First family photo

I’D DONE IT! I birthed my baby the way I’d wanted given the circumstances! I was on a high.

Here I lay, in my tiny hospital room, with my fresh baby asleep in the bassinet next to me. I know I need to sleep, but I’m still on such a high. I look over at my quiet baby boy. What am I supposed to do now? It’s great that he’s just laying there so quiet, right? Does he need his nappy changed? Is he too hot? Does he need to feed? Can I pick him up? When will I know?

New baby in bassinet

The midwife comes in. When did you last feed him? “When he came out”. How did he feed then? “Ummm, ok I guess – the midwife at the time didn’t say anything”. I think to myself “oh my god are you even feeding him properly? You have no idea what you are doing!”

And so it starts, this looming voice, confident that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and in fact, I’m probably failing, and now I’m not just failing as a person, I’m failing my sweet, little, helpless boy.

Newborn baby

Several midwives through different shifts visit me. Each seems to show me a different way to breast feed. My little guy still isn’t interested. What am I doing wrong? Can someone just tell me definitively what to do? I feel like whatever I try is wrong.

They tell me to only offer my breast if he’s hungry (how am I supposed to know?), to take it away if he doesn’t want it and put him back in the bassinet. Something small twinges inside me. Wait, this doesn’t feel right. But they’re the professionals. These midwives help hundreds of women just like me to breast feed each week. Why am I not getting this??

We rally on. A nurse comes in to discuss contraception. Are you serious? I’ve literally just pushed a baby out! Sorry, but sex is the last thing on my mind right now and I’m confident that will be the case until I see my GP in the next fortnight. She continues to pressure the matter. Really? Eventually she leaves. My husband and I look at each other in shock.

My little man still isn’t interested in suckling. I can feel the staff’s concern grow. I feel my fear grow that they’re going to force me to formula feed because I’m failing to produce the sustenance my beautiful boy needs. I’m concerned about the consequences of introducing formula so early. A midwife asks if I expressed antenatally. “Yes, but I could only get about 4ml over 5 or so tries”, I say ashamed of myself. “Where is it?”, she asks. “At home in the freezer, I didn’t think it’d be enough to use.” She convinces my husband to go get it.

Newborn baby open eyes swaddled

In the meantime, she encourages me to keep helping my baby cough up mucous that seems to have been bothering him for the last 12 hours. Her theory is that he doesn’t feel hungry because the mucous is in his tummy but he may need a bit of milk to help cough it up. 5ml might be all he needs; he only has a tiny tummy after all.

Hubby returns with my tiny tubes of liquid gold. The midwife pinches and pulls my nipples for 10-15 minutes to get another few mls out. She heats up my frozen milk and syringe feeds the lot to my baby boy. In the next hour he coughs up a bit then takes to suckling at my breast.

We’ve been discussing discharge all day. I was ready to go home when they took me to the post-natal ward but wanted the little guy to successfully feed first. It’s 3pm the day after he was born now. He’s now suckling – I feel like it’s correct. The midwives are encouraging me to stay. All I want right now is to be in my own home. I’ve had enough of being in hospital. I’m ready to start this new life. We get discharged. Yey!

We get home! My mum is there! She has cuddles for the first time. She is completely smitten as expected. Then she leaves. Hubby and I get ready for bed. Here I am thinking, “he’s perfect. He slept pretty happily in the bassinet at the hospital so I can just put him down in there and get an hour or two before feeding him again. Then I’ll just keep doing that until I’ve had some sleep.”

This is probably a good place to remind you that Monday night, I got about an hour sleep because of my induction. Tuesday night, I maybe got an hour because I was so excited about how my birth went and how I was now a mum and how beautiful my baby was. I was in complete and utter awe. Now here we are, Wednesday night. I sit up in bed to feed him. Then I say goodnight and put him in his bassinet. Simple, right? WRONG!

Hubby has barely slept the last two nights either so I suggest I’ll go to the lounge room and put him down in the bassinet in there when I can and will get a bit of sleep. Ha! How much sleep do you think I got? Yep, that’s right, zip, none, nadda! But you see, what I didn’t realise at the time was that my little guy, with his whole 24 hours of wisdom but a life time of not ever being influenced by society, he knew that he needed to be skin-to-skin, at my breast, so that my milk would come in, so that he could be sustained, the way nature intended. He surely has been my greatest teacher, right from the start.

New mum and baby skin to skin

By Thursday morning I was exhausted. A type of exhaustion I have never felt before! If you’d told me a year ago that I could even survive this long with this little sleep, I would have laughed in your face. Thankfully he settled on hubby while I got some much-needed rest. When I awoke, my body was involuntarily shaking. My husband and I looked at each other, a moment of panic, trying to work out what was going on. He handed my baby to me. My body relaxed. I too needed my baby.

A visiting midwife tells me I must be doing something wrong, babies should get all the milk out in about 15 minutes each side. I shouldn’t have him latched for more than that because he will get tired. “Thanks”. Again, I feel like I’m doing ok…. it doesn’t hurt… but maybe I’m not. Maybe I am doing it wrong.

After a few more nights of just wanting to be skin-to-skin, my wise little man had well and truly brought my milk in. One thing I hadn’t been prepared for was just how much of a mess this breastfeeding gig would create! I had purchased a couple of packs of cloth nappies, intended for spit up. These, now 2 years later, are still named “boobie towels” in this household. But now, I could feed, then get 1.5 hours sleep before he would rouse ready to fill his tummy once more. This meant I could get 4.5 hours sleep per night! This I could work with!

Afternoon naps were my opportunity to top up my sleep – especially on nights where I hadn’t got my 4.5 hours. I was surviving. Some days I was so tired, I would cry. Some nights, I let him grizzle for 10 minutes because I just didn’t have the energy to sit up, I just needed to lay down and for the life of me, I couldn’t get him to feed laying down.

But eventually, 1.5 hours sleep at a time became 2 hours. Then 2 hours became 3 hours. Then just before we hit the 4 month sleep regression (more of a developmental progression so I don’t really like calling it regression), we were only waking once or twice a night for 5-10 minutes. “We did it”, I’d thought! Amazing!

Then once or twice became three or four times. Then at 7 months he basically just started refusing to go into his cot full stop. I wasn’t sleeping. I was crying from exhaustion again. One morning, I let him lay down in bed with me cuddling. He latched. He fell back to sleep. I was so petrified of SIDS that I couldn’t sleep.

After a couple of weeks of very light sleep with him in bed beside me, I started to sleep deeper. I had made sure my bed was safe for bed sharing. I was actually getting some sleep again. Yet I felt ashamed to tell anyone I was bed sharing.

By the time he turned 9 months old, I sold his cot. We were both sleeping the best we had ever slept (except that sweet spot of a couple of weeks where he was only waking once or twice). Now, here we are just over 2 years old, and we are both loving our bed-sharing journey and no longer look back. When people ask I say confidently, “Yes, we co-sleep”, “No, he won’t want to sleep in the same bed as his Mumma forever”, “Yes he still wakes in the night, but the beauty now is that he lifts my shirt up, latches, sucks for 5-10 minutes and is back in dreamland without me having to fully awake”.

This motherhood gig has definitely proved to me how strong I am. It has taught me to be more flexible. Just when you think you’ve got it, they throw you in another direction. But together, you learn, you bond, and although it is hard, it is the most beautiful experience.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed the insight into my early days of motherhood and I look forward to sharing more later. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Edriana X

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