender and sore and prone to tears. Be very, very kind to yourself and you'll get through it.

Be good to Dad, too. Father's have to take a backseat through most of this stuff but he is tired, and delighted, and nervous and worried as well, about the baby AND about you. He needs sleep, and nutrition, and reassurance. He's your partner in crime and the two of you will get through this better together than at each other's throats (although I've no doubt there will be a future post about competitive tiredness later).

Pay attention to your feelings for the next few weeks. If you are sad often, unhappy, angry or feel disconnected from the baby talk to someone. Post-Partem or Post-Natal Depression (PPD or PND) are real things and there is a lot of help out there if you think you may be struggling read more about it on the nhs website.  

Do NOT stress about tidying the house / doing the dishes / washing clothes.  Yes, for practical reasons these things will eventually need to be done but someone else can do them. Those friends and relatives that are so keen to see the baby? Let them rock her to sleep once you've fed her. Let them make themselves tea - get them to wash up. When they ask you if they can bring you anything? Yes, your dinner - ideally a nutritious but microwavable meal that means you don't have to think about cooking.   

And very lastly? ENJOY YOURSELF. You've waited a long time to meet this bundle of gorgeousness; I have no doubt she will be filling your hearts with love even in the lonely small hours.

 

You're now a family of 3 and we are all so happy for you, so make sure you find time to be happy for yourselves.   

 

Lots of love from Me.


Feeding the baby - it's all you need to do.

Okay, here goes; Breastfeeding? It's HARD WORK.

 

Yes yes yes everyone everywhere bangs on all the time about how it's good for your baby and the most natural thing in the world.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT'S EASY.

Remember you've never done this before and the baby has never done this before. Prior to these last few days she's been warm and cosy in the womb being fed by the means of the umbilical cord. She didn't have to work for it at all, now suddenly she has to find the source, latch on and suck. You are in charge of holding her in the right position and making sure you're both comfortable.

See? Hard work. And let's not even talk about the toll it takes on your nipples (for that, by the way, I strongly recommend a good cream that you can slap on liberally and don't have to wipe off before the baby feeds).

All that being said, it is a great way to feed your baby. It's free, it's right there in front of you (you'll have noticed that at 4am, no doubt, making you wonder who threw a bucket of water over you in your sleep) and it is the best thing you can give your baby, as well as - allegedly - being a good way to return to your pre-baby figure.

Please do note this last point ought to be so far from your mind right now... society and all that.

 

So; knowing all the pros and cons, perks and considerable downsides, what do you do?

 

The simple answer to that is whatever you want.

 

I would try - just try. You might be one of these complete naturals that has no struggle whatsoever and wonders what all the fuss is about. Most likley you'll find it tricky but persevering will pay off. The really important thing is you don't torture yourself about it. Make a decision that is right for you and right for the baby, get all the breastfeeding support that there is available to you and try to spend at least one feed looking down at this amazing person you and your partner have created. Even if you never breastfeed her again after that, try and find time to get one quiet moment, mother and daughter, that you can keep in your thoughts.

 

Most people combination feed anyway, from what I understand.  There's no shame in it. Use expressed breast milk, or formula, or a bit of each. Let Dad have his turn feeding her (all the better if it's one of the night feeds!) and let the millions of people wanting to help have a turn. Anything to give your arms a rest becuase as I'm sure you know, babies like to be held. The stress of if she's gaining weight at the right rate is enough to be getting on with in your emotional state.

 

As for the politics of breastfeeding in public, I would suggest you try and avoid that altogether by just closing your ears to it. What other people think is none of your business.

 

Your only job is to survive, love your baby and enjoy your family, and i am sure you'll be amazing at that.

 

Good luck, I'm here if you need me.


Today is Day Four - Please be kind

I've spoken about it A LOT, I know. Sorry about that, i'm not trying to scare you.

Your hormone levels right now are at an all time high. You've got exhaustion, hormones, milk and emotions running through you at a million miles an hour and the fourth day after your baby is born it all comes to a head. You'll be tired. And happy. And tired. And inexplicably sad, at times. Your milk will come in and any time you look down at your chest you'll be terrified. Oh, and if anyone so much as grazes a boob you'll want to scream.

 

If there was ever a day to be good to yourself, it's today.

