Monday, 30 January 2012

3 Weeks Old

MUMMY

Holy peppered mackerel, this parenting stuff is challenging and exhausting isn't it?! I have heard so many of my friends tell me over the last few years how hard the first few weeks of being a new parent is and how nothing prepares you for it but even after all those warnings, I have been slapped in the face rather hard by how challenging and exhausting it is.

It's been another roller coaster of a week with some good days and some bad. Some days when I really felt like I had started to turn a corner and some days when I realised it wasn't a corner at all, it was just the outside lane of the M25 and that I was going round in circles. It has become apparent, however, that the way I feel about things and my ability to cope with them is absolutely 100% directly related to sleep. It's amazing what a difference sleep makes to your outlook on life.

I've always been a cr@ppy sleeper so I naively thought I might cope slightly better with the expected sleep deprivation than some others but new parent sleep deprivation is a whole new level of tiredness that is like nothing I have ever experienced. I didn't sleep at all well for most of the last few months of pregnancy, not at all the night before Shrimpy arrived on the scene, not at all my first night in hospital and then since coming home I've had night after night of night-shift feeding and settling and then being up all day as well (due to my long-standing and unfortunate inability to nap in the daytime) and as I hit my lowest point yet on Friday, I realised I hadn't really slept for more than 2 hours in a row and for more than about 3 - 4 hours per night in total (many days without any sleep) for several weeks and that this may be a significant contributing factor that, once again, I had literally sobbed all day.

I have experienced several days of sobbing and feeling really quite rubbish about myself and life this week and I must admit, when it got to Friday and I was still bl00dy crying all the time I was starting to think, OK, Wood, this seems like a bit more than just baby blues and I was wondering whether I might be suffering from a bit of the old post-natal depression after all. Looking it up on the web, it seemed I ticked every box except for the resenting your child symptom and thought I really should try to do something about this. Instead, I decided to cry some more and felt just beside myself looking at my little boy and wondering why on earth I felt so miserable when he is so gorgeous and precious. I was feeling so low that I might miss the enjoyment of all his early weeks for feeling depressed for reasons I couldn't even put my finger on. However, when Ron kindly took the little one down to the basement and did a night shift with him on Friday and I got 4 solid hours of sleep in a row, I woke up feeling completely different about everything and ready to take on anything. Sure, I was still bl00dy knackered but the baseline has to change when you become a new parent so feeling good and rested is no longer an option. Feeling just about human and able to get through the day is about the best you can hope for at this stage and with a teensy bit of sleep, I've been able to have a couple of days like that and my main focus now for the next few weeks is trying to find the optimum way for both Ron and I to get as much sleep as possible (I haven't formulated a plan for this yet but it is clear that we, well, certainly I, need help from other people to get there).

As I mentioned, this was my first week on my own and one of the things that made this week particularly difficult for me and so very daunting was that I hadn't arranged for any help. In all honestly, I hadn't expected to need it so badly and only now after sharing my desperation with my other Mummy buddies do I find out that most people, most sensible people anyway, have LOTS of help in the early days and weeks from friends or family and couldn't possibly have got through without it. Aha, if only I'd known! I just thought, well, first week on my own and I need to be able to do this so let's just get on with it but I hadn't taken in to account that I'm still essentially recovering from a rather major operation, still absolutely exhausted and I wasn't aware just how tiring it was going to be looking after a little person all day that only wants to be in my arms all the time on my own and it was clear straight away that I wasn't going to be able to get through it on my own.

Anyway, the point that I am trying to make here is that I really should have got myself some help arranged so I could ease myself slowly in to this parenting thing. My mum was away on holiday this week or I would have asked her to come and stay (and I know she felt terrible that she was unable to do so) and I really didn't want to burden any of my other friends but thankfully for three days this week some very special friends offered to come over, some driving over an hour with their own babies, to just be with me for a few hours to help me get through the day and I am so thankful to them as it gave me a chance to eat, wash and basically just get a bit of respite from the relentlessness. It was also great to bounce some ideas off them and ask for their advice as it turns out I have a million questions every day about what I am supposed to do with this little person and these are questions only another mummy can help you with. Thank you those of you helped me out this week - I couldn't have got through it without you and if anyone else is reading this and would like to help me, YES PLEASE!

I also couldn't have got through the week without the continued support of my facebook buddies and particularly the NCT ladies who are all going through the same thing at the same time as me and I think we are all each other's lifelines at the moment. I can't recommend paying for the NCT classes enough actually - not for the actual classes but for the post-class ready made support network. It is completely invaluable. Interestingly, all 7 of us have had boys as well (something that our NCT coach lady type person said she hadn't seen in all of her many many years of running the NCT classes - an all male or all female group) so we really are all going through such similar situations (I think we've all had the wee in the eye moment when changing a nappy).

