Tuesday, 13 June 2017

THOUGHTS ON EARLY MOTHERHOOD


'There's no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one'
- Jill Churchill


There's no doubt about it, motherhood is the most wonderful club to be a part of, but it's also flipping' tough at times! Instagram will have you believe it's all cuddles, bonnets and white sheets, which it sometimes is! But it's also hormones, poop and sleepless nights. Of course that doesn't make quite as lovely pictures. During pregnancy you prepare so much for labour, but the really hard work starts once the bubba is here! We certainly felt a bit like we were thrown in at the deep end...with weights on our ankles. I am by all means no expert, no mother ever is (despite what they tell you). These are just some things i've picked up along the way.

The Early Days

 

The first few days after birth are TOUGH. Your life has dramatically changed, you're probably exhausted, you're recovering from birth (which is likened to a major operation) and your hormones are in overdrive. We were left with a choice to either stay in hospital a night or go home. Alice was born 04:00 (read her birth story here) so by 17:00 we were ready to get home, but in hindsight we both wish we'd stayed in longer. The midwives were so lovely and taught us so much in the short time we were there and if we'd stayed I could have got the rest I needed from being up all night in labour. In all honesty we left the hospital not really knowing what we were doing! More on this in the feeding section.

Baby blues are real too. I was so utterly in love with my newborn I remember just holding her and sobbing about her growing up! I even got emotional when her umbilical chord fell off and I got emotional each day wishing it was the previous day. Looking back it was definitely my hormones running riot. I also remember scrolling through all these insta-mum's feeds and feeling like I was a failure. All I can say is, get out and about each day, even if just for a little walk, spend as much time as you can as a family and have lots of skin-to-skin cuddles. That really helps get the positive endorphins flowing and the happier you are, the happier your baby will be. Fact!

In those first few days everyone and their mother's will want to come and visit you. We have a fairly small house and could just about manage to look after ourselves, let alone washing up mugs and plates from every guest 'dropping in'. It's ok to say no! We probably offended a few family members saying we're not up for it today but who cares, you have to do what's right for you. The last thing I wanted when I was exhausted, crying, trying to breastfeed a crying baby and feeling rough was people all over my house. I think it was on day 2 when I had a slight breakdown and said no to all guests besides each of our parents, and instead saw people out and about. We had family meet Alice at each of our parent's houses (so they can do the washing up and entertaining) and also met friends at places like costa, where you could park straight outside. This helped us feel human getting out and about, and also meant we didn't need to do any clearing up.

Take it easy on yourself too! As i've said, your body has gone through what's like a major operation. Don't be hard on yourself if you still have a 'mummy tummy', or that you need to sleep all day or that you can only manage a little walk around the block. Those first few days after birth I had lots of tummy pains, was exhausted but couldn't sleep and my whole body ached after just a few steps. I will take this opportunity to warn you about the night sweats too, as nobody warned me. I think it's caused by your hormones getting rid of extra fluids gained in pregnancy, and I had this quite badly. I'd wake up in the night laying in a damp bed and absolutely drenched in sweat. In the first 2 weeks i'd shower about three times a day and even now, a month on i'm still having to shower morning and night.


Feeding

 

I could easily write a whole post on just feeding...but i'll try and keep it fairly brief. Before Alice was born, i'd told myself that I was breastfeeding, no matter what. Well, I said 'no matter what' but in all honesty I thought that my baby would just feed on the breast naturally. Oh how wrong I was! Despite various (very wise) women telling me not to put too much pressure on myself, that is exactly what i'd done. There's so much hype around breastfeeding at the moment because the government are driving it (you've probably heard the 'breast is best' motto a thousand times), because it's popular in the media and also because it genuinely is the most natural way. I'm not disputing that, the pros of it are endless! While this is all true, mum to be's like me hear it and feel the pressure...but what if you can't do it?

So just to explain my story...when Alice was born she didn't automatically feed. I'd desperately wanted this to happen but it just didn't. The midwife helped me an hour or so later but she still wasn't having any of it, so the midwife extracted my collustrum into a syringe and fed it to her. She managed to get quite a lot from one breast and when I was transferred into the ward, instead of resting like I should have been, I was desperately trying to express more. I tried some more to breastfeed, but she wouldn't do it so we gave her more from the syringe. Alice was suckling on for about 10 seconds at a time, and when the midwife discharged us they said that she was latching on fine and that it would just take practise. This is why we wished we'd stayed in longer! We got home and over the next 48 hours she was doing this 10 second latching on and then coming off screaming. I thought she was getting milk in that time, because if she was to suck a bottle in that time she would be getting some. On day 2 I ended up calling the midwife in fits of tears as Alice was just screaming when I tried to breastfeed. It turned out she was starving hungry! The midwife came over and fed her one of these pre-sterilised first milk bottles (an actual life saver!! Make sure you have some in your hospital bag as you never know what could happen) and she drank the whole 90ml, then slept the entire night! She obviously wasn't getting any from my breast and I felt like such a failure.

