12 Aug Weeks 1-6: The Blur (from 2014)
So, in 2014 I starting writing a blog called The Brutal Truth (so dramatic haha) after my first child was born and I thought I’d pop some of the posts on here too.
As I mentioned before, the context of these posts is generally;
- Sleep deprived
- Shell shocked
To explain a little, I was the first person from my friendship group to have a baby, as well as the first (of my generation) in our family too. I had never been around babies at all. I wasn’t on twitter on insta, and I certainly wasn’t part of, or even aware of, any kind of honest mama movement. Things have changed so much in the last 4.5 years, for me personally and for Mums in general. Everything is so open and out there now (to the point that maybe we’ve gone the other way and now new Mums are terrified from reading too many no-holds-barred parenting observations.) Either way, in 2014 I was, in a word, clueless.
So I definitely struggled those first few weeks to compute what was happening. I also had a very tricky birth and was left with a long old recovery process to deal with thanks to Alfie trying to make his way into the world like superman. (Stuck arm, emergency assisted delivery, and Kat can’t sit down for 4 months. That summary should just about cover it.)
So that was the general place I was in, and even though I don’t necessarily feel the same about all of these things now, this was the resulting post at the time…
Weeks 1-6: Aka The Blur
Let me preface this post by saying that my husband and I are beyond smitten with our son. I spend literally hours staring at him, cuddling him and kissing his ever-chubbier cheeks.
This is not meant to be a rant or scare-monger but someone said to me today, “its so great that you’re so honest about how overwhelming having a baby is”, so I wanted to address it. Well it is overwhelming. I have no qualms in saying that – and I wish I had been ready for it. You’re so focused on the birth that you barely take a moment to stop and think about what comes next.
Here are a few things that I wish I’d known & observations (rants) from weeks 1-6:
Its not magical. It bloody hurts. For a long, prolonged period of time. If you had a magical birth, I’m thrilled for you, but what I (and many friends) experienced was painful, scary and a haze of drugs, doctors and decision-making. Don’t get me wrong, the end result is beyond magical but labour is a means to an end and no amount of NCT classes and NHS videos will change the fact that it frickin’ hurts. There was not a huge amount of natural pain relief going on in our room that’s for sure – funnily enough I didn’t manage to get through my contractions by visualising a floating feather.
This section is not for the faint hearted. There’s bleeding, there’s stitches, there’s bruising, there’s piles, there’s thrush, there’s dizziness, there’s tears (boy are there tears), there’s boob agony (a whole manner of infections, pains, and leakages), there’s horrendous night sweats, stomach cramps, constipation, incontinence – I could go on. Not everyone suffers everything of course but I was so unprepared for how down-right ill I felt for the first few weeks. I left the hospital dizzy, unable to walk, in agony, clutching pain killers, iron tablets – oh wait, and a newborn baby. I ended up back at the hospital with exhaustion a week later – in no other scenario would you be expected to go through labour (and potentially major surgery), be chucked out of hospital after 1-2 days max, and recover at home with a life changing, overwhelming baby in tow. I’m no wimp, I’ve run marathons and hold down a challenging job etc etc, but this was a whole other ball game.
Baby blues. Anxiety. Postnatal depression. How many times were these terms googled during weeks 1-3? Baby blues, you’re ready for, but that still doesn’t change the fact that crying 24/7 when its supposed to be the best time of your life is a little disconcerting. I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I felt really anxious in the first few weeks (lack of concentration, exhaustion, loss of appetite, and physical symptoms too like a racing heart and tingling limbs) but I think people are generally scared to admit it. I am lucky that I have literally the best husband, friends and family a girl could ever need so I was 100% honest with them about how I felt and that helped to take the pressure off. Exhaustion combined with recovering from all of the above (!) and computing the overwhelming life-change are bound to have repercussions. The more we talk about it, the better. I know all the girls I know with newborns spent a good amount of time either trying to convince themselves or their husbands (its scary for them too!) that they didn’t have PDN! While its great to be informed and aware, sometimes google is a danger-zone and a hot-bed for mis-self-diagnosis and scare-mongering. If you are feeling this way, please talk to someone or to your GP, it will help I promise.
‘Handy’ website tips
Example: Baby Centre suggests that at week 5/6 you should be playing games with your newborn to stimulate and aid their development. This is their recommended week 6 game (seriously):
Take leaflets from your local supermarkets showing fruits and vegetables. Show them to your newborn and explain the things you like and don’t like. Cut the pictures out and make a poster board, scrap book or album for your baby to recognise.
There are days when I don’t go to the toilet until my husband gets in from work and you want me to start scrap booking pictures of fruit and veg?! Give me strength. Like it isn’t hard enough without these ridiculous suggestions written by someone who clearly has never had a baby themselves. They make you feel so guilty for under-engaging your baby but they’re 6 weeks old, stick ’em on the play mat and make yourself a cup of tea! When I read that particular ‘handy’ tip I was sitting on the sofa watching Countdown and eating mini eggs.
This drives me CRAZY. The amount of conflicting advice out there is beyond ridiculous. Fair enough that friends and family have their own experiences and opinions to offer, but if healthcare professionals can’t agree then how the hell is a new parent supposed to decide…Swaddle your baby with one arm in, both arms in, both arms out. Never express before 6 weeks but establish your milk supply right away. Introduce a bottle asap but don’t give the baby ‘nipple confusion (?!) Sleep them on their front, their side, their back. Never wake a sleeping baby but don’t let them nap too long. Sleep when the baby sleeps but don’t leave them unattended. Don’t put anything in the crib but settle them with a regular favourite toy. Don’t lie, stand or sit for too long when recovering (er, what other positions are there?!) My advice is trial and error. See what your baby likes and do that. Not all humans are the same.
Losing my cool
All parents, however formerly hip and edgy they used to be (I am clearly not referring to myself here) will do everything they promised they wouldn’t – the self-congratulatory ‘look at my adorable baby and smug new family’ on FB (when in reality you’re sitting in PJs annihilating cookies by the packet), the baby voices, the endless discussions with your partner about your baby’s bowel movements, the celebration of every burp – the list is endless. I really hope I can still hold a conversation that’s not about babies, I’m reliant on my oldest friends here to tell me when I become too much of a bore.
Saying it very quietly now, but newborn care can be, on occasion, a bit boring. I love him to pieces and one smile can literally make my entire day but feed/change/repeat can be a tad tedious. I’m sure I’m not allowed to say this but it’s true. I have never watched so much rubbish on TV before – I feel like Kirsty, Phil and the Loose Women are going through it with us.
NCT – a Godsend
Having people who are going through it all too, to eat cake with, to go to baby groups with and to email at 3am, will make everything more bearable. Best money ever spent. Of course, this relies on you not being lumbered with weirdos in your group but thankfully, I struck lucky.
There. I’ve said it.
I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing day to day but every day does get a little bit easier. And at the end of the day, none of the above matters because I’d do it all again tomorrow (or maybe next week!) for one cuddle with the wonder that is Alfie Towse.
I might post again or this might be a one-off – it really depends if I can fit it in around scrap-booking pictures of tangerines.