So we are three weeks and five days into this parenthood whirlwind with the baby, us and the dog alive and fed….as far as I am concerned that means we are currently winning at life.
I wanted to write about these first few weeks as parents not only to share the experience with other expectant couples from a different angle to other blogs or books I have read, but also to have as a memory bank to read again in the future. So many people have told us you forget so much about the first few weeks in such a relatively short time. I also think that there is a lot of information out there on pregnancy and the birth but those first few days and weeks are from my experience not as well covered or discussed.
Etta arrived on her due date at Cheltenham birth centre and the whole experience was exactly as I wanted, following my birth plan. I heard so many scare stories when I was pregnant it is nice I think to hear that it can in fact work out exactly as planned with no interventions apart from paracetamol!
Etta’s first sight of the world was in the birthing pool. I picked her up myself allowing James and I to be the first ones to meet her, if that feeling in that moment could be bottled and sold it would be priceless. I am probably the most impatient person in the world so having to wait nine months to see her face or even to know if she was a he was tough but totally worth it, she was perfect and we were left on our own in the room to stare at her in our new parent bubble for an hour or so before she was weighed and checked over.
We left the hospital eight hours later that afternoon and arrived home to begin our new life chapter with this tiny human that came with no instruction manual. Dinner that night was frozen pizza in front of the TV and then we went to bed absolutely shattered. Etta slept for three hours or so at a time and I breast fed her when she woke, James changed her if needed and then she went back to sleep. The odd thing was in those first 24 hours neither of us felt like this was strange or scary to have her in the house,we just sort of got on with it and muddled through. It almost felt like from my point of view anyway that it was something I had been yearning for, maybe that’s just my hormones talking but it definitely felt ‘right’.
I think you can often read too much and get bamboozled with information when expecting a baby and I am by no means advocating going into parenthood with no support or education but there is a lot to be said for natural instinct, if she is hungry I will feed her, if she has a dirty nappy then we will change her and if she is cold we will put an extra layer on her. Apart from that we just cuddle and stare at her a lot…and I mean a lot.
There are a few things that despite doing NCT classes and lots of reading surprised me in the first few weeks…
- How you feel down below after giving birth. Nobody mentions that it feels a little bit like your insides might fall out when you walk about for a while, the trauma of birth coupled with still having the weight of the uterus causes this feeling that for me lasted just over a week before it began to subside and the swelling reduced. A nice soak in the bath every morning and starting pelvic floor exercises as soon as I could made me feel better.
- How amazing the post natal midwifery care is (again I can only speak from my experience) but they were just lovely. They came to the house in the following days to check up on us also the birth unit were on the end of a phone 24/7 if we had any questions and we felt totally supported.
- How painful breastfeeding was to start with. When you get the knack it is a wonderful thing to be able to provide your baby with food whenever they demand it and it is so convenient, but my gosh it can be frustrating and painful. I have gone through two tubes of nipple cream, attended every breastfeeding support group in Gloucestershire and have a breast feeding councillor on speed dial. Nearly four weeks in and I feel like we have finally cracked it, less pain and a baby whose face is no longer permanently shiny with sticky nipple cream.
- How much newborn babies feed. Yes the guidelines are every three hours and if she does happen to sleep for a little longer you find yourself wondering if you should wake the her for food but mostly she feeds more often than that. Sometimes every hour, sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour.
Once the first few days had gone by we muddled our way through the first few weeks and by 12pm (ish) we were up, washed and had some sort of outfit on that was reasonably acceptable for the odd visitor. We had close friends and family only in the first few weeks and I enjoyed their visits and the communal baby cooing. I tried to sleep in the afternoons and have found it definitely helps get through the nights if you have a top up sleep during the day. I also downloaded BBC iPlayer and ITV hub to my phone which made the night feeds more bearable, knowing I have Love Island to get up to has helped drag me out of bed I am ashamed to say!
The food preparation I did beforehand has come in handy and although we have indulged in the odd takeaway it is nice to be able to reach into the freezer for some comfort food which can be eaten with one hand, I have learned to put a muslin cloth over Etta as my fork to mouth skills as it turns out are not that accurate and this inevitably culminates in a baby covered in Bolognese sauce.
Every day with a tiny baby is filled with heartwarming moments, whether it is listening to James have full (very one sided) conversations with her while I am soaking in the bath, laughing at the ridiculous faces she pulls in her sleep or when she falls asleep on your chest. Comedy moments like the endless whoopee cushion style farts or the projectile poo which travelled a good few metres across the room. Then there is that amazing moment when you are so tired you are not sure what day or time it is and she finally goes to sleep in her moses basket after what seems like hours of feeding, burping and changing in a constant cycle…the quiet creep back to bed is a skill I have now perfected.
Don’t get me wrong there have been times when I have had a little cry because my boobs hurt and I can’t face feeding her for what feels like the thousandth time that day. Or when James and I have a little grump at each other because we are both just knackered. Our clothes haven’t always been clean and the food hasn’t always been healthy but we have muddled through the days together working as a team and I feel we are a whole lot closer as a couple for it.
Living in the moment has never been so easy and I can honestly say I have never felt so tired yet so alive…happiness does in fact come in small Etta shaped packages.
A Guest Blog from Lucy Reynard