My beautiful baby girl is 4 months old. Every day with her is an adventure and I’m enjoying the new challenge in my life of learning how to be a mum. Chloe is a beautiful distraction to my often cluttered, overburdened and stressed out mind. She has become a wonderful daily focus in my life, a tunnel of clarity to tend to her every need that has broken through the fog of my dark head. I am so lucky to have maternity leave to spend with her, and for the first time in my life something other than work is my focus. She has been a constant by my side for over 15 weeks, my right hand lady, my cheeky smiley little girl that never fails to make me beam every day!
Until I became a mum myself I don’t think I ever really understood the bond of a mother and child. Of course I knew that mums love their children, but now that I have my own I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of love I feel for daughter. I have a new found respect for my own mother, and now understand that link and bond she has with me. My mum and my mother in law have supported Chloe and I so much during our 4 month journey so far, in fact I’ve had many mums offer advice along the way, family, friends and most importantly my amazing NCT group mummies! I now know how challenging it is to be a mum, juggling the challenges of life while caring and looking after a tiny life of your own that needs your constant care and love. Mums ROCK, they are amazing, and being Chloes mum is turning out to be one of the greatest adventures of my life, I’m so much looking forward to life with my curious smiley and wiggly little girl!
If you even know me a little bit you will know the true extent of my lack of knowledge on all aspects of babies, I knew sod all! I’m 36 years old and until Chloe was born had only held 2 babies! Both of which were held under duress and for no longer than a couple of minutes. To say I wasn’t maternal was a complete understatement. With that in mind I had a lot of learning to do fast before I became a mum myself. At this point I would love to say I did lots of planning and research before Chloe came along, however because I had suffered a miscarriage before this pregnancy my mind couldn’t cope with planning for a baby in case I suffered a loss again. It was with the help of my mum, mother in law and 2 amazing best friends that I was even remotely ready for Chloe’s arrival, and to them all I am so grateful.
I am a first time mum, and more than that a blunt say it as it is, tom boy, likes it simple kind of gal. There are a hundred top tips, you tube videos, online pregnancy advice and lists to read through (only some of which I perused!) But for what its worth from this blunt simple no nonsense lady here are mine.
- Rest up in those last few weeks of pregnancy. I’m an over active likes to keep busy kind of girl, and in those last 4 weeks of pregnancy I was like everyone huge, achy and tired. I felt guilty if I wasn’t doing things, but in retrospect I wish I had just chilled out more!! I wish I had slept whenever my body wanted too, and simply sat down more and relaxed. Nothing anyone said prepared me for the roller coaster ride of labour and the fatigue of those first 8 weeks of Chloes life.
- Listen to the midwife in the labour room: My labour was 3 and a half hours long (the longest 3.5 hours of my life!) This I have been told is quite short for labour? Lots of people have asked how I managed it in 3.5 hours. I focused on the task at hand and zoned everything else out until the point I was asked to push, everything the midwives my husband the lot. I put on head phones and went deep within myself, I concentrated on being calm and settled in knowing I was going to be at this for a long while. By the way I didn’t do hyno birthing ( not my kind of thing I’m afraid) although I would imagine what I did was very similar just in my own way. After I was fully dilated at the point they wanted me push I picked the midwife that was calm and clear in her instructions and focussed on her voice and commands only. Doctors and other midwives came and went but I only took my instructions from 1 lady, Katie, she was amazing. I was lucky she told me clearly what I had to do, her instructions on where to push from and how were clear. They were also horrifically painful! But I knew that I had to make the pushes count on every contraction, or I would be at it all day! It was easy to not push as much as I could as it was less painful, but I worked out that doing that would only prolong the experience and I wanted it over! So it was a close my eyes, grunt like Stephy Graff and give in to the fact it was going to hurt like a bitch!
- If you want pain relief tell them early! I went through labour with only gas and air. Not because I’m martyr, but because I had no birth plan really. There is no shame in using the fab things they offer to make labour easy, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! If you know you’re not good with pain use the options available to you, but make sure you tell them early. I didn’t get pethidine as I was 2 dilated to have it when they offered, and the epidural option simply every materialised. I think I asked too late? I was on a list apparently, if I ever meet the doctor that was supposed to come and administer it I would slap him! As it turns out I was ok. It was as expected a new level of pain, but I’m lucky that I’m a sadistic hard core lady that made it through with gas and air (which by the way does sod all towards the end, but I was still sucking on the dam thing for dear life till the bitter end!)
