For a very long time, my family has found it extremely hilarious and entertaining how punctual, organised and time-aware I am. Where my brothers and mum are relaxed and keen believers of ‘going with the flow’, I am the stark opposite. I would rather be […]
Did you know that bus will sometimes cry because they want to be wrapped?
Neither did I.
Two days ago, Hunter had been fed and burped and cuddled and still wouldn’t settle. I walked around with him, pushed him in the pram – nothing. After about half an hour of trying to settle him, I grabbed his favourite muslin and wrapped him.
This was his reaction:
He slept for two hours.
There is so much advice that is given to new mums whether we ask for it or not. Most of what I have learned that works for Hunter, Pete and I, I have learned through trial and error. I can almost guarantee that all you other mamas and mamas-to-be will experience the very same thing.
But, if there is any light I can shed or help that I can off by simply sharing the things that I have learned and picked up along the way, then writing this is totally worth it.
Hunter changes every single day. Once you think that you have figured it all out, they evolved and grow and change and throw you a curveball. Having said that, I have found that establishing and maintaining a routine where possible makes a world of difference. Every night with Hunter is different from the last. Some nights he will only wake up once, have a big feed and then conk back out until 5/5.30 in the morning. And then there are nights like last night where he was barely asleep for more than fifteen minutes before screaming in pain with a sore belly (and then up at 4am for a bath).
I may not be able to control what happens during the night, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I can do to make my nights and my morning easier. Because I am expressing and then bottle feeding, I always try and make sure that I have one whole spare bottle up my sleeve and in the fridge. Even when I was breastfeeding, I would express into a bottle for the nighttime feeds. For me personally, this was easier than trying to get Hunter to latch and feed when I was barely awake to coordinate it, all the while trying not to disturb Pete because he had to get up for work the next morning.
My mornings always look pretty similar and it sets up my day nicely, eliminating a lot of stress. Before I go to bed of a night, I will wash two bottles and attach one to my hand pump and one to my electric pump – ready to express first thing of a morning. I also get the lounge room set up for Hunter and I so that in the morning all I need to do is cuddle up into the corner of the lounge with our favourite blanket ready to throw over the both of us. And possibly the most important thing I do for myself is get my coffee ready for the morning. Before getting into bed I will fill up the kettle, set my mug next to it on the bench top with a teaspoon, and get the coffee and the sugar out of the cupboard.
Even though Hunter is different every morning, those few things that I am able to prepare and control mean that I am relaxed and more importantly, caffeinated.
For nights like last night where Hunter was in agony (poor thing is constipated), I have found that the best thing to do is have him over my shoulder while I rub his back up and down with a fair bit of force. It took a while, but eventually it settled him and I was able to lie him down on his side and continue rubbing his back until he passed out. Rubbing their backs – or their bellies if they let you – help work out their wind (and who doesn’t love a back rub).
Another piece of advice that I would highly, highly recommend is to make sure you get out at least once a day. This can be something as simple as lying in the garden with you Bub, or walking to the shops, or going to a cafe – it doesn’t matter what you do, get out of the house. Not only is it essential for your sanity, but it is so important that your little one gets out of the house and stimulated. Different smells and sounds, things to look at, thee big wide world to interact with – I cannot stress how beneficial it is to get Bub out of their usual environment. If I spend more than a few hours at home, Hunter becomes really restless and unsettled. As soon as I put him in the car or in the pram and get him out and doing different things with me, he is a completely different baby. Hunter talks and smiles and sleeps so much better (and so much more) when we are out of the house.
When mum had me, she was twenty-one, single and went back to full-time work a couple of days after having me. The story of mum and I has been told over and over again, and my early days have been relayed to me over the years more times than I can count. The fact that mum was able to raise me alone at such a young age while working full-time is a huge achievement. Because of this though, I have felt like I need to live up to and be capable of the very same thing. I have the support of a partner, I am a bit older and I have the luxury and privilege of having one year of maternity leave. During the first few weeks of being a mother, I felt like I wasn’t as good a mother as my own because I had help and support around me. I felt like I should have been thriving straight away, should have gone back to work, should have should have should have. Even when things got really hard on some of those early days, I refused to ask for help because I was thinking to myself, “Mum managed me as a newborn by herself while working, I should be able to handle this.” It was dangerous thinking, and I will be honest, I still have moments where I feel like I should be doing a lot better than I am.