There have been some positives this week as well though and the most significant thing is that I feel much better about the whole feeding thing. I'm still far from completely comfortable with how it is going but things are dramatically better than last week since I made the decision that trying to exclusively breastfeed was just not going to be an option for me. The option I came up with that works for me is to breastfeed once or twice a day, which I tend to do for the early morning feed and the start of the early evening cluster feeding, express the rest of the time as much as is feasibly possible (which is enough to sustain Dalton through the day if I have someone with me that can watch him while I spend half an hour expressing and sterilising things) and at night time, or any other time when I run out of b00b juice, we give him formula. I've stopped feeling guilty about giving Dalton formula but I still have enough residual guilt to force me to continue trying to breastfeed and express as much as I can and whilst this isn't sustainable long term as it is so time-consuming that I do little else at the moment than feed the boy or make b00b juice for him (and at some point in the near future I'd really like to get out and about to more groups and classes), on the whole, it is a feeding solution that works for me at the moment. The only disappointment is that on days when I am on my own it is really difficult to find time to express with my handy little electric b00b juice making pump as it takes about half an hour in all to pump and sterilise everything required. This gets me down a little for a few reasons. Firstly because it means I have to give little man more formula and there is still that residual guilt to deal with but mostly because I am really quite good at it! Since finishing work, there are few things I do that make me feel really good about myself - like I have really achieved something - but I am getting really good at making milk and managed to express almost a full 8 oz bottle the other day. It turns out that this is really quite a lot and my friends have been like, "Wow, Natalie, that is amazing, well done you, what a lot of b00b juice!" and that makes me feel very warm and bubbly inside to hear that I am doing something very well. These small achievements for me are important at the moment and I found myself inches away from announcing on facebook how much milk I had just expressed - just stopping myself in time as I realised that not only does no one else give a sh1t how much milk I can get out of my b00bs but that actually, it is on the verge of freaky weirdness that I would tell everyone all about it. The thing is, when you are on your own a lot of the day and you have done something you're proud of, you want to tell everyone about it! I apologise in advance if I don't manage to stop myself for any future achievements. Anyway, so I try to find ways to express even if the little dude is desperately demanding my attention and the other day I managed to continue going for a good 10 minutes whilst holding the breast pump in one hand, the handheld Dyson in the other (no, I wasn't hoovering, even the most multi-tasking of mummy gurus couldn't clean the house and express and look after a baby at the same time - I was just holding it in the air switched on as the little dude likes the noise), tickling Dalton's tummy with one foot and using the other to rock his bounce seat. Success! Honestly, the things you find yourself doing as a new mummy. I mean, rarely a day goes by actually where I don't have my b00bs (no longer even remotely sexual objects by the way and purely functional feeding accessories) out in front of someone. You certainly can't be bashful after having a baby - it's just not possible.

With a lack of adult company on some days, not only have I found myself partaking in strange, mostly one-handed activities, I have also found myself thinking about bizarre things that a working day would never previously have allowed for. For example, the other day whilst expressing a significant amount of b00b juice I found myself wondering how long I could sustain myself if trapped half way up a snowy mountain ('Touching the Void' type scenario) drinking and producing my own milk. I had to have a word with myself about being so weird.

Another success this week is that I have managed to get out the house most days in the little buggy for my daily trip to Tesco's (you wouldn't believe how incredibly scary this was the first time I did it on my own). I don't have a particular fetish for supermarkets, it's just that my local Tesco's is about the right distance away (ten minute's walk) for me to feel like I have sort of stretched my legs but to be close enough to run home if the little man starts uncontrollably wailing. I have met a couple of my NCT buddies at the Costa Coffee there this week (as it also turns out that it is pretty much the only coffee serving establishment in Faversham that a learner driving buggy pusher can get her pushchair in to) and whilst both of us have been on constant edge about our little ones wailing (which I know will happen and I will just need to learn to get used to it but at the moment, everything about my baby terrifies me), it has been very pleasant to see them, share our sob stories, offer support and meet the other little ones. One thing that has become very apparent though is that my son appears to be twice the size of every other child his age. This has also been backed up by my friends' absolute astonishment at how much my son eats. I mean, I have nothing to compare it to so whilst I found it very surprising that he eats literally all the time, I thought this was just normal but my friends who have witnessed how quickly he guzzles down an 8 oz bottle of milk and then cries for more and then demands to be fed again half an hour later are shocked and apparently my son eats far more than my friend's almost 5 month old. Jeez, is it any wonder my b00bs were in such a state trying to keep up with his constant feeding demand or that I was struggling with one handed activities more than some of my less-chubby-child-bearing buddies. It has occurred to me - my son is an enormous fat greedy b@stard!

Chubby Cheeks
Not a bad problem to have when you think what the alternative could be, mind. I have some friends who are struggling to breastfeed like I did and their babies won't take to a bottle and that must be absolutely heartbreaking and very worrying if you're finding it hard to feed your child at all. We have no problems with that whatsoever. Dalton virtually grabs the bottle from me and guzzles it down whatever temperature it happens to be and whatever container it happens to be served in. The introduction of bottles have led to no nipple confusion at all as well (another thing the breastfeeding nazi put the fear of God in to you about) - which is good - well, other than the fact that he thinks everything is a nipple and spends most of his time bobbing around on anything remotely soft and fleshy hunting desperately for food which is fairly amusing to watch but he's always done that!

The other main success is that I am getting to grips much better with the sling and the Baby Bjorn around the house now (still not quite ready for an outside adventure) so I am able to get a few things done for the short time the little dude will stay chilled out in it so that will make life much easier as I build up more confidence with it.


