Following on from all of the lovely feedback I received from my a-z of pregnancy, I was asked to write an honest review of life with a newborn. It’s impossible to cover in a single blog post what that experience is like but here goes:-
A is for…. acne
Baby acne. Linked to hormones (see H), your gorgeous little newborn is suddenly covered in tiny little spots. This is completely normal and will pass. However you will cry about it. Especially on day 3. Please see a health care professional if you are concerned about allergies.
B is for…. boob. Or bottle.
Fed is best. There will be lots of interest in how you choose to feed your baby. Even if the choice ends up being made for you. There will be guilt. There will be tears. Either way. You will spend the majority of that babies first few days (weeks/months/years) feeding. Constantly. Whilst desperately trying to decipher any type of pattern. It will come. There is light at the end of that blurry milk infused haze.
C is for…. Crying
You. the baby. Either way, one of you will be crying. Sometimes both at once for a particularly fun day. Crying is what babies do. They have no other means of communication. But that doesn’t mean you won’t feel emotionally wrung out at 3am when baby has been fed, changed, cuddled, wrapped up and then unwrapped. To the piercing tone of cries. We have all heard of “mother’s instinct” and you will probably cry at some point because you don’t know what your baby wants and that means you aren’t fit to mother. We’ve all been there. But you really do start to have tear free days and you really do get to know each other and know what the noises mean.
D is for…. Dry skin
Matilda looked like she had shed her skin like some reptile. Dry skin everywhere. Cue the recurring theme of guilt. Maybe I washed her too much? Not enough? And then the inevitable Google. Coconut oil / olive oil really does help. Please check you aren’t using the olive oil with garlic that’s in your kitchen. Unless you are planning to vampire-proof your baby.
E is for…. Eating? Housework? When?
Having a newborn is really bloody hard work. Although you won’t be able to recall exactly what you have done, you know you feel exhausted. The following are nearly impossible when left alone with a newborn:
- Going to the toilet
- Brushing your hair AND getting dressed (it’s one or the other I’m afraid)
There comes a day when you can be eating your lunch whilst holding the baby and vacuuming. I know that day feels far away but it really is coming.
F is for…. Fear
Everything about having a baby is terrifying. The responsibility is overwhelming. I used to dread the evenings when it got dark. I was so afraid that she would scream all night. Or that I would be unable to cope. I was afraid when my husband went back to work. I was afraid to leave the house with her on my own. That fear can be all-consuming. Whilst fear is normal, it should pass and get easier. If it doesn’t, please speak to someone.
G is for…. Guilt
Probably the most unexpected part of having a baby for me. I felt guilty. Guilty for letting Karl change a nappy. Guilty for wanting Karl to change it. Guilty for dreading the evenings. I don’t deserve to be a mum. There are people out there desperate to be a parent and here I am feeling sad, mad and bad. This is the last remaining remnant of newborn life for us (except the poop. That’s just getting worse). I feel guilty for looking forward to nap time. I feel guilty for planning a night out without her. I feel guilty for not noticing before she doinked herself in the head with the TV remote. I feel guilty if I don’t talk to her for five minutes. It’s so very exhausting all this guilt. I’d like to think I’m a good mum…. but this guilt won’t let me.
H is for…. Hormones
So your baby comes out all pristine new and wrinkly. The cord is cut and they exist. Separately from you. However your hormones (and let’s be honest pregnancy hormones are something else!) continue to course through your babies body for a while. Baby boys born with enormous testicles. I mean really. They’re huge. Baby girls ‘menstruating’. Both genders with enlarged breasts. Some babies even leak milk. From their nipples. The horror! The baby acne mentioned above is also caused by the hormones. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Hormones have a lot to answer for.