My piece of advice? Ask for help. Be okay with asking for help. Do not compare yourself to anyone else.
There have only been a handful of times in the last nine weeks where I have made the mayday call to mum to come over. And although most of the time I am really proud of myself and how I have been going so far, there are moments where doubt and guilt and anything else negative creeps into my thoughts and I feel like I could be doing so much more for myself and for my son.
This morning when Hunter was screaming and I hadn’t even had the chance to put pants on and I watched my coffee as it went cold and untouched, I burst into tears. Being a mum is hard work, it really is – but it is even harder if you don’t swallow your pride and ask for help. The people around you will want to help. I implore you to let them.
I am going to end this piece with probably the most important morsel of advice I can offer.
Don’t listen to anyone else.
Don’t even listen to me. Read this post and forget everything that I have said because I promise you mama, you will figure this out for yourself. Trial and error, and error and error and error. You’ve got this. You will continue to learn and figure this out. Ignore everyone and everything.
There is so much about motherhood that I have learned and discovered over these last (almost) eight weeks. Things I have learned about parenthood, about my son, my partner, our families and myself. I have also mastered doing absolutely everything with one hand, holding Hunter in the other. I have learned patience. I have learned that there is a whole other section of my being that is reserved solely to house the love I have for my beautiful son.
Today I want to share what happened after Hunter was born. Going into this, I didn’t know what to expect, and even still, every single day in the lead up to his birth I was picturing what it was going to be like. I spent hours, days, imagining the moments after Hunter was born. I tried to visualise how it would feel to have friends and family come to visit at the hospital, or what Hunter was going to look like in the clear bassinet, what it would be like to push him down the corridors of the hospital.
After the midwife had wrapped Hunter and everything had calmed down a little bit from his arrival, I was shown into the shower. “Ah,” you may be thinking, “a nice, warm shower sounds perfect after twenty hours of labour.” No. The last thing after that many hours of labour was to be wet. I was incredibly raw and sore and tender and my limbs were barely able to perform the basic task of washing myself. Basically I stood under lukewarm water, pathetically rubbing hospital soap on my arms and stomach while a pool of blood formed at my feet. Graphic, but true.
Ahhh, how relaxing.
Hunter was weighed and measured and a trolley of food was wheeled in for me. Here is my first tip of this post, get a family member (or whoever is going to be with you for your delivery) to have some food for you for after labour. Though you won’t really care about what you are eating straight after giving birth, the smell (and to be quite honest, the sight) of hospital food will do nothing positive for you. I barely ate anything of what they gave me and in hindsight, would have loved some hot chips. Or fresh Lebanese bread.
Pete and I had both expected to be going home the same day as giving birth but then again, we thought my labour was going to be quick. Ha! Because I ended up having an epidural, I was required to stay in hospital overnight. We went through the public health system however I was lucky enough that I had a private room. As soon as we were settled in the room – after having wheeled Hunter through the hospital just as I had pictured for all those months – the midwife that was going to be attending Hunter and I introduced herself and gave us a brief rundown on what was going to happen during the hospital stay. If I am perfectly honest, I wasn’t listening to her. I was far too distracted and utterly obsessed with my son.
In our discussions, Pete and I had also hoped that if I did end up having to stay overnight that we would be able to get a private room so that he could stay the night there as well. In reality though, neither of us had really slept and agreed that it would be far more beneficial for both of us if he spent the night at home in a proper bed, getting a good sleep to then come back and pick Hunter and I up the next day. It was only mid-afternoon at this stage so Pete went home to feed our animals before picking up some Chargrill Charlie’s (my post-birth dream meal) for Mum and I and coming back to the hospital.
The midwife returned some time later so that she could teach me how to feed Hunter and how to get hi to latch. Because he was so little when he was born, his mouth was too small to latch onto my gigantic mega nipples properly. I tried over and over again, and by “I tried” I mean that the midwife squeeze my nipples while grabbing Hunter’s peachy little head and shoving it towards my breast. Hunter was only hours old and it all seemed a bit ‘man-handled’ for my liking. In the end, I had to hand-express the colostrum from my breasts into one of those little plastic cups you use for urine tests. Then, with a plastic syringe I fed my son for the first time.