Of course, it's not all success stories and it is clear that either - a) I'm rubbish at changing nappies, b) I am the unluckiest person in the world or c) this is just what babies do - but I am rarely able to change a nappy without something exploding out of an orifice all over me. On a particularly low day, I was on my third nappy and outfit change in ten minutes after Dalton first pooped as soon as I put the new one on, then weed as I went to put the second one on, then puked all over his next new outfit and I thought, scr3w this, let's give this little man a bath and get him properly clean. He had barely been in the bath 2 minutes when he produced this for me:

Mustard Seed 'Infused' Bath
And then, when I took him out of the bath and wrapped him up in a new towel, he sh@t all over that as well and as I cleaned up my son again, hoping it would be for the last time for that hour and set about trying to clean the mustard seeds out of the bath before my brother's family arrived, I thought, bejesus, Wood, what has your life become?!

Also, it turns out my son definitely takes after his father as he is regularly caught giving people the 'bird' as those Yanks call it. This is one of many occasions when he's been trying to tell us something (excuse the in-shot b00b but trust me, after 1000 people have seen and touched your b00bs, you stop caring who sees them anymore).

Dalton 'Giving Me the Bird'
One of the real highlights of the week is that I am now free of evil midwives until / unless I decide to have mini Wood no. 2. They were unable to discharge me until Dalton's cord fell off and it took a, what felt like forever, massive 18 days. The particularly evil one I had asked to change from was sent round and I think she was as awkward about being in my house as I was happy about her being here and, for both our sakes, I asked her to make the visit as short as possible and she was out within 5 minutes.

All in all, as I approach the fourth week of my little boy's life, I feel like I may be starting to turn that corner after all. There are a few things that I've learnt / have changed / will change / I have got to grips with that I feel will make things increasingly better from this day forward and they are as follows:

  • I am slightly toughening up to hearing the little dude cry and being able to stomach it for long enough to wash and get dressed in the morning - more out of necessity than anything else - and I think I will be able to do this more and more each day without getting so distressed
  • I am starting to learn that babies are more robust than I gave them credit for and don't need to be held like they will smash in to 1000 tiny pieces all the time
  • I have learnt that sleep is EVERYTHING and that I need to ask people to do some of the night shifts so that I can cope with everything in a much more positive way
  • I have realised and accepted that I need help and can't do this on my own and have become comfortable asking friends and family for help. I've also happily learnt that my family and good friends are more than happy to help me out
  • I have realised and am starting to accept that the relationship you have with your partner completely and dramatically changes in the first few weeks and that it is sadly not so much about you as a couple but about getting through the day in whatever way you can, even if it means you barely get to spend any time together as a couple and I am reminding myself that this will not be forever and that we will be able to have more us time again in the future
  • I have learnt that EVERYONE really struggles in the early weeks - even if I have been under the illusion at the time that they were coping fantastically and finding it all very easy. Some people just like to be a bit more private about the hard times

Generally, everything just seems a little less scary each day and I feel like I am slightly growing in confidence all the time so my goal really for next week is to focus on getting through the day without falling apart and having a breakdown and setting myself small and achievable goals like trying to get out the house every day, even if it is just to take a jaunt down to Tesco's!

Anyway, I feel like I have gone on far too long this week. I was intending to make my blog posts shorter and shorter each week - partly due to having so much less available time and partly to prepare my friend Liffey for the horrible truth that, one day, these blog posts might just end - and here I am writing another tome. I guess it's just my way of dealing with everything so thanks once again for listening / reading. Your eyes and ears are appreciated.

P.S. We are sort of ready for day visitors now so if you would like to come over and meet the little chap, I am currently accepting bookings. I thank you.


Current Symptoms:
  • Very light vaginal bleeding
  • Area of numbness above caesarean scar
  • Weakened but improving lower tummy muscles
  • Recovering boobies
  • Lots of tears still
  • An enormous feeling of inadequacy


DALTON

I've met loads of people this week and made lots of new friends! Mummy had some friends over a few days this week that had little people just a little bit older than me so I hung out with them. Here's a picture of me with my new friend Elliot:


I also saw my two cousins Millie and Bella again this week. They are crazy. They kept talking about a 'Gruffalo' whatever that is. Also, this weekend, I got to meet one of my big sisters. That was great, especially as she bought me a really funky new outfit. She's cool - like a real life ninja.

I also got to go to my local supermarket - a lot - so that was, erm, well, fun I guess! We always seem to end up hanging out by the creme egg aisle.

Mummy's been a bit up and down this week. I'm not sure who has been crying more, me or her. I'm hoping she'll get a grip soon as when she sobs when I'm trying to eat, it's a little distracting. Daddy's been up to some cool stuff though - I hope he teaches me all this stuff when I get older. He's been setting up the house so that the lights can all be controlled by remote - I like!

Anyway, so, yeah, mostly I've just been sh1tting, eating and sleeping again. It's not a bad life really. More of the same next week I'm guessing!

Monday, 23 January 2012

2 Weeks Old

MUMMY

I need to start this post by asking for your patience. Today is my first day on my own with my little man and apart from being utterly terrified, it's extremely difficult to find time even to get dressed properly never mind write an awesome blog entry so this will no doubt be written in snatched moments with minimum editing. I thank you in advance for your understanding.

So, this was the second week at home with Dalton and it turns out the end of last week - after the initial euphoria had subsided, the extreme lack of sleep caught up with me, the excruciating activity that is breastfeeding took its toll and when things started to become very challenging - was just an aperitif for the week that was to come. Or perhaps this week is just an aperitif for the few weeks that are to come. Lordy, I hope not, but one thing is clear, this week was tough. Really tough. This week, without a doubt saw my experiencing the lowest day of my entire life and I really hope that that day, which I will be referring to as 'Resentment Day', remains the most depressing day of my life because I'm not sure how many of those I could go through.

