Max at five days old
Having children is without doubt both the greatest yet most difficult achievement of my entire life and am 100 % sure I will never do a tougher job. Ever.
The first few days, weeks and months are a time of hazy, mixed emotions, for me ranging from; relief, joy, amazement and love to fear, apprehension, pain and exhaustion, to name a few.
I’m always shocked at how unique each precious little baby is when they are born. How they just know who their mother is in a room full of people. The way when they are born they immediately crawl up, root for and then latch on to the breast, and begin to suck the nourishing milk, their reward for all their hard work – is nothing short of a miracle.
These are things they have never been taught how to do or even have experienced anything like them before, yet they instinctively just know how to do. To me new babies are truly amazing!
That burst of all consuming love you feel for your tiny baby and the sense of pride that you have made someone so perfect that you just want to show them off to the whole world.
But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows…
I have to admit that this time around although people keep commenting that I must be a pro by now, of all my children somehow I felt more nervous than ever before about life with my new baby.
I was most worried about how I would juggle looking after a very clingy 19 month old with a newborn. It was difficult in the beginning, little Luca couldn’t understand why I was holding the new baby all day long and cried a very hurt cry which made me cry too. I bought him a baby boy doll and pram from baby Max when I was in hospital and for the early days this helped him understand (while keeping him distracted) about the new baby.
Baby Max on his very first car journey, on the way home from hospital
When the adrenaline (or drugs) have worn off and the reality of being a new parent sets in, so does the sense of responsibility – and sometimes this feeling alone can be overwhelming. This little person that you made, who has happily lived inside you for the past nine months is now completely dependant on you and you have to ensure its safety for the rest of its life! Wow!
Leaving the hospital with each new baby I’ve always half expected to be stopped before I made it home (which wouldn’t be difficult as we only drive at 25 milers per hour maximum each time!) by a midwife and told to give the baby back to the hospital. I’m always amazed we don’t have to pass some sort of a test before we can go home with a whole tiny person to care for.
Nappies and Nourishment
One of Max’s many poosplosions
Then come the constant stream of wet and dirty nappies, the decision of whether you want to breast or formula feed your baby has to be put into action and depending on which you choose, you have to learn the necessary skills to get the baby fed as safely and as quickly as possible.
Changing a nappy was something I had done lots of times before I had my own children, with babysitting cousins and coming from a big family I helped with my younger sisters. But nothing could have prepared me for Luca’s first nappy – we were both literally covered in pee and poo. I couldn’t stop screaming and laughing all at the same time!
I breastfed my two daughters for a few weeks each and then due to circumstances chose to then formula fed them. With Luca I was determined to breastfeed him for longer. I ended up doing it much longer than I ever imagined -until he was 16 months old, due in part to his cows milk protein allergy and the close bond that we developed. He self-weaned quite abruptly when I was six months pregnant as my milk changed and he no longer liked the taste. So far I have breastfed Max and hope to continue until he is at least one year old.
But I haven’t found the experience as easy as I thought I would despite the fact that there was only a three month break between feeding my 16 month old pro and feeding a newborn. I had to relearn how to do it all over again going back to basics.
I also had all the same early day struggles and frustration this time. I had to learn how to position Max and get help with his latch. I still got sore, cracked nipples in the first few days, but this time round I knew how to handle the painful early days and wasn’t as stressed out or tense about it all as I was with Luca. As I have came through it before, I now know that any early pain is short-lived and the lovely, much easier times soon overshadow the difficult early days in much the same way as the pain of birth is soon forgotten too.
Don’t forget about yourself in the midst of all the madness, healthy parents equals a healthy baby. There may not be time to cook every meal (or any for a few weeks) but make sure to eat at regular intervals everyday.
The trouble I had changing him into his first tracksuit is indescribable!
A new parent has to deal with changing their new baby’s clothes – a tricky task as the new baby is a bendy boned little wriggler. This task is something that you will be doing quite a lot of, several times a day at least for quite a while!
I still find it difficult trying to master getting the other arm into the arm hole or a foot into a sleep suit and secretly take pleasure in watching others as they struggle to dress baby too!