Mum and I were then presented with ‘a little bit’ of information about caring for a newborn. Pamphlet after pamphlet, booklet after booklet, rule after rule. I was told Hunter must sleep on his back. Hunter must be woken every three hours for a feed. Hunter must be positioned at the base of the cot. Hunter must not have a dummy. I was told about the breastfeeding classes and the physio classes and the play classes and the bath classes. The stack of information didn’t seem to get any smaller. Thankfully, and rather unexpectedly, Mum said after a while, “This is a whole lot of information to expect someone who has just given birth and hasn’t slept to take in.”
Like clockwork, once it had been three hours since Hunter’s feed, the midwife returned and once again started squeezing my nipple hard enough that I thought she was going to pinch it the fuck off. Hunter was in a deep, deep sleep and yet I was told that he HAD to feed, not only because he was ‘hungry’ but because if Hunter and I couldn’t prove that we could feed properly, we wouldn’t be able to head home until we could. So there he was, still only hours old, ASLEEP, getting my nipple violently rammed into his squishy little face. Obviously he didn’t latch or feed.. because he was asleep.
“Well, he isn’t latching,” the midwife said.
“He’s asleep,” I responded.
“You’ll have to go to the lactation classes because he isn’t latching. You won’t be able to go home tomorrow.”
“But, he’s asleep..” I tried again.
“You’ll have to express and syringe feed him again. Check and change his nappy to wake him up.”
I looked at mum pleadingly. I didn’t want to wake Hunter up, the poor thing was out cold and happy and warm and wrapped and from his peaceful face, clearly not hungry.
“Do we have to do it now?” mum asked the midwife, sensing my hesitation.
I did what she asked me to do, keeping in mind that as soon as I was out of hospital I knew that I was going to have to figure out how I wanted to feed my son. Once we were left again I had my first visitors. My two brothers came to meet their nephew, and brought champagne with them. Shari came to meet her godson, and brought bourbon and lollies. And Pete returned with chicken burgers and hot chips. I had everything I could ever want in one room.
Pretty soon after I ate, the adrenalin of labour an going birth wore off and in its place was a physical exhaustion like I had never experienced. Everyone left, including Pete, and I was left in the room with my son. I will never be able to properly describe what it was like to be sitting in that hospital room with Hunter. I had no idea what the night was going to bring, and even though I had almost a year knowing that I was going to be a parent it felt as though I had been thrust into motherhood without any warning – and it was the happiest moment of my life. It is a moment that I will never forget. I had dimmed the lights of my room so that there was only the slightest glow above my bed, footsteps and the beeping of machines punctuated the silence and even though I knew I was in a building full of people, it felt as though Hunter and I were the only people in the world.
I fell asleep almost immediately.
I woke up to Hunter stirring. That quickly turned into a full on newborn scream. I picked him up and immediately paged the midwife. To this day I have no idea why I called her straight away – I wasn’t panicking, I hadn’t tried to settle him yet but I knew that I didn’t know what he needed. All that information that was given to me in the hours straight after giving birth went right out the window (because it was given to me in the hours straight after giving birth..). The night-shift midwife came into the room and the first thing she did was check his nappy and sure enough, he needed to be changed. It was almost as if I was dreaming as I watched her change him. I snapped myself out of it and asked her the most basic question: what do I do when he cries like that again? She said he is either hungry, needs changing, has wind or is tired. I knew all of this already but I think that I needed to hear it in the moment, I needed to hear it as it was happening. Once he was changed, she helped me feed him again before leaving us alone once more.
Almost as soon as she had shut the door behind her, Hunter did another huge poo. Huge. I could hear it as it happened. I got up and changed him again but when I put him in his bassinet, on his back, he wouldn’t settle. I didn’t think about it – call it instinct – and picked him up, put his dummy in and lay him in the bed next to me and cradled him in the nook of my arm. He fell asleep straight away.
A few hours later, I was woken up.
