I have no idea how to start this post.
Right, now that we have got that sorted, let me expel a pile of linguistic vomit exorcism-style in an attempt to describe the past seven weeks and three days.
And I didn’t mean for that to sound quite so vile, but just as these past 52 days have been shocking, so shall the vomit word be inserted for adequate eeuw value.
Nightmare, hellish, freak-out, startling, terrifying, amazing, breath-taking, frustrating, refreshing, failure, achievement, fatigue, pain, fear, lucky, exhaustion, chaos, sorry, nervous, doubtful, clock, minutes, feed, relief, despair, joy, grateful, head spinning, sleep, hours, adjust, adapt, maybe, no, I don’t know, fight, flight, give up, blessed, miracle, smile, settle, help, why, information overload, unwanted advice, wrong advice, too much advice, shut up, punch the wall instead of throwing the baby, head exploding, tears – endless tears, sobs, can’t breathe, nap, panic, heart melting, heart swelling, ecstatic, wonder, snap.
And that was the first hour!
After surviving the first seven weeks with a newborn (just), I am left to wonder WHY. THE. HELL. THEY. DON’T. TELL. YOU. HOW. HARD. IT. WILL. BE. IN. THE. FIRST. SIX. WEEKS.
Miriam Stoppard et al may coyly suggest some “difficulty” getting your baby to settle, or some minor fatigue due to a sudden lack of sleep, but that is tantamount to labelling Uluru a larg-ish pebble, the Pacific Ocean a bit wet and the Taj Mahal a small weekender.
In short, an understatement.
Quite frankly, the birth is a breeze compared to the complete upheaval a newborn means to the household.
And when that household has a four-year-old, the tables are turned, burned and topsy-turvy forever.
My god. I am breathless thinking about it. The adjustment is enormous. Of course it is, that’s what you sign up for. But you don’t quite realise how much until you are stuck in the thick of it, up to your eyeballs and drowning in it.
I feel ok now, because I can look back and see that the terror has dissipated somewhat and I see that things are better today. Is that because I have those weeks under my belt now, and I have learned from them; or because our baby has matured, emotionally, physically, mentally, digestively?
I know it is a bit of both in equal measure.
I am just glad they are behind us.
I know this does not mean that we’ll be singing Happy Days Are Here Again while sucking on lollipops and counting butterflies while snuggling on an Egyptian cotton picnic blanket as an artist captures our reverie on oily canvas for perpetuity, but things are definitely better.
For a start, Samara is learning to put herself to sleep in her cot during the day.
That is a revelation for two parents who spent the first five weeks trying for hours on end to wrap her and rock her to sleep. Ok, sometimes that rocking turned to shaking of varying levels of violence, swaying and shushing despite her shunning another very important S word: sleep.
We have a baby, it seems, who does not like to sleep during the day.
We might get an average of 25 minutes per day (daylight). 25 minutes, people. When the books all say newborns sleep up to 18 hours per day.
The flipside, and by god I would be handing her back if there wasn’t a flipside, is she sleeps in eight-hour blocks through the night.
Has done since week one.
Hooray! Of course, as her mother, I see this as a clear sign that she is intelligent beyond her years and so advanced that she has adopted a very adult approach to wake-and-sleep patterns.
Plus her active brain clearly desperately needs stimulation as long as there is daylight to illuminate the world’s wonders, each one laid bare and so new for her pure eyes. Sigh.
So just these past few days, I have chilled the freak out about her daytime sleeps – or lack thereof.
I do not spend hours anymore with her in my arms trying to get her to sleep, when that is probably a distraction anyway.
A few weeks ago I heard, actually listened, when our baby health nurse and some books said “when she looks tired, wrap her and put her to bed”. What a bloody novel idea!
To be fair though, I was caught up in caring. I was very conscious of this new little person adjusting to life outside the womb – and how damn freaky would that be for her??
So we gave her extra comfort, in the way of putting our bodies close together for hugs and rocks rather than a cold cot in those early weeks, just to let her know we were near.
Then slowly, over some days just recently, I actually absorbed the concept of just putting her to bed. I cannot tell you how much of a revelation that was. It sounds funny now.
Sometimes it works (like today!), sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it does for less than it did the day before.
Maybe I have learned to deal with her cries more. Or I have learned to read her cries. In the early weeks, as soon as she made a noise, my stomach twisted into knots as if the very noise of it was an intrusion reminding me over and over again that she had needs that I was not meeting.
Failure. You are a failure.
These days, I am feeling more confident and, while not successful, certainly capable of success.
I know now it is a waste of time second-guessing and going around and around in your head with possibilities of why she might be crying/not sleeping/kicking her legs/etc. The fact is unless there is a serious problem evident, the only answer to those questions is always: some babies are like that – it’s completely normal.
Personally, she has rocked my world in hundreds of ways. I feel as though I have started again as a person; that she has caused me to shatter into tiny pieces – in a good way and bad – before I slowly, carefully repair.
I feel as though that repair comes from those beautiful smiles after a sleep, from seeing her thrive and put on weight because of me and my breastfeeding, from the amazing support from my partner and from seeing the fantastic effect she has had on our family, the love her brother clearly has for her. In short, the good stuff.
The bad stuff sees me shatter again...but that’s life.
It also took a good five weeks for my milk supply to settle. Talk about pre-conceptions shattering on that front also. I never thought that would happen. A week maybe, not five.
I took motilium, on the wrong dose (thanks doc), then moved on to fenugreek, which I think worked.
Who knows if it was simply time that helped or the pills?
And this is as far as I managed to get today...more soon!