Yesterday my gorgeous precious tiny girl was 1 month old. 1 month! 31 days of her being in our lives. Just over 4 weeks since I couldn’t imagine having a baby and now I can’t imagine life without her.
So how has it been?I’m tempted to run off a list of cliches… magical, amazing, exhausting, but I don’t think my experience so far has fitted in with the usual comments as much as I expected. The first 2 weeks were in equal parts blissful and stressful. I was so happy to have this little thing in my arms and many an hour was lost just staring at her little face, marvelling at her perfect mouth or tiny fingernails. We spent a lot of time in those early days just being together, having skin to skin time and establishing feeding. I am breastfeeding, which is giving me an immense amount of pleasure. It was something I really wanted to do – for many reasons, but mainly non-emotional ones like the ease it would give me at night or when travelling and freedom to go anywhere with minimal baggage. We have been extremely lucky that it has just worked for us and I take no credit for that, Bea was born rooting and fed immediately in recovery after my c-section. She has basically shown me how it’s done and so far, touch wood, there have been no problems at all. Looking back now over the last month, thinking about her getting everything she needs from me is very special and I love the time we spend together feeding, the little faces she pulls and the cuddles we share.
The stressful part of those first 2 weeks was managing visitors – it was quite overwhelming having so many people and whilst on the one hand we wanted to show Bea off, I really wasn’t ready to share her yet, nor was I (with the benefit of hindsight) really that fit for visitors. Of course people brought help and food, but it really was hard for me. Possibly because we really didn’t have any control over it – I know some people limit visits from friends or even family in the early days or weeks while they get settled in as a new family but I didn’t have it in me to stop people seeing her as I didn’t feel it would be fair. Although he didn’t complain or seem to mind I think it was hardest on Pete as I had guaranteed cuddles when she fed, whereas it was him who missed out as she was passed around and he looked after me and visitors.
She has been a good baby, no question and so these early weeks have been kind to us. Don’t get me wrong, we have had our moments – one midwife told me to expect one unsettled day or night per week (which I thought was pretty optimistic at the time,) and I’d say we have had about 36 hours worth a week of feeding more and waking more that ha been difficult but fortunately she doesn’t cry much at all. Like lots of babies Bea tends to feed more in the evening from about 5 or 6 until 10 or 11 and then only wakes once in the night and once early morning, after which we go back to sleep until late morning and the next feed. I’m not sure how that’s going to work out long term as I’m not usually up until 11 and I need to be getting out to baby groups but the biggest thing I have learned this last month is to go with the flow. Those couple of hours when she just won’t go back to sleep at 3 or 4 am? I now settle myself down to feed and read and it doesn’t seem so bad. The most annoying thing is that she grunts so loudly, just after she’s got to sleep and when she’s about to wake up, but it can be for an hour or more and it drives me mad keeping me awake too when she is often asleep herself! We went through phases thinking it was colic or wind but it just seems to be her as she’s not uncomfortable with it at all.
Week three was definitely the hardest. Tiredness caught up with me, I was still sore but doing more physically than before and didn’t really understand Bea’s cues yet – apart from when she was hungry I was clueless and it was that week that I accepted, 2 nights of the same feeding pattern did not make for a routine and I just had to go with it.
Now we’re at 4 weeks I’m definitely seeing more patterns emerge. Bea has a wake, feed, play/awake, sleep cycle at least twice a day (the rest is just eat/sleep!) and I know when she is fussy because she is tired and ready to sleep instead of just hungry. It has actually helped being alone with her more (Pete’s Paternity leave was messed up due to my early c-section so he was off for the first, third and fourth weeks after she arrived and only recently went back to work,) as I can’t do anything else but focus on her and learn what she needs, without anyone else who doesn’t know her as well misinterpreting her. (One night in the early weeks my mum was holding her and she was crying. Normally I would have assumed she was hungry but my Mum thought it was wind so we persevered trying to wind her, until eventually I took her upstairs to cuddle and try feeding her – she immediately quietened down and it was then I really believed Mum knows best.) In some ways though it’s getting way harder… she won’t stay asleep in her crib or pram unless she is put down at the perfect stage of deep sleep – often far from convenient and so it is taking me an age to get anything done – even getting dressed in the morning! I’ve just bought a sling to wear around the house for the same reason (I’ll be writing more about that next week) and have high hopes for regaining the use of both hands!
To be honest though, I’m happy not getting much done. It feels right to just give myself over to this time with her so as long as I stay sane we’ll be doing more of the same. I’ll be on the sofa cuddling my baby if you need me…