I is for…. Information overload
Although well-meaning, the constant stream of advice from people you know can wear you down. “You’re making a rod for your own back by holding her all the time” or “well in my day…” is overwhelming. Coupled with easy access to the Internet, allowing complete strangers to pass judgement and offer advice. You really will find what works for you and your baby. They are all different and just because a piece of advice works for one does not mean it works for another. Saying that however, you will see some of my Google search history (see Q). I needed to ask for advice ( hi Feb 16 ladies! ) and sift through it myself. Carve my own path. You will too.
J is for…. Jaundice
Whilst completely normal, especially in breastfed babies, the last thing you need as a new mother is Jaundice. Especially in the first few days. Maybe you notice your babies eyes look a little yellow. Or maybe you don’t notice and someone else points it out. You cry over it. You feel you have somehow failed. You haven’t. Some sunshine will do you both good. In the absence of sunshine ( hello British summer!) your midwife or health visitor will advise further.
K is for…. Kit.
Seriously how does such a tiny person come with so much stuff? I will do a post soon on unnecessary baby items vs must haves. This also links in to O (online shopping). Your baby doesn’t settle in the moses basket/crib so you will online shop for the bouncer that promises you a lengthy nap whilst cleaning your house and paying your bills. 3am is a dangerous time to shop. I have written before about the sheer amount of stuff it takes to leave the house with a newborn HERE
L is for…. latching / lactating
Breast pads. Go. Go stock up. Maybe not as fun as a new pair of pram shoes, but really, really necessary. There are recipes out there for lactation cookies. Hints and tips to increase your supply. But before all that comes latching. You may think it seems easy. For some women it is. For others, it goes horribly wrong. Cracked nipples. Tears (both of you). Get yourself a lactation consultant or visit a breastfeeding cafe.
M is for…. Mental health
All of us go through the emotional mill from the moment you see those two pink lines on that pregnancy test.
“Baby blues”. I hate that term. I feel it really trivialises the emotional impact of having a newborn. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows; a newborn invokes a tsunami of emotions. Partly hormonal and partly just the complete shift of your focus.
For some women, it is deeper than that.
PND – post natal depression. This is so much more than “baby blues”
Post natal psychosis. This one is far more of a taboo. But it’s real and it’s more common than you think.
Please visit MIND for more information on how your mental health may be affected and how to access support.
PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. Normally as the result of a traumatic experience. Please visit Birth Trauma Association for more information on symptoms and support.
N is for…. Nappies
Hundreds and hundreds. How does something so small poop so much? It is pretty much hardwired into a newborns DNA to poop in a fresh nappy within 30 seconds. Sometimes they may even go mid change. That’s always fun. How about sizing? Too loose and you’ll get explosions but too tight and you turn your baby into a sumo wrestler. The ‘baby thong’. It’s even harder now. Matilda has fat thighs and a skinny waist. So we pretty much always have some… leakage.
O is for…. online shopping.
This should be written somewhere and handed to women on discharge from hospital. 3am is not the time to be online shopping. For white noise machines. Or books on sleep training. Or new clothes/shoes/household appliances. Hide the debit card. Unlink your PayPal. Cut up the credit card. Save yourselves.
P is for…. Poop
I am proud to admit I’ve always been a fan of a chat about poo with my nearest and dearest. So it may not be a shock to them to hear me talk about poo now. But even the most poo-adverse will find a fascination in baby poo. The colour. The consistency. The frequency. You will obsess over every little detail. And you will get some on your hands. Sorry, but you will. If you’re really unlucky, you may not notice straight away.
Q is for…. Questions
I mean as a rational human being you know that what you’re Googling borders on…insane. But it doesn’t stop you. Your Google search history may look like this
We have all been there. I’d love to hear some of your wacky Google searches. I definitely Google less now. A bit. Probably.
R is for…. Rashes
Every blemish on your babies skin will be analysed. You will try and take photos of the rash to compare to Google images. You will take temperature and attempt to see if it branches. If in any doubt please contact midwife/health visitor/ GP/111.
