There’s quite a few things that either came as a shock realisation after Donny was born, or that I wished people had explained better (or I had taken the time to better prepare for). Everyone tells you odd things like ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ (the least helpful piece of advice ever, though I understand the spirit in which it is meant) and ‘don’t strain yourself’ but there’s a lack of practical advice on how to actually achieve this. Obviously every person, relationship and baby is different, so some of these things won’t apply to everybody, but here is what I personally wish someone had told me (and my partner) before we came home.
Talk To Your Partner About Your After-birth Expectations, and Be Rude And Kick People Out If You Have To
People kept telling me to limit visitors but it turns out this is really hard, especially if, like me, you have a bizarre need to please EVERYBODY. On the whole my birth experience was great, but if I could turn back time, I wish I had been more insistent on not having any visitors. I should have made it clearer to Jaime that I would be more comfortable being left alone for at least the first day and preferably much longer.
I’ll admit I’m naturally not a hugely sociable person. I like being on my own. I am happy to have visitors on MY terms, which means I like to know who is coming and when. Turns out, giving birth didn’t change this at all, but it made it worse (for me) when I didn’t get what I wanted. I definitely felt that Jaime was trying to do too much too soon, and was feeling guilty for not involving people, and I really really should have gone through with him BEFORE the birth what our expectations were. I got him to read books and things and we did talk about a birth plan, but we seemed to miss out on what we thought would be happening immediately after Donny was born.
None of my family live close to me, so I hadn’t expected any visitors and was actually pretty happy that it would be this way. Somehow, our housemate ended up turning up a few hours after the birth and staying with us at the hospital until we went home. While she is lovely and we get on really well, at this stage I was hobbling around, bleeding a LOT and trying to get the hang of breastfeeding, and also extremely, extremely tired. Then, Jaime’s boss – who I know, but am not great friends with – was the next person to show up, just before we went home, and sit with us in the hospital room. She had texted (not me, as we’re not even friendly enough to have exchanged numbers) and asked if she could come, and Jaime had just said yes without asking me. I also don’t remember being asked if it was OK if our housemate came. At the time I tried not to mind, but actually, I did, and I should have kicked up more of a fuss and got Jaime to ask them to go. It made me feel very pressured – we were waiting on Donny’s first poo and also the midwives wanted to see him feed etc. Having our housemate there made this feel harder and less relaxed. She also kept saying that she was tired and hungry and wanted to go home, which made me feel pretty shitty since I had been awake for going on two days solid and really just wanted to chill out and not have to worry. I also felt like I actually didn’t want anyone else to hold my baby, really, but they wanted to have a go and I felt I had to hand him over.
So, my advice would definitely be to set out your expectations with your partner (or whoever will be with you) before the birth and ensure they are ready and willing to kick people out if necessary. It will be easier to do this before than after if you’re anything like me, since afterwards I was hormonal and feeling vulnerable and totally unable to stick up for myself.
Even If Your Birth is Easy, You Still Need Time To Recuperate
I was lucky enough to have a straightforward birth with no complications and I felt frickin AWESOME afterwards. But, in retrospect, I NEEDED time to myself and with my new little family to recover. It kind of felt like my entire midsection had no muscles left at all for a while – even just walking upright was tough on some days – and yet many of the people I was around for the first few days seemed to not recognise this and kept telling me I should get out of the house. Again, it’s partly my fault for not being more insistent that I absolutely didn’t need to get out of the house and was quite happy slouching around in my PJs between the sofa and the bed. I ended up allowing myself to be dragged out in the first week and did NOT feel any better for it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Lock yourself in your room if you have to.
I feel this is something else that could have been made easier by having a frank discussion with Jaime BEFORE the birth. I tried to explain my feelings after I had ended up crying in the bathroom in the first couple of days, but was way too hormonal to make much sense and was also much more upset about it all than I should have been. Among Jaime’s many lovely qualities is a need to make other people happy and help them as much as possible, and I really had to hammer it home that these two weeks were NOT for doing that, they were for us, and in the politest possible way, other people could go fuck themselves if they couldn’t see why I might want to stay home for a bit.
Be A Bitch
I snapped a little bit after my housemate told me we were ‘causing shit for ourselves’ by allowing our FOUR DAY OLD baby to sleep on our chests rather than in his crib (he did not settle at all when we tried). I wasn’t rude, although I feel I had every right to be, but I just pointed out that he was only FOUR DAYS OLD, with a smile on my face. She didn’t take it well, but I actually found that I didn’t care. She got over it. Forget other people, just for a little while. Be selfish. Do whatever you want, whatever works for you, whatever makes you and your baby (and your partner, if applicable) happy. It’s easier said than done, but it’s so, so liberating once you realise you have more important things to worry about than butthurt acquaintances. Anyone worth knowing will be more than understanding.
Maternal Instinct Is Real And A Bit Scary
I have never felt more protective/paranoid over anything else than I do about my baby. I am generally very laid-back, and although I can be a bit of a worrier, I never saw myself worrying as much as I do. I still find it pretty difficult to relax if I cannot see Donny at all times. People kept offering to take him for a little bit so I could have a nap, and I think I offended one or two by refusing. It was nothing to do with them, it was just that I could not sleep if I didn’t know exactly where he was and could make sure he was still happy (and breathing). It’s kind of hard to deal with at first since it can make you feel crazy, but it is NORMAL. Maybe some people feel it less or more, but it does not make you insane or paranoid or whatever else. It makes you a parent. You worked hard for this little person, it’s kind of understandable you’re going to want to make sure they’re always as happy as they can possibly be.
Get A Night Light
The first couple nights were the most difficult as we hadn’t reaaaally prepared yet. We realised really quickly that we needed a dim light to have on all the time because getting up and down to turn lights on was ridiculous, and our bedside lights were much too bright. We bought two LED night lights from Argos for £6.99, and they are great. They come on automatically in the dark, and turn off when it’s light, and give a nice soft white light, plus they are LEDs so cheap to run. They’re bright enough to change a nappy by, and we hang a muslin over them once Donny’s gone down to sleep so it’s a little darker in the room and easier for us to catch a nap too. These are definitely one of my best buys so far – which is weird because I didn’t see these on any ‘baby essentials’ list. I’d definitely say they’ve been an essential for us.
Get Something Comfy For YOU To Sleep On
It’s amazing how quickly you notice that your mattress was made in hell by pointy spring demons when you’re awake most of the night. I bought a memory foam mattress topper from Amazon for about £30, since we couldn’t afford a whole new mattress, and it could not have arrived soon enough.
Make Sure You Always Have Food
Babies make you HUNGRY. I am breastfeeding so that probably makes me slightly hungrier, but I imagine even with a bottle fed baby, it’s hungry work. I have spent some nights almost fully awake and so have needed way more food than normal. I order a lot from Approved Food because they have great offers and bulk priced snack type food, and often good prices on other stuff like juice, pasta, sauces, canned food, etc. It’s often close to or actually expired, but this has never mattered to me, and you can save crazy amounts on the retail prices of stuff.
Portable Cots Are Awesome
Donny sleeps in a small crib with a removable side, which we have attached to our bed. This works great but once it was attached it meant we couldn’t move it into the living room for him to nap in here, in constant view. Instead, I bought a pop up travel cot like this from eBay so that he can sleep where I can see him all the time. He will sleep in his bouncy chair, but as he is so tiny he tends to slump right down in it so I prefer not to leave him there for too long – the pop up cot means he is right next to me while I do whatever.