Tom is now 5 weeks old. That’s how long it’s taken for me to feel semi-normal since our little one entered the world (and I stress the “semi.”) There is so much about those first couple of weeks at home with a newborn that is so messed up. The lack of sleep. The lack of food intake. The lack of basic personal hygiene. Those first days and weeks are a blur, blocked out due to intense emotional trauma. (Seriously, if you ever want to deeply examine every facet and failure of yourself as a human being, have a baby.) Here are snippets of what I can remember.
As with most new parents, Mick and I fumbled our way through those first few days. Tom is a “good baby,” he rarely cries, feeds well, has a whole myriad of wonderfully alert facial expressions and blue eyes you could drown in. He is beautiful. But that first night and morning at home… Well let’s just say he didn’t necessarily exhibit all his best qualities. He fed ALL NIGHT. Newborns can feed every 90 minutes-2 hours. And they count that from the start of the feed. Take into account that it can take up to an hour for one feed (especially in the beginning) there is little time for slumber. Example: Feed at midnight, finish feed at 1am, baby demands next feed at 1:30am. MY NIPPLES WERE ON FIRE. I am literally a walking milk machine. It felt like hot pokers were shoved right through the… milk hole? The bit where it squirts out, whatever that’s called. It was fucking awful. Luckily as time has gone on he has become a more efficient eater, but now I have an oversupply problem where milk literally just squirts out of them all day. Like 2 hoses. I’m often reminded of the fembots from Austin Powers… But I digress. Onto the next trauma.
There’s no dancing around it: There’s no such thing as sleep when you have a newborn. And a massive eff you to those people who get a baby that sleeps through the night from day one. You suck and I hate you. And if you’re so lucky to be getting upwards of 4 hours sleep a night, keep that shit to yourself. I will punch you in the throat.
Tom would fall asleep while feeding quite often in the first 2 weeks. During the day he would stir the minute I tried to move, so I would just hold him for 2 hours at a time, bursting to pee and dying for a coffee, but relishing the moments my boobs got a break. At night I would attempt to transfer him to his bassinet carefully, gently, so as to not wake him… He’d last MAYBE 10 minutes if we were lucky before he woke up again and the only thing that would settle him would be for him to latch back on and munch away. And if he didn’t wake up, I just lay there waiting for him to – despite every fibre of my being telling me to just go to sleep. I’d start to drift off and just as I would ease into that lovely place between sleep and awake, I would be jolted back to the present by Tom stirring, grunting or farting. He farts a lot. And if he did sleep quietly, I would suddenly be convinced he’d stopped breathing and would have to get up and check on him. On average 30 times a night.
Eventually I uneasily settled on the idea of “co-sleeping” in an effort to keep Tom asleep for more than 30 minutes, which I didn’t want to do and absolutely hated. Having a baby, a husband and an incredibly persistent German Shepherd join you in bed is not my idea of sound sleeping. In a previous life I was a bit of a starfish sleeper… Gimme a bed and I’ll dominate that whole mattress. Not anymore. I was so worried I would squash Tom, accidentally roll on him, push him off the bed or lose him in the sheets, I hardly dared to move. And if sleep ever eventuated, I woke up in a legitimate panic; sweating, shaking, searching the bed – totally convinced I’d killed him before I realised that he was in his bassinet and I’d literally only just put him there 30 seconds ago.
The only way I could lie down would be on my side with my arm awkwardly stuck under my head while sandwiched between my snoring husband, who frequently attempted to suffocate me by throwing his arm across my face, and my son who seemed to be trying to fuse himself to my chest. And not to be outdone, there was Otis who would lollop his 35kg body across my legs rendering me virtually immobile. I would have screamed in frustration if I’d had the energy. Co-sleeping lasted about a week before I packed it in and persisted with settling him in his bassinet, which of course we eventually mastered. Eventually.
They were dark days. Anyway, next.