 

Eat cake. Cuddle your daughter. Stay at home. Ask only nice people to visit you (or ask everybody to leave you alone). Have a bath. Treat yourself to a glass of wine if you want to. Do nice things that make you happy because - and despite all your very best efforts - at some point today you are highly likely to have an emotional outburst. 

 

This is where your partner in crime could help. Mostly by not laughing / calling you crazy, but also by looking out for signs. Things he can do. Ways he can comfort you. Don't forget he is tired too. You've both been wondering around like zombies for a few days now, probably neither of you have been thinking too hard about the day or date so if he is aware that you're likely to be off-the-scale emotional it might help him to not want to cry himself.

 

When I hit day 4 the first time, I was very ill. I didn't really know it, I knew i felt like utter shit and I cried a lot but I just thought well; i've just had a baby, i'm bound to be a bit emotional. My husband didn't really know what to do either, why would he? so we ambled our way through day 4 and assumed day 5 would be better and every day after that would continue to improve. It didn't.

 

This is why it's important to listen to your body and speak out. Ask for help. Check what you're feeling is normal. It probably is, you probably aren't ill, but right now nothing is normal so don't assume anything. Talk. Sleep. Cry if you want to, it's okay.

 

And remember, day 4 is shit, but the rest of it? The rest of it makes this all worth it.

 

Lots of love from me.xx.


Night Terrors

Not to be confused with actual night terrors, they'll come later (sorry....). I'm talking about your little 'night terror'. You know, the one that during the day is a gorgeous bundle of baby and a real sleeping angel. Yes, that's her - I've seen her now and she is indeed gorgeous, she has that great smell and looks so petite and precious, she was asleep almost the whole time I was there.

 

But I know, I knew without you even telling me that at night she becomes the sleep-thief. Forgets how to sleep completely and spends 8 solid hours either crying, feeding, pooping or, if you're lucky, being silent - but ONLY if you are standing, preferably in a really, really uncomfortable position. She's too young to need any stimulation other than rocking and cuddles, but apparently she's like the princess and the pea and can tell instantly when you might relax into a pose you could manage for the next few hours and will scream blue murder until you either feed her (again), rock her or something else - some mystery solution that the world is yet to solve, that she can't tell you about becuase she can't talk. At around 4am you wonder if she isn't just doing it on purpose to torture you.

 

We used to go for a drive, becuase our baby slept in the car. It was like magic, except that you sort of felt like on this little sleep you shouldn't legally be in charge of a vehicle, and then the second you got home you realised transferring the baby from the car into the house was almost impossible without waking them, rendering the whole exercise completely pointless.

 

And of course your partner will wake - how could he not? And he'll come downstairs becuase sleep is futile and he may as well be helping if he can't sleep. If he's very kind he might suggest taking over for a bit, even though he doesn't have the ability to lactate which is the go-to solution even when she can't possibly be hungry. Sadly, his offer - if it is even made - will only render you impotent with rage because despite being utterly, utterly exhausted, it is impossible to sleep to the soundtrack of a screaming baby, especially when it's your own and you're breastfeeding. Cue a good hour, or two, or even four, of all three of you being awake, ratty and desperate. It's then that you wish all the helpful people that were offering you all manner of assistance in the day would appear and do something - anything - to get results. But you know they won't, and if they did there is no magic cure, you just need to survive this.

 

And survive it you will, bleary-eyed and grouchy but still in one piece, I promise. The dawn will come and eventually the sweet relief of a sleeping baby, that you are able to put down, and with any luck in her own little basket. And you and your partner will collapse into bed (or very possibly on the sofa, or even the floor) in a heap. Until the rude awakening of a bin lorry, postman, noisy neighbour or local cat does something to disturb your slumber, making you want to kill someone. It's a wonder there aren't more murder charges for new mums. I suppose it's because we don't have the energy to execute any of our murderous thoughts. I once fell asleep mid-sentence, not even kidding - so working up the energy to stab someone for waking you and/or baby is pretty improbable.

 

So on to the advice, then - otherwise this is only a mildly amusing rub-in-the-face about how knackered you are;

 

- During the day, sleep ANY CHANCE YOU GET. The older the baby gets, the less she will sleep. Take your opportunities now.

- When visitors arrive, hand them the (fed) baby, tell them it's great to see them and then slink off for a nap.

- Drink all the caffeine you can

- Work out shifts with your other half, becuase one of you needs to be getting some sleep so you can rescue the other when they are at the brink of insanity.

