My First Week: A Week of Firsts

Just over a week ago I was still pregnant and now here I am a week on with a tiny little baby who relies entirely on me and I’m going to be honest it is terrifying.

Up until a week ago, apart from my daughter who was delivered asleep at 21 weeks I hadn’t held a baby, so when I delivered him and he was placed onto my chest I had expected a second of “what on earth do I do” but it didn’t come. As soon as he was there I knew exactly what to do. Almost straight away he was making feeding cues which I picked up on and within half an hour he was happily suckling at my breast. It was the most amazing feeling in the world and the maternal instinct hasn’t gone away.

Having never held a baby I had obviously never changed a nappy or breastfed or anything and the first time for each was terrifying. I was totally on my own for my first nappy change and talk about a baptism of fire, he had done a massive poo, as soon as I had cleaned that up he weed on the the new nappy I was just doing up and when he was finally clean and in yet another new nappy he puked on me, all the while screaming his little head off. Needless to say I had a moment of what the hell am I doing here, but as soon as he was cleaned up and happy again that feeling quickly went away.

Even the first time getting him dressed was scary, he seemed so delicate. What if I bent his arm and he cried or I got the baby grow stuck over his head or something, but what I have learnt is that babies are sturdier than they look. He hates me changing him, he cries the whole time, but as soon as he’s dressed and back in my arms he is docile as anything again.

Feeding on my own was scary, and even though I was on the postnatal ward, support was scarce. I had one lady come round who told me to hand express some. I got about 4 drips and he promtly puked it all up again anyway but other than that I was left entirely on my own. One midwife came round looked at him latched on and walked away again saying he was on ok. That was all the help I got, but atleast being told he was latched on ok gave me some confidence in my own abilities.
The first night was the worst. He was tired and struggled to latch on (something he still struggles with) but I, not knowing any better, let him latch badly, and my did I pay for that for the next few days (my nipples then bled everywhere each time he fed giving my baby the look of a baby vampire and when he threw up (which was after most feeds for the first few days) it was all bloody and stained his clothes really nicely!) Thankfully I now know that it is ok to wait 20minutes for him to open his mouth and latch properly, that as frustrated as he gets he won’t get what he needs if he doesn’t and that actually if he’s that tired he won’t open his mouth there isn’t much I can do to encourage him. Sometimes at 5am when we are both tired, waiting 20minutes for him to open his mouth only to take a couple of sucks and let go again gets pretty frustrating, but I have been assured he will learn, it’s just a lot for him to take in and learn.
I didn’t expect myself to be so comfortable feeding around people. I have always been quite body shy, not that I didn’t like my body, I just didn’t show it off, but I suppose after the indignity of labour, showing a boob isn’t a big deal. I find myself getting him latched on in a different room to guests – I think this may be a different story if he didn’t have such issues, but I find myself waving my nipple around for 20 minutes to be fairly embarrassing. But once he is latched on I am happy to come back and join the conversation. I even answered the door with him feeding – I did have a moment of should I, shouldn’t I as I didn’t know who it would be but I decided to give it a go and thankfully it was my friends mum. Having said this I’m not sure I would have been embarrassed whoever it was. Everything was covered and as I look at it, it’s the most natural thing in the world (if still a little painful)

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Thankfully he is quite a contented baby, once he has been fed he will go back to sleep or just lay there looking around, he doesn’t complain for no reason, so if he is crying you just have to work out why. If he’s just been fed it will probably be wind, and if not then check his nappy. Sometimes he just wants cuddles and if that’s the case then just walking around bouncing him does the trick. I’m so glad he’s not a fussy baby who cries the whole time, if he was I think the tone of this post may be slightly different!

This first week has been made so much easier by my mum staying with me at my house. It’s just little things like she makes sure the cat is fed so I don’t have to worry, and also when he’s crying in the middle of the night she will suggest winding him or bouncing him, things that in my sleep deprived state haven’t even crossed my mind, it’s also nice to have someone else there for if we have tried everything and he is still crying (admittedly this is rare) just for them to take a turn bouncing him.

All in all I have loved every minute of this week, it has been hard, don’t get me wrong but the love I feel for this tiny little person who is going to (already is) grow and develop under my watchful eye is amazing and makes every hard moment totally worth while. I often find myself just sitting watching him sleep and marvelling at the fact that he came out of me, that I made him.

This has honestly been the most amazing week of my life.

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Birth Story

After having my waters broken and beginning contractions almost immediately I began to panic. I wasn’t ready. I had been told I’d have another 2 hours before anything like this. I had relied on having that time to prepare myself for what I knew was coming. The intense pain of that first contraction took me straight back to my last labour, birthing my sleeping baby with no guidance from a midwife, only a nurse coming in right at the end and telling me to push then taking her away from me, the unbearable pain that I didn’t understand, the panic, the fear and within that one contraction I had processed all of these thoughts and knew I had to make this experience a different one. After one contraction of panic and fear I knew I was strong enough for this, I knew I had to control my emotions because I knew I was strong enough to do this – I had done it before in worse conditions and survived and this was a totally different situation. Here I was having my rainbow baby who had defied every obstacle thrown at him and was still with us at 38 weeks, I wanted my healing birth. One that it would remember as a positive experience, one that would reassure me that pregnancy and birth could be alright, could have a happy ending.

