I’m awake next to my newborn son at 5:30am, five days after the birth of my son and want to spend a few moments just reflecting on this wild ride that has been motherhood so far.
Before you stop reading, don’t worry, I’m not going to go into blow-by-blow detail of the birth. But here is what I noticed about my experience:
I knew that I wanted as natural a birth as possible and was lucky to give birth with gas and air, a bit of morphine at the start and a TENS machine. It was a very intense experience (hey, I don’t think that any labour could be described as anything but that!) but I feel real gratitude that the labour went according to my wishes.
In order to feel able to survive the labour, I found myself having to give in totally to the pain. This thought stuck with me from a book I had recently read (the Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy – a book about Queenie, a lady dying of cancer). In the book, Queenie gets an infection and she is only able to deal with the pain through imaging that she was the pain itself. I knew I could resist the pain but if I did this, it would just prolong the experience. So I gave in time and time again to the pain, I became the pain, and it saw me through the experience.
Going through this experience makes me appreciate how amazing the NHS is and how fortunate I am to have had Gregg side-by-side with me the whole way. My midwife, Lisa, was so supportive, encouraging and had such a warmth and care about her. There were times with the labour where I felt I couldn’t do it – I didn’t feel able to get past a certain point – and it was only with the amazing support from Gregg and Lisa that I felt able to push on.
Rolling with the punches
After giving birth, my uterus didn’t contract properly and I lost a fair amount of blood. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by doctors and nurses who speedily got things under control. I then spent 2 nights in hospital recovering and getting some breastfeeding support as my son is tongue-tied and might have trouble feeding. I suppose this experience reminds me that parenthood is, to a large extent, rolling with the punches. Being wildly out of your depth and choosing to take the best next step forward, doing what you can where you are.
Becoming a parent
I don’t think I really knew what to expect about raising a baby. I had a lot of thoughts in my head about what I’d want to do and not want to do but the truth is that I’m already seeing how beautifully challenging the reality of raising a child is.
And here are some of my initial thoughts:
As you may have gathered from the time that I’m posting this, I’ve not got the world’s best sleeper. Well, that’s not 100% true – he does sleep really well – just not in his Moses basket. He either sleeps on the person looking after him or not at all. I thought I wouldn’t be someone who would contemplate co-sleeping but the reality of sleep deprivation and wanting the best for my son is such that I’d do anything in order to sort his sleeping out. And so I have tried co-sleeping tonight with a fair bit of success (and a lot of research about how to do it safely). To work out how to cope with this reality of not having a great sleeper I’ve asked for advice, done everything I can to get him to settle and remembered that this state isn’t permanent. Because the reality is that he is 5 days old and that this may pass or it may be that we will have to make some tough choices about sleeping and how we manage it. We will just need to take it a day at a time.
Before I gave birth, I wrote a message to my unborn son exploring what I hoped for him and for me on this journey of becoming a family. I said how I knew I’d need to reach out for help to model this way of being for him. But now I see that he is teaching me about asking for help more than I could have ever anticipated. He is helpless, dependent on me for each and every moment and, in being his anchor to the world, I have needed to turn to people for support. To realise the reality that I am just as dependent on others as he is on me. And that it’s ok. It’s normal. It’s part of being a human.
And in reaching out, I have been overwhelmed by how much I’ve been held with love by those I’ve connected with. From friends checking in with me, advice offered from people on Facebook, my dad holding me in his arms as I cried with exhaustion, my husband standing by me and taking over the lion’s share when needed, my mum making me nourishing food to keep me going, cards and gifts of celebration, my sister coming over to just hold the baby and let me sleep.
This experience shows me how rich I am in love, support and connection.
There is so much more I could write about this experience of becoming a mother…more that I’m sure I will write about. But for now I’m going to return to staring at my newborn son with wonderment and perhaps get a bit more sleep.