I think I’ve had one day this week where I didn’t cry – that was a good day. The rest have either started or ended in tears, usually when my husband leaves or comes back from work. Lucky him!
I never, ever thought having a baby would be this emotional – spoiler: it is. And then some. Each day seems to present its own small challenges that feel like the end of the world at the time. And even when it starts off well, you’re wondering what spanner in the works is going to scupper the equilibrium, and you constantly question when you’re good luck will run out. And it always does.
It doesn’t help that me and my partner have really started to argue this week. He’s super busy at work, and very stressed out as a result. Yet I’m snapping and nagging at him when he’s home, and he’s coming back to a teary hot milky mess each night – it can’t be easy, yet I can’t help myself – I’m so irritable. Plus he’s doing all the cooking and tidying, while I’m chained to baby R 24/7 as she hasn’t really been sleeping during the day at all. So it’s not been a great week for either of us.
My mom and partner have been staying with us for over a week, thank goodness, as I may have otherwise lost the plot. Honestly, they’ve been a godsend. But even we almost came to blows. On Thursday, after a long afternoon of trying to manage a grizzly baby, and all tactics to soothe her exhausted (except for more breastfeeding, which I couldn’t do any more of at that point – I’d been nursing non-stop for hours) I tried my last option – a walk with R in the pram. My mom came with us and we headed for the cemetery where it’s nice and quiet.
But R would not settle, and cried and cried. I could tell my mom was getting increasingly annoyed about it. After about five minutes, I went to a bench as I thought I’m just going to have to feed R. I said to my mom she should head back as there was ‘no point in us all being miserable.’ She flounced off in a huff saying yes she was miserable as she couldn’t bear to hear a baby left to cry. It was like we’d transgressed into me as a teenager again, and her as an angry mother.
It was the judgement that I couldn’t bear, like I was neglecting R. I found her reaction so unhelpful that, when I got home, I went straight to my room and didn’t go back down for the rest of the evening. Proper teenaged behaviour. I was fuming. We made up the next day, but it wasn’t pleasant.
Other negatives this week have been how I felt when my mom eventually left (she’s coming back in a few days) and I had R on my own for the afternoon. I suddenly felt so lonely and reliant on my husband – I was desperate for him to come back from work already, so it wasn’t all on me. It’s funny, because I spent quite a lot of time in my room breastfeeding R when my parents were here, so I had a lot of time to myself. But knowing my folks were on hand was company in itself. Suddenly it was just me and the Chubbs, and I felt completely isolated and a bit like a prisoner. I even started thinking it might be better if I went back to work sooner than a year, because the thought of the next year stuck indoors was horrendous (if you knew how I feel about my job, you’d know this says a lot!)
I’m aware how awful it must sound to liken an afternoon looking after my daughter to a jail sentence – particularly after the blood sweat and tears we’ve gone through to get her – but it’s bloody hard being a mommy to a newborn. The best you have is one hand at a time, which means doing anything – texting, making a sandwich, writing a birthday card – laborious or impossible. Baby R will only sleep after a feed or being cuddled – if you try and put her in her crib to sleep, she wakes immediately and will only settle if you feed her again. Cue vicious cycle. So if she falls asleep on me, I can’t move. And she wants to feed All The Time.
She’s not feeding for milk, I’d say, 50% of the time. She’s feeding for comfort. And while it’s a lovely thought that she just wants to be close, I find it tying and extremely frustrating as each day progresses. I would love to have snatches of time between her naps to do some admin, tidy up, bring the washing in, reply to texts, write a blog… etc… anything. But I can’t. The most I can just about manage is to google stuff (how to soothe a newborn, why won’t my newborn sleep on her back, when does looking after a newborn get easier…) and watch Countdown (which is an excellent distraction, although my inability to get over a five-letter word is an annoyance in itself!).
On the positive front, however, R has put on so much weight that the midwives discharged us! It was such a bizarre appointment. I’d got so frustrated with my mom and husband for constantly saying how hungry she is, insinuating that I need to feed R some more (after feeding her non-stop all day). But R had put on so much weight in the five days between appointments that the midwife had to check the scales to make sure they were accurate!
