One thing no one is really brutally frank with you about when you are pregnant is what will happen on your first night home from hospital. But let’s be honest – that’s probably a good thing. If there were a list of things not to do to when pregnant (to save your sanity) you could add not being told what you are letting yourself in for, along with watching “One Born Every Minute”, going clothes shopping, and sitting in a room full of women discussing their 1st and 2nd degree tears in labour.
Other parents speak of this great event with suggestive undertones “Ohhh you wait!” “Hoo hoo you wont know what’s hit you” “Reality kicks in with a bang!” the only other time its spoken of is at the hospital by the midwives after you have just had the baby “get some rest Mum” they say “this’ll be the last semblance you’ll have of sleep for the next 18 years” Yeah whatever.. You think… How bad can it be?
I was completely convinced when I was pregnant that anyone with a new born that was finding the sleep depravation difficult was a massive wuss. Being someone who spent the best part of my 20’s partying – often from Friday – Monday, very often going without sleep for 1 day of the weekend. Going to work on a Monday on 1 or 2 hours sleep many many times, I thought “how bloody hard could it be” I was convinced I’d be OK and would soon wonder what all the fuss was about. As well as this I told myself “it’ll all be worth it I’m sure” and other such whimsical fantasy statements.
Our first night home was mental and I don’t mean mental as in “good mental” I mean MENTAL – padded cell, loony bin, rocking backwards and forwards and crying for your mummy MENTAL. When babby was born she was still in the bag which meant she swallowed a small amount of embryonic fluid. We both had to stay in for observation for 24 hours and in this time she was the most well behaved new born you have ever come across – quiet as a mouse, chilled to the point of horizontal, slept A LOT.. Me and the mister were well chuffed – puffing ourselves out proud at what an incredibly easy baby we had produced – this was going to be a synch!! The last nurse that came round said to me “I think she is sleeping as her stomach is full of the fluid – her body thinks she has eaten – wait until you get home and its gone!” I thought.. “nahh! She must be wrong!” but the fear had started to creep in now. When the nurses told me “Sleep now dear – its the last proper sleep you’ll have for months!” I thought “Whatever love..” And sat up looking at the baby for hours.
We got home and she was still sleepy, quiet little baby – in her moses basket in the front room – so sweet, no trouble… Then bedtime – we all go upstairs, put her down in her moses basket (where she had happily slept for the whole afternoon/evening), get into bed “ahh this is sooo easy – what IS everyone on about?!” and…. “Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” now this isn’t a normal “cry” crying – this is what we came to name “her Cher cry” she sounded like Cher’s vibrato – like a baby lamb caught in a meat mincer “Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” we pick her up.. she cries and cries and cries “What do are we doing wrong?!” we panic… “What are we supposed to do?” you rock, you shush, you rock, you put back in the basket, you get back out the basket, you change the nappy “Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” then the best it yet to come – you realise… She needs feeding.
Now I’m a breast feeding advocate and I don’t want to put anyone off (I can just hear the feet of the La Leche league coming down my path and bashing on my door holding burning torches and an effigy of my face as I type this) but anyone that tells you that breast feeding is easy peasy and doesn’t hurt initially is telling the biggest lie since Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” speech. Imagine you have just run the London marathon 10 times and are more tired physically, emotionally and mentally than you have ever been in your entire life – then double it. Then double it again. Then grab a cheese grater – grate your nipples and dip then in vinegar or scrap that – surgical spirit… While doing this ensure you add a hysterically non stop crying baby who doesn’t know what they are doing as much as you don’t. That’s kind of what its like pain wise – but less bad.
In between the feeding there is the suckling – ohh the pain!! but poor babby needs comfort.. It always makes me laugh to hear women express “baby is using my nipple like a dummy in between feeds” LOL wtf?! Don’t you mean the other way round? When did a plastic inanimate object become less weird than the most natural thing in the world? Anyway.. I tried so hard to feed my little one – she was latching on well but it was just so so painful and I didn’t know if she was getting any milk… The breastfeeding counsellor had come round in the hospital (I was very lucky there with my hospital) and said she had a perfect latch on so there was no problems there.. Problem was.. She didn’t know what she was doing, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was crying hysterically, she was crying hysterically – then my head rotated, I vomited pea soup and turned exorcist on every single male on the planet – not a single man was left who didn’t get the full brunt of my anger “*beeping* beep all of you beeping men! – if I had a beeping ice pick I’d stick it into the end of your beeping beeps, drag you along into a field of horses and let them trample all over it”” then comes the self pity… “whyyyy meeeeeee!” “I can’t do this!!” “I can’t do this anymorrrrrrrre” I tried to get a breast pump – we tried everything. In the end I found a dummy in with my breast pump which I gave to her (panicked and Googled to see if this was allowed – cue more flagging by the La Leche League) that was the only thing that stopped her. Then I ended up (I still can’t believe this) sleeping downstairs on the armchair (safety rule number one broken), with her hat on (safety rule number two broken), with her wrapped in a blanket, then wrapped in my duvet (safety rule number three broken). I didn’t have A CLUE – no one tells you this stuff! All I was worried about was the fact my mum and sister were supposed to be coming the next day and I’d have to let them down.. Crazy.
