Nothing can really prepare you for new motherhood. This is a fact that I’ve realized. You can read all the books that you want, have all these theories of how you are going to parent and that first week is going to be unlike anything you ever imagined. Day 1 for us was great – I had a nice long hot shower and my midwife helped my exhausted body to dress. During that time, Papa M and CJ moved to our little private room and were waiting for me as I slowly padded my way down the hall. Our newborn son was so sleepy – it had been a tough day for him – and we were so wired, in awe of the little man that we’d brought into the world. Little did we know what was in store! Those of you who are already in the know, try not to laugh at my naiveté!
CJ had not had a fantastic latch when we had put him to the breast in the delivery suite but we put this down to him being quite tired and me being new at breastfeeding too. It became apparent in the next couple of days (thanks to some eagle-eyed midwives) that this was actually due to a tongue tie and that our poor little man was very hungry! It was organized to have it corrected in the hospital as it just required a little snip with surgical scissors. Unfortunately at this stage his blood sugar was very low and it was decided that in the interests of his health he needed some formula in his tummy pronto. Our district health board has a breastfeeding support policy that they do not offer artificial nipples (teats, pacifiers) and so CJ had his first drink out of a teeny tiny cup. The midwife who offered it to him said that he was the neatest drinker out of a cup that she had seen in quite some time – he wasn’t letting a drop of it go to waste. Over the course of around 24 hours his sugars improved and the midwives had me pump consistently to ensure that my milk would come in, feeding CJ anything we got through a syringe. We also began feeding with a breast shield. I hadn’t wanted to, but it was better than throwing in the towel and not breastfeeding at all.
In the same boat, I had no idea what cluster feeding really could be… that it can be consistent feeding for hours on end. That you might have the time to go to the toilet in between feeds, although it’s still likely that you’ll come back to a caterwauling baby. I had no idea just HOW draining it can be. It’s so confusing as a first-time mum to have fed your baby for three hours and still to hear them cry five minutes after they come off the breast! I was lucky to have some very empathetic midwives who explained that this behavior was completely normal without making me feel completely stupid.
I also literally went into shock when my milk came in – twice within a 24 hour period I got uncontrollable shaking, to the point that I was scared to lift my baby. There was no temperature, which often comes with mastitis and was suspected of causing the shakes. It is not that common but the on-call midwives suspected it was my body’s response to the added stress of milk production on top of very little sleep in the previous 72 hours. The midwives were lovely, turning the heater right up and draping me in blankets which helped ease my shivering. Very scary to me but it passed really quickly.
Another unexpected experience was the swelling. Even though I had been pregnant right in the heat of a very hot summer, I’d had very minimal swelling. Post-birth was another story! My feet inflated to the point I could not even recognize them as my own and the swelling continued all the way up to my knees. Everyone wants to know about whether your nether regions were painful postpartum – compared to the excruciating pain in my feet, it was nothing. Every step made it feel like the skin on my feet was about to burst and I could not fit ANY of my shoes, not even the jandals I had worn to the hospital. Papa M had to bring a pair of his own jandals to the hospital for me to wear and they just fit. They also broke the first time he wore them after I had finished borrowing them. Coincidence?
The final surprise was just how hard those hormones hit. Everything is so heightened! You love your baby an insane amount (just as well, when all of the above happens), you sob your heart out and you can even find yourself laughing like a hyena. With CJ’s feeding issues we were in the maternity unit for five days – on Day 4 I was upset, climbing the walls with desire to get out and then on Day 5, the day we went home, I was absolutely terrified of how we were going to survive on our own. SPOILER ALERT: we have so far!
There was a lot about those first few days that no book would prepare you for and no friend seems to tell you about. Even now, six and a half weeks later, the memories of insane cluster feeds and sore feet are starting to fade and my little man has already developed so much personality that we can’t imagine our lives without him. My hopes are that in sharing this, that some others are not as shocked as I was by the experience and can adjust to new parenthood with a little more ease.
It does help when you have this little face to look at!