Get more teaspoons!
Merry Christmas to all of you!
It’s amazing to think that this time last year I had just ovulated for the first time, and was super-excited for our chances of getting pregnant in the year ahead. Wow, we did it! We’ve just enjoyed our first Christmas together as a family, and it is sincerely my wish that every one of you I know who is still struggling to get pregnant would see that dream fulfilled this coming year.
Toby is 8 weeks old today, and getting even cuter with each passing week. I feel like we’re just finding our pace now, and most days my head is above water. Most days. Thinking about the past 8 weeks, I have made a list of the things we’ve learned, found useful, or just weren’t expecting. This post is just a way for me to jot these things down. It is by NO MEANS intended to be my telling other parents/parents-to-be how to do things. I just know I’d have appreciated knowing some of this stuff before hand. Though I realise it isn’t necessarily applicable to every situation/baby, so take what you will if you’re looking for tips, and laugh at my naive idiocy if you’re not.
“Hahaha…you thought what?!…”
Being organised and having a functional living space makes me relaxed and happy in my soul. Here are the things that helped us…
- Get more teaspoons: This might have been the best piece of of advice we received (thank you @robcmorgan). After the baby was born we got through cups of tea and coffee, and therefore teaspoons, as the dishes piled up. Or our guests ate them when they came to visit our little “bundle of joy”. Stocking up on a bulk supply of the humble teaspoons ensured one was always to hand, and made our lives easier and happier. Trust me.
- Fix that broken doorbell: From the same fountain of wisdom, (@robcmorgan) – it is far more important to make sure the doorbell and toilet are working than any other superficial thing like the colour of the nursery, especially if the baby won’t be inhabiting it for another 6 months.
- Bins in every room: I’m not quite sure what happened after Toby was born, but our capacity to produce rubbish increased exponentially. There wasn’t just nappy waste, but breast pads, food wrappers from quick snacks, gift wrappings, tissues…When you’ve only got one hand free and you can’t leave the baby unattended, having a bin in every room we used regularly made life a lot easier.
- Lots of storage: This sounds obvious, but we spent a lot of time in our living room after Toby was born. Sometimes I barely left it for 2-3 days in a row. He was changed, fed and slept in there, as did I. Having a set of drawers to store his clothes, muslins, nappies, my infinite supply of paracetamols, blankets and other paraphernalia really helped us to make space to live and move about easily with our new wriggly cry-machine.
- Washing baskets: Like bins, one in every room really helped us get organised and cleared space to save us tripping over sick-drenched muslins and baby grows.
- Get big supplies of: Muslins; cotton wool pads (not the fluffy stuff – it sticks to EVERYTHING) for washing baby’s bum with water – it’s cheaper and kinder to skin than baby wipes; kitchen towel/loo roll for drying bottoms; nappy cream – one pot for each room you’ll be changing the baby in (e.g. nursery, living room, bedroom) and one pot for your changing bag.
- Get small supplies of: Nappies – each brand are different and some are better than others. We were surprised to find Tesco and ASDA’s own brands better than Pampers, so stocking up on one brand before he was born would have potentially proved pointless and expensive, unless we’d happened to stumble on the right brand for us; breast pads – again with the brand differences, and I think it is totally worth paying more for better quality. Boots and Tesco own-brands are nowhere near as good as Tommy Tippie, and after all, if your nipps fall off baby isn’t getting fed! Dummies are God’s blessing to parents. Some people don’t agree with using dummies – we’ve not found it to be a problem at all and Toby isn’t ‘confused’ between the dummy and the breast. It just helps to get him to sleep on the odd occasion where he’s worked himself up and is already well fed. A dummy in each room, and one for the changing bag, is useful – I don’t want to be hunting around for one when baby is screaming his lungs out. Thank you cards, for the friends of your parents who give you nice things and others whom it is diplomatically advantageous to formally thank.
- Nipple cream: Lanolin is the best, use it before you start to have problems and they might not ever develop!
- Get plenty of vases: for the flowers that arrive when you have nowhere to put them!
- Nursing bras: You’ll only need 3-4. But for the love of God make sure they fit properly!
- Small sizes of baby clothes: Despite what the midwives say, they don’t know how big your baby will be. Three days before Toby was born at 6lb 4oz, the midwife told me he’d likely be 8lb. I hadn’t gotten many newborn-sized clothes, as friends had told me their babies had outgrown them after a week or so. As it turned out, Toby was mini and newborn was too big for him for the first month of life. We had to go to ASDA where they sell a great range of tiny and premi baby clothes, and stock up after the birth. I think we did this the right way round, as if he’d been big we’d have wasted money on small clothes that didn’t fit.
