Friday, January 31, 2014

The First Few Magical Days with a New Baby

I smiled for days....
I promised I'd be honest about pregnancy, birth and babies, but for fear of terrifying my pregnant friends to within an inch of their lives, let's turn our attention to some of the wonderful parts of life with a small baby.

I had a hideous pregnancy full of pain, sickness, surgery and stress beyond my wildest dreams, so for me the best bit about having a baby was: I wasn't pregnant any more. 

And let's be clear: Nature is very clever.  Small newborn babies (your own) are hypnotic and addictive. And I've never been a baby-cuddler before. I'm also certainly not one of those people who trills that you 'forget all the pain' of childbirth as soon as the baby is in your arms. I had a lovely, planned, calm elective c-section, but let's be clear: the agony that followed will stay with me for the rest of my life. It didn't magically disappear.

I digress.

I had really struggled to believe that there was a teeny tiny person inside my stomach. Even as I ballooned in size, even as I felt the kicking inside me, my brain just could not compute that there was a little human being in there, at all. In fact right up until the moment that Baby Britney (BB) was hauled from my stomach, I had visions of my consultant saying: "No, no, nothing to see here. It's just doughnuts and Twirls I'm afraid."

I was metaphorically holding my breath when they were getting her out....partly because it's just the weirdest thing ever, a c-section, but mainly because I couldn't believe what was happening, and we were terrified that there might be something wrong (they had warned us that the baby was small, hence coming out a month early).

So when this tiny screaming bundle was held up, when they announced that 'it' was a girl, and she was perfect, my first instinctive reaction was to shout: "NO WAY!!!" It's amazing how shouting echoes off an operating theatre walls. It was a little inappropriate looking back, I blame the drugs.

This sense of disbelief stayed with me for days - especially as BB was taken away to NICU shortly after delivery. This meant that 45 minutes after giving birth, I had nothing to show for it, and didn't until lunchtime the next day.

But even without a baby, the hormones and the morphine (oh, the joyous morphine!) combine to make you feel immensely, overwhelmingly happy. And when BB was wheeled into my room in her funny little incubator bed, swaddled like a tiny fajita, there are really no words.

Her tiny size, her snuffly, snuggly, warm little body as she nestled into my neck...well she melted my heart. And I KNOW it's a reflex when they grab your finger, but it still feels like a monumental achievement when they do it.

Despite the pain and the gore, the 5 days I spent in hospital were pure bliss. A tiny baby bubble with nurses on hand to help with everything (I simply pressed a button if I needed them), a la carte meals brought to me every few hours, a comfy bed that moved up and down at the touch of a button.

Lying in the dark of the hospital room at 5 am, with DH sleeping on the sofa bed, DD snoozing on my chest, little legs twitching just as they had done inside of me, will remain one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. 

You're suddenly a family, your baby is perfect, you're not pregnant any more. You're also coursing with adrenaline and hormones so the exhaustion is somehow bearable. These chemicals will cary you through the first through weeks in a haze...enjoy them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Annoying things people say when you've had a baby: "Trust Your Instincts"

God knows I'm trying!
I found this advice extremely frustrating. As an only child who grew up without being surrounding by children, and as an adult that had held only a very small handful of babies, I honestly didn't have a clue where to start.

I remember being rolled into NICU in a wheelchair to see Baby Britney (BB) for the second time, with me looking like Princess Margaret after the 'bath incident' only sadly, without having consumed any gin.

They passed BB to me to feed and I managed to a) let her head snap back (so terrifying, those wobbly heads) and b) choke her on the bottle teat simultaneously. I squeaked feebly: "I've never fed a baby before!" and dissolved into tears.

"You'll just know what to do!" well meaning people had said to me. "Nature is amazing!"

Well, nature is a wonderful thing. I was filled with a fierce instinct to protect her and care for her, no doubt. But when she was screaming endlessly in the middle of the night, no instinct told me how to soothe her. When she was awake hour after hour after hour, no instinct came to my rescue with a magic sleep solution. In those circumstances you can just cuddle and whisper and kiss and ssshh and pat...and download as much tv as you can onto your iPad.

Maybe if you're an earth mother type something does 'click' and you feel like you've been doing it all your life - I am not one of those women. And if you talk, really talk, to other mothers, many of them will confess that they're not either.

This blogger writes beautifully about what it's like becoming a parent and instincts when she says:

"Dr Spock told a generation of women that they didn't need to learn how to look after their babies, that it was instinctive and that they knew more than they thought they did. He was completely wrong. When you have no proper experience of babies, as most of us don't, and one arrives in your house, it is like suddenly being asked to re-sit your final school exams. In Russian."

As a good friend said to me: "You WILL be okay, it IS tough, it IS hard, every hour is an amazing achievement, there is NO induction manual, you have had NO training, you are doing the very BEST that YOU can possibly do... You are being a mother for the very first time - and that is true every single day."

