Looking after my newborn baby
There’s no denying it – there’s something incredibly precious about being in the presence of a newborn baby. And so naturally, when your little one’s born, your friends and family will be longing to visit. The only catch is, in those first few weeks, while you’ll be needing all the help you can get, a stream of excited visitors may be the last thing you want.
We weren’t sure how we’d feel about an influx of visitors, but I suspected we’d want to hang low for a few weeks, and we did. Only the tiniest handful of friends plus our two private midwives were visiting us. We wanted and needed heaps of time and space to ourselves. There was just so much going on, so much to adjust to. It was such an intensely challenging and demanding time. And yet it was also a uniquely wonderous time. At times I felt as though we’d entered a whole other world. We had. The concept of time didn’t exist. It was as though we were hanging somewhere, suspended in a blissful bubble of unbounded love.
Anyway, back to visitors … you may have heard – giving birth (even if your experience goes smoothly), is said to be equivalent to running 50km. I think the most I’ve ever run before in one go is 5, and I was knackered after that. The difference is, you’d probably have time to rest and recoup after a marathon. After birth? – forget about it. Well, you’ll have time to rest, but you’ll need to seize it as and when it presents itself. If you’re responding to your baby when he or she wakes, it may be a long time (anywhere between weeks and years) before you sleep right through the night. So you may be hugely sleep deprived and not in the mood for a stream of visitors.
As for coherence … days, and then weeks passed with me seriously wondering if I’d ever be able to hold a vaguely intelligible conversation again. Whatever came out of my mouth all felt very blahdidblahblahbla. I remember struggling to answer the simplest questions that the midwives asked, like, “how’s the feeding going?” Everything was so blurred as night and day merged into one.
You also bleed for up to six weeks after birthing (known as the lochia). It’s basically the farewell of all the blood and tissues in your uterus which nourished your baby. And you may have to heal from having had a few stitches down there. Not that you can’t heal if you have visitors round, but healing happens faster with good rest.
You might also just not have the time, energy or inclination to get out of your PJ’s. And if you’re breastfeeding on demand then chances are you’ll have your boobies out a lot. Of course you might be fine with your friends and acquaintances seeing you like that. You might not. I spent the first few weeks mostly in my PJ’s and they were frequently covered in something or the other – typically wee, spew, boobie milk (when you’re breast-feeding your boobies take a bit of time to learn how to be less enthusiastic about their newfound skill) … and occasionally poo.
I can’t emphasise how much things have changed since then. I remember how a single breast-feed could go for over an hour … and it wasn’t long until the next one. And really, breast-feeding while chatting to visitors isn’t so conducive, so I’d often be alone with Joshi in the bedroom during feeds. One day I made the crazy mistake of popping out for a massage without leaving any boobie milk with Simon (hubby) for Joshi. When I got home I found a very unfamiliar sight – a distressed-looking Simon. Just imagine being the hubby of breastfeeding mamma and having to pacify a I’m-so-hungry-I’m-gonna-cry-as-loud-as-I-can-until-I-get-boobies baby. OMG, talk about stressful. That really wasn’t a good decision of mine – popping out!
Also, with the intense sleep deprivation that came with those first few weeks, I probably had less energy than ever had before. The little energy I did have I needed to spend on taking care of Joshi. I was in need of all the nurturing and support I could get. And I definitely wouldn’t have been able to cope with any visitors who didn’t feel entirely at home and able to help themselves to whatever it was they wanted or needed.
So in the end, the only visitors we had weren’t really visitors, but our support team – close friends who were also oodles of help. In the last month of my pregnancy we invited a handful of friends over one night and that small team of people became our support team. I am still so grateful to them. We’d really have struggled without their support, their help and their love. Whenever any of them arrived it felt as though I’d won the lottery.
It’s like a dream now, looking back, but just getting a glass of water was near impossible at times. It’s amazing how incredibly thirsty you can get while breast-feeding and so when I was lying there like a beached whale, having someone available to bring me a glass of water or better still, fill up my water bottle, was simply luxurious.
I remember a friend of mine, pre-Joshi times, a new mamma, telling me that just getting a shower was sometimes not possible for her. I only believed her when I became a mamma myself. Unless there was someone to watch Joshi for a sec it wouldn’t happen, even a really, really, super-duper short one. Taking care of a newborn requires all your time and attention.
For a lot of the time I was I busy with breast-feeding Joshi. To help me, I started using this app called the “food pee poo” app – really useful when you’re completely and utterly brain-dead. On it I could record when his last feed was, how long it lasted and which boobie it was on. When I wasn’t feeding him I was busy doing any of the following:
- burping him,
- EC’ing him (looking for and responding to his elimination cues and then holding him over the potty lid),
- changing his nappy when I missed the cues (although a lot of the time he was nappy free),
- trying to work out why he was crying,
- seeing how far I could squirt my boobie milk and then, with utter exhaustion …
- passing out.
The best was when someone from our support team would bring a home-cooked meal over. Better still was when they’d cook in our kitchen, feed us and clean up while spontaneously responding to any need of the moment. Most of the time it was small things I needed a hand with – like having someone pass me something which was just out of reach – typically my water-bottle, book or iPhone. (If I wasn’t going to reply to my messages I could at least attempt to read them).
I think that something to consider when deciding the number and frequency of visitors when your baby arrives – too many of them can over stimulate your baby, especially if your baby ends up being ‘pass-the-parcel’. Plus newborn babies are so sensitive – lots of different perfumes on various visitors, for example, can be overpowering for them.
I’d suggest to new mammas that they only have visitors round if they really feel up for it. Even if you’ve arranged for someone to come over, don’t be shy to reschedule at the last minute. If there’s any time in your life when it’s okay to totally put your needs and desires first, it’s now. And if you feel shy about accepting any offers from your visitors to help, get over it. There will always be something for them to do – putting on laundry, hanging it up, folding it, washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, taking rubbish out, etc, etc. Hmmm, cleaning pooey nappies – probably best to do those yourself.