Now it was 6am and we finally got some sleep. The home visit midwife arrives the next day I really thought I would be crying hysterically, begging her not to go – fingers nails dragging along the laminate floorboards as I clutched onto her trouser leg begging her not to leave us… Asking what I should do.. Help us… Please.. Help us! But d’you know what it all felt a bit a silly in the light of day after a few hours kip.. Baby was of COURSE asleep again in the moses basket it was daytime after all!!) it couldn’t have been THAT bad right? She gave me some sage advice about nipple cream, nipple airing cups – watched her latch on again – said she was doing it beautifully, not to worry it will get easier over the next few says – was down to it being collustrum which is thicker and harder to get it out. Don’t worry re dummy – we are not bad parents.. Use it if we feel we need to.. Laughed at my account of the man bashing I gave every man on earth.. Told me I was doing very well – keep at it.. Everything gets easier.. She was so nice I could’ve cried!!
The fact is – she’s right – it DOES get easier.. In about 5/6 months ;-)
Below is a 10 top list of things I WISH I’d known before I got home:
- The womb: its a bloody noisy place (do yourself a favour and listen to it – click track number 2 HERE) and baby feels more comforted with some noise around it. How would you feel coming out of somewhere that had been playing Rotterdam Techno on full blast for 9 months then have everyone going “Shhhh” and being quiet around you – you’d freak out right? Get some White noise playing – try downloading “The Happiest Baby on the Block” MP3s (on the link above)
- Rocking: The womb is a very jumping, bumpy, swinging place.. Baby wants to feel some motion.. Get rocking!! Don’t be scared – the faster and harder you go the more they like it (always support head and of course never shake baby!) GET A BABY SWING… GET A BABY SWING.. I will repeat this until you listen.. GET A BABY SWING!
- The 4th Trimester: Baby does not know it is outside the womb and wants to be as close to mummy as possible. Hold them as much and as close as possible
- Suckling: This is baby’s way of self comforting itself – sometimes they want to suckle in between feeding. If you are having NO problems with feeding (the latch on etc) its ok to offer a dummy from time to time. (If you are having problems I wouldn’t advise this)
- Sight: Baby cannot see very well at ALL (baby’s are actually registered blind until 6 months) all they can see are shapes and sounds – this again is very frightening – all they know is mummy, your smell and the sound of your voice – no matter how exhausted you are – I hate to break it to you – its no longer about you.. Remember this is all very scary for your little one
- Bodyclock: Baby’s do not know the difference between night and day – they sleep in the day and are awake in the night inside the womb – this is a primitive setting probably back from when humans were still hunted by animals. It takesMONTHS to set their body clock to the way we work.
- Temperature: An optimal room temperature for baby to sleep in is 18 degrees – it may seem cold to you – but this is the guideline given by the Cot Death Association. Get a room thermometer. Its safer to keep baby a cool as possible and of course always in bed on their back… Remember minimal blankets – 1 blanket folded = 2 blankets!! Have a look in your red book for the guidelines on how many blankets for which temp. Make sure baby is toes to the end of the cot and blankets are tucked in. Better still get a sleeping bag – watch out for the tog amount. Babies should NOT wear hats indoors – unless you have been advised this at the hospital – you’ll have one on at the hospital after birth but hats should only be worn outside
- Safety: Never fall asleep with baby on a chair or sofa as they could suffocate inbetween the cushions – this is probably the hardest one not to do – when you are exhausted and you fall asleep sitting up its so hard!! If baby wont sleep in moses basket (nearly every mum has this problem) it IS OK to co-sleep with baby in bed!! As long as you follow these guidelines you will be fine – co-sleeping was my saver of sanity for the 1st month or so.. Its actually amazing. If you don’t feel comfortable with Daddy in the bed then I’m sorry but he can go on the couch for a few days… Hardly a biggy considering what you have just gone through!
- Visitors: They can WAIT! Except help from those that do come round and leave the washing up – no one cares.
- Sleeeeeeep: I will tell you this but you wont listen (I didn’t) SLEEP WHEN BABY SLEEPS DO NOT DO THE TIDYING UP!!!
So what would you have wished you’d known before you got home…?