During the middle of this week, I really started to understand how it must feel when women go through post-natal depression. I can only imagine it is like going through a day like I did on Wednesday, day after day, for months on end and, frankly, I don't know how those poor ladies get through it. I mean, my week has been really tough for me - for all of us - but I'm well aware that it is just the usual kind of toughness that all new parents go through and nothing even close to post-natal depression.

I realised this week that I probably don't have the best kind of personality for motherhood. Let me expand. I think I have the right kind of personality to make a very good mummy but I don't know if I have the right personality to make a very happy mummy, at least not in these early days. (baby crying - moving to one-handed) The problem is that I am a complete perfectionist and feel most comfortable when in control of situations which, for the most part, I usually am. I also tend to set very high standards for myself and feel very disappointed when I don't achieve them. Now, there is no way you can get this new mum thing perfect, no matter what kind of super hero you are, and I knew I was never going to be remotely in control of a new baby as well but no matter how much you tell yourself that and try to prepare yourself for it, you can't just change your personality in a few months and suddenly start being comfortable with being out of control after 35 years of not being comfortable with it. Finally, I knew it would be challenging in the beginning but the very least I expected to be able to do for my child was clothe him, keep him warm, keep him clean and feed him - the absolute basics - so, when it became apparent that feeding my own child was not turning out to be as easy as I had expected, I didn't just feel disappointed, I felt like a complete and utter bl00dy failure.

I don't want to go on only about breastfeeding for the next few posts but I will talk about it a bit more as it was, once again, the defining activity of the week and, more importantly, not enough people speak openly about how tough it is which gives the (now known to be false) illusion to new mummies like me that every other mummy in the world is happily breastfeeding away with no problems whatsoever so I am making it my business to make sure that any other new or soon-to-be mummies who read this know that this is definitely not the case.

(several hours later but back to two-handed)

Leading up to the hellish day that was Wednesday, I was still feeling like I really needed to continue to try to breastfeed despite the pain not only not getting better but actually getting worse and I really didn't want it to beat me. I kept thinking, any day now, the scars will heal and I will be able to do this without being in agony and it just wasn't happening and by Wednesday, I was in absolute agony and couldn't feed without sobbing in pain all the way through it and the little fella just seemed hungry all the time so I was pretty much doing this and nothing else all day. Ron, fortunately, although working, was working from home so could take Dalton from me for the few moments that I wasn't feeding but for some reason (well, probably due to lack of sleep, the pain of recovering from a major operation and the whole 'hormones being all over the place now my body wasn't supporting another body' thing) I just couldn't stop sobbing. And I mean inconsolably sobbing. I have never cried tears like that before and I hope never to again. All day, I was sobbing and at some point or another throughout the day - Resentment Day - I pretty much resented everyone and then felt very guilty for doing so and it was just constantly like this all day.

Firstly, I resented Ron for not being able to breastfeed himself (especially with those moobs) or share the load of any of the pain or discomfort I had been through over the past few months. I resented him also when he begged me to stop trying to breastfeed and just give Dalton the bottle and didn't understand why I felt I had to go on and push through it. Then I felt terribly guilty as of course it isn't Ron's fault that Mother Nature had chosen the stronger sex to deal with all the baby pain related activities. And of course it was understandable that Ron wanted me to stop breastfeeding - it was making everyone miserable!

Then, I resented my parents for wanting to come and see their grandson the following day because I just wasn't ready and wanted to sob in private if I was to continue being in agony trying to breastfeed and then I felt very guilty about that as all they wanted to do was see their grandson, which was totally understandable.

Then, I resented all my friends for not being more open about the pain of breastfeeding and letting me know how many of then, it turned out, had struggled also and switched to formula feeding fairly early on. If only I had known that lots of other people struggled and that it wasn't just me, I might not have felt like such a terrible failure when I was struggling so much with it. And then I felt terrible for resenting them as so many of them had sent me wonderful messages of support and really helped me to get through the day and it was only because they had been kind enough to do so that by the end of the day, not only did I realise I wasn't alone, it seemed I was actually very much in the majority.

For a moment, I resented my beautiful boy for sucking so hard and continually falling asleep on the boob so much that he was making me bleed and very quickly then felt terrible for resenting him as he wasn't making me feed him that way and he is such a gorgeous little ball of wonderfulness that my continuing on meant that he was still hungry and not getting the food he needs so no wonder he was so fed up

I even resented my cats for demanding attention from me whilst I was sitting in agony trying to feed my child and then I felt terrible because I realised I hadn't fed them all day as I had been so focused on the breastfeeding alone. The poor little fluffballs - it must be very confusing for them to be spoilt so much by me and then virtually ignored.

Most of all though, most of all, I resented myself. And I didn't feel terrible for it. I resented myself for putting all three of us through such a horrific couple of days because of my obsession to try to crack breastfeeding and by the end of the day, I swore that I wouldn't do this again.