- Communication with your birthing partner: I think I treated the labour room much like my approach to managing a lighting fit up at work. I used the people around me to get what I needed to get through it. I found it quite natural to bark orders as I do it for a living. I can imagine it’s difficult for some. Remember everyone in that room is there for you, and are dedicated to what you need and what makes you feel better, so don’t be shy in talking and telling them what you want and what you need. Burge was an amazing birth partner and fair play to him as I’m not sure I could watch someone I love endure hours of pain and know I can’t really do much to help. I talked and he listened and together we got through it till the end when we were rewarded with our beautiful daughter.
- To Breast feed or not too Breast feed?……..If you want to breast feed just know it isn’t easy! It’s a lot of hard work and perseverance at the beginning. I think I thought it was all be very natural and because it was natural it would all fall into place. Well I was wrong! It is really tricky to master, and is quite painful at the beginning. Now as mothers we have a new bench mark level of pain which is labour, and on that scale it isn’t that bad. But bear in mind we have just endured labour for hours, we are now subjected to nipple squeezing like you have never known. I don’t mean the erotic type you might be lucky to experience from your other half! I’m talking violent squeezing from a sturn looking midwife to get a piss dibble of yellow sticky colostrum into a test tube thing! Then came cracked nipples as Chloe and I were learning how to latch and master this breast feeding. (Cut kitchen roll into small nipple sized squares and pop in the freezer. Get them out and place on sore nips! Trust me it feels so good!!!) Breast feeding means long sleepless nights feeding to demand. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for so mentally prepare yourself for this. You need to feed to demand and let them feed lots as its this stimulation that brings the milk supply in and gives your baby the right amount. Work out how your partner can help you best? They say not to express to early but quite frankly if I didn’t I would never have got any sleep! Try the “nature bond” suction cup that goes on the other breast while your breast feeding and collects milk. You should be able to get enough to let your other half do a feed so you can get some shut eye. Having said that I am so glad I persevered with breast feeding, for me it’s a lovely way of bonding with Chloe, it’s such a close bond, and it feels great to be that close to her on a daily basis. I’ve mastered it now and there is nothing organised about remembering to bring your breasts out with you! That being said DON’T BE BULLIED into breast feeding! I did feel very pressured into breast feeding. Only you know if it’s for you or not? Ultimately you have to be happy in order to look after your baby and if it’s making you miserable don’t feel bad in taking the formula option. Personally I went through a really tough few weeks where it was making me very upset breast feeding I was so close to quitting, however stopping would have left me feeling defeated and make me feel worse, I’m such a stubborn cow I simply had to master it! That being said do what’s right for you, as long as your baby is fed that’s all that matters! In my NCT group we have some breast fed babies and some formula fed, all are healthy and happy. Both methods have pros and cons, work out what’s best for you, your partner your lifestyle.
- Scratch mitts SUCK! Scratch mitts are on every hospital bag list, and I dutifully brought them. Don’t bother they suck. They don’t stay on! Chloe is such a wiggly baby they lasted all of about 10 seconds. Just get the baby grows which have inverted bits that fold over the hands at the ends.
- Beware of the black tar like poo: When they are first born they poo this horrid thick black tar like substance. Its rank and really disconcerting and I wish someone had given me a heads up on it.
- The best gift for a new mum is food! Without my family bringing me prepared food in those first 6 weeks I would never have made it through…..simple. When you turn up bring a Tupperware with a nice dinner in it!
- Be prepared because everyone has an opinion: Since having Chloe I have never been so confused by opinions and advise. Like I said I am a first time mum, with zero baby experience so was more than happy to hear advice and opinions, but dear god I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume! “You have to wake them up every 3 hours”, “Don’t ever wake a sleeping baby!” “ You must wrap babies up warm” “Don’t over heat a new born baby its dangerous better to have them a little cold” The list goes on. If I heard one piece of advice I heard 3 or 4 opposing views. I didn’t know if I was coming or going. In the end I stopped worrying, I always listened but concentrated on Chloe and made my own judgement. After all I spend all day with her, I’m not a baby master, but I am the master of Chloe I know her like no other. When I stopped listening to others and started trusting myself Chloe and I found a nice groove.
- When all else fails there is a You Tube video for everything: When I didn’t know how to use the wrap sling? When I wasn’t sure which of the million first toys to get her? When I struggled to cut her tiny finger nails and figured there had to be a better way? When I wanted to know how long they should sleep as Chloe simply wasn’t! When someone gave me a weird cushion thing and I didn’t know what it was? There is literally a million videos for everything, god bless the internet!
There are a heap of other things, but half the fun is working them out on your own 😉 Anyway I hate people that preach, each person is different and what works for one doesn’t work for all. I’ve learnt over the last 4 months to try and not over think it, and above all enjoy each and every minute; ( even the tired stressed out 3am night feed ones). I’m blessed to have a beautiful baby girl and I fully intend to make the most of my time with her in our mother daughter day to day bubble. As before I know it the pull of work will drag me back to the land of employment.