I had nine months to prepare myself for motherhood, or at least the idea of it, but instead, I spent the entire nine months, preparing myself for one day: birth.
And every day since then, I have spent countless hours typing maniacally into Google when I should be sleeping.
Some of you read about my birth and what followed in the hospital, but most of you have no idea what things were like after I got home. Suddenly, I had my mother around, my husband around, my friends and other family members, but no nurses and doctors.
The first few nights were rough, because of waking up to breastfeed every two hours and she was a slow drinker, a feed could last up to an hour. My husband would wake up along with me, and his job was to keep me awake, because every few minutes, my eyes would droop and suddenly I would feel someone gently shaking me while repeating, “I’m sorry”. He was genuinely sorry, but most new moms would agree that you can’t fall asleep while feeding your brand new baby.
We thought we would be clever and invest in a nice co-sleeper cot. Since we knew we wanted her near us, but clearly remembered all the articles stating the risks of co-sleeping. Here’s the thing, she would not sleep in it. She only wanted to sleep on top of me, which basically meant, for a good few days, I did not sleep. How am I alive, you may wonder, well, I don’t know – maybe I am a witch (Ravenclaw for life). Truthfully, it’s the love that keeps you going. You’d easily, without question, sacrifice anything to make your baby comfortable and happy. The only reason I ate was to ensure I was producing enough milk – otherwise I would likely sacrifice the time it took to eat too.
Each day morphed into the next, night time made no difference. I was a mom and that was my only role. I was not a wife, or a daughter or a friend. I was not a writer or a piano player.
I was a mom.
I fed her, burped her, changed her diaper, rocked her to sleep and then restarted the process.
I wish Nandos had a loyalty system, because we would have scored.
Even though I have what everyone calls a “hands-on husband” – he doesn’t have breasts and that was really a key item. No, she didn’t take a bottle (and my goodness, she still doesn’t, but we’ll get to that).
Every time she slept I had exactly enough time to do one task. I could either go to the bathroom OR make a cup of tea OR drink the cup of tea I made during my previous break. There was never enough time to do it both. Don’t be ridiculous.
The only time we went out in the first few weeks were for vaccinations and to my mom (who lives a few roads down). We visited the paediatrician a lot more than most people probably would because if you’re an anxious person, you may as well budget for it. Start saving my worrying warriors.
Aunties and uncles would visit and offer their advice, a lot of it, outdated, “lie her down on her stomach or on her side, she’ll burp better” and there’s always that person who thinks they are helping by taking your crying baby from you and sometimes, just sometimes, instead of helping, it makes you feel like a failure. You wonder why you can’t calm your own baby. You made her, developed her inside of you and birthed her. You feed her, yet, you couldn’t calm her. Have I mentioned that in this no-sleep, new stress period, you’re also coping with raging hormones which can bring on the weepies at any given point?
Well, screw that. Easier said than done, but when it happens, go and pee, drink that tea while it is still warm!
Leading up to six weeks, there were nights where she’d scream. We’d take turns rocking her, and singing her favourite song to her (Magic – Coldplay) and she’d calm down, but scream with every silent breath we took. It’s 02:00, you haven’t slept in 42 days and you have just recovered from major abdominal surgery, it would be unnatural not to wonder how anyone decides to have more than one kid.
Peak crying. That’s what that was. Google it.
And then, like magic, she stopped crying. As though she’s just realised that everything will be okay and maybe she was overreacting just a little. Suddenly, you have this baby that looks at you, smiles at you and coos at you. A baby that responds to what you’re saying and can tell when you’re making a joke. She develops a tiny, little personality and it’s insanely exciting and wholesome.
Everyone warned me, literally every single mother warned me and explained all of this to me, but somehow it still came as surprise. There is no way to prepare for it, you’ll learn on the job and…
… you’ll be fine (even when it doesn’t seem that way).