That horrible day was quite a turnaround for all of us (I often find I need to hit rock bottom before I can start picking myself up again) and I honestly couldn't have got through it without the support of so so many wonderful friends and the power of the book of face. It was overwhelming the support I received after a small cry for help and this is when I discovered that hardly any of my friends had managed to exclusively breastfeed, particularly those with boys, and that so many of them had felt the same as I did about formula due to what the midwives, health visitors and the breastfeeding nazis, as many people refer to them, make you feel about it but most of them had switched eventually to formula feeding and felt a lot happier for it. One of my friends wrote saying how she felt like she was putting poison in her child's mouth the first time she gave in and used formula and I knew exactly what she meant as I felt the same. It's strange as no one actually says to you, 'don't use formula, it's not good for your child' but the message is very much that 'breast is best' and the common message would be worded as something like, 'if you want to give your child a good start in life, exclusively breastfeed', which, if you are vulnerable, exhausted and so confused about what to do for the best with this new little life that you suddenly have to look after, you hear / read that as, 'if you give your child formula, you are not giving them the best start in life'. Obviously, that message is enough to make any loving mother try to push through the pain but the point is that there has to be a balance. I read so many things stating that it is not true that some women don't produce enough milk to feed to their baby's demands, they just need to feed more until their body knows how much to make. Some articles recommended have a 2 - 3 day 'breastfeed-in' where you literally do nothing but feed for a couple of days to get your body going and your baby used to feeding from the b00b and I thought OK, hold on a second, this is getting ridiculous. I've no doubt that I could probably have pushed through the pain eventually and produced enough to satisfy my very hungry boy but at what cost? At the expense of being able to do pretty much anything else. What about the benefits of having a happy mummy and daddy? What about not being so consumed by feeding from the b00b that mummy and daddy can go out for a walk in the fresh air? What about having a life still?! I mean, this article is a perfect example of the kind of ridiculous message that is forced upon us ladies at the most vulnerable time of our entire lives. When I read it now with a slightly clearer head, it reads as though it has been created by a crazy evangelistic person - the type of person I would normally just feel sorry for, not listen to!

By the end of Wednesday evening anyway, I gave in and decided that the trying to exclusively breastfeed just wasn't going to work for me and that I would express as long as I could until my milk supply dwindled (expressing doesn't hurt me at all so this seemed like the perfect solution - baby still got b00b juice and mummy wasn't in pain - but then I discovered that the milk supply would run out all together with exclusive expressing eventually - apparently after about 12 weeks), supplementing with formula whenever we ran out of my b00b juice and then, when it had all gone, switching to formula all the time. This is working much better and my biggest challenge is trying to find 20 minutes when I can express and Dalton is settled but when I can, I can produce a 4oz (125 ml) bottle of formula in about 20 minutes and I consider it quite a personal achievement! OK, so I feel like Daisy the cow and I couldn't do this for more than about 12 weeks either as it is very time consuming (sterilising bottles and breast pump equipment, feeding, pumping and so the cycle goes on) and I want my little boy to do more than have to stay in while I obsess about producing b00b juice, but it is a solution that works for me, works for him and eases any residual guilt I had. The main thing I learnt from that horrible day was that every baby is different, every mummy is different and everyone must find a feeding option that works for them and that there are many more ways than just the b00b to feed your child.

I had one last go at it after arranging for a breastfeeding counsellor to do a home visit on Sunday and she really helped me to find a better position but after 4 hours of solid feeding, a starving child and the return of the waterworks, I swore that that really was it and I would never do that again to any of us.

So, a special thank you to all of you who were kind enough to write to me and tell me your story. It REALLY helped. And please, no more apologies for giving me advice. Anything I said in the past about advice can now be disregarded. When it comes to being a mummy, I have never felt less confident so I will take all the advice I can get now.

Talking of confidence, this is one of the things I have struggled with so much the last couple of weeks. There really is nothing like a child to make you feel pretty sh1tty about yourself. I find myself on such unfamiliar ground as at work, in the home, in life generally, I am very confident about my own abilities and I am good at stuff. I am good at quite a few things. I am very decisive and have no problem making snap decisions (sometimes a bit too snappy admittedly!) and then all of a sudden I find myself questioning every single thing I am doing and asking Ron ridiculous questions like whether or not I should change my baby's nappy when he has just shat himself so hard it has come through his babygro (Dalton I mean, not Ron). I know the answer to this question is yes so why am I double-checking everything and feeling like I just can't get anything right when in the space of ten minutes I get puked on, dumped on, weed on and sneezed on (checking then of course for any other orifice I might have forgotten about) when actually this is just a normal part of being a parent. It was starting to get silly so whilst absolutely terrified about it, I was sort of relieved when Ron had to go back in to the office today and I had to start coping on my own as I know the answer really and if I don't, it's because there isn't an answer and you just have to wing your way through it. It turns out that this is exactly what parents have been doing for years and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it horribly wrong but we do our best and at the end of of the day, if our children are fed, watered, clothed, sheltered and reasonably content, we're doing OK! I also couldn't help thinking it might be good for Ron to get away from such an emotional wreck for a day as it can't have been nice to be around me these past few days.

As we move towards the third week now, I finally feel like we are starting to slightly turn a corner. We will still have many more bad days as well as good ahead I'm sure but I have made a decision to not keep beating myself up all the time because I don't know what I am doing. No one knows what they are doing and most people struggle a lot in the first few weeks, even if on the surface they look like they are coping wonderfully well - most of them just don't enjoy as public a meltdown as I do!

So, other than the b00b issue, we have managed to get out and about a few times this week. Little man is now registered and officially exists and Ron and I managed to go for a few short walks to the high street / Tesco's etc. with Dalton and we even managed to have lunch in our local pub without me feeling incredibly anxious about breastfeeding as I bottle-fed him instead. Now I'm going to be on my own a lot of the time, I am going to try to build up the visits out of the house, just little by little until I am confident out and about with the little guy. I know it won't come straight away but I am going to take it slowly and not try to take on too much. Ultimately, the most important thing is that the three of us are a content family so whatever it takes to make that happen is what I will do.

