- You’ve lost count of how many people have fondled your boobs in the last couple of weeks…
- Do you even own any clothes that aren’t pyjamas? ‘Cos if it doesn’t have a stretchy waistband then it may never see the light of day again.
- Food has never tasted so good to you. Gimme all the cheese and sushi!
- Caffeine is no longer optional in your life. Can you hook it straight into your veins or…?
- You can’t stop yourself from referring to yourself or your partner in the third person. Yep, Mama does need you to stop crying and for Dad to get her some wine…
- You thought you were obsessed with cleanliness before?! Think again… *washes hands and sanitises everything in sight*
- Your phone is out of storage because you’ve snapped so many almost-identical photos of your newborn. They’re just so cute, though!
- You might have strained your eyes from rolling them at people who claim that they’re ‘exhausted’. They don’t know the true meaning of tired!
- It’s now totally normal to discuss bodily functions with almost-strangers.
- Google has become your best friend and worst enemy.
- You swore you wouldn’t be those parents… but at least 50% of your conversations have been about poop in the last couple of weeks.
- You’ve gone from productive girl boss to putting ‘shower’ on your to do list (and not really even being that fussed if you tick it off…)
- You have a lot of opinions about property development because of your slight addiction to Homes Under the Hammer.
- You’re a little convinced that staring at the baby will keep it alive. Constant vigilance!
- Gourmet meals are ones that you get to eat with both hands whilst they’re still warm.
- Have you stumbled into some kind of time warp? Because you could have sworn that only 10 minutes has gone by but it seems to be getting dark again?! What day is it?!?
- You don’t dare leave the house without a suitcase packed to the brim with baby supplies. What if they need their nappy changing 10 times whilst you walk round the block?! *packs more nappies*
- You have strong opinions on nappy brands already. Aldi, FTW!
- You’ve had a moment where you wondered whether you should have just gotten a puppy instead…
- Are you in some kind of musical? Because you’re spending a lot of time singing these days…
- You’re convinced that your baby might be smarter than they let on. How do they know to scream as soon as you are otherwise occupied?!
- You’ve completed at least three new series on Netflix since your little bundle of joy arrived.
- You feel a little bit devastated and a little bit ecstatic when people point out that your baby has grown. You mean they’re not going to be a little squishy newborn forever?!
- You’re a bit smug because you’re convinced that you have the objectively cutest baby on the planet. It’s not because you are biased or anything…
New motherhood is as difficult as everyone says it is. Through all the newborn baby cuddles and tiny little onesies, there’s so much to learn and so little sleep to help your brain learn it… Every midwife and health visitor you see asks about your mood; they are angling to see if you have the signs of post-natal depression, and rightly so, but, as I have said to every one of them: I am overwhelmed, but not disproportionately to a rather overwhelming situation. I have cried over my (in)ability to breastfeed, I have worried about leaving the house and stepping into the outside world, and I have panicked about all of the difficulties to come. But I am okay. We are okay. Survival is key right now, and, inspired by Modern Mrs Darcy, here’s what’s saving my life right now…
Whatsapp at 3am
A lot of what we learnt at our NCT classes has already been thrown out of the window just two weeks in, but there has been one part of them that has been invaluable to me – the other people that we met. Our babies have all been born now, so we are sharing late night wisdom and reassurances between us. Everyone needs a cheerleader every now and again, and having a group of people who are going through exactly the same thing at exactly the same time is very encouraging! Especially when you feel like the only person awake in the middle of the night, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone.
I haven’t taken to breastfeeding with quite the enthusiasm that I thought I would. It is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. It’s emotional, for sure, but it also bloody hurts and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Even if you do everything right, it’s a sensitive part of the body to be putting to work so soreness is inevitable. I’ve been drowning in Lansinoh nipple cream as a way to get through the first couple of weeks and the pain is already lessening. Let’s hope it continues that way…
Kindle iPhone App
In theory, you should spend every precious moment soaking up time with your newborn. In reality, trying to stay awake in the middle of the night whilst a baby sleeps on top of you is a little tricky without distraction. A friend recommended I download the Kindle app to my phone for those late night feeds, so I’ve been keeping myself occupied with a bit of Jilly Cooper when I need something to help me stay alert.
Delightfully, I woke up on the second day after giving birth with a dry skin rash situation all over my chin and neck. Apparently due to hormonal changes (of course) this isn’t uncommon, as my frantic Googling revealed. Through many scary forum threads from people who’d suffered for months, I found the suggestion of aqueous cream to treat the problem and promptly sent Paul out to buy some for me. It’s since mostly cleared up, which could be due to natural changes in hormones or the cream doing its work – but either way, slathering it on helped relieve some of the ‘tight’ feeling of the dry skin and helped me feel a bit more in control!
