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.