I will end this week's post with some more photos of my little ball of gorgeousness and look forward to updating you all with a hopefully much more positive post next week.

Thanks though, all of you (you know who you are). x

Smiling (alright, pushing one out)
All wrapped up after his first bath

Out and about

Mummy trying to master her new hands-free device

Current Symptoms:
  • Very light vaginal bleeding
  • A restored botty
  • Area of numbness above caesarean scar
  • Weakened but improving lower tummy muscles
  • Recovering boobies after a couple of days without abuse
  • A tendency to cry lots!

DADDY

Again, Daddy is flat out looking after all of us and working very hard. He's a saint and is coping very well with his crazy fiancĂ©e.

DALTON

I've not had a bad week all in all. I've been out and about a few times and except for the day when it was REALLY windy on my face, I quite enjoyed looking at all the sights in the outside world - even if they all appear black and white to me right now.

The only thing that is getting me down a bit is that I keep telling mummy and daddy exactly what is wrong with me (I normally wail this extra loud to make sure they hear) but they don't seem to be getting it. I tell them I just want a cuddle, mummy tries to feed me. I tell them I need a dump and am struggling to push one out, mummy tries to feed me. I tell them I am tired and quite fancy a lie down, mummy tries to feed me. Honestly, I hope they get a bit better at translating my screams soon!

Mummy seemed very upset the first half of the week, I don't know what it was all about but she seemed a lot happier by the end so I hope that continues as it was no fun for me either when she was sobbing all the time. I was like, get a grip, woman. I've just been cut out of a person, talk about traumatic, what's your problem?

Anyway, I'm just trying to take things in right now. There's a lot to take in and there's a lot of eating, pooping and sleeping to be done too!

Monday, 16 January 2012

1 Week Old

MUMMY

It's been our first full week with the little man. My first full week as a parent and all of our first full week as a family together. And what a week it has been! It has been jam-packed full of highs and lows. In fact, so much has happened since I last wrote, I can't believe it was only a week ago that I was telling you all about the little man's arrival.

I am absolutely ecstatic to be a Mummy still and I love love love hanging out with my little man. I can't stop staring at him and thinking how handsome and perfect he is and I'm completely overflowing with a new kind of love that I have never felt before - one that only a parent can feel for their children. One where you can't help but worry about them a lot of the time (OK Mum, I will probably understand your worry obsession more and more as my little boy grows up) and one where you would do absolutely anything in the world for them. One where it breaks your little heart in to a thousand pieces when they are upset and distressed and you just can't seem to do anything to help them to feel better and one where it fills your heart up with the most warm and bubbly feeling ever when they smile at you - even when you know that they are really just doing a dump.

As well as being an overwhelmingly amazing week, it has been an overwhelmingly challenging week and I won't pretend for one second that I haven't found it really tough and very upsetting at times. It turns out that there is nothing like a distressed child to make you lose all your self-confidence and feel pretty cr@ppy all round.

If anyone ever thought having a child was a good way to fix a broken relationship, they absolutely couldn't be more wrong. Not only does it not fix a broken relationship, it tries even the most solid of relationships as you find your feet together. There is the extreme sleep deprivation and massive hormonal changes for the lady that makes everyone more than a little grumpy anyway; there's the new mum feeling the most unattractive she has probably ever felt in her life (hormone change-induced acne, bags under eyes, excess tummy skin and leaking scabby melons the size of, well, water melons - only a little more droopy, maternity pads the size of adult nappies - need I go on ...); there's the feeling that you're letting your little one down when you can't make everything all better for them and, if you're anything like me, there's the not being able to get out the house very easily - mostly due to feeding issues, a topic that will consume most of this blog post I am afraid.

It was strange, for the first three days when we got back home from the hospital, I was on such an amazing high that although I barely slept at all for the first three nights as little people have no concept of night or day and seem to want to eat ALL the time, I just didn't care. I thought, this isn't hard, this is easy, I don't need to sleep, I can just stare at him all the time and think about how wonderful he is and that will get me through every day. But then the tiredness hit home, or something hit me anyway - really hard in the face as it turns out and from that point on, once the lack of sleep caught up with me and the adrenaline slipped away and the feeding issues begun, everything became a challenge to say the very least.

As I mentioned last week, I struggled initially when I was in hospital to get my little bundle of wonderfulness to latch on properly. It all seemed so simple from the DVDs and classes I had been to and I was thinking, really, how hard can this be, just get them in the right position and they just have to suck. Well, he didn't suck and no matter what I did, it just wasn't happening for us and it made me feel like such a rubbish mummy - not being able to do the most basic thing a mum needs to do for her baby. As I also mentioned though, once I got home and could try in a more relaxed environment, me and the little man worked at it and fairly promptly he started sucking away with the kind of force I can only imagine an industrial plunger to be capable of and then, from about day 3 onwards, my milk came in and it all seemed to be going well and I thought, by jove, I think we've really cracked this. Unfortunately, that wasn't all we cracked and from about day 4, my nipples started cracking and becoming red raw and feeding was becoming really painful. Dalton was picking up the frequency with which he wanted to be fed and by about day 5, my nipples were bleeding, red all round the edges and it became absolutely excruciating to breast feed. Toecurlingly excruciating. The kind of pain I can only describe by asking you to imagine you have a graze on your knee and every two to three hours you rub it down with sandpaper and stick pins in to it. It's that kind of sharp pin-sticking in pain. In fact, it hurt so much that I even went to bed last night with savoy cabbage leaves in my bra. An old wives' tale perhaps but two of the midwives had strongly suggested I do this. Apparently there is something in savoy cabbages that draws out the milk naturally and helps it to flow. It didn't seem to do much though and all that happened was this morning at 4am when I offered my enormous b00bs to Dalton, he scrumpled up his face as if to say, "Mummy, why does your b00b smell of sweaty cabbage?" - a question I didn't really have a decent answer to.