Max is the wriggliest baby I’ve ever had and often makes sudden jumpy, jerky movements which makes changing his outfits all the more fun – especially when he has had a massive poosplosion all the way to his neck. Fun times!
New mums may find that your wardrobe choices are still quite limited for the first few weeks. I’ve always used my maternity clothes for the first while as they are comfy and were the only things that fitted, plus new mums often go through nearly as many outfit changes as the baby when it spits up or pees over you!
Little Max screaming the house down
Figuring out what your baby wants when they begin their shrill, demanding cry that can escalate within a matter of seconds to decibels of such a high frequency that your ears drums feel they might actually burst, can be quite a challenge!
With Max I try to make sure that I respond to his hunger cues, like sucking his hands or making fists, as fast as possible before he gets himself worked up, or try changing his nappy or winding him. Mostly he just likes to be walked around and around instead of sitting down. It’s exhausting!
I cannot stand the sound of a baby’s piercing cry, it gets me upset for them so I always try to respond to it as soon as possible. Plus the escalating crying piles on the pressure and makes me snap at everyone else around me until calm is restored – a situation that nobody wants.
Staying calm is key to dealing with a screaming baby. If you find things are getting on top of you don’t be afraid to ask your partner, family members and friends for help, they will be more than willing and we all need time out sometimes.
Tired little Max
All this while you yourself are healing can seem daunting. Sometimes you will reach levels of exhaustion that you never knew existed due to your tiny bundle’s constant feeding – their teeny tummies are so small that they need fed much more frequently than us.
This is where the baby wipes come in – not just an invention for cleaning babies’ bums, they are excellent keeper-awakerers, when rubbed just under your eyes – I have had to resort to doing this literally thousands of times over the years, both late at night and in the middle of the day, just to stay awake. The stinging only adds to helping keep my treacherous eyes from closing. Must not fall asleep….
For the first time in my life I have started drinking coffee just to keep me awake when I hit a slump usually at midday or early evening time. I’ve never had to do this before, but with a new baby and a demanding toddler to attend to now I feel I need the extra energy it gives me.
On a more serious note…
The first year of a baby’s life can be a very vulnerable time for new parents. especially the mum as hormones change and surge around her body and sleep deprivation – used throughout history as a form of torture – can temporarily turn even the sweetest natured Snow White like woman into a foul mouthed witchy demon. This is to be expected as nobody can be a saint all of the time. But sometimes this can turn into more, a new mum is very susceptible to developing post natal depression, something she and her family should be aware of, to get as much support and help as soon as possible.
I have experienced one particularly bad bout of postnatal depression in the past, which really floored me for a while. I found it a very scary and debilitating situation at the time, but the fear of letting others know was one of the scariest parts of it. I was ashamed at the beginning and afraid that I would be labelled as crazy and an unfit mother. But none of those things happened, I simply went on a course of medication to help realign the chemicals in my brain. There is so much information and understanding now about postnatal depression and it is very treatable once it is diagnosed.
Please reach out to family friends and your doctor if you feel you may be affected. You are not crazy or a bad parent, this is out of your control, but if you get help you will once again be in control of your life. Things can only get better from that point on.
Sometimes the rush of all-consuming love doesn’t come straight away and it doesn’t make you any less of a mum if it doesn’t.
With my first three I felt that rush immediately, it was like someone punched me in the chest and winded me, I could barely breathe, each time.
However with Max it was more of a slow burner, for me the feeling was more that of amazement when I saw him for the first time after birth. The feeling of love took a few days to develop. I felt like the worst mum ever and worried if I’d ever really love him, telling only my partner and reluctantly at that. But then one day I felt fiercely protective of him when his brother threw a chair at his head. I just knew after that experience that the love was definitely there (phew!)
I’m totally besotted with my new baby
But all the struggles are worth it in the end when you get to sit down with your baby, relax and breathe in that beautiful newborn smell and give them lots of snuggles. Absolute bliss. There is no other feeling like it in the world.
I’d love to hear about your own experiences of the first few days with a new baby. Were they similar? Is there anything else that you think new parents need to know? Please get in touch and share your story below.
Thanks for reading,