Surviving the Early Days
Let me just get this out there; the early days after giving birth are RELENTLESS! Of course, you have a tiny baby whom you love more than anything else but it truly is the most exhausting time. It’s impossible to describe the range of emotions you go through; I hated Andy for the first week – I knew it was hormones as I secretly seethed at him for no known reason, especially watching him sleep! (And I genuinely I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive husband.) I had the screams from the labour ward ringing in my ears for days after leaving hospital and I felt delirious after no sleep for as long as I could remember. On top of all of this, my nether regions were so swollen from the episiotomy that sitting down was so painful and my nipples were in shreds and bleeding from the non-stop feeding. To put it lightly; I wasn’t at my best.
In the hospital Nella was exhausted from the labour and slept in her cot but at home, it was a very different story. She did not want to be put down AT ALL. Andy and I ended up camping out in the living room; one of us slept whilst the other held her and watched TV. Each time Andy shook me awake for my next stint I felt like I was in the army ‘on stag’ (‘on guard’), I wanted to shout ‘nooooo, it’s only been 5 minutes!!!’ when actually it had been a couple of hours. We were like zombies.
Thankfully, the most amazing midwife came to visit whilst in the midst of this sleep deprivation/army training. She told us we needed to sleep more than anything else and proceeded to show me a safe way of co-sleeping and feeding Nella whilst lying down. This meant I could sleep too and also alleviate the pressure off my swollen bits - hurrah! I can honestly say it was an absolute life-changer and should we ever have another baby (currently up for debate) we wouldn’t hesitate to do this again. We ended up co-sleeping with Nella for the first 6 weeks until which point she didn’t seem to mind being in her cot. Somewhere along the way she learnt to self soothe; sucking her two little fingers and playing with her hair which she still does now and goes to sleep perfectly well on her own. We didn’t create a rod for our own backs which was an initial fear.
For us, it took about 3 months to establish a routine at which point life became bearable again; having an evening back to relax was transformational. At the beginning it felt like we were never going to get to that point but it does happen!
In case anyone finds my non-expert tips helpful, here are a few of mine to help get you through the early days:
1) Before having your baby stock up your freezer! Batch cook (if you can be bothered) or do what we did and buy a load of Cook meals. I can guarantee the last thing you’ll feel like doing is spending any time in the kitchen cooking but you’ll be starving and need to eat.
2) Don’t make any grand plans to go away. Or any plans at all! It’s always best to wait until your baby has arrived and see what you’re able to cope with before filling up your diary. There’s nothing worse than having the added pressure of pre-planned events to attend or the guilt of having to cancel.
3) Don’t give yourself unnecessary targets to do things. If you don’t want to go out, don’t go out. You are allowed to hunker down on the sofa with your baby and rest.
4) Don’t be afraid to co-sleep if it is the only way you can get your baby to sleep. I know in this country there is a lot of advice against this because of SIDS however we were told we could safely do this as long as we didn’t drink, smoke etc. And obviously we kept any pillows/duvet away from Nella’s head. I would lie down with a towel under me and then over Nella and back under me so she couldn’t fall out.
5) Don’t have visitors unless you feel up to it (I’ve ranted about this in my piece ‘The Golden Rules of Visiting’) but honestly unless you have helpful visitors, they can be more tiring than anything else.
6) Don’t even think about doing all the cleaning/washing etc, you just have to let go for a bit and only do the essential things.
7) Line up the TV shows and get a TV in your room for all that time you’re breastfeeding at night – anything to keep you occupied and most importantly awake.
8) If you don’t have a rocking chair, we found bouncing or rocking on a swiss ball a great way instead of walking up and down to help Nella get to sleep (we still use it now when we need to).
9) Accept the fact that it takes time to establish a routine and try and plan around that and how best for you and your partner to tackle it together ie tag team sleeping etc.
10) Ultimately you need to do whatever is best for you! All babies are different and it’s just a case of trying and testing each method. For instance, the Gina Ford method wasn’t for me but I know it’s worked for a lot of other people.