(I’ve been trying to get this post finished and posted for weeks!!)
Overwhelming is the word that best sums up my early weeks of motherhood. Being a new first time mummy is hard. I feel kind of let down that no one, or anything I read, prepared me for how hard it would be. I mean don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be no walk in the park and wouldn’t be easy and I would be very tired, but I was not prepared for the reality of what that meant in practice.
The fact that you are exhausted from labour, even with my relatively short one, but never get any chance to even recover from that. My first night in hospital it was 1:3oam by the time we got to the ward and I so just needed to crash. They made OH leave as partners were not allowed to stay overnight. Little EJ (Ethan’s middle name is John) would not settle and I kept trying to feed him but he’d latch but not suck, despite being able to suck plenty fine on a finger! I kept ringing for help but they really weren’t much use just telling me to try again later etc.. Eventually at 4am someone helped me express colostrum and feed EJ via a syringe. When he eventually fell asleep about 2 hours later someone came to take his and my observations, and then came breakfast… Fat chance of any sleep!
Then through the first week the chances to sleep were slim, and in the first days also my adrenalin was still so high that I just couldn’t sleep for long. Once EJ slept for 5 hours and I went to bed pretty much as he went down.. But could I sleep at all?! Nope. I could just feel so much tension in my body. I did gradually relax bit by bit during the time I was resting, but I was also so annoyed that OH was fast asleep and I was missing out on the chance of a good length sleep. Then when finally you start to be able to sleep the night sweats hit you and you wake up in the middle of a sleep in a horrible icky wet mess! I had to sleep with a towel under me for about a week until the hormones calmed down and the sweats stopped. 5 weeks later I still haven’t had the chance to sleep more than a 4 hour stretch, which is hard for someone like me who really needs their sleep, but even 4 hours now seems like bliss and is more than some other mums I know are getting. Some only get a 2 hour sleep at a time. You learn to adapt I guess as the lack of sleep feels easier to deal with now 5 weeks in.
But those early weeks It was tiredness like I’ve never felt before. I was just so tired I couldn’t take anything in. I’d look at a clock to note what time EJ started to feed, but then a while later would have no recollection of what it had been. People would tell me things but I just couldn’t retain any information. I just couldn’t deal with people asking my opinion or wanting me to make any decisions. I just could hardly think.
Then I was worrying that EJ wouldn’t breast feed. So for the first two days we were expressing colostrum and feeding by syringe. Thankfully OH was a dab hand at helping with all that and it did mean he could take EJ to feed him and let me rest. Thankfully at the end of day 2 EJ finally took the boob (I’d kept trying) and I think I just about cried with relief. Since then he hasn’t looked back, and touch wood I’ve had no breast feeding problems. Let’s hope that continues.
Then on top of the tiredness, and the worry about how on earth you manage looking after a newborn, your hormones go loopy. Thanks body.. Great timing! I was just in tears so much. I just felt how on earth will I manage and had newfound respect for every single mother out there. Then I kept thinking ahead to things like, how will I manage on my own when OH goes back to work after paternity leave.. The fact that already I really need to think about and sort out childcare for when I go back to work next January etc.. OH had to tell me to just stop thinking ahead, just take an hour at a time, and that’s what I had to do to get through that first week. That would be my top tip for new mum’s.. Don’t think past an hour or two ahead.. Let someone else do that, you just concentrate on the now.
Even once the totally overwhelmed in a bad way passed, then I was hit by being overwhelmed in a good way! I was in floods of tears over how much I loved my son, and that I would love him for as much of his whole life that I’m still here for. Somehow that thought just really gets me, and can make me well up even now.
Day 2 I was in such a mess that then my mum came the next day and stayed for 3 days. Just to have her there was a help, to ask questions of, and she’d cook for us, and just be a moral support. She tried to stay in the background as much as possible and let OH and I have family bonding time with EJ. Originally we planned to really have the first 2 weeks with a baby just our little family, with hardly any visitors, and it was initially hard for OH to agree to my mum coming, but in the end he really appreciated it too. I think that’s my next tip, don’t underestimate how much another female in the house can help. It has to be the right sort of person mind you.. Having OH’s mum here for example would not have been the same help at all! I know a friend of mine had her best friend fulfill the same role and it really helped her too.
It’s now the end of week 5 and I really need to wrap this up and get it posted. I think the last two things I wanted to say about the early weeks were firstly that I’m sure my age didn’t help. I still feel young at 38 but I know I don’t cope as well with lack of sleep than I did when I was younger. Secondly related to this, I have 17 years of being used to office routines (and I’m a routine kinda gal,), and being busy all the time and achieving a lot each day.. To suddenly be thrown into the unknown world of mummyhood, with no routines, and where an achievement is just getting showered and dressed before lunch, or managing to put a load of washing on, well that’s a hard adjustment after all this time. Really hard. I’m still dealing with it. Of course my achievement every day now has to be thought of in terms of I fed my son, I changed his nappies, I got him to sleep (him.. Well sometimes.. More on that in another blog), I generally looked after his well being and kept him alive!
Reading back the start of this blog, written weeks ago, I think the reason people don’t tell you how hard it is, is because those memories fade to a certain extent. Even now I just recall it in a more abstract way. And of course I hasten to add it is all totally worth it, to have this bundle of cuteness in our lives, who brings us so much joy every day. I’m still in awe of the miracle that he is, and feel so grateful and blessed that we have him.
So I’ll end this with just a big RESPECT to all you mum’s out there, you are fabulous and do an amazing job every day!