Once baby arrives, that’s the end of the pregnancy bits, the pain, the nausea, you become a human again, excellently placed to take care of your new infant with gusto. We all know babies are hard to look after, so thank goodness you can do it once the hard part on your own body is over…right? Ladies? Right…?!
What’s not written about so much or shown in films is that after the baby is born, you don’t instantly transform into Mummy and cut to the adorable toddler montage, full of laughs, slow motion/black and white pictures of pure joy. I can’t speak for every other Mums but I can certainly fill you in on my experience…if you’re eating your dinner, it might be worth coming back to this entry a bit later…you have been warned.
I had an emergency c-section and knew there would be some recovery time, in my head I thought, a few days of aching which I would barely feel due to my euphoria of having a baby and then the next couple of weeks would be filled with days out in the sunshine with my new family and we’d all settle into family life…
…I know I know, sickeningly naive, and surely accompanied by an equally twee soundtrack!
Skipping the four day hospital stay and cutting to getting home, the first two weeks have consisted of a continuation of bleeding, a lot of pain and a frustration when I have to ask people for help when it comes to things I want to do for my baby. For instance, it still hurts when I stand up, I can’t lift things, and I still get dizzy quite quickly when I’m on my feet. My husband has been doing the cooking and cleaning (I have to also acknowledge – endlessly helped by my wonderful Mum who has cooked and dropped round several meals, does any bits of washing up there is every time she comes round and never leaves without more washing being taken home to be done. I regret every teenage strop she had to endure – the woman is a Godsend!) Anyway, my husband has been doing all the household things whilst also helping in the middle of the night when he can AND going to work, albeit only the odd day but as his job often takes him on quite long journeys, I am constantly in awe of how he’s doing it all and still managing to always have a smile and a cuddle for me left at the end of the day.
Baby Scarlett has been marvellous, realistically, although we are course being kept awake at night, she is a good baby. And medically, she’s progressing ideally, still slightly underweight but growing daily, and has so far passed all her checks with flying colours.
Now, on the other hand, Mummy has been slightly letting the side down; recovery is hard but I was half prepared for that (I say ‘half’ as I admit happily I clearly had scenes from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ in mind when I imagined the early post birth days.) but after two weeks, I finally mentioned to the midwife that I was struggling; feeling fevery, achy and my tummy was in quite a bit of pain. I still felt like a wimp saying it – after all, some of the things I was mentioning: exhaustion, pain, headaches, were surely down to the c-section. And as the weathers so hot at the moment, the temperature and sweating were both presumably down to that. After an examination however, the midwife agreed that my stomach wasn’t feeling right and I started a course of antibiotics. By day 4 of those antibiotics with no improvement, the GP referred me to the hospital for blood tests and scans as the suspicion is that there may be some leftover tissue causing a bit of a problem, and it will soon be decided whether to just blast it with the stronger antibiotics that I’ve been put on or have another op to remove whatever’s there. We’re currently awaiting more test results.
So now on top of the normal recovery, I’m fighting off ‘infection unknown’, whilst trying to be the supermum I had on my first time Mum plan of action. Again, I’m surrounded by endlessly supportive friends and family so I have it significantly easier than it could be. But before having children, I never considered just how much there was going on after the birth date and even after you get discharged from hospital. Your body, your brain and your sanity are thrown in at the deep end. The sleepless nights are talked about, but not so much the pain in sitting up still after a week and beyond. You see serene pictures of happy Mums breastfeeding, not a little clip of a woman crying as she tries to get her baby to latch on to cracked, often bleeding nipples!
Whilst recovering from a major operation (in the case of c-section births) you have to suddenly know how to soothe a screaming baby, find a way to try and rest to avoid further illnesses or straining your wound, and deal with the emotions of it all as your hormones ride the waltzers all round your body. And at the same time, life keeps happening, bills still need to be paid; if the plumbers due, you can never guarantee to be dressed/without one or both boobs on show/be able to time it when babies not crying! You want visitors for sanity, but on the other hand you want to disappear until you’re human again. And if you do have visitors, you half want them when baby is behaving and/or sleeping so that they don’t have to witness the madness; but you also realise that with every minute you have guests and baby is sleeping, you’re missing out on potential minutes you too could be sleeping!
And all of this…and we only have one!! How people do all of the above whilst attempting to keep up with a toddler, I have NO idea!
In all honestly, I expected it to have more strain on my relationship with my husband but that’s the one thing that’s been much easier. We’re a team, comrades trying to get through each day as smoothly as possible! Through the first two weeks, we’ve laughed together , cried together, taken it in turns to give pep talks when necessary, and made sure we at least have a five minute cuddle at the end of each day.
The first two weeks have been madness, and we are more than aware that we’re nowhere near the end of the tunnel for this particular stage. But for every time we finally get into bed only to be welcomed by another scream – we have several moments of pure joy just staring at her beautiful face. For every time I cry at the pain because baby kicks me in the very painful stomach whilst breastfeeding – we’ve laughed ten times at something we’ve just done or she’s just done. If it was just as hard as it is, I don’t think the human race would have survived, no-one would have kids! But it’s usually the hardest things in life that are the most rewarding. In ten years time, I probably won’t remember the four tries it took them to get my blood in hospital earlier today, and the pain I was in as they tried, I’ll remember looking at my baby and my husband, both bent over sleeping whilst we awaited more tests and being overcome with just how much I love them both and wouldn’t be without them. If we’d have know how hard it would be during pregnancy and in the weeks after she was born, would we have still done it? Abso-bloody-lutely.
(Pictured below, my poor family take a nap whilst we find ourselves back in the familiar ward)
It’s such a hard thing to explain, it’s been the best and hardest two weeks of my life. I’ve cried at trying to breastfeed but been happy persevering, I’ve been bent over in pain with a post op infection but am perfectly calm about it being sorted. I’ve developed patience I never imagined I was capable of, a tolerance I would have put money on never having and in some weird way, I’ve enjoyed every second.
In books and films they end at the birth scene with a, ‘they lived happily (and pain free) ever after.’ Because you can’t explain the after experience without sounding a bit deluded when you say, ‘oh but it’s all worth it.’ If someone had described these two weeks to me and then told me I’d be happy about it, I would have assumed they were drunk or on too many painkillers to see straight!
Scarlett is 16 days old and doing amazingly, Daddy is a pillar of strength and also doing amazingly. Mummy is the weak link dragging a bit behind but getting there slowly but surely. There may be another op looming, there’s definitely some more extra pain as we get rid of the infection, but in the future, the photos and memories will highlight the moments that make it all worth it. We’ll be those annoying parents who don’t warn new parents of the reality of this time because we’ll know they too will come out of it having survived and looking back with the same rose tinted glasses that get passed through the generations.
For now I’m going to try and sneak in some shut eye as my beautiful baby daughter is finally sleeping having fallen asleep on my chest whilst I write, but I know I only have a couple of hours max, the painkillers have kicked in so for a few wonderful minutes, I’m just going to soak up the fabulous feeling of being a new Mum. It’s really tough but this is the first and only time that all this will happen so these precious moments need to be cherished, they’re the moments that get us through.
If any new Mums are reading, I salute you, it really isn’t easy, but somehow we all know we’ll get through it, there’s a tiny new person depending on us, so throw sleepless nights at us, add in some pain, mix in any challenge you want; there’s a supermum in all of us and we WILL succeed!