Let me start off by saying that everything written in this post should be taken with a giant grinder of salt! Not because it’s not true – oh, trust me, it’s all 100% accurate – but because it may not apply to you. At all. Or maybe (please please tell me I’m not the only one!!), it will all apply to you. Reality is, everything written here is how I experienced the first few weeks of my babies’ arrival and regardless which group you fall into, it may at least make for a fun read.
I mentioned in one of my other posts that what makes the first few weeks hard is the unknown. But also the expected. I say that because I wasted more sleepless nights on what I was told mums should do than on things I knew nothing about. Guys, newborns themselves are eeeeeeasy. They are little. They can’t walk. They can’t talk (screaming doesn’t count). Even better, they can’t talk back. They perform all their lower bodily functions into a small piece of polymer (or cloth, if that be your preference). They let you dress them into every imaginebale (and downright ridiculous) outfit out there. And they eat only one type of food (if they eat that is).
So what makes it so hard then? Below are my top 5 things that made those first few weeks unforgettable (be that good or bad!):
- Breastmilk or formula? Possibly the hardest expectation I placed on myself when I had Ryan. They tell us breastmilk is best for your baby. Heck, even formula tin says so! And I listened. For the whole 2.5 weeks. Alright, this is how I see it. Just because you have legs doesn’t mean you can run fast. Likewise, just because you have breasts doesn’t mean you – or your baby – will be good at using them. I was lousy at it. So was my 2.5kg Ryan. Yes, I breastfed (exclusively). And yes, he ate. But it took an hour for him to latch (for all mothers/fathers out there, I don’t need to describe the screams of a hungry baby for an entire hour) and when he did latch, he ate very little. Maybe I didn’t have enough milk. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right – for what it’s worth, every midwife had a different opinion on how I should be doing it (which I guess is normal – it’s a subjective matter). Maybe I am a quitter and a bit selfish cause I simply had to get at least tiny bit of sleep. And yes, maybe if I persevered, we’d eventually both figure it out. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Reality is, he was down to 5% percentile and with tears in my eyes I said enough is enough. I was miserable. My baby was miserable. I thought surely that should count for something. So I bought our first tin of formula and never looked back. Yes, breastmilk may be best for my baby, but then formula is second best. And I was fine with second best. I watched Ryan thrive and that’s all that mattered. I was a formula fed baby. Andrew was a formula fed baby. I guess we are the second best family then. 🙂 So when Ben was born, I told the midwife at the hospital “formula, thank you very much”. She asked why and from memory I gave her some “didn’t work out the first time” answer but frankly, I didn’t even need to explain. And not being the first time mother, they let me be.
9.5 weeks on – one very happy baby indeed.
- Crying/Screaming for what felt like forever. If only we were able to interpret it all. Instead, it was: “Baby’s crying! Quick, do something! Is he hungry? Burpy? Windy? Cold? Hot? Wet? Heck – bored??”. By which stage crying turned to screaming and Andrew and I turned to toast. And most times – if not plainly obvious like a dirty nappy – we were nowhere near figuring it out. Having had the second baby and being so much better at it (no real reason, it just happens naturally), I think this is one that every first time parent simply has to go through. Yes, if I listen carefully and Ben says “neh”, it just so happens he does want to eat. And if he says “eh”, it just so happens if I lift him up, seconds later he’ll do a burp. For that, thank you Ms Priscilla Dunstan. But in general, you just wing it. And once in a while, you may get it right. 🙂
- Settling. I personally believe there are few types of settlers.
a) Cradle hold, tap the bottom type
b) Cradle hold, tap the back type
c) Over the shoulder hold, tap the bottom type
d) Over the shoulder hold, tap the back type
e) Any of above, while making “shh shh shh” sound
f) All of the above
With Ryan, I was all of the above. All the time. Let’s try this. No, not working. Ok, let’s turn him this way. No, that’s not it either. How about this? Nope. Ok. This? No. Shh shh shh. Shh shh shh. No wonder poor Ryan never settled easily. Surely he thought I was completely and utterly mad, changing my mind every few minutes. Cause it’s meant to be easy, right? You pick the baby up with confidence (cause every leaflet out there says they can feel if you’re not relaxed) and after some time, they settle. But when “some time” turned to ages, and screams got louder with each passing minute, of course I was not relaxed. So all I could do was question the leaflets. And change positions. ROOKIE MISTAKE. It did get better though – or maybe even I got better. But there were still those fun moments when after hour (or two) of settling – arms numb from holding him – I’d get ready to place my gorgeous sleeping angel down (all screams forgiven and forgotten), and just as his peaceful little head touched the Moses basket – eyes got as big as soucers. Lip curled. And he was ready for round two.
Things are different second time around. Maybe Ben is a better baby. Or maybe we simply got better knowing they do fall asleep eventually. And therefore that “be relaxed” just comes more naturally. Either way, cradle hold, tap the bottom type here!
- To sleep or not to sleep. I don’t just think – I know, for a fact – that I never did more housework/admin stuff than when Ryan was a newborn. All of a sudden, my to do list somehow became endless. Problem was – even though babies sleep a lot, by the time I fed him, burped him, settled him, put the new washing on (can never EVER have enough onesies, bibs or wraps), collected old washing from the line and did couple “quick” things off that list, he was awake again. Endless circle. And what felt like 5 minutes later, it was night again and I was exhausted. Not a good state to be in when you have a newborn who wakes up every couple hours. But somehow, in the morning, I felt better and did it all over again. ANOTHER ROOKIE MISTAKE. I was always tired, always cranky at Andrew for no reason whatsoever (“you are breathing too loudly!”) and always mad at myself for repeating the same mistake every single day. I embraced daytime sleep this time around. Yes, there was an endless to do list again, but at least once a day, when Ben slept, I slept. Netflix could wait. Baby book could wait. Colour coding my wardrobe could wait. And I am certain, that extra hour or two of sleep made me more relaxed, hence Ben settled easier, I hardly ever got frustrated at Andrew (I am still human!) and life with a newborn simply got that much easier.
- My baby doesn’t do what her baby does. In my mothers group (I went for a few weeks with Ryan) there was a baby that rolled in week 8. One had her first tooth in week 9. Most held their heads up by week 10. Not my Ryan. In fact, this was something that continued on as he got older too. He set up last. He walked last. He talked last. Google search was my best friend for those couple years. “What’s wrong with my baby?” Turns out nothing at all. He is 5 now and can recite entire dinosaur encyclopaedia. Actually, several dinosaur encyclopaedias. His vocabulary was better than any of the same (or older) kids in his daycare by the time he was 3. And no, we didn’t read books every night at bedtime – there were nights it was a miracle we managed to even get him into bed! So with Ben, I haven’t googled anything once. He will hold his head up when he is ready. He will sit up when he is ready. He will walk then he is ready. And he will talk when he is ready. And he will be just perfect no matter when that is.
I could seriously go on forever here. There were so many things we had to adjust to when we became parents. And all the new challenges we must accept the second time around. But as hard as those first few weeks seemed to be at the time, to be perfectly honest, they turned out to be the easiest.