- Remember this stage is a rite of passage. It will end, and you'll miss it. Honestly you will.

- If someone offers to babysit, let them. You have a support network - use us. We're all here for you, even if it's on the other end of the 'phone.

 

Good luck! Lots of love, Me xx


Baby Bliss

Can we talk for a minute about the bliss?

You don't hear me saying much about that, do you? I always tell you 'I love them, but they're hard work sometimes' or 'I love them, but .. ' followed by yet another tough / guilt-ridden / or challenging issue with being a parent.

 

But it's not all doom and gloom, there's also the bliss.

The days when she gurgles cutely, and wind makes her look like she's smiling. The days when she feeds for long enough that you really feel like she's fed, then she burps in a way that tells you she's sated. The tiny little hands and feet, the look of a sleeping baby, the bathtime fun, watching them learn and develop. It's all there to drink in.

The adventures out just mummy and baby, or even the three of you, when you remember why you did this, why you wanted a baby. As they grow watching them crawl, and then walk. There is much to be said for seeing a baby happy in a swing at the park. Making memories, we call it. The older they get, the more bliss there is to be had too, you know.

 

Mine are now at a lovely stage of saying things far more befitting of a grown man, which can be hilarious. This morning I got a bit upset about ruining the plastic tablecloth on our dining table and they rallied around me, telling me to 'take a big breath' and 'have a glass of water' (which was dutifully fetched for me). I got a pat on the back and told not to worry, 'It's only a tablecloth, mummy.' and was rewarded with lots and lots of cuddles.

 

And maternity leave! What an amazing concept that is. A whole stretch of time laid out in front of you in which all you need to do is parent. You can go to baby music classes (mostly just nursery rhymes sung in a group in a library), playgroups, walks in the park and to coffee mornings. Playdates with other mummy friends and - my personal favourite - Mummy and me pub lunches.

 

There's a whole network of people out there who are balancing being people with being parents and making it amazing. Also, when you're exhausted and have no idea how to interpret your baby's cry, these people will be your best resource, be it offering suggestions or just good old fashioned empathy.

 

I may not be on maternity leave, or have a tiny baby, but I'm still here for all of that if you need me (especially the pub lunches!).

 

Look for the bliss, and try and remember it, becuase it's fleeting.

 

Enjoy your little one, she's beautiful.

 

Love from me. xx


Sleeeeeeep

Morning!

 

Notice I didn't say 'good' at the start of that greeting? Becuase it probably isn't all that great for you, is it? You're exhausted. You barely slept at all last night, or the night before, or the night before that. In fact, you can't really remember when you had a decent night's sleep. You can't remember much, can you?

 

Remember this; it is okay to be knackered. It is okay to put your keys in the fridge, the washing in the bath and the milk in the cupboard. Nobody minds that you put makup on one eye, or told them the same thing three times becuase you forgot you said it already. Nobody even minds that you haven't had a shower in three days (except maybe you). You have a tiny little baby and your priority is looking after her, and if she needs you up all night and resting for no more than 2 hours at a time, then so be it.

 

Except maybe you could use another couple of hours....

 

At the moment you are surviving on the kindness of your family and friends, the euphoria that comes with being  a new parent and.. something else which you can't remember.

 

The sadness is I don't have a magic fix for you, I am afraid.Just know that the brain sorts out your emotions at the very end of your sleep, so sleep deprivation messes with your emotional state, too. Everything is heightened and overwhelming, but it is a phase and it will pass, promise.

 

Just breathe; you're doing the best that you can and it is MORE than good enough.

 

The only real advice here is to use your resources; I know you're taking shifts with your other half right now, that's a great start. You could get grandma (either one!) to come over and look after the baby while you nap, or just sleep the second she does in the day.

 

I know this is easier said that done but it's worth giving it a go. Taking her out and about will help, too. If you can get her to sleep in the pushchair and walk her around the block the fresh air (after a big feed, of course) ought to coax her into a lengthy slumber, then when you come home she ought  it's a sofa snooze for you! I know i'm going away, but as soon as i come back i'll check in, and in the meantime you know i'm always a message away, even if it's just to empathise.

 

My own husband gave me the best advice I can think of right now; every time it feels too tough just look down at the little one and remember what this is all in aid of. It'll help.

 

Take care, get rest.

Love from me xx

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