Life with kids was never going to be easy, but when I discovered I was pregnant with my fourth child I went through a mixture of emotions, the overriding one being FEAR!

Luca had only recently turned one and I felt like I had finally made it over the hazy fog filled hump, that it was going to be relatively plain sailing from then on in. He had just started sleeping through the night and I had finally started having (a bit) of a life again.

worried-woman

Wakeful Worrying

The nearer it got to my due date I would lay awake at night worrying about how I was going to manage two young children. It was already difficult to get out of the house in the mornings, do the school drop off, then leave Luca to creche and get to work on time (well mostly on time).

The evenings were also hard going as it was a battle to get Eve to do her schoolwork with Luca at my ankles looking for attention. Cooking the dinner was stressful – trying to keep  a fast moving tot out of the kitchen was nearly impossible.

Bedtime was pretty nightmarish, I had to stay next to Luca to get him off to sleep, then do the dishes, tidy up and tuck the girls into bed before I got to my own.

I felt like I was just keeping my head above water most of the time.

The thought of doing it all over again so soon with another child made me rigid with fear.

I worried if I could ever possibly  love this baby as much as I loved my other kids. I seriously had so much anxiety about this I cannot explain.

However, I am now so glad to say that Max is so very welcome in our family and is every bit as loved as all my other children (phew!)

best brothers

Lives Changed Forever

From the moment my kids came into the hospital to visit Max for the first time, a wave of protectiveness towards my new baby surfaced.

As Luca  came blustering through the door he seemed like a big, clumsy giant compared to my teeny, fragile newborn and he needed watching at all times to ensure my baby’s safety. When he reached out to touch the baby I got this very unsettling sick feeling in the pit of my tummy. I didn’t want him too near the baby as he was just so rough! It was really confusing as before I had Max, Luca was s my tiny little boy, but that had all changed.

Luca cuddling Max

Little Luca was only 18 months old and didn’t understand why all of a sudden his momma who he had always had full reign over was suddenly preoccupied, with someone else.

Eve found it hard to adjust too, she knew my time with her was going to be even shorter still and she was only getting used to not being the baby when Luca came along.  We try to have little special time together now, just us.

First Few Weeks

Luca and 1 week old Max

The first few days were bittersweet. I was in a love bubble with the new baby, yet feeling guilty that I couldn’t give Luca the attention that he was used to and so clearly craved. Everytime Luca saw me with the baby he cried, a high pitched banshee like wail, like his little heart was breaking in two.

Each time he looked at me with the baby in my arms, he snuggled in closer to his dad, the beginning of what is now a very close bond between them both – one that he and I used to share.

Mark and Luca watching tv

Home Alone With My Two Sons

The first few weeks were alright as there were always plenty of visitors calling in and new midwives every few days, which was a nice distraction. But when his dad went back to work I was quickly dropped in at the deep end. The girls were at school, so my daytimes were spent with my boys.

I remember that first morning, I was secretly so so afraid. It felt like all my months of worry was finally being realised. That first morning I was like a woman on a mission, getting Eve her breakfast, getting Luca dressed and mercifully baby Max slept until it was nearly time to go. Then off we went.

I won’t lie I found it really tough (and the school is no more than a few miles away!) but in that short time Max woke up screaming his head off and then Luca began to cry and we were sitting in a queue of traffic and then there was nowhere to park, then I was faced with the dilemma of how to get all of us into the school.

Needless to say by the time I got it all sorted we were late and everyone was really upset. I was in tears by the time I got home. Then I had to sort the boys out, both had soiled their nappies and getting that sorted was a task in itself.

Luca was like glue to me, when I had to hold or feed Max (practically all the time as the little milk monster didn’t like to be put down) he would scream that ear piercing scream. He took up a guard dog like stance beside the chair I did all but sleep in for those first few months, he wouldn’t sit, insisting on standing instead.

Making lunch was again incredibly difficult, as Max wouldn’t sleep so he had to be held or he would scream. I soon learnt how useful a baby sling can be!

Getting to the toilet was hard. Luca could not be trusted to be left alone with Max for even a few seconds – proven by the multitude of tiny toys that I found in the Moses basket that Luca constantly flung into it – in the hope of hitting Max! To get a quick toilet visit I had to leave Max screaming his lungs out, while Luca and I raced to the toilet – at least if he was with me he couldn’t be getting up to any mischief!

Literally nothing got done around the house for the first three months. Every breathing second was spent holding one of the boys (or both) in my arms.

Survival With Support

We lived for three o’clock when my very kind and dear friend brought Eve home from school for me, despite the fact that she has three of her own kids to look after and had to go out of her way everyday to do so! Another lovely friend left Eve to school numerous times for me too.

cup of tea

I am forever in their debt. Just having their support was and will forever be priceless and I will never forget their kindness.  This was also my only adult company some days and I really, really longed for it so much! They will never understand how much their help meant to an exhausted, sleep deprived me.