Physically, for those first few days I felt like absolute shit. Lack of appetite and exhaustion was causing me to vomit and the aftereffects of the lactulose given to me in hospital caused me to have bouts of diarrhoea (NOTHING WRONG WITH MY BOWELS NOW, HEY DOCTOR?) And then there’s all the other physical changes that come post childbirth. (I’m sorry, but the grossness must continue in the interest of remaining transparent. Though this is probably the last time that I talk about my vagina for awhile. Hurray!)
So. You bleed. A lot. Clots the size of golf balls. Freaked the hell out of me until I was told it was normal – after the fact of course. There’s no fun in being well-informed prior to the event. They don’t make any secret of the fact that you’ll bleed after giving birth, but they should probably mention that giant chunks of your uterine lining will literally just fall out of your vagina. (Luckily you get to wear giant surfboard maternity pads for a number of weeks afterwards, hey?) And then there were my stitches – keeping them clean is a job all on its own. Sitting down wasn’t exactly fun for the first week either, I’m sure you can imagine things were rather tender. Everything was bruised, swollen and disfigured – unsurprisingly, since I pushed a fucking watermelon out of it and TORE IT WIDE OPEN (I’m still not over it, okay?) Word to any newbie mums – DON’T LOOK AT YOUR VAGINA WITH A MIRROR RIGHT AFTER YOU GIVE BIRTH, UNLESS YOU WANT TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK. I’m scarred for life. (And before you get all judgey, I had to check my stitches okay? I don’t make a habit of inspecting my bits with mirrors.) You’ll be happy to know however that it all goes back to normal after a few weeks. I’m guessing. I’m too scared to look again. My 6 week check up will be happening soon, so I’ll let you know for sure, I’m sure you’re all dying to know. End vagina talk. For now.
My milk came in on day 3 and HOLY, did it come. All that cluster feeding did it’s job because I suddenly had a massive rack, kindly referred to as “crazy porno tits” by my sister-in-law. They were SORE. The let-down reflex (when your breasts fill up with milk) feels kind of like pins and needles on steroids. It’s hot, tingly and painful and then BAM! Tight, rock-hard melons that sit somewhere just below your chin. Dreams of lying on my belly were shot to hell after it felt like someone knifed me in the chest the first time I tried. Also, they leak. All the fucking time. I remember when my midwife came to visit the day after we went home. I looked a sight. Dark circles under my eyes, paler than pale skin, unwashed hair and lying like a beached whale in the middle of the bed wearing a vomit-stained shirt, complete with 2 lovely wet patches indicating exactly where my leaking nipples were situated. Nursing pads became an absolute necessity and remain so 5 weeks later. I have lots of ranting to do regarding my boobs, so stay tuned.
Lastly, and by far the worst in my opinion, is the heightened emotions. Talking to some other mummy friends we all agree, THERE ARE SO MANY FEELINGS. I cried at everything. Because I was tired, because Tom cried, because Otis appeared pissed off with me and I was convinced he had abandonment issues. Because there was no chocolate left. Because I loved my family so fucking much.
And also because… and I am reluctant to admit this next point for fear of being judged, but I’ve been honest all the way through this blog project and figured I shouldn’t stop now. I cried because I missed my old life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anything to change. Tom is the best thing I’ve ever done and I love my little boy more than I will ever be able to convey in words. But when you’re exhausted, feeling sick, have a sore vagina and leaky boobs, and there’s no chocolate left? A small part of you yearns for a time when you could sleep 10 hours, be in good physical shape and have an ample supply of confectionary in the freezer.
Now that I’ve said that, cue the overwhelming Mother’s Guilt – a legit condition that royally fucks you up and literally makes you feel like the worst person in the world. Because who could complain when you have a child who is so perfect and precious, whose face is so beautiful it breaks your heart? What kind of person are you to have wishful errant thoughts about a life when this child didn’t exist?
A FUCKING NORMAL ONE. There’s no way anyone goes through the experience of becoming a parent with a smile on their face the whole time. It is fucking hard. But also the best job in the world.
Go give your mum a hug. She deserves it.