Guest Blog from a brand new mum: Things I’ve learnt in the past 5 weeks

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We’ve made it to the 5 week mark and as things have started to settle down, I’ve done a Carrie Bradshaw and got to thinking about what I’ve learnt… if anything.

Shiny things – Like Magpies, babies love shiny things. You can try all you want to get your newborn to look at your face but unless you have wrapped yourself in tinfoil they won’t be interested. Family members may encourage you by saying “She recognises her Mummy” whilst pointing the baby in your general direction but you know the truth. If she does actually turn her head to look at you, you feel a flicker of warmth and then you realise…. you are sitting in front of a photo frame or a mirror or a particularly reflective light fitting. The same goes for windows and people with dark hair and ‘ghosts’ as I read on one forum. Not a big deal but don’t patronise me by saying she’s looking at me.

Boredom – Years ago I was holding my friend’s newborn and I shared this gem with her: “Newborns are boring, aren’t they?” She looked at me like I’d called her baby a gremlin and took said gremlin back immediately, just in case I dropped it out of boredom. Touché. Now that I have a newborn of my own, I cringe at my remark to that glowing new mother and as I hold my gorgeous daughter in my arms, I think….. I was totally right! Newborns are well boring!! There’s only so much staring at her face I can do before reaching for my phone/the remote/some food.

I didn’t really do myself any favours, my daughter was a stubborn little wotsit and clung to my uterine walls until she was evicted at 41+5. That meant that I had 6 weeks of maternity leave before she even showed up where I mainly stayed indoors and watched trashy TV. But that was okay because ‘soon I was going to be really busy!’ When we took her home, I found myself staying indoors and watching trashy TV. Sigh! Sure there was the nappy changing and feeding but newborns sleep …….. a lot……. “Why didn’t you get out and about?” I hear you say. “C-section!” I shout back at you. That meant no driving because you use your abdomen to drive a car, oh no wait, I have no idea why I wasn’t allowed to drive. Anyway, I kept going on walks but wouldn’t get too far. I was like Harry Potter – if my scar started to hurt, I knew something ominous was about to happen – so I would head for home having filled a measly 15 minutes.

So quiet frankly, prepare for the boredom; book in visitors, get lots of snacks, take up a hobby (A one handed hobby – this is where CandyCrush comes in useful) find a box set to get into or watch lots of trashy TV. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that the boring times won’t last forever (We’re now mobile and much happier) and all of that time indoors with your newborn is useful – it has helped you become an expert on hoarders and 600lb people.

Don’t have any expectations about the birth and you won’t be disappointed – This one particularly irritates me because I was very much blasé about the whole birth thing. I didn’t make a birth plan and had the opinion of ‘There are many ways that my baby can come into the world so there’s no point worrying about it.’ This attitude made me very accepting of the fact that in the end, I had to have a c-section. However, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my baby and I would be separated and for a long time. I vaguely entertained the notion that they might have to go into special care but I never put that scenario together with the c-section scenario which resulted in me being immobile and my baby being on the other side of the hospital fighting for her life. Bad times. She’s fine now by the way. Good times. I had visions of my family coming onto the ward, me with my bundle of joy in my arms being showered with praise and love and champagne. Actually, my mum turned up when my catheter was being taken out and couldn’t hold her grandchild for 8 days to reduce the chance of infection. I’m not saying you should expect awful things to happen because they probably won’t, but just realise that your ideal scenario is just that, an ideal, and we don’t live in an ideal world. However….