Also my own mum’s daily phonecalls and visits on her days off from work were another saving grace. She would come and bring food and do my dishes. Just knowing she was there was such a comfort, someone much more responsible than me to listen to me moan or let me sleep or get a shower was amazing!

My partner helped when he could, but due to his work some weeks when I had all the kids by myself.  I really struggled, trying to juggle making the dinners, do the home-works and then bedtimes, sometimes I could manage and other days seemed like a crazy, endless nightmare.

Just A Little Jealous

For the first four months I despaired of Luca’s jealousy. One part of me felt so so sorry for him, he couldn’t understand why I wasn’t there for him like I used to, why I couldn’t carry him around, why I could no longer spend the night beside him in bed snuggling in like we used to always do. It was so hard.

So when he threw the first few toys at Max I understood – sort of. Of course I sat him down explained to him what he was doing was wrong as calmly and gently as possible. The day he threw his hard plastic chair onto little Max as he was sitting out in his bouncer chair was another matter, that day the protective mamma bear in me came out in full force and I shouted angrily at him.

eye of envy

Undeterred Luca has countless times continued to sit on top of Max when he is on my lap, trying to nudge poor little Max off with his bum! A few time he has fired his very hard toy chain saw right at Max’s head, or hugs Max, then secretly nips him!

Coming Round

As Max nears five months I feel Luca has finally began to accept him as part of the family. Now however, it is his daddy who Luca gets upset with, when I hand Max over to him when I need a break, the unmerciful scream of ‘nooooo’ that comes from Luca’s lips is hard for his dad to listen to.

But those early days of just me and my boys at home helped to cement and reconcile Luca and my relationship. We are nearly back to our old closeness. But he has over time got much more independent and now is more interested in going outside to play with his friends – under our close  supervision of course.

me and my boys

Best Friends Forever

There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Little Max is growing fast and is much more interesting and fun. He already absolutely adores his big brother – verging on hero worship.

Luca nursing Max big besties

The look that shines from little Max’s eyes when he sees his big brother is full of love, and mischief!

Luca now refers to him as”my Maxy” and hugs and kisses him several times a day and always last thing before going to bed at night!

Another thing in Max’s favour is that he can now pull Luca’s hair, so he is more able to stand up for himself.

 

Well not all the time….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max at five days old

                                                                                                      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.

Responsibility

Baby Max on his very first car journey, on the way home from hospital

                                    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 pooxplosions

                                                                                              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.

Changing Clothes

The trouble I had changing him into his first tracksuit is indescribable, yet was hilarious!

                                  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 Screamers

Little Max screaming the house down

                                                                                        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.

Exhaustion

Tired Max out for the count

                                                                         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.

Everlasting Love

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!)

Worth It!

Max and me

                                                                                      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,

Fionnuala xo

You Named me what?

Choosing the perfect name for your new baby is one of the first really important decisions you make as a parent, after all a name stays with you forever!

Names can determine how you experience life – it can immediately make you the focus of teasing and being made fun of – or it can mean you are instantly interesting and popular.

Some names are chosen because of the way they sound or are spelt, others because of their meanings.

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When choosing our new baby’s name there were a number of things that we felt were important to take into consideration;

  • Firstly how the name sounds and how easy is it to pronounce.
  • Next any abbreviations that the name is likely to get, so any potentially irksome or embarrassing nicknames  can be avoided.
  • Any meanings the name has and are the qualities I would like my child to have.
  • How the name fitted in along with my other children’s names – their names are all short and spelt in their simplest form.
  • Something a bit different – when checking out the list of most popular baby names we tend to lean more towards the less popular names – my baby is special to me and I want their name to reflect this.
  • The final consideration for my family was that it was a neutral name, living in Northern Ireland people immediately associate certain names with religious and political implications. As my partner and I are from differing religious backgrounds we didn’t want our children to be singled out as being from one particular background or culture.

Narrowing our options down to a select few names before the birth of our newest baby, we had three possible girl’s names and three boy’s names.

Usually as soon as I see my newborn baby I immediately know what I will call them, but this time we were at a loss as to which boy’s name we should choose!

After two days of trying it out we both agreed on Max, from the Latin meaning ‘greatest’.

I really love the name Max: I don’t know anyone else called it, it’s short, it’s easy to spell and easy to pronounce.

It suits him perfectly and fits in well with my other children’s names too!

 

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My newest addition to the family arrived safely on the third of March. We welcomed another beautiful baby boy into our little fold!

Weighing in at a very healthy 8 pounds 12 ounces, he is my biggest baby to date. He was 55 centimetres so he is long and  lean rather than a short chubby baby.

He is so long that he was only able to fit into the Newborn size clothes for a few days! At one month he has nearly outgrown the 0-3 months clothes.

He has brown hair like his daddy which is a first, as all my other babies were little blondies right from the beginning. He is so cuddly and adorable we are all completely, madly in love with him.

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