If anything, the pregnancy and the ensuing weeks post birth has taught me even more that you cannot control anything in this life, so simply to succumb to taking each day as it comes! As a previous semi control freak and super independent person, that was and is quite difficult at times, but I’m getting used to it! I think it’s a little bit, or very much like the lessons lockdown and corona are teaching us, but that’s for another post!
As I’m approaching the end of the Fourth Trimester (or the first 12 weeks of the baby life) I’ve sat and mused on things I may have liked to have known and didn’t, either from it being missed in my readings, or not having been discussed with friends and family or health care professionals prior. It’s great to put this down, as there have been so many moments during this intense time that we really don’t want to forget. During his 11th week, I am now able to take Sonny out in his pram for a walk when he’s awake (this is everything- it has been the happiest week!) and he’s able to spend some solo time in his play gym and on his bouncer chair. He’s given us lots of smiles and is a much happier boy- the colic is easing off as they promised it would, he often wakes up having a little chat to himself which makes us smile, and we are all delighted to be able to enjoy each other properly 🙂
Where I talk about intense times, I want to be clear this was exacerbated for us by Sonny having reflux and colic, which meant he wanted to feed more, as well as needing to be sat on someone more and wasn’t able to sleep as the colic/reflux would wake him. I don’t want to scare new mums to be, as this is something that was very real for us and may not be for you- please keep that in mind with everything I mention.
Here are some of my key reflections from these last few incredible weeks!
Firstly, I had no idea of the physical aches that I would have post labour. I had a great birth, but I wasn’t quite expecting the aches and delicate feeling- not that I expected to be out jogging either!! I remember the first walk I did post Sonny’s arrival, and I did it without him for a quick break and under instruction of my partner, hobbling up the road, as stiff as a board, and feeling out of breath with just a 100 metres! Your physical stamina comes back, like everything it always does, but you just have to take things slowly and you will marvel at your body and what it’s capable of: just know that any post labour aches for the first few days/weeks is very normal. Right now it’s been 11.5 weeks since Sonny was born, and due to his colic and lack of sleep, I’ve only managed an online yoga class once and I very much struggle with aches around my pelvic area which still feels delicate (it’s also worth mentioning I had significant pelvic floor syndrome during the pregnancy). For now, walks in the parks and remembering to do my pelvic floor exercises are everything! 🙂
Secondly, I also really didn’t have a clue that most (but not all) newborns will need assistance to sleep. We missed Sonny’s sleepy cues plenty of times, which then resulted in an overtired baby! I followed plenty of baby sleep experts on Instagram who advised that you should be observant of the baby’s awake windows. Eg, Sonny can only manage being awake for 1.5-2 hours before needing a nap, even if that nap is just 15 minutes. When we have missed it he has really cried and it’s been much more difficult to console him. Of course, you may have a baby who you can’t wake up- we all know of a baby like it and our friends little girl who is just 5 weeks old has routinely slept extremely well without issue or significant soothing to sleep. Sonny is now 11.5 weeks and is sleeping 3-4 x 15mins-1 hour sleeps between 10-6pm, never more than 2-3 hours within this daytime period, and has slowly increased his night time sleep to between 7-8 hours in chunks. At 6 weeks old, Sonny was maybe sleeping just 6 hours a day in total! #we’vecomealonglongwaytogether! Therefore the phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps” can be somewhat misleading. What if yours doesn’t sleep? For me the most important thing in any of this is relatability. You will get there, but it’s very hard when you’re reading and hearing others say their little one is sleeping the night through and/or several hours during the day, and you are really struggling, perhaps not fully enjoying the experience, and blaming yourself. Don’t! Comparison is indeed the thief of joy, though I totally appreciate the difficulty of such little sleep, little hands free time and a child upset due to colic in ways I couldn’t have done before and am able to reflect on this properly now we are past it. So grateful to be on the up! We have started using the “Huckleberry App” which I totally recommend: it sends you a message to advise of when the next nap is near, and whilst for Sonny it’s not always been to the minute (could be 10 mins before, 20 mins after) this has certainly been a super helpful way to work out when naps will be coming, and see the sleep progression.
