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 in pregnancy you could add not being told what you are letting yourself in for, along with watching “One Born Every Minute”, going bikini shopping, and listening to other women discussing their 1st and 2nd degree tears. However, I am writing this in the hope that if you’ve gone through it – or are in the middle of it, it gives you some comfort to know that it’s absolutely NORMAL.
Other parents speak of this great event with omonious undertones “Ohhh you wait! You wont know what’s hit you” the only other time its spoken about is by the midwives after you’ve just had the baby; “Get some rest mum – this’ll be the last semblance you’ll have of sleep for the next 18 years” Yeah, yeah whatever – you think – how bad can it be?
I was completely convinced when I was pregnant that anyone with a newborn 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 missing sleep for 1 night of the weekend. 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. I also 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 my daughter was born, she was still in the amniotic sac which meant she swallowed a small amount of fluid. We both had to stay in for observation for 24 hours and in this time she was the most well behaved newborn you have ever come across – quiet as a mouse, really chilled, slept A LOT… Me and my partner were well chuffed – 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 fluid, her body thinks she has eaten – wait until you get home and its gone!” I thought “Whatever.” 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 didn’t listen and sat up looking at our baby for hours.
We got home ‘Little Miss Sleepy Baby’ was in her moses basket – so sweet, no trouble… Then bedtime, we all go upstairs, put her down in her 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 are we doing wrong?!” we panic… “What are we supposed to do?” rock, shush, rock, put back in the basket, get back out the basket, change her nappy “Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” then the best it yet to come – you realise… She needs a proper feed!
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 breastfeeding 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 grab a cheese grater, grate your nipples and dip then in vinegar… 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 it’s like – but less bad.
I tried so hard to feed – she had latched on really well at the birthing unit – but due to her stomach being full she didn’t feed for very long, now doing it was just so, so painful – the kind of pain that makes you want to stamp the floor with your foot. I also didn’t know if she was getting any milk. The breastfeeding counsellor had come round in the birthing unit and said she had a perfect latch on, so there was no problems there. I was crying hysterically, she was crying hysterically. A mix of emotions then occurred in the next few hours: Anger, fear, self pity… First I turned full loony tunes on every single male on the planet – I am post natal woman! Feel my WRATH!” “*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 “whyyyy meeeeeee!” “I can’t do this!!” “I can’t do this anymorrrrrrrre”.
After feeding painfully on and off for hours, she was still crying. In the end I found a dummy in with my breast pump which I gave to her – then panicked and Googled to see if this was allowed – that calmed her down right away. I then 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!
Now it was 6am and we’d finally got some sleep. The home visit midwife arrived the next day and 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 3 months… OK I lied.. about 5/6 months ;-) If it’s any comfort to you – the 1st night with my 2nd baby was nothing like this, so it really is all about how much you know.
So how was your 1st night home with your newborn? Are you sat there in the middle of the chaos reading this RIGHT now? Feel free to drop me a message in the comments and I’ll answer any questions/give advice as quick as I can!