10 things I wish I’d known about the 72 hours after giving birth to my first baby…
The contrast between my daughter’s early days and my subsequent son’s are so stark that I can hardly believe they had the same mother. I know that the births of both and the subsequent after-care made a tremendous difference to how I reacted to bringing a new person into the world. As I continue to discuss the early days with my hypnobirthing clients, I felt compelled to put pen to paper (or digits to keyboard) and jot down a few thoughts….
1. Hour 1:
Having stitches can really hurt, and I’m saying that as a hypnobirthing teacher. In hypnobirthing we talk about pain being a message sent by your brain to your body that “THIS NEEDS TO STOP. NOW.” Given that surges in labour are fuelled by oxytocin, and are an efficient and productive design of labour, it is possible for the brain to receive totally different messages about them, and for the sensations to be just that, intense sensations. Sewing up the lady zone though – quite the different thing. How I loved gas and air then.
2. Hour 6:
I always thought my husband was brilliant. I never really understood just how brilliant he was until those early hours with our daughter. He could see I was an exhausted husk, but that I was always hysterically over-excited. He cradled me like I cradled our baby, helped me find my pads of all kinds, fed me water and snacks, and generally told me I was beautiful and a goddess (when he wasn’t stressing about the cost of the car park!)
I truly believed the pretty little lady who was “appreciated” by most of the men in my NCT class, as she repeatedly cradled her breast and cooed about breastfeeding. I was reassured by her that baby was likely to “gently seek out the nipple, after all they’re biologically designed to crawl up your wobbly tummy and latch.” Hmmmm.
My first child was just not that interested until I bought the nipple shields of destiny, whacked them on my tender and swollen feeding-stations and let her find the massive plastic “YOU ARE HERE” signposts. Child two was an angry, sucky, grabby feeder from the moment he was born – never seeming full and always asking for more. In the end I breastfed them both (with bottles of formula when I was singing or just too knackered from all the clusters) for 6 and 8 months respectively. It shocked me how much I missed it, and should we have a third, I would try to go for longer.
4. The Great Feeling of being OVERWHELMED
The most terrifying bit of all. Of looking at my baby, who I already loved so much that I felt physically nauseous when I imagined her getting any older than she was, right in this moment, right now, and thinking “can I give her back? Just long enough to feel more like “me?” I’m not a real grown-up – it’s all been a mistake! How can I possibly care for her.” I never suffered with post-natal depression, but the GFoBO (like the GBBO but less fun) was truly hideous. I still get it now when the now 3 year old daughter has those epic tantrums where you wonder how to ever get them to be still and calm…
5. Why can’t I sleep?!
In those first 60 hours (and a bit longer) babies are REALLY GOOD at sleeping. It made sense, therefore, that when baby was sleeping, so I should. After my daughter was born, whenever she went into a deep sleep my parents and husband would encourage me to go and do the same. What I hadn’t bargained on was that potent mix of adrenaline, panic and mild hysteria that I had BIRTHED A HUMAN stopping me from finding any way of switching off. Herbal tea? I tried it. Baths – couldn’t really do as my body wasn’t capable of getting in and out. Dark rooms, warm rooms, cold rooms, nothing worked. It was only with my second child and knowing that I had a combination of my hypnobirthing relaxation techniques to draw upon and that “this too shall pass” that I managed to sleep, quite a lot actually.
6. Going to the supermarket with a newborn feels like going to the Moon
Quite why - after just 30 hours at home with my baby – any of us thought it was a good idea that I “nipped to Tesco” I’ve got no idea. I remember standing in front of the trolleys, trying to hold a stupidly heavy car-seat, while my bent coccyx and stitched lady zone screamed out in pain, panicking as I said to my mum “where do I put her? Will she be SAFE?!” I tell all my clients the rule of two weeks: one week in bed, one week on the sofa, yet I completely understand why I felt so desperate to go “out.” I just wanted to feel “normal”. Looking back, I know that rest and nourishment of my body and mind would have enabled me to achieve “normality”, whatever that is, with far greater ease.
7. I wouldn’t like being a “mum” straight away
I have always wanted to be a mum. I was one of those little girls, who adored her dollies, who has been “maternal” for as long as I can remember, who knew that when she was a mum she would have found her true “self.” When it finally happened therefore, it was an awful shock to realise that I didn’t instantly love this role. I wanted to get to bedtime and go to sleep and not be woken up! It wasn’t even the lack of sleep that was the shock, more that some tiny being was waking me just as I’d finally slip into that drowsy half-sleep bliss, feeling warmth and relaxation suddenly permeate my being, before the squawk of voice and convulsion of limbs (babies awkwardly and suddenly move) would force me awake… I wanted to have a shower and not spend the whole time with a pounding heart, in case she needed me and I couldn’t be there instantly. I wanted to drink a glass of wine and not worry about falling asleep on my precious bundle. I just wanted to be Laura, not Mummy Laura.
8. Babies are so noisy!
We thought we’d got confused during a Christmas telly campaign and adopted a bleating goat. Her grunts, bleats, shrieks – possibly it’s because we are both singers, but our firstborn “found her voice” very quickly…
9. I would imagine I would hear her and run to her cot.
It was clear she was happily asleep and safe, and yet there I’d be, waddling as fast as my maternity pads would allow, staring down at her with simultaneous panic and adoration, or muting the telly and whispering frantically “did you hear that? Does she need me?! Is it ok?!?!”
10. I would never, ever tire of staring at her.
Her ever microscopic cell, every eyelash, every tiny fingernail, the dimples in her legs, the birth-marks from where she’d been pulled out so forcefully, her rosebud mouth, every hair on her head, every wonderful, remarkable, extraordinary part of her. And I don’t regret that for a second. She was our miracle, our light, our sun and stars.
Laura, Power of Mum