Baby R and I came out of hospital Friday night, after she was born last Thursday evening. I was absolutely desperate to come home. Three and a half days in hospital is enough for anyone, even though the care we received was excellent. I had to go back in a taxi, separate from my husband, as we only have a two-seater car. Because of Covid-19, we’ve not been able to buy a new one so it was a bit of a strange journey home.
It was SO good to be back. My memory of that evening is watching some Friday night TV, drinking a glass of beer, and feeling super excited about having our little family together in our lovely house. I can’t remember much else – I was just in a happy haze, full of joy that all the struggles over the last two or three years had been worth it.
That was a week ago, and it’s all been a complete blur ever since. Honestly, the last seven days have merged into one continuous stream of consciousness. I know it’s been super hot outside, but I’ve barely left the house so it’s kind of passed me by. We have had to see our community midwife on day three, five and seven. Luckily we only had to walk less than half a mile, but that took me half an hour to walk because of the c-section, so getting to the first appointment was a bit of a struggle.
The community midwives were brilliant, helping us with all our questions and concerns. I did become seriously disheartened at the day five appointment when we learned Ruby had lost a significant amount of weight. I was so upset, as it felt like all I do is feed her. She feeds on each breast for an hour at a time, which is tiring, at times painful and feels relentless. And in the first few days, she wasn’t sleeping. So I’d feed her for two hours, she wouldn’t settle, then she’d want feeding again. I felt like a dairy cow.
Everything I read about newborns said they breastfeed for between 20-45 mins, and nap for 2-3 hours in between. Our baby was not doing that. After the day five appointment though, I was told to increase the feeds and I realised I actually probably wasn’t feeding her the recommended eight to 10 times a day – it just felt like that. Once I upped the frequency, her sleeping between feeds improved and we found out at our day seven appointment that she’s put on weight. Such a relief!
The other big relief was finding out her hearing is fine. The day after she was born, she had her hearing test in hospital and neither ear passed. I was so worried. We’d managed to produce this absolutely perfect little baby and I was petrified she might be deaf – and then I followed this line of thinking to its natural conclusion, that she could be deaf and blind… anyway, lots of friends reassured me it’s very normal for babies to fail the first test and pass the second, and that discovering problems was rare. And turns out they were right. But you never know, do you? I’m just so thankful she’s OK.
What they say about your hormones going haywire when your milk comes in is absolutely right. I’m relieved to say I’ve not felt the baby blues as such, although I’ve been extremely tearful some days, especially when I’ve fed her and she won’t settle and my husband suggests I feed again… that’s made me feel inadequate – I can’t satisfy my baby – resentful that it’s only me that can give her what she needs (of course we could bottle feed, but I’m hoping to hold out until six weeks for that) and ultimately out of my depth.
My husband was been wonderful. He’s an absolute natural with the chubs. He handles her so well, I’m amazed. Me, on the other hand – I still feel like I don’t know how to pick her up properly and hold her. We’ve never really had babies in the family and whenever any of my friends have had kids, I’ve admired from afar but never dared hold. I feel like a total novice and it frustrates me. For example, I’ve got the hang of one breastfeeding hold – the cradle – and succeeded in feeding lying down a couple of times – but it’s quite hit and miss. There have been times in the middle of the night when I’m trying a new position and she’s getting increasingly upset because her incompetent mother can’t figure it out.
I think next week will be a real baptism of fire. My husband is back to work midweek, and I’m petrified. So far he’s been making all our meals, changing her nappies and taking her from me between feeds if she’s got grizzly. Who will help me now, in this lockdown? I’m still recovering from the c-section: getting up can be tricky, although it’s becoming easier. Luckily he’s based locally, so will nip back at lunch when he can. And I know it’s all part of the learning curve and will get easier. I’m still scared though.
Things I’ve learned – week one
People really love babies – we’ve been overwhelmed by cards and presents from friends, family and neighbours. We’ve had four beautiful bouquets of flowers, as well as food delivery vouchers, clothes, toys and teddies (including about five bunnies!). It feels like such a special time, which everyone wants to be part of.
It’s not always possible to ‘nap when your baby naps’ – ours wants to be cuddled at all times – you rarely can put her down. But the best I can do is ask my husband to take the baby for a walk in the pram when I need a break. He went out for an hour yesterday and I was able to shower, tidy up and put some flowers in a vase. I know everyone says ‘just leave the housework’ but this made me feel normal again.
My life is no longer my own – I thought when I had the baby I could keep the other parts of my life going that I enjoy, such as writing this blog. This has been almost impossible. I never understood when new moms said how difficult it is to find time to do anything. But surely you have all day, I thought. Now I get it. All I’ve done all week is breastfeed and eat ravenously, and the time just races by. Some days washing my face is an achievement!