I’ve always considered myself a positive person & still do. I like to see the good in everything & firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. I want to share my parenting journey through my writing & videos & I’ll aim to bring that positivity whilst being completely real & transparent about my experiences. In this first Blog I’ll aim to share a brief overview on some of the moments that standout for me during my first 4 months of parenting.
Let me start by saying that becoming a parent is the greatest thing I have ever done in my life, but these first 4 months have not always left me feeling this way. I’ll start at the beginning, not my pregnancy experience just yet but the day I became a mum.
On June 1st 2017 my husband Nick & I welcomed Finn into the world by emergency caesarean. My pregnancy seemed to drag on forever, then all of a sudden, we were in labour and I couldn’t believe it was time. We were excited, nervous & exhausted already but he was finally here! What do we do now? I’m sure you’ve heard that nothing can prepare you for parenthood which is actually the biggest understatement, but there is nothing like being thrown in the deep end to learn how to swim. I’ll never forget the moment we first saw Finn & heard those cries, the overwhelming feeling of happiness & relief brought us both to tears.
When Finn was born we were in hospital for 5 days, although to us it felt like it was one big, long day. When you’re only getting about an hour sleep at a time it tends to make the days merge into one. The combination of exhaustion, sleep deprivation & pain relief made it difficult for me to remember the most basic of tasks like “What time did he last feed again?” & “which boob am I supposed to start him on this time?”. I’m sure the baby brain was still in full effect, but with the support of all the midwives on duty I got the hang of breastfeeding & Nick mastered how to settle & get Finn to sleep. Our days were jam packed with visitors which was both exciting & exhausting, being the first grandchild & nephew on both sides of our family is a huge role but our little man nails it. Everyone was in love with him before he was even born & couldn’t wait to meet him in person.
The idea of bringing him home was something that we were both looking forward to but I was also secretly terrified. If something goes wrong while you’re in the hospital you have professionals on hand to respond immediately, they can also tell the difference between something normal happening to your child & something serious. We had a small scare in the hospital, after dressing Finn in a brand-new outfit that had not yet been washed. His skin broke out in red lumps, he was constantly crying & almost impossible to settle. The midwife quickly assured us that this was a natural reaction for his immature skin to have when exposed to an unwashed outfit & the crying was a result of cluster feeding. Without the confidence she showed us from her wealth of experience I can only imagine how hysterical I would have been seeing my baby like that. After just 5 days of parenting we were sent home with our totally dependent, mini human.
Once we were home we experimented with our own way of doing things in an attempt to find our new family rhythm. However, total sleep disruption from our newest recruit caused Nick & I to almost stop communicating completely & the result was severely frayed nerves for us both. We have always been great at communicating with each other so this was unchartered territory that we were not prepared for. Everything Nick said to me felt like a personal attack, it wasn’t, but I constantly felt that way. I remember him saying “I think he might be hungry” to which I responded with a look that could only be described as daggers. I thought “I’ve only just finished feeding him” was exhausted at the thought of having to feed again (breastfeeding is hard!). I still don’t fully understand why that question made me feel so angry but I suspect the feeling of complete & total exhaustion may have something to do with it. As my body started to adjust more to the new lack of sleep structure, my mood swings gradually evened out & I found I was able to better communicate my thoughts & feelings again.
When Finn was almost 3 weeks old I suffered my first case of mastitis (more on this in a future post). I spent another 5 days in hospital being extremely unwell & this was a pretty big upset to our barely established routine. At this point coming back home from the hospital was something we all couldn’t wait to do. I had three infections of Mastitis before Finn was even 10 weeks old, two of those times required hospital visits & each time I was prescribed strong antibiotics as well. Thankfully I have an incredible support network to help me through the tough times & aside from the Mastitis I have not had any trouble breastfeeding since.
For the first 6 weeks following my c-section I was unable to drive which meant I was pretty reliant on Nick taking me anywhere & also needed his help with almost every other task in my day to day life. With so many sudden changes to my lifestyle I found myself facing another new challenge I had not personally experienced before, Anxiety. Every day I was getting upset & extremely stressed out over little things. If I had plans to leave the house I would feel physically sick and occasionally even cancel, especially if I could justify a reason to stay home. The doctor’s clearance to drive was so important in gaining my independence & really helped me start working through the anxiety. I also stuck a monthly planner on my fridge & used this to schedule one reason to leave the house per day, these were things that gradually helped me overcome the most severe parts of my post-natal anxiety.
Finding a routine for Finn’s bedtime assisted us in getting him to sleep more at night, this really helps us deal with what the days throw at us. In those early days I did a lot of Googling & would spend my night time feeds reading anything I could find to help manage whatever we were going through at the time. Every baby is different but I’ll share what works for us in the hope that it may help even one person. Nick takes care of the bath, when he’s finished I take bub to his room for a mini massage & change him into his pyjamas, then I’ll read to him while he feeds which usually sends him to sleep. Occasionally I may have to rock him to sleep after his feed & I’ll play some lullabies to help. Since about 6 weeks of age our boy really only wakes up once or twice per night. I am convinced that I have been incredibly lucky to have such a good baby & that his sleeping is not entirely as a result of the routine but I can’t say that it doesn’t help.
We’re still working out this parenting gig & the first 4 months been such a whirlwind. I’m so grateful for the support network that I have in my family, friends & mums group. I’m gradually feeling more competent as a mum & I’m making progress on what the new normal is for our life. It’s a nice feeling to accomplish more tasks every day, just like starting a new job I feel like I can do the basics & am ready to keep challenging myself. I value the down time more than ever and try to remember to embrace the moments that I get a break from parenting. Whether it be a date night, a couple of hours to unwind on the couch before bed or even a trip to the dentist. I underestimated how busy I would be and didn’t realise that everything I do would require a lot more planning, preparation & ultimately just take longer with a baby. So don’t be afraid if you don’t quite feel like you’ve got it together just yet, I’m not even close to where I want to be. I can see how far I have come already & that gives me hope. In future posts I’ll share in more detail my experiences on the topics I’ve touched on here & the many other things that I’m yet to face.
I’d love to hear about your experiences as a new parent, what were your first thoughts when you met your baby for the first time?