I breathed through my contractions. Not deep breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth type breathing, but I made sure I breathed sensibly and I concentrated very firmly on thinking “I am a strong independant woman” (which I ridiculously think I stole from an episode of friends) “and I will not panic” and every time the pain got bad I repeated the last section concentrating on the words and what having control over this birth meant to me.

I couldn’t talk or make any sound at all through my contractions, I think I physically could have, but if I stopped repeating those words and concentrating on my breathing I would have panicked and completely lost control like I did last time. During my last labour I didn’t know what the contractions were, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get comfortable in any position and I threw myself around the room trying to. I had never been in a situation where nothing is right, nothing makes any difference, and it was terrifying. I was more prepared for this labour, I knew what to expect and I knew what it all meant so I refused to lose control.

Every two hours I was strapped to the monitor to check Jackson was coping ok, and the first time she did this fairly early on I was leaning forwards against the bed. She made some comment about the contractions not registering on the monitor, at which point I almost gave up! I told her that if these weren’t registering I would be giving up and having an epidural, but she reassured me that it was probably just the sensor not picking them up because of how I was sitting.

I was shattered by this point, a few nights of not sleeping very well in hospital, a lot of walking around to try to start labour and I was almost a zombie. Mum said she could see it in my eyes I was tired, and indeed I started falling asleep between contractions. The gap between contractions not being very long I’m not sure the falling asleep actually helped, but it made time pass incredibly fast. Each time she told me it had been another two hours and she needed to put the monitor back on me I felt like it had only been about 15minutes!

When she examined me I was 4cm dilated and finally in established labour. This unfortunately meant constant monitoring on the machine, which limited movement and positions for me. I think I spent most of labour kneeling on the floor leaning against the bed, it seemed most comfortable, even though there really is no comfortable position for contractions! When she told me I was 4cm I asked when I could have gas and air, not wanting to start too early before I really needed it, she told me I could have it whenever I liked, so I decided I would hold off, after all I had another 6cm to dilate!

Time went weird in the delivery room so I’m not sure how long it was but I don’t reckon any more than a couple of hours, if that, after she told me I was 4cm I felt an unignorable urge to push. I told her this and she told me to ignore it as I was unlikely to be ready as it hadn’t been that long since I was only 4cm. I tried to ignore it but as the next contraction came I realised I couldn’t. This is the only point in the labour that I completely lost control. I was terrified, not of pushing, not of the pain, but of messing up, of doing it wrong, of not being strong enough to not push when I shouldn’t be, scared of hurting Jackson. But the midwife was there in seconds reassuring me and calming me down. I didn’t even panic for the whole contraction. She told me I wouldn’t hurt him pushing too early and that she would check to see what was happening. This involved getting me on the bed, which, when contractions are one on top of the other and no complete loss of pain between them is easier said than done! I managed it and then needed to push again. I’m not sure if she examined me or not but somehow she estimated I was about 8-10cm and ok to push but that now she really needed the monitoring to be reliable for baby’s sake (it had been temperamental with me kneeling) so I’d have to stay on the bed. She suggested lying on my side as this apparently reduces tearing and I eventually managed to roll over and lie on my side.

The pushing was the hardest part of the whole labour. I have learnt since that the midwife controlled the head coming out, stopping it coming out too quickly and reducing tearing (I ended up with a tiny tear and 2 stitches that apparently are not necessary, only make it neater – a head circumference of 36cm is fairly large!) I didn’t have a strategy for the pushing part, just push as hard as I could and get him out safely. After what felt like hours both the midwife and my mum were telling me the head was nearly born and that he had a lot of hair (the lady who did my 34 week scan had told us this) I was told just one more push so many times I felt a little lied to but I could tell he was close. Then with a slight pain sensation (my little tear) his head was out. The midwife went to get another midwife at this point to oversee the birth as with my blood clotting issues complications could arise. The next contraction seemed to take ages to come, knowing my sons head was in this world and still hearing his heartbeat on the monitor, all I wanted to do was meet him, but come it did and with another couple of pushes he was out.

I looked down and absolutely ridiculously the first thought through my head was ‘oh my god it’s a baby. An actual baby.’ I suppose the mind games I had played on myself for 9 months had worked. I had totally tricked myself into believing that this would never happen to me, that it would be something that I would forever watch on TV but never get to experience, yet here he was, they placed a towel on my tummy and put him on it, rubbing him to get him to squeak, I had a heart in mouth moment when it was all silent, the midwives were both rubbing him, I was staring at his beautiful face with his mop of dark hair willing him to scream and then he did and I relaxed. I had done it. I had my rainbow baby and I’d had my healing birth. In one night I had proved to myself that I could do it. That 9 months of worry and fear and stress were worth it, has culminated in this, this moment, in him.

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Because not everything could be easy, my placenta decided it didn’t want to come out! I opted for the injection, but after half an hour it just wouldn’t come out! Another midwife came in and had a go and after a lot of wiggling and gentle encouragement and pushing from me it slithered out. Apparently it was rather large, but it’s still a mystery why it was so hard to get out! After this she set about doing my stitches and then I was all done, we were brought tea and toast and I marvelled in the fact this was the start of a whole new chapter of my life.

  • An 'Angel Baby' is a baby lost during pregnancy or early childhood, who sleeps in the clouds instead of our arms.

    A 'Rainbow Baby' is a baby born following the loss of an 'Angel Baby', a beacon of hope after a storm, while not denying the storm happened.

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