And the daft thing was I had been telling her just before she weighed R (in tears – natch) how I wasn’t sure R was feeding well because she was never satisfied. ‘Put it this way,’ the midwife said, ‘that baby is not hungry.’ She also said: ‘Now you can stop stressing and just enjoy her!’, which just annoyed me. You try enjoying a newborn that doesn’t sleep during the day and is never satisfied, despite me feeding most of the time… grrrrrr!!!
I felt pretty scared that they’d discharged me, to be honest. What if R started losing weight again? How will I know? Why were they trusting me to keep this child alive?! I just need to keep on as I am I guess, although now I’m feeding on demand rather than every two to three hours. I’m still using the Haakaa pump for letdown milk and bottle-feeding it to R in the morning and evening. However, I’m now super paranoid about running out of milk, so I’ve started freezing down each day, even though we have next to no freezer storage.
I’m not sure how long this routine can feasibly last, as it’s hardly subtle using the pump and I wouldn’t easily be able to do it in public, but let’s see. Several times this week I’ve been ready to jack the whole breastfeeding in – including today – so life could be very different in a week’s time.
Talking of leaving the house, I’ve discovered that Going Out is a Good Thing. We’ve gone out for long walks in the morning at least three times this week after giving R a big bottle of expressed milk, which helps settle her. She ends up sleeping for a good two or three hours after, which is amazing (although we couldn’t get out of the house today… R has been particularly grizzly).
I’ve also got to admit that we are getting pretty decent sleeps at night. More often than not, she’s only waking once in the night, which means both my husband and I are managing OK and snatching naps in the evening where we can. Don’t get me wrong – I feel like a shell of a human – I am shattered – but it’s just about manageable. Although there was one day this week where I was beside myself with tiredness as R simply refused to sleep all day.
For the first time since we woke up at 5am, she fell asleep about 5pm. But then the cats started miaowing for food so I had to call my mom to ask her to feed them, which woke R up. By the time my husband was back at 6:30pm, I was crying – again – big, sorry-for-myself, woe-is-me sobs. I hadn’t left my room for six and a half hours – not even for the loo. Yet an hour later, dinner in belly, all three if us fell asleep. Till 10pm! I woke up so confused – how on earth had we all just zonked out for that length of time? Yes, we were exhausted – R in particular – but she never slept! And yet she did – we all did. I couldn’t believe my luck.
The luck that evening continued. She woke only once in the middle of the night, and again at 6am. My husband and I couldn’t believe it – we had slept properly! And, importantly, so had R. I felt like a new woman. Still tired, but human. In the morning, I even managed to squeeze in a tiny bit of admin – amazing! And the good day continued. My parents and I all walked into town with R, bought some shopping and came back. I haven’t been into town for almost a month! It was still quiet because of COVID, but some coffee shops were open and it was lovely to see a bit of normality in action. I was terrified of her waking up, but she slept all the way through, so it felt like a great achievement.
So there have been positives this week – I just need to remember that. I’m holding on to the idea that things should be easier by week six… not sure where I’ve got this idea from, but I’m going with it. Surely three more weeks will fly by?! (To be fair, the last few weeks have vanished in a complete blur – I’m a little frightened by it – so it’s likely that the same will happen to June as it did to May.)
What I’ve learned this week:
- Every day has huge highs and lows – you just have to accept this as the ‘new normal’, take each day as it comes, remember the positives (gratitude lists!) and tell yourself ‘this too will pass’ and ‘things will get easier’.
- Leaving the house is the best thing you can do – but if you can’t get out, it’s OK too. Lucky at the moment, with COVID, I’m not missing out on anything. There are no mother and baby groups or coffee shops to hang out in. So you just need to make the best of what you have. And if you can’t go for walks, catch up on telly!
- Get an eye mask – this week I have tried to heed the advice of ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ and take catnaps when I can, even when it’s 8pm and there doesn’t seem much point as it’s bedtime soon. Believe me when I say: these short snoozes have kept me afloat this week. And an eye mask can really help. I’ve never used one before, but it’s so light outside until late, I needed something to block out the light. And it really works.