So our first week home was just over 6 months ago. In one breath it could’ve been yesterday in another it seems like a lifetime ago.
Anyways, after all of the excitement of the birth, the coming home outfit etc. you make it back with your new car seat, and your new babe. I remember slowly shuffling through the door, after literally feeling every little bump in the road home, vibrate up through my body and escape from my wound, and saying to Zoe, what do we do now then? Luckily we had our first task all ready to go as the babe had taken, what was to be the first of many car poos, and it was literally everywhere, pretty much up to her neck. Then the reality hits, we have a whole tiny human to look after forever. Here are just a few things that really stuck in my mind about that first week.
1. Firstly the sleeping, or lack of…
You know you are going to be tired. But you are not prepared for the level of tiredness that will hit you over those first few days and weeks. Not only are you waking up to feed through the night which is completely alien. But if you have a baby like ours, she also didn’t sleep much in the day (despite all the pictures we seem to have of her sleeping) and therefore neither could I. Plus at the beginning when she slept I just wanted to watch her, if only to make sure she was still breathing!
On top of the general changes in sleep patterns, breastfeeding made me so tired. Let’s face it, you are sustaining a life with your melons, your massive melons, so it’s bound to make you tired, oh and so amazingly thirsty. There were times that I just couldn’t keep my eyes open and you just have to give in to the inevitable. Plus I don’t think I will ever sleep properly again, the slightest movement or sound from the babe and I am wide awake anyway.
Grab 40 winks, or even just 10 winks whenever and wherever you can. I know it’s easier said than done with so much going on, but having something in my tank other than copious amounts of water and Go Ahead biscuits, just about kept me going.
2. My body after a C-section…
I had not prepared myself for still looking completely pregnant after giving birth. I knew I wouldn’t just ping back, and will probably never get back to my pre-pregnancy bod, and I’m fine with that. But I looked about 6 months pregnant for a week after O was born and had severe water retention. Please refer to exhibit A – the flattering photo below which includes me in my anti-embolism socks, paper pants and giant sanitary towel – I’ve decided nothing is TMI when it comes to having a baby. There are far too many taboos surrounding pregnancy and birth in my opinion, so I’ve included a photo of some of them – I know what you’re thinking – hot right!! And although I was totally happy with my body and in awe of what it had achieved, it was still something I was unprepared for.
The major operation I had just had meant that laying down was a bit of a challenge and one I had not given a second thought to. Anyone who has had a C-section or an operation in that area and has made this grave mistake knows the pain I am talking about. I am not exaggerating when I say I laid down and could not get back up. I can still feel it now if I think about it. It was excruciating. We actually slept downstairs for a couple of weeks after the first night home as I just could not get comfortable and getting up and down to feed was hard.
Just one other body-related thing to mention here. The amount of gas and sweat that will leave your body during this first week and beyond is phenomenal. It. Just. Keeps. Coming. I felt like I sweated and passed wind more times in that first week than I had done in my entire life leading up to the birth. And I have never returned to normal – just putting that out there. You’re welcome.
3. Breastfeeding is amazing, but at the beginning it hurts…
Breastfeeding was the single biggest thing I remember from those first 7 days. I am going to do a whole post on this as I bloody love breastfeeding. Everything about it. Talking about it, meeting up with other BF mamas, going to events, wearing pins, posting on Instagram, I could go on. I really am one of ‘those’ people and I love it.
My secret weapon, apart from copious amounts of Lansinoh, was a good friend (who is also a breastfeeding peer supporter at a local Sure Start Children’s Centre). Four days after the birth she was sitting on my sofa, helping me to latch our baby. Showing me how to hand express. Telling me about different positions to feed in. Just generally giving me support and a pat on the back. The thing about the supporters is that they have to have breastfed for at least 6 months to allow them to be a peer supporter. Unlike midwives who do not need anything more than basic training to offer you advice. Personally my experience in the hospital with breastfeeding support was not great. There is also something so much more comforting when the person helping you has also experienced these things and they can empathise with you. I also went to two local breastfeeding support sessions and saw a lactation consultant and they were a massive help too. Without them, I don’t think I would have given up, but I would have had more bad latches, been scared to reposition and had sore nipples for longer. I definitely had feelings of giving up during the most painful feeds. Thank goodness for those amazing women, and my partner in crime for constantly telling me to stop leaning forward, bring the baby to you, take her off and try again. Thank you all.
Breastfeeding is hard work. Not only did I find it physically painful in the beginning, but also mentally draining. I became obsessed with tracking everything. Which side, how long, good or bad feed? I was also tracking when she pooed, how many nappies I had changed, when she slept etc. I am just one of those people, I like lists, but I also became obsessed with wanting to have all the answers for the questions the Midwife and Health Visitor may ask. If you are reading this and you are in those tough first few weeks, it does get better, trust me, and if you need support find out where your local breast feeding support group is (and take your partner if you can) – you won’t regret it.
4. My boobs, oh my boobs…
Now I have small boobs ordinarily. You know the kind you couldn’t hold a pencil underneath. Pregnancy has changed all of that. I knew when my milk came in they would get bigger but I had not prepared myself for such humongous mammaries post birth. In fact I really hadn’t given much thought to my ‘milk coming in’ at all. For those who have had a baby, I am sure you will understand this next description, and for those who haven’t, really try to visualise this next bit. Imagine two boulders, each the size of your own head. Now stick them to the front of you. And make them super, super sensitive and sore. You cannot move these boulders and no amount of trying to get them comfortable works. The only relief is expressing or feeding and both are painful. There you have it, your post-birth boobs.
After 5 days of being inside the house, basically moving between the living room and bathroom, cabin fever had well and truly set in. I had to get out (with the fam of course, not do a runner type thing). Well what a mistaker-to-maker. It was too soon after the surgery and basically all I remember from that trip is my boobs. My thunderous boobs. (oh and the chilli jacket potato from M&S café). The slightest brush of my arm past these milk filled vessels was agony and I literally thought they could explode at any moment. It did get better but for that first week or so it just kills.
Next think massive udders being milked and squirting all over the place in several streams and directions. Well that’s what it’s like when you have hyper-lactation. I have an extreme amount of milk. I did at the beginning and I still do now. There is no way I could go without pads even just for an hour. In fact as I am writing this I am on my fourth bra today. Having forgotten to put my pads in repeatedly after feeding – baby brain is most definitely real. I had to carry a spare bra in the nappy bag. I still feel my letdown build-up and come out several times a day outside of feeding. Milk management was, and continues to be, a massive part of our journey, although its much easier now, and I would much rather have too much than not enough.
5. The overwhelming joy I felt, and tears I cried…
Above all else what I felt was total joy, there were some tears and ‘Jeez what do we do now?’ moments but you just get on with it. We had waited so long for O and like most, thought we were totally prepared but very quickly we came to the realisation that we are all just winging it in the most glorious way. Through the sleep deprivation, leaking boulder boobs and getting over having my nipples out all over the show, this parenting gig is totally awesome (although there were times it didn’t feel like it in that first week!). Many times I just cried. Cried because my nipples hurt. Cried because I was tired. Cried because – we made this (this being our babe). Cried because we decided it would be a great idea to binge watch Call the Midwife – a word of advice, don’t do that. And of course all of those happy tears.
I am sure there are many things I have forgotten about and meant to keep a much more detailed diary, but you know, parenting and all that got in the way. How did you find your first week? I’m always interested to hear other Mama’s (and anyone else involved) experiences.
The one about baby making before IVF – coming soon