Cling to friends like these, the ones who tell it like it is, who are honest. Whose instincts didn't suddenly take over and save the day.

They will save your sanity.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Annoying things people say when you've had a baby: 'It gets easier'

Any minute now, it will get easier...or not.
I almost feel bad listing this one. People are really trying to help when they say this. To make you feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel.

The problem with it is that for some people, it does get easier, but really, really, slowly.

The first milestone I was told about is 12 weeks. Apparently at this stage something magical happens to the little blighters. They've been through some major growth spurts, and for whatever reason, they start to settle better and magically they SLEEP.

Oh really?

I approached the day after Baby Britney's 12 week birthday with cautious optimism. Like Dubai's bid for Expo2020 I was confident, I was positive. Things would be DIFFERENT! She would EAT! She would SLEEP! She would NAP! She would stop screaming all the time! I would be able to get dressed before 6 pm!

Nothing changed.

If anything, I found it got harder rather than easier. At the outset you have so much adrenalin coursing through you that you seem to have more strength (mental and physical) than you thought you would. I also expected it to be tiring at the newborn phase. But by 7 or 8 weeks, you are ground down. 2 hours sleep a night has taken its toll and you feel like death. When you reach 15 weeks and it's still no better not only do you feel like death, but you feel cheated, and a little like a failure. Perhaps it's something that you are doing wrong, otherwise surely the tiny tyrant would be sleeping by now?

The fact is, if you have a baby that sleeps (like winning the lottery, in fact, I would prefer it to winning the lottery) I am sure it does get easier, much more quickly. If you don't, well, there's no easy way to say this: it is going to be very tough for a very long time.

Take any help you can get. If a friend offers to walk the baby round the block, say yes. If a neighbour offers to hold the baby whilst you have a shower, say yes. Hell, if Mussolini had offered, I would have said yes. 

We are now at 19 weeks and baby Britney (BB) has JUST started doing some daytime sleeping. We're now up to 45 minutes, twice a day! This is a far cry from what other mums/books/experts will tell you - they should be cracking out two hour stretches at least, apparently.

But hey, I'm grateful for small mercies....

Monday, January 27, 2014

Annoying things people say when you have a baby: 'Sleep when the Baby Sleeps'

Yeah right!
Ah, there is nothing more homicide inducing than this phrase. 

It seems so simple, doesn't it? So obvious?

It conjures up images of your little bundle snoozing happily, whilst you snuggle up next to them. You drift into delicious, glorious sleep together, breathing as one. You do this, on and off, throughout the day, so you feel constantly refreshed, not at all sleep deprived. In fact, you hardly notice you've had a baby at all!

Just one small problem here: this advice assumes you have a baby THAT SLEEPS IN THE DAY.

I didn't.

The beady-eyed tiny tyrant simply refused.

Oh I tried everything. I shushed, I soothed, I 'placed the baby firmly down', I begged, I pleaded. Still nothing. One day I actually walked around the house with my sleep mask attached to my head, so eager was I to really get on board with this advice. I was ready, at a moment's notice, to drop onto the floor, in manner of bootcamp, but instead of doing press-ups, just press-downs, and sleep. Even if that meant face planting the kitchen floor.

That was the day that Baby Britney (BB) stayed wake for ELEVEN HOURS STRAIGHT. I kid you not. That's not even possible according to medical experts. Ha! We laugh in the face of medical experts here! Sleep is for losers.

As BB got older, she has started to nap a little in the day. But we're talking 20 minutes at a time, and this was at 15 weeks old. I don't know about you, but it takes me at least 20 minutes to drop off, even when exhausted. That means that just as you are drifting off, you are woken by a screaming tiny tyrant in your ear hole. Try this every day for 15 weeks, it really is an absolute treat. If anyone had told me before I had a baby that I'd be crying and dry-heaving into a sink through tiredness, I would have thought them a gross over-exagerator. Now I understand.

So do be careful if you're tempted to trill this in the face of a new mother. She may just muster up the energy to strangle you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Remember Me?!


I'm back!

Yes, me!

Huge apologies for the radio silence. I've been a teeny tiny bit busy, what with, y'know, growing a human being, bringing that human being into the world, then dealing with the Vietnam style fall-out of trying to keep them alive for the last 18 weeks.

The good news is that they are alive, as am I. Older, fatter and more haggard, but nothing that a large box of wine and a full face of botox can't sort out. In fact, forget the Bounty bag they give you as they leave hospital, ever new mother should have a crate of Sauv Blanc and a surgeon with a hypodermic waiting in the wings.


I know you're full of questions: What's it like having a baby? What's it like being a mum? What's it like (braces self) GIVING BIRTH? 

Well, pull up a seat, relax, and if you're in Dubai, pop on your Ugg boots and hoodie (is there any need for this Winter's freezing temperatures?!) and I will tell all. I warn you, it ain't all pretty and there's no earth mother in sight.