- Steriliser and breast pumps: Figure out how these work before the baby comes. Seriously, the pumps can be a bit complicated and the last thing I wanted to be fiddling with when a screaming baby is demanding my attention. I didn’t think I’d need these for a few months, but it turned out I needed them straight away due to Toby’s initial above-average weight loss and the need to top up his feeds with expressed milk. I was so very glad I’d figured it all out before he arrived. (For the record, I found the electric pump to be way better than the hand one – faster and easier to use single-handed.)
- Night lights: Useful for those night-time feeds so I can see where I’m putting my nipple. Prevents embarrassing situations, and means John/baby can stay sleepy.
- Car seats: …Are actually more complicated than any science I’ve ever studied. There are different types of seat, different types of bases to fix them to, and not all will fit in every car or fit every car seat. We found this out the hard way. It was a staff member at Toys R Us who came out to the car to check ours and told us the one we had didn’t fit properly. Mothercare also offer this service, though you might have to tell them you’re interested in buying a seat from them if you want them to check the one you already have. Failing that, they’ll check the one you like in your car before selling it to you. Win.
- Changing Bag: Fill it with as little as possible. I sort of forgot I’d have to carry it!!
I had been told how hard it would be after Toby was born, what with the sleep deprivation etc. But there were a few negative things I wasn’t expecting to feel…these aren’t talked about that much so I’m putting them out there, not to be negative and self-pitying, but to hopefully free up those who feel this way and think they’re alone. You’re not.
- Grief: This is the closest I can get to describe how I felt with the loss of my ‘previous’ life. There was this new thing in my world that demanded all of my time, attention and energy. I had no free time, no rest or respite, and no sense of for how long this would be the case. And oh gosh did I feel guilty for feeling this grief. Here I was with everything I’d wanted – a house, husband and baby. Everything I know so many people desire, and don’t have. My grief for the life lost was made even more sickening by the fact that we’d struggled so much to get here – I should have been happy! Over the moon! At least grateful. But in the first few weeks I wept for the loss of that previous life. As time has gone on, and I’ve spoken to others who have felt the same, I’m not so hard on myself for feeling this way any more. I know I love Toby in a way I didn’t think possible, and I am very grateful for the blessing of him in our lives. But it is hard and different and scary, and it’s OK to grieve. I still struggle with this emotion from time to time, perhaps when I get a pang of missingness for something I could do before but can’t now (like sleep in my own bed presently), but I have noticed another thing…there is a new-found joy too. Every coo and smile brings a level of joy I didn’t know before. And that’s pretty cool.
- Insecurity: I think sleep deprivation has a lot to do with most of these emotions…it’s really amazing how it effects every part of my world. In this sleep-deprived state I started to question my relationship with John – did he still love me? Was I still attractive to him? Did he think I was being a good mother? What were our respective roles in this parenting thing? I had to remember that John was sleep-deprived too, and that was playing with his emotions as much as it was with mine. However, despite this, he was and is brilliant at reassuring and affirming me just when I need it. We’ve always been very good at sharing domestic tasks, but it took us a while to figure out how to share the Toby task. It isn’t a fair division of labour between husband and wife – biology has seen to that – but there is plenty John does and I needed to stop edging towards self pity when the burden did fall more heavily on me in certain areas. In this, I am just so grateful for John and his desire to love and support us however he can. I have so, so much respect for single parents, you are heros.
- Despair: I became guilty of being a cat-in-the-cupboard. A cat locked in a cupboard doesn’t know it is only temporary. They freak out as they believe this is their whole existence now. I was doing that. Often in the evenings and middle of the night, when the darkness set in and the tiredness was at its peak. Would it always be this way for the foreseeable future? When would I get some respite from the feeding and sleeplessness? It was at times like these that John was at his most precious to me, giving me perspective. I also found Twitter and Facebook very useful for venting my despair. I know not everyone fancies this avenue of expression, but in my secluded moments it linked me with others who’d been there and moved through to the light ahead. And that was great.
Other thoughts that don’t fit in the categories above
- Get used to doing everything one-handed.
- “Sleep when baby sleeps” might not be possible if they won’t let you put them down without waking up. Co-sleeping could be the answer if you can do it safely. I was really reluctant to try this due to safety scares, but it’s been my salvation these last 5 weeks.
- Resuming “normal” activities was really vital to maintaing my state of mind
- Don’t feel bad when people ask you if you’re enjoying being a mum and you want to say no. Remember there will be times when you want to say yes too!
- Don’t put the the cards that say “bundle of joy” in immediate eyeline – you’ll want to burn them at times!
I’m sorry if this post has seemed overtly negative. I have tried to be honest and balanced, but that doesn’t always come across. I love my son very much, and I am very very grateful for him. He’s crying now, so I’m off to see he’s well fed. Here is a happy Christmas reindeer to make you smile.