You might get lucky –  I hate being asked “How is she sleeping?” for the ridiculous reason of my having to answer “She sleeps really well.” Ditto “Are you tired?” because I have to respond “No.” I feel like people think I’m lying to show them up or I’m a fraud, I’ve broken some kind of new parent code. However, she does sleep really well. When we first met her she was an incredibly sleepy baby, doctors said this was a recovery sleep to sleep off the effects of the hypoxia. After 4 days she was still sleepy but I was told to wake her every 3 hours to feed her. Then someone else told us to demand feed. I of course listened to their advice because it meant no more waking her, and me, every 3 hours. So, we put her to bed and then we went to bed, I turned my alarm off and rolled over. 6 hours later, I sat bolt upright thinking she had died! She hadn’t.  I fed her and put her down where she slept another 3 hours. This is how it has been since day 13 other than the 3 nights where she slept right through 10-6. I know we are very lucky, I can’t explain it, all I know is that I expected to feel like a zombie and actually I wake up most mornings feeling refreshed. Before you hate me too much, be comforted by the fact that I find it very hard to enjoy it. Typical. Cruel fate has me waking up and looking at my watch and instead of being pleased, I panic that she has overheated or dehydrated, or overheated AND dehydrated AND I can’t shake the ominous feeling that it could be something to do with the hypoxia……

Overwhelming love – Something that I was told lots but was of little comfort to me when it was actually happening was “Don’t worry if you don’t feel an overwhelming sensation of love for them straight away.” Lots of people do, lots of people don’t. I definitely did not. I didn’t see her come out, all I saw was them hold up this slumped, wizened, blue, grumpy old man caked in poo, lots and lots of poo. She went out of sight and got resuscitated, then she came back so “Mummy could have a cuddle”. Mummy didn’t have a ‘cuddle’. Mummy was lying down whilst a surgical team did the Handjive whilst holding her internal organs. Mummy just poked her nose and said “Hi”.

I then didn’t see my baby until 20 hours later, by which point I was beginning to doubt I’d even had a baby. Don’t get me wrong, I liked her, I thought she was really pretty and I liked holding her but she didn’t feel like mine, I had no affinity with her. I was worried about her and scared for her but didn’t mind leaving her and going back to my ward. I definitely loved going and getting coffees with my husband and not having to change her nappy. On day 5 she got moved into a room with me, no more nurses, “This is it” I thought, ” Bonding time!” but I just went through the motions for the next week or so, doing everything I knew I had to do but not knowing why. I worried a lot that I was a crappy Mum and a bad person and that because of this I was more likely to leave her outside Tesco or drop her or put Strongbow in her bottle, I’d already given her a dummy, where was it going to end!?  Slowly day by day we got to know each other and each day I loved her more than the day before and it all started making a bit more sense. I genuinely think it has only been in the last week or so that I’ve got to the point where I can say “I love you” to her and actually know that I really do. I can tell that I do in the strangest of ways. I hear a song on the radio and it makes me think of how I feel about her, I don’t listen to what my husband’s saying because I just want to tell him about the poo she did earlier and I can’t watch Jeremy Kyle anymore (Shame.) because I’m so scared that someone will break her heart. However I know that if that happens, I will be there to rip out their eyeballs and burn them. This is overwhelming love.

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Some New Parent Top Tips

Here are some shortcuts and other tricks we have found that make our lives as parents a bit easier

Prep bottles, for the night and the next morning, before bed

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Every night before bed I sterilise all the bottles, fill them with cooled boiled water and measure the formula into the dispensers so that when I get up bleary eyed at bitch o’clock in the morning, I can make bottles without burning my fingers off, spilling formula all over everything or having to boil a kettle and have my child get into a screaming huger frenzy waiting for it to cool. It also helps my husband to make bottles because unless something is in plain sight with a neon sign pointing to it, I have “hidden” it and it is lost to him forever.

Don’t call the mum police on me but I put the bottles in the microwave for 30s before I add the formula. As long as you make sure to shake the water to distribute any hot spots and test it before you feed it, you’ll be fine.

Have a separate laundry basket for baby things

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Keep it within throwing distance of the baby changing area. That way you separate baby vomit, wee and pooh from your clothes which are (possibly) not covered in these things. If you’re like me, most of your clothes will go on a dark wash but for some reason people get offended when I dress my child in black. I was battered into submission by all the pink clothes I received as gifts so I am now a raging gender stereotyper and most of my baby’s clothes are pink. Stick the whole lot, sheets, sleeping bags and your pink t shirts on a 1 load non-bio wash when the bag gets full. Easy laundry life.

