In my lovely, pre-baby, naive bubble I pictured myself holding my beautiful little bundle. What I discovered, very quickly, in those first few weeks after giving birth to my beautiful little girl was a bit of an eyeopener.
She is perfect and beautiful in every way but there are a few things I never knew about babies. So, here are a few things I didn't know about having a newborn:
1. The 2nd day, better known as “The Night of Terrors"
The day after birth is where, generally, baby can sleep for up to 12 hours or more as they recover from the birth. I remember thinking "Wow, she's a great sleeper!” Oh man was I wrong, along came day 2 and apparently what is called the "Night of Terrors" hit me like a tonne of bricks and my lovely, peaceful sleeping child turned into a screaming, feeding mess. It was a bit of a shock to the system! I feel like she suddenly discovered she was out of her cosy little abode and wasn't at all that happy to be out!
2. Cluster Feeding.
I knew babies fed a lot, I had been told during antenatal classes that newborn babies could feed for 12hrs or more per day. I thought I was prepared however what I didn't realise was that she would end up feeding constantly for several hours at a time and switch from boob to boob at a dizzying rate. Apparently, cluster feeding is how a baby tries to bring on and increase the milk supply. Cluster feeding happened, for us, every afternoon and evening for 8 weeks solid. My poor boobs didn't know what hit them.
3. "The Witching Hour"
Another unknown for me. From about 4 or 5pm until about 10 or 11pm everyday my little girl was incredibly unsettled and fussy and nothing seemed to settle her. She would cry or cry for no apparent reason until a certain point when she would suddenly stop and go back to my placid little girl. There are endless theories as to why the witching hour occurs. One particular theory relates back to pregnancy which is when a mum is usually at her busiest and therefore so is baby. This carries on as a part of your baby’s routine even once they have been born. I'm not sure what the actual reason behind this is but what I do know is that it is very draining and disconcerting, especially for a first time mum!
4. Bonding with your baby.
I feel a bit guilty for admitting this but I really struggled to bond with my baby in those first few weeks. I expected, when my little bundle was placed in my hands, to instantly feel a bond and a connection with her. That wasn't the case. Oh, I loved my baby instantly, but at times when she wouldn't stop crying and nothing I did seemed to satisfy her I felt as though she hated me. I think a bond strengthens with time, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think a bond is created instantly and as time has gone on and she's started to smile at me, coo and giggle and respond to me the bond between us has strengthened.
I asked my Hubby what he didn't know about having a newborn. His response? Everything. It's quite true really.
Being first time parents we were about as prepared as we could be. Through antenatal classes and talking to other parents we soaked up as much information as we could but nothing can prepare you for when you actually take your baby home. There is no manual or set way to handle situations. It is a skill that is learnt with time and experience and through the use of common sense. I knew having a baby would be tough but I didn't realise just how TOUGH.
It's the unknown that's the killer. When you've tried EVERYTHING. She's been fed, burped, changed and she's not sick but she's STILL crying and the helplessness that comes with it. The feeling of I must be a bad Mum because I can't soothe her or help her.
If I can offer one piece of advice to all those expectant first time parents? It would be to not expect anything - why? Because you just can't plan anything. Babies don't understand plans and not every baby is the same.
Don't put any guilt on yourself when it comes to trying new things. For example, I hate dummies! Like seriously hate dummies. The day I gave in and gave Ella a dummy to help settle her for day sleeps, I bawled like a baby. I felt huge amounts of guilt because I had always sworn that i I would never give my baby a dummy. When I gave her a formula top up in the evening because i was lacking in milk because of cluster feeding, I bawled like a baby because I had sworn I would only ever breastfeed. The preconceived notions of how birth and parenthood would be drastically changed over time as i realised that what works for one parent and baby may not work for me.
There is enough guilt placed on Mother's as it is because of the choices they make, there is no need to make yourself feel guilty! Consider these things as tools for survival - if it works then don't feel guilty!