“Hunter is due for a feed,” she said, rousing me from sleep, “look at how settled he is with you! He already loves his mama.” I was completely out of it. Completely. It took me a while to come to and really what was happening. Surely, I thought to myself, surely she isn’t waking us both up from sleep – a woman who hasn’t slept after a full day of labour and a newborn, both peacefully asleep. She told me to unwrap Hunter and check his nappy. I slowly and painfully pushed myself up and tried to get Hunter to latch. To be honest, I can’t remember whether he latched or whether I expressed and fed him from the syringe again, but either way the midwife eventually left and we passed out again.
I don’t like hospitals, but one thing that I love is that even in the dead of the night, in those early hours of the morning that are normally drowned in silence, the sound of nurses and doctors moving between rooms never slows down. Everything continues in hospital at night as it does in the day. I have always been someone who is comforted by the presence of other people. I am able to sleep better when there are people talking around me. I am able to write better when the television or music is on in the background. I am able to read better when there is noise that I have to consciously drown out. All through the night I woke up for brief moments, comforted by the unfamiliar sounds.
He only woke up once more that first night.
I was woken up early in the morning by the midwife I had the day before. As soon as she saw that Hunter was in bed with me, and with a dummy in his mouth, she immediately berated me.
“You can’t have him in bed with you,” she said, picking Hunter up before I was even properly awake, “so I will just put him back in his bassinet here. And tsk tsk tsk, no dummies.” Hunter’s dummy was taken out and cast aside, his little body placed back in the bassinet next to me. “I’ll come back when you are more awake,” the midwife said, seeing herself out.
I woke up again, grateful to see that mum had messaged me and was already on her way with breakfast and coffee for me. The morning comprised feeding Hunter, introducing him to the friends and family that visited and figuring out how the hell I was going to get discharged as soon as possible. Pete arrived mid-morning and all that we both wanted to do was get our little man home.
Long story short (not really though, this is a long-ass post. Apologies.), even though I was allowed to be discharged at 11am, the entire process took until just after 4pm.
A nurse came by and told us that Hunter had to go down the hall to take a hearing test. I had no idea that their hearing was able to be tested, so for all of you who didn’t know that either, headphone are put on Bub’s ears and they are played a sound at a specific decibel and their brain is monitored to see if they react to it.
“He won’t pass the test,” she said sharply, taking all of us by surprise, “no babies have passed today. If he doesn’t pass, which he probably won’t, we will have to do it again later this afternoon. Don’t fee bad that he probably won’t pass, its normal.” I swear to god, it got to the point where if she said that Hunter wasn’t going to pass one more time, I was going to lose it. Mum offered to take him to the test, rolling her eyes at me on the way out of the room.
We were told the test was going to take fifteen minutes.
They were back in five.
He had passed with flying colours.
The midwife tried to get Pete and I to go to the bathing class over and over again. “You really should go,” she said, every time she visited us. Pete and I were adamant that we didn’t want to go. All we wanted to do was wait for the paediatrician to give Hunter his assessment, put him in the car and take him home. Hours went by and finally, the doctor came to see us. During her visit there was a chorus of screaming babies out in the corridor.
“What’s going on out there?” I eventually asked when the crying didn’t stop.
“Oh, it’s the bath class,” the paediatrician told us.
Pete and I laughed about that later.
We were eventually discharged. We were both starving, exhausted and completely in love with our beautiful son. The moment we strapped Hunter into his car seat is one that we will never forget. As we both clicked the straps in, we looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Oh my god.”
I mean, come onnnnnn. Look at him.
I guess the reason that I am writing (rambling on) about this is because I want it to be known how confusing motherhood can be in even the first hours, simply due to all the different opinions that people will try and force on you. In the space of a few hours I was complimented on my mothering and then chastised for the very same thing. I want to say to all the mums and mamas-to-be out there that YOU DO YOU. Do whatever it is that feels right for you. I promise you that your instincts will kick in and without even knowing how, you will know exactly what to do and what works for you. I demand feed, and I have never and will never wake Hunter up just to feed him. When Hunter won’t settle or when he has been in pain, he sleeps in bed with Pete and I. Hunter continues to use his dummy, but more often than not he spits it out – babies are smarter than a lot of people give them credit for.
Mamas, you have got this. You really have.