I've also developed mastitis now but fortunately the doctor doesn't think it is bad enough to require antibiotics and that carrying on feeding through it is the best way to clear it up so I'll just press on. I've just bought some nipple shields and fingers crossed my b00bies will sort themselves out in time and I'll become a pro in the end. We've had to start supplementing breastfeeding with a bottle of formula at night-time too, which I felt really guilty about doing at first (again, society seems to make you feel really rubbish if you can't give your little one b00b juice exclusively) and I was worried it would affect his ability to suck hard enough when back on the b00b but he still seems to have that super plunger suckle so we'll carry on with this too until my bullet nipples arrive. I also have to spend almost all my entire time in between feeds prancing around the house virtually naked to allow the air to try to heal my b00b wounds and to allow the air to get to my tummy scar as well. It's not a look that makes me feel in any way sexy at the moment but Ron is kind enough to say that he doesn't mind at all. It does make it virtually impossible for me to accept visitors at the moment though so apart from immediate family, I have still seen virtually no one, which is a shame but I'm not quite ready yet. I will be soon, just as soon as I've got to grips with the feeding.

Breastfeeding is quite an exceptional thing really. It can make you feel horrendous when it isn't working out properly because it is about the only thing in the world that only a Mummy can do for their baby and for the very same reason, when it is going well, it can also make you feel amazing. It's such a special bonding experience with your little one and I really don't want to lose it. There is nothing quite like my baby's little happy face staring up at me as I give him what he needs - when I am able to do so, anyway.

Today, I found myself having to do my first 'public feed'. An unexpected one really. I went to the doctor's about the mastitis and then had a couple of things to pick up in Boots but Dalton got really hungry all of a sudden and it was either come home and try and come out again in the afternoon, which probably wouldn't have happened, or find somewhere pronto to try to discreetly feed him. This was quite stressful for me because, at the moment, with the problems I have been having, it's not just a question of plonk him on the b00b and let it happen, I have to hand massage my boob for a couple of minutes first to get the milk to come out and this isn't a particularly easy thing to do in a public place - especially when so many people are outraged by public breastfeeding (as if we really have a choice about it!). Ron and I managed to find a very secluded table in a pub though and I was able to get my tits out for the boy and managed to get a good feed out of both b00bs. This might sound like no big deal but, for me, this was a huge triumph so I was a little bit proud of myself!

Sorry about all that b00b talk - not something I would normally fill a blog post with but my enormous and slightly malfunctioning melons really have been the main focus of my week and not in a particularly good way. Oh, just one final thing about b00bs (and apologies if this makes anyone want to hurl) but curiosity got the better of me a couple of days ago and after expressing some milk on my little hand-held manual pump (wow, that's a lot of work for a few mls of juice!), I decided to try some. I have to say, it's pretty tasty stuff. Nice and creamy with a hint of sweetness. I won't make a habit of drinking my own b00b juice, don't worry, but I was pleasantly surprised.

So, other than feeding, we've obviously been struggling a bit, OK, a lot, with lack of sleep. It hasn't been as hard as I was expecting though but I was expecting it to be pretty tough. We've had a couple of nights where I literally haven't slept at all and Ron has had one night where he hasn't slept at all but on the whole, Dalton wakes two to three times a night for a feed and other than that sleeps fairly well. We started off for the first couple of nights trying to settle him in the moses basket but it very quickly became apparent that this just wasn't going to work so we decided to not make life any more difficult for ourselves than it need be and just co-sleep with Dalton every night in the bed - something I swore I would never do (there are a lot of things you think you will never do or that you will definitely do as a parent but once you become a parent, it's surprising how many things are not quite as you suspected and you have to change your game plan constantly) - but it's working well and with the few hours I get at night and the few I try to make up in the morning when he is sleeping, I'm managing to get through most days fairly well. This technique will only become difficult when I actually have to do things in the daytime as well (other than watch Judge Judy and feed I mean).

I'm pleased to say that, despite the issues I have had this week with feeding, it seems that the little man is doing great. He has really fattened up and the last weigh-in when the midwife came on Sunday had him at 9lbs 2oz so he had put on all the weight he lost in the first 5 days and more (it is common for babies to lose up to 10% of their initial birth weight in the first 5 days but they should then start putting it on again) and any signs of jaundice had completely gone so the midwife said he was looking really fit and healthy and that he was clearly being fed well so that made me feel a lot better. We are just now waiting for Dalton's chord and clip to fall off so that we can be formally discharged by the midwives and we can then also finally give him his first bath - something I have been dying to do for about a week now. You can bathe your baby when their clip is still on but it isn't advisable or necessary apparently so we are waiting until it falls off but I am keen to see if he's going to be one of those babies who loves bath-time or one that hates it!

