I have logged on to finish this blog post so many times now, I’ve been that close to scrapping it altogether and writing about something totally different. I wasn’t exactly a regular blogger to begin with, but now I have a young baby who fights sleep all day long unless it’s on me, it’s become even more difficult to find the time to get online. Ok, let me rephrase that. I spend all day online. On my phone. One handed whilst breastfeeding/cuddling/housing a sleeping baby. But it’s become even more difficult to sit at a laptop and type. Is there a machine that will allow me to dictate future blog posts, I wonder? There should be.
What I originally set out to write about was the torrid time I had in those first few weeks. Reading this post back to myself, it now seems incredibly bleak, and, I’m pleased to say, out of date. Nearly 10 weeks in, we’re well out of the fog and I’m very much enjoying my beautiful, stubborn, funny baby and starting to enjoy the
monotonous repetitive simple existence that is maternity leave postpartum. But I’m going to share it anyway. As is the way with this blog, my witterings serve not only as a permanent reminder for myself (and a good form of contraception when I start to think I could handle a second child), but hopefully as something for other shell-shocked, grieving, exhausted new mums to relate to.
So anyway. Here it is.
The First Two Weeks
I vividly remember what a close friend (and now mum to two beautiful babies) once told me when I asked how it was going after her first child was born. She said: “The only way I can describe it is devastating. Our life has been devastated.” I think there may even have been tears in her eyes as she said it. (Or I could hear it in her voice- I can’t actually remember if this was by phone call or face to face.)
Either way, the emotion behind and the conviction with which she said this simple statement really did take me by surprise. At this point I didn’t have many friends with babies, so my contact with new mums had gone little beyond a congratulatory card in the post, followed perhaps by a “Hey! Sprog is gorgeous. How’s it all going?” text several weeks later.
As I’m sure many of you can relate to, my Facebook feed these days is full of baby-related status’ (amongst the Buzzfeed articles and cat compilation videos). Proud arrival announcements, babies dressed as pumpkins/Christmas puddings/Easter bunnies depending on the time of year, selfies of mum and baby in bed together, all traces of exhaustion masked by a carefully selected Instagram filter (ahem, guilty). Prior to having my own baby I was led to believe that giving birth was horrendous and that sleep deprivation would be a killer, but that it would all be worth it because once he was here I would realise what true love really felt like, unicorns would sing, and life as I knew it would be complete.
I’ll be honest, the first two weeks with Frank were horrible. HORRIBLE. Whilst there were moments when I’d stare in wonder and bewilderment at this tiny person I’d created (usually when he was asleep), and tentatively whisper “I love you, Frank”, hoping that I meant it, the vast majority of the time I was experiencing one or several of the following emotions:
Arriving home from the hospital I just remember feeling scared. Scared of the night ahead without professional support, scared of Frank, scared of the next time he’d want to feed (breastfeeding was excruciatingly painful before I discovered nipple shields, but that’s a whole other story), even scared of my much-loved home that now felt totally alien due to this strange creature we’d just brought in to it.
Paul and I were shell-shocked. We were exhausted. Nothing was the same and everything was different. The life that we had spent ten years building together, the daily routines we’d established, the evenings we’d under-appreciated and the simple things that made us happy… gone. Those first few days were largely spent mourning our freedom and old life. And this made us both immensely sad. One evening I vividly remember gripping his hand tightly and whispering “I want to go back”. And meaning it. Which of course leads to…
How could I be mourning our old life? How could I even be contemplating a desire to go back and not get pregnant? It’s what I had so desperately wanted and struggled to get. It’s what thousands of women across the globe desperately want and struggle to have. Paul and I had created a life, a little miracle, yet in those early days I genuinely believed we’d made a ginormous mistake. And don’t even get me started on Lenny. Our ginger fur ball, our ‘first-borne son’ as Paul affectionately calls him, who was completely freaked out and all but disappeared in those first few days. Several times I would seek him out in a lonely corner of our house, bury my wet, snotty face in his fur and whisper “I’m sorry, Lenny, we still love you, don’t hate us”.
You don’t know what true exhaustion is unless you’ve made it to the final interrogation stages of SAS: Who Dares Wins, or you’ve just had a baby. In the 62 hours between going in to early labour and leaving hospital I think I got about 3 hours sleep. Once home, I was lucky to get 2-3 hours of broken Z’s a night for the first week. Physically, you can deal with it; the adrenaline somehow keeps you going. But it’s the mental exhaustion that’s the killer. That’s what had me in tears multiple times a day for a reason I couldn’t even begin to understand or articulate.
Due to Paul’s job, he was only able to take a week off work, and before I knew it he was kissing me goodbye at 8am on a Monday morning and shutting the front door behind him, leaving me…and Frank. After the initial what the hell do I do now panic, we’d somehow make our way downstairs and set up camp on the sofa. And there we would remain for the majority of the day.
My favourite time of day, a moment of calm and respite, was late morning. Frank would either be feeding or asleep on me, tea and biscuits would have been consumed, Facebook/Instagram/Bloglovin’ scoured, Holly and Phil’s friendly, familiar faces on the tellybox. Despite the severe lack of sleep, this was cosy and comforting and quite nice.
I was also lucky enough to have someone pop in nearly every day- whether it was my Mum, Paul’s mum, a close friend or even the midwife. I wasn’t good company of course- more often than not I would just cry and talk about how bleak life had become and how much I wasn’t enjoying it- but the support was there, and for that I will always be so, so grateful.
But, by heck, those first couple of weeks were lonely.
What you get when you combine all the above. The ‘Baby Blues’ as they like to call it. There’s no doubt about it, for the first two weeks I was seriously glum.
Things didn’t suddenly get better once we entered week three, but it was at this point that I realised I had to snap out of my misery and self pity, and began to see the woods for the trees. (I have no idea what that phrase means, but I think it’s contextually accurate.) Feeding had become infinitely better, I was getting more like 4 hours of broken sleep a night which was meagre but manageable, Frank and I had established some sort of daytime routine, and- wait for it- I was getting out and about, even if it was just to walk down to the corner shop to buy yet another pack of bourbon biscuits.
Much has happened between now and then. We’ve had the dreaded ‘colic’, on-going jaundice, dabbles with cranial osteopathy, a bout of mastitis, and a tongue tie division (and subsequent regrowth). I may well go back and expand on some of these events at some point, but given the time it’s taken me to share this particular passage of time, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
In the meantime, I want to say to any new mums what I was told again and again in those early weeks.
It does get better.
Infinitely better, in fact. He will still frequently and inexplicably scream the house down, his sleep is seriously questionable and I worry every day that I’m not doing this parenting lark very well. My breasts are unrecognisable, Paul and I get infuriated with each other far more often than we used to, and I still miss my independence immensely.
But I can now say that I am well and truly, head over heels in love with my little boy. I mean… look at him!
Til next time…