Use fairy lights

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1. Babies are mesmerised by them, allowing you to place the baby into their cot at sleep time, ensure they are transfixed and then slink out of the room (you may need to do the “drop and crawl” at first. I tried emplyoing the “bed commando roll” once but the bed creaked and blew my cover).

2. Unlike a lamp, they only illuminate the baby, so in the night you can easily execute the “one eyed baby breathing check” without having to dazzle yourself or risk waking your bedmate/s.

3. If you use pink or red, the glow is meant to soothe the baby as it reminds them of the womb (if I was saying this to you in person I would be doing a lot of air quotes and a bit of eye rolling but Ewan the dream sheep works on the same principle so I guess I’m a believer)

4. It feels a bit like Christmas

Keep wipes in every room

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 (Other brands are available….).

Your life as a new parent is/will be pretty skanky.  Sick, poo, other fluids etc. will find their way on to every item of your clothing and furniture and dusting will take a necessary back seat.   While I am not and never have been houseproud I can not bear limescale, water stains, and I realised that I needed a clever plan for dealing with stains and dirt when I told one of my friends that I was excited about my parents coming to visit because I could clean. I was actually looking forward to cleaning the bog.   My little solution – which fits in quite neatly with my love of buying cleaning products – is to buy wipes for every room and leave them in there.  Loo cleaning wipes for the loo, multipurpose wipes for the kitchen, cheap baby wipes to clean vomit etc. off the sette etc.  So when I do get a quick moment to nip for a wee (and I mean the deliberate sort – not the sort where you get a bit post-baby leaky) I can wipe round the loo afterwards and feel a bit more relaxed about people coming over to visit.  Honestly, you’d think I was best friends with Kim and Aggie the way I’m talking.  My mum will tell you I’m not.  Or you could just pay a cleaner to do it – which you should seriously consider if you can afford it.

Engage in some role play

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Sorry, I couldn’t find a properly illustrative picture.  Anyway what I mean is that if you are co-parenting your child, or if you can regularly rope in a mate or parent, try to assign a regular task to them.  For example, it could be Daddy’s job to give the baby a bath every day.  That way he bonds with her, and you have 15 minutes to disappear and do something you want/need to do.  Or you could agree that your partner will do the morning/night feeds on a particular day.  That way you share in responsibility and both have time to bond with the baby in a way that limits how resentful you might feel, and which gives you some precious time to yourself.

Double up

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If you live in a house or large flat you might want to consider setting up 2 changing stations.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pretend I’m not lazy (I am), but running up and down the stairs every time my baby needs a change is neither practical nor fun.  I therefore have the following in both her room and the living room – changing mat, wipes, nappies, tissues, sangenic changing bin, toys, change of clothes, blanket, bottles, feed, muslins, dummies.  So far it has saved my knees, back, and several hours of my baby crying.

Buy some medicine and a syringe

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What I mean is Calpol, though other brands are available.  I think.

Anyway if your baby can take it, buy some before his/her first jabs.  S/he might not need it but it will save a dash to the chemists by a confused partner and precious time while your little one is crying.  You’ll also have it in your arsenal of supplies should s/he need something to help him/her along.  I’ve found having a syringe to give medicine invaluable. There’s a syringe in most packs of Calpol.  Firstly, it measures the dose more accurately than a spoon and if you are as paranoid as me it helps to reassure you that you aren’t poisoning your baby by accident.  Secondly, it’s a darn sight easier than using a spoon.  Giving a baby medicine is, however, still like trying to nail jelly to a wall so either invest in some kind of baby medicine giving device (they do exist) or try squirting some of the stuff in their mouth, giving them a dummy or finger to suck immediately, then continuing until it’s all gone.