The midwife who came out to see me was amazing and helped me, in SO many ways. She sent Alice to sleep, instructed Jason to go out and buy more formula and some nipple shields, and then came back the next day to try again. Without her I wouldn't have been able to do any breastfeeding at all! The nipple shield worked and it allowed Alice to latch on and suckle for a bit. What can I say, that girl just loves the plastic hah! The lovely midwife also taught me to sit up on a chair with a nursing pillow, rub her cheek and stay relaxed. Without these tips I wouldn't have been able to feed her at all. Alice would latch on and get a bit of milk but eventually would come away screaming as she just wasn't getting enough. Each time this happened i'd end up crying and feeling useless and just wanted to give up but also didn't want to as I so wanted to breastfeed! After a few weeks of trying and to no avail, and with the support of my amazing husband, I decided to go with the flow and combination feed. Since doing that Alice is 100% happier and so am I. No more tears when feeding, on both sides!  We call my breastmilk her healthy little starter and then the formula is her carby pasta main dish. I express my milk into a bottle and give it to her before feeds and also use the nipple shield before feeds. It's not ideal but she won't latch on and without these things she wouldn't have got any breast milk at all. I'm sure a little is better than none!

However, before making this decision, I had some awful times. As I said, i'd put lots of pressure on myself and so had society. There were so many times I just sobbed because I couldn't do it. I remember watching Graham Norton and Salma Hayek asked Liam Payne if Cheryl was breastfeeding because that's 'the best thing a mother can do for her child'....of course this set me off again! Other things didn't help, like instagram posts about breastfeeding, health visitors pressuring me, and even random people asking me! One lady said to me 'you really should be doing it, it's best for you and the baby. It might help get rid of your tummy'. Please people, think before you speak! You never know what emotional battle a woman has gone through to breastfeed her child.

The point is, if your baby is getting food and you are both happy then that is what matters. As mentioned above, as a family we are so much happier now and I actually look forward to feeding her as opposed to dreading it. And you can still enjoy some of the benefits you get with breastfeeding; make sure you always look into their eyes and talk to them while feeding and try skin on skin too for extra bonding. Another good thing that you can't get with breastfeeding is that your partner can share some of the responsibility of feeding and bond with baby too. And while he's feeding the baby, you can rest or even go out and exercise to shed a bit of the weight you would do if you were breastfeeding... maybe ;) . A few more things if you are bottle feeding...invest in the perfect prep machine, absolute life saver! And also buy the pre made bottles for when you're out and about. Both of those things have made getting out and about so much easier. 

But remember - don't put too much pressure on yourself. Happy mum = happy baby. 



Sleeping

The biggest change to our lives since having a baby is without a doubt the changes to your sleeping routine. I love my sleep, and could easily sleep 10+ hours. Our usual routine was going to bed at 22:30 and waking up at 7:30 for work, and much later than that at the weekends. This all changes with a newborn and I definitely wasn't prepared for it. I can't really complain, Alice is a pretty good sleeper as she usually wakes up twice in the night (on average it'll be a 02:00 feed and a 05:00 feed) and then she'll wake up at 07:00/08:00. However, now she's a few weeks old she sometimes doesn't go back to sleep! This is a killer if you've been up a lot in the night. They key is napping when they do. I'm no one to preach about this though as I like to get out and about, as you may have seen on my instagram stories. 

Some things that we have found to make sleep better is putting the sleepyhead inside the snuzpod. Alice use to wake herself up with flailing arms but in the sleepyhead she stays snug and falls into a much deeper sleep. In the past week i've also been putting lavender oil on a cloth and keeping it near her head and since doing that she has slept a lot longer. Another tip (an obvious one but it works for us) is to bath, change nappy/clothes and then feed so she can fall asleep feeding. The bath really tires her out! Sharing the nighttime shift with your partner also really helps. 


Getting Out

 

Quite a few people messaged me on instagram asking how we managed to get out and about in those first few weeks. Bottle feeding of course helped with this, as she stayed chilled out for longer, but also being organised with your changing bag and a helpful partner contributed. I would sort Alice out while Jason was getting ready, and then he would take her, sort her changing bag and feeds out whilst I got ready. We have this down to a T now, and in fact we get to places more on time than we did before becoming parents! We started with little trips, just to costa and to family's houses, and then realised that the more chilled we were, the more chilled Alice was, so we could venture out more. In fact, Alice is so so much happier with lots going on. She loves being in her carseat in the moving car, in her pram for walks and the more she's passed around the happier she is. Getting out and about is also essential for your mental health those first few days too, even for just a little walk.



Even with the difficulties and the tears, becoming a mother is the most amazing thing. I have said this before; I thought I was content before, but then Alice came along and filled up a piece of my heart I didn't even know was empty. She brings joy to our lives every day and I wouldn't change a thing! As i'm a first time mum, everything was a shock, but I feel more and more confident each day and definitely want to have more. It really is true what people say though, each baby is different and only YOU know what's best for your baby. Trust your instincts as they are usually right, and do what's best for your family and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You got this! 

2 comments:

  1. I'm loving your honest posts all about motherhood - there's a lot of stuff involved with labour and also looking after a baby, that most people don't realise. It's definitely opened my eyes to a lot more reading your pregnancy and motherhood posts! It looks and sounds like you're doing fab and you also look amazing :) xo

    Char | www.charslittleblog.co.uk

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    1. Thank you so much for all your comments! So pleased you're loving my posts xxx

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