It’s been a rollercoaster, life with our little woman. Leo goes back to work tomorrow, bringing to an end the first phase of the postpartum period. For three weeks we’ve been living in a bubble – walks during the day, eating chocolate digestives by the packet, endless cups of tea, nighttime feeds, tears (so many tears) and trips to the Rotunda for one reason or another. It’s been, probably, the most transformative three weeks of our lives, at least since we went through this experience as newborns ourselves. It’s really amazing just how much time it takes keeping a tiny person ticking over. Breastfeeding has been one of the hardest things imaginable, I never would have thought it would have been such an overwhelming task. I’ll write more about that later, but all I want to say for now is that the support in Ireland, I feel is inadequate. I am a healthy and smart young woman, and the struggle I felt to establish breastfeeding with my baby almost drove me to quit the whole thing, and made me feel truly incompetent and helpless. But we got there in the end, we’re still getting there to be honest, but it get easier every day. Today we walked to Newbridge House in Donabate and I was able to feed her in the sling as we walked, a milestone for us.
If I could characterise the first week, it would be ‘struggle’. A huge struggle. I slept only a few hours, and Leo didn’t sleep many more. The problems all seemed to centre around breastfeeding, and we even thought we might have to spend a night in hospital on day 3/4. Luckily, Leo is a super human and devised an amazing feeding schedule on the advice of the doctor. He also let me sleep for a chunk of time, which saved me from breaking down altogether. The first days were made harder by two things – recovery itself (although by all means I had an excellent delivery, needing only a few stitches). I lost a bit of blood and was pale and feint for a few days. This made it hard to summon up the energy to do what needed to be done, but the hormones got me where I needed to be. My body was generally exhausted and sore from the whole thing. I went through the entire labour in one day, and that shock to the system was something indeed. The second thing was the lack of preparedness. We realised Anna was a lot smaller than most of the baby grows we had, and the bibs were totally inadequate. We did a lot of fervent and too-small, uneconomical washes in those first days. I also didn’t realise how important simple things like a comfortable chair and a breastfeeding pillow would be. Eventually we all got the hang of changing nappies and feeding, and Anna began to thrive. For her one week birthday celebration, we had a cake.
Week two was a muddle of more of the same. We had a lot of visitors around, which was exhausting for me and stressful for her. The milk came in, which brought with it a sense of relief but also pain and confusion about what to do, and when. I attended a local breastfeeding support group and am looking forward to getting to know those ladies more. Our public health nurse came and weighed Anna, and gave us a lot of information about her development and immunisations etc. She was amazing and kind, it was a real reassurance. Somehow, in spite of the business, we managed to take our first train journey, have our first meal out (Korean), get some sleep, and keep the house in a reasonable state of cleanliness. I know the advice is to take it easy, let the house get messy and take care of yourself, but I have never been one to…take advice. No, not really, but I love having a clean space, it relaxes me and a relaxed mum is a relaxed baby.
Week three, here we are. Anna and I made it to our first meeting together (!), the service user forum at the Rotunda. It was a great experience, I am keen to share my suggestions and feedback on their maternity services, and it was great to initiative Anna into service user engagement at such a young age. We had her two week GP checkup, and she’s gained a good bit of weight, which is a huge relief. Last night we even got about seven hours sleep. Since she’s gaining weight I no longer feel like I need to rigorously get her up every 2-3 hours for a feed. If she can sleep 4, more power to her. The main thing getting me down is the posseting, which is constant. I have to change my top several times a day, and we’ve had quite a few explosions already. I hope she grows out of it soon. I knew babies peed and pooped a lot, the vomiting is something else altogether. Tomorrow will be a challenge – our first day home alone, but luckily after that it’s the weekend, and we get two full days with Leo before it’s back to the grind. I’m really looking forward to getting into our ‘real life’ routine. This is it, it’s her and me at home most of the week, with Leo in the evenings and on the weekends. I’m wondering how realistic it is to hope to get PhD work done so soon, but I’m up for the challenge!