Monday, 30 January 2012

3 Weeks Old


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


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!

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