So, how am I recovering from the caesarean, I hear you say. Well, not too bad actually, thanks for asking. The scar is healing very well and I got to see it for the first time when the midwife removed the dressing on day 5. It is about 5 inches wide (a bit wider than I thought it would be actually) but is very low down in the pubic area so once I am no longer bald 'down there', it will be very hard to spot. The strangest thing about it, which I wasn't aware would happen before hand, is that there is an area above the scar about 5 inches wide and about three inches deep up to my belly button which is completely numb. There is no feeling there at all and this is the bit with most of the excess skin too so it really feels as if I am wearing some kind of gel bum bag. Apparently, this loss of feeling may never return so that will be a bit strange if I am stuck with it. It's not a serious problem though so if that's the worst side effect of the caesarean I can certainly live with it. The painkillers have helped me through a lot of the pain and a week and a bit on now from having the procedure the pain is virtually gone. I still can't use my tummy muscles how I would like to just yet and I often need Ron to help me get up out of bed and out of chairs but it gets a little better every day and I honestly think I will feel almost fully heeled after another week. In fact, the only really nasty side effect of the caesarean has been (**TMI Warning**) that after the caesarean and the removal of the catheter, I became constipated and actually didn't have a number two for a world-record-breaking 8 days! By the time I finally had one, all the food I had been eating (and I have been eating LOADS as my stomach has all this extra room to expand in to and it is loving it) literally caused me to sh1t a brick! It was so hard it actually made my botty quite badly bleed and ever since then when I poop, it still bleeds. This will pass no doubt fairly shortly and I now have some medication to soften the stools (God, I hate that word but it's always good to try to slip it in to a conversation or blog post) so onwards and upwards I say. On the plus side, and quite amazingly, my tummy bump has almost completely gone! A lot of it went as soon as Dalton was removed from it but the remainder has really gone down too now so I am actually back in my very early maternity stretchy jeans which is fairly triumphant as well.

We're still finding our feet and will continue to do so for many weeks to come but on the whole, as I say, we are loving being parents to Dalton and having him here with us. Ron has been amazing at looking after me virtually full time as well as looking after the little man and keeping the house running so a big thank you goes out to him this week and let's see what next week brings. Lots more firsts, hopefully a bit more sleep and super hopefully bullet-shaped nipples.

I've taken loads of pictures of the gorgeous little cherub this week and I could really overdo it posting them here but I'm trying really hard not to be a pain in the @rse and post too many pictures in various places as I'm aware that most people aren't really that interested in other people's babies but you will excuse me if I just share a few with you below:

'Milk-drunk' (slightly wonky) face
and another milk-drunk look ...

Completely zonko after a feed
and one of the gorgeous Ronald holding our chunky son as he starts to fill out ...

Chunky Monkey
Next week looms and there's a couple of things happening this week with Dalton having is hearing test tomorrow and then registration at the doctor's surgery on Wednesday and on Friday I have my first non-family visit as one of my very bestest buddies is coming over to see me and I know she will give me lots of moral support and a confidence boost so I am looking forward to that. Hopefully by the weekend, all three of us will be ready to take on the world!

Oh, the very final thing I wanted to say this week is that I have been very pleasantly surprised that my fluff-covered babies, the very timid fluff-covered babies, Boog and Zoog, have not only NOT run for the hills with the arrival of Master Dalton but they have really taken to having him around. They are both the most content and relaxed I have ever seen them and are acting in quite a protective way around him. It's very cute to see and I am delighted that my now family of 5 seem to be getting on so well. Hoorah.

Current Symptoms:
  • Very light vaginal bleeding
  • A bleeding botty on bowel movement
  • Area of numbness above caesarean scar
  • Weakened but improving lower tummy muscles
  • Bleeding and sore nips
  • Spotty face :o(
  • A tendency to cry lots!

DADDY

I won't commit Daddy to writing anything. He's been working so hard to look after all three of us and the house stuff but I'm sure if he has time, he'll try to add something.

DALTON

What a week! Having spent the last ten months in complete darkness, I'm finding it fascinating just looking around me at all the amazing colours and lights and listening to all the crazy sounds. It can be quite a brain overload at times. I make the most of it when I do get to see all these colours as I spend about 90% of my waking life with Mummy's boob stuffed in my face. The stuff coming out of Mummy's b00bs has gone much more liquidy this week so I'm finding it much easier to get at. I'm a hungry lad so I have to eat a lot to give me all the energy I need to grow.

I've been outside a few times this week - brrr, it's been cold. I hate wearing hats if I'm honest, even the ones without ears so it's been a bit of a pain to have one forced on my head at all times when outside and damn my little arms don't quite arch well enough yet for me to be able to take it off myself. I find crying really loud tends to help though when I don't want to wear it. I quite enjoy the trips in the pushchair though and find them quite calming. It will be nice to get out and about a bit more next week.

Mummy and Daddy kept trying to make me sleep in a little basket all on my own at the beginning of the week but I thought scr3w that, as if I'd want to sleep in here all on my own when I can sleep in a comfy enormous bed with two giant hot water bottles either side of me! Again, I found that if I cried really really loud, eventually, Mummy and Daddy would stop putting me in the basket and now I seem to have a permanent place in the bed. Mwah ha ha! They are so easy to play those two.

I'm just spending my time eating, pooping and sleeping really. It's what we babies do. All three activities are going pretty well so far so more of the same next week please!

TTFN x