S is for…. SIDS
Whilst relatively rare, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a huge fear amongst new mothers (and fathers). I recall sitting up in bed and peering into Matilda’s crib in a half-light. Unable to hear her breathing. Panic. Kick Karl awake and reach in to feel her chest. Which was rising and falling. But that was it. I stayed up for hours just to make sure. Be aware of SIDS. Visit Lullaby Trust for some handy hints on reducing risk.
T is for…. Tongue Tie
Because getting a baby to feed (see B) isn’t challenging enough. Throw in some tongue tie for good measure. If the tongue tie is severe enough it will need to be separated. Cue more tears (more yours than theirs).
U is for…. Upchuck
OK so that’s a cheeky way of saying vomit when you have used up your V! Some babies are sick a lot and others hardly at all. However the smell of sour milk on your clothes/furniture/pets will become the norm. Some babies have reflux. The passive spit up of milk. Making it hard for them to lie flat on their back. Occasionally causing pain and definitely causing tears. Winding helps and keeping upright but frustratingly you will hear “they’ll just grow out of it” which is, of course, very unhelpful. Reach out to other mums in your shoes such as Living With Reflux
V is for…. visitors etiquette
Or lack thereof. It’s so tiring having a newborn. The last thing you need is visitors wanting to hold a baby that you have just bounced for 20 minutes to get to sleep. But they are not as bad as those who ‘just popped by’ with no forewarning. You may have a boob out. Or be crying. Visits ought to be prearranged. The flip side of that of course is that you feel such intense pride in everything your baby does “looooook at her making a little fist” that you desperately want to show her off to your family and friends.
W is for…. weight gain
Failure to thrive. What a horrid term. Babies lose a little weight after birth but are usually back to birth weight by 2 weeks. If they’re not, or if they lose more than 10% of their birth weight, that is the term they get given. Although no judgements are passed, as a new mum, that term is heartbreaking. Please see G for some extra added guilt. You will obsess over every ounce. Gaining too fast? Not gaining quick enough? As long as your baby is following his/her ‘line’ with a roughly consistent gain then it’s normal. Promise.
X is for….. X rated.
Nope.no way. Keep it away.
Y is for…. “You time”
Everyone tells you to take some. Maybe you manage a 5 minute shower before you’re convinced you can hear the baby crying. Or maybe you have an hour alone and feel like you’ve lost something. Life just isn’t the same post baby. Enjoy some baby free time when you can but be prepared that you will never truly switch off. Also, if you are not ready to leave your baby with anyone, that’s ok too. You do you.
Z is for…. Zzz
Sleep becomes another thing to obsess over. Maybe your baby wakes every 2 hours and you find yourself awake in bed listening to them snore, desperately willing yourself to fall asleep knowing that you only have 45 minutes before your baby wakes again. Or maybe your baby sleeps soundly but you can’t as you are checking their breathing or googling. Or online shopping. Maybe like me, you will panic that your newborn sleeps too much. Yes. I know. Silly Nicola.
Other notable mentions include:-
- Thrush (you and baby)
- Wind. Getting those burps up before the crying starts should be an Olympic sport
- Outfits – here’s to the cute ones you bought pre-baby. The completely impractical ones. That baby never wears. They will live in sleepsuits. Actually you will realise you prefer it that way anyway.
- Immunisations. I have already done a blog post HERE about the emotions of this.
- Other people’s germs. Other people kissing your baby. Just no. Don’t do it.
- Dairy allergies. Great. Boob or bottle this is a challenging start to feeding your baby.
No one ever said having a baby was easy. Despite all of the above, I promise you will look back with nostalgia at the newborn stage. Enjoy that smell. The sleepy cuddles. How tiny they are. It’s life changing. It’s horrific at times. But it’s also the most rewarding experience. Around 5/6 weeks, when you first start seeing the social smiles, your heart will melt. On dark days when you aren’t sure whether you’re coming or going and feel desperate, they will fart and smile. All is forgiven. And you explode with love for this tiny pooping machine.
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