This takes me onto cluster feeding, which is a totally normal and expected phase of baby development. It will make you feel like they are super attached to you: and they are: for good reason, but it’s extremely intense and can last longer than the books say. I didn’t fully understand the impact of cluster feeding prior, and how I would have so little hands free time. I also became very paranoid that I didn’t have enough breast milk and really scrutinized this: please don’t necessarily go down that path and do read up on cluster feeding (also know that if your baby has reflux or colic too, they will seek the breast more for comfort as it’s all they know to make themselves feel better. This can also make you feel more paranoid until you realise this key fact. Always best to discuss concerns with your health visitor and/or GP). Cluster feeds and lack of establishing roughly when naps would happen until about week 10 meant planning beyond a walk to the park was very tricky!
Fourthly, it’s really difficult to conceptualize what kind of pram you will need until you get one (unless you’ve always known what pram you will have and/or have pushed many of your friends/families prams over the years). I had this idea that we would be travelling a lot more than we are, and also that I would be bopping about London much more than I am with the baby. We bought a pram designed for ease of travel, which can also be put into overhead lockers on airplanes. I think it will be great, but it isn’t either that nice or helpful for a newborn (eg the top of the bassinet isn’t very sturdy and the wheels hit every paving slab and its lightweight design makes it feel like it’s going to topple with the slightest gust of wind) and it’s a little bit poorer quality. Of course, we also didn’t really know this as Corona meant we weren’t able to physically touch anything. We listened to friends recommendations and checked review sites, but even with all the research in the world, there isn’t anything like physically having one to know what you really need. We’ve now upgraded to an older model of an Uppa Baby vista (which makes it much more economical, with very little difference between this and this years version) and we LOVE it. I mean seriously love it! Sturdy and secure for our baby and makes our daily walks in the park a dream. As stores like John Lewis are once again open, you can try this out there!
Fifth; you have an idea that your baby is a simple little thing who will simply like all of these gadgets and things that you buy him/her. Wrong! I had this wonderful notion that I would be taking Sonny out and about in a sling, whilst sipping a coffee, nattering on the phone to a friend whilst he slept blissfully in my arms. To this date, Sonny has howled every time I have tried to put him in one! Luckily, we were given 2 by good friends of ours so we didn’t spend £150.00 to find this out first. Its just one of those things if you have, as it seems impossible to avoid.
Sixth, that sleepsuits and baby grows are really EVERYTHING in these first few weeks so it may be wise to hold back on all the fancy outfits. We personally didn’t buy Sonny a lot of clothes, mostly just these items, and we have a couple of nice outfits which have made for nice photos, but the reality is they do live in their baby grows and sleepsuits as they are just so practical as you spend your first few weeks at home a lot, getting to know one another.
My seventh point which feels amazing and remarkable to me, is that by week 10 you will already be looking back at photos with marvel and with some element of wistfulness at how your little baby has grown!! We cannot believe it. I really recommend that you keep a diary of the first month or first few weeks. I wrote something every few days and have typed it up so Sonny can read it when he’s older. It’s also very precious for us to remember things we may well forgot as time marches on.
Eighth, major life lesson here and as I’ve said elsewhere above: each day needs to be taken on its own merits. Just when you thought you had nailed something, everything changes. So keep going, talk about things with your partner, good friends, family if you need to and keep positive. I’m starting to dislike the phrase “You’ve got this” as it’s a bit overused on social media at the moment, and on a day where you don’t feel like you have anything, can feel a bit condescending, but certainly, like any bad or challenging day in life, you know brighter ones are also near.
Ninth: if you are happy to mix feed, consider your partner and yourself splitting up- temporarily! From birth it was quite evident to us both that if the 3 of us all slept in the same room, no one would be sleeping! My partner therefore did 4 hours at night to give me a break, and provide Sonny with either expressed milk or formula. All the books discourage use of bottles before 1 month old as not to confuse the baby, but Sonny loves both and does not seem confused in the slightest! It’s meant I was definitely going to have 4 hours straight rest, and in the early days when Sonny woke hourly, this was golden. Now Sonny is doing 7-8 hours in chunks throughout the night, we are intending to start getting back into the bedroom the 3 of us, like we tried and failed the very first night- it’s going to be very exciting!
Tenth: I’m surviving on sugar, spending many a night conked on the sofa and days I don’t brush my teeth till 2pm, and these mightn’t all be applicable to you, but these are the HAPPIEST days of my life yet. Definitely lower expectations, don’t make too many plans, and anticipate to spend many of these 12 weeks nestled at home together and working things out 🙂
If this was useful, I’d love to know, and equally I’d love to hear any reflections you had of your first 3 months, particularly during these lockdown months?