Yes, I know, I know. There have been some problems with these machines but as far as I’m concerned right now, this thing is a lifesaver. I want to breastfeed as much as possible but I’ve had some real problems so when he just really needs feeding there’s really no other option than a bit of formula. It’s not the end of the world – but the fact that this machine means you can have a bottle in hand in 2 minutes makes all the difference when you feel like it might be.
Waitrose Daily Sushi Counter
Okay, I realise this is the most middle class thing I’ve ever said – but fresh sushi from Waitrose is making life worth living right now. They opened the counter at our local Waitrose the end of my pregnancy (it’s like they knew!) and at least 25% of my meals have come from there in the last two weeks. Salmon nigri is my crack, and I’m not ashamed that it makes me feel a hundred times better when I’m exhausted and hungry.
For the first few nights, Benjamin wouldn’t sleep if he wasn’t being held by one of us, which meant sleeping in shifts and trying not to nod off at god-awful-o-clock in the morning whilst a sleeping baby used us as a giant pillow. We figured out that he was waking himself up by thrashing his arms about, but were a bit wary of swaddling him properly with a blanket or muslin as all the advice suggests this can affect hip development. A bit of frantic Googling brought up the GroSnug – a little baby sleeping bag that swaddles the arms but leaves the hips and legs free, this assuaging some of my fears. The difference was immediate – he sleeps for a few hours at a time in this, which has already been a game changer. All three of us being asleep at the same time is a real luxury!
Last, but certainly not least, I have to include the soppy one. These past two weeks haven’t been easy but they have been infinitely less difficult because of Paul. He has encouraged me endlessly when I am in floods of tears, picked up all the housework and kept me fed & watered when I am stuck underneath a cluster-feeding baby. I’m a bit worried about how we’ll cope now that he’s gone back to work, but luckily he doesn’t have a long commute so we only have to be without him for the shortest amount of time possible!
There’s a lot that I want to forget, but here’s what I want to remember…
Paul offering the midwife our bath caddy (which she had admired) if she could get him out in her shift… As the first of many midwives to come to our home, she didn’t manage to coax him out so I am luckily still in possession of said caddy!
Falling asleep between contractions and not being quite sure how many people were in the room at any one time. That nitrous oxide is powerful stuff, man…
Paul holding my hands through every contraction for hours on end. I couldn’t have done it without him.
Watching the clock and being convinced he would arrive any second. Noticing that hours had passed…
Using an ambulance and a wheelchair for the first time. Thinking of that bit in About a Boy when we’re blues-and-twos-ing to the hospital.
Being worried that I wouldn’t love him because of the hell he put me through, until the very moment he was put into my arms.
How weird and purple and cone-shaped his head was when he came out. Being a bit concerned that it might stay that way (thankfully, it didn’t!).
How weird and soft and still pregnant-looking my stomach was. I’m not sure I’ll be as impressed with that a few weeks on…
Finally telling people his name after months of secretly whispering it to myself. Still calling him bubba because old habits die hard.
Paul holding Benjamin next to me and letting me hold his little hand to help me cope with all the other medical stuff that has to happen post-birth (it’s not over once they come out!).
Knowing that he’ll be as tall as his father if his current length is anything to go by. Realising that the tiny Jeremy Corbyn onesie that Paul’s colleagues bought for us will probably never fit him.
Feeling a bit like a superwoman for surviving such a long labour without extra pain relief. Wanting to boast about it to everyone. Eventually realising that this really doesn’t make me special, and wanting to go round congratulating every single mother I know.
Swearing blind that I wouldn’t do it ever again but knowing secretly that I might.
Tearing up when I rang to tell my Mum… I’d been thinking of how excited she’d be throughout the process (although I was glad I hadn’t texted anyone early on as they’d have been on the edge of their seats for days – too much pressure!).
Choosing the perfect filter to disguise his slightly odd colour when sending round his first photo.
Realising that I was lying comfortably on my back for the first time in around 6 months…
Seeing myself in the mirror right afterwards and realising I should probably get some under eye concealer because these bags aren’t going away any time soon.
Being so grateful to all of the midwives that looked after us so well. Singing their praises ever since.
Getting my phone back (Paul had left it at home in the rush to get to the hospital) and already having lots of lovely messages to read.
Staring out into Leeds in the middle of the night with my little Leeds baby in my arms and feeling so grateful (and tired).
Reading Jilly Cooper to try and stay awake through that first night.
Wishing Paul was there so we could (quietly) giggle at the Darth Vader-style snoring coming from across the ward…
Paul coming to rescue me and hold Benjamin at 6am after I started hallucinating that Tuna was walking across the end of the bed. She definitely wasn’t!
Paul popping out for some food and coming back to tell me that he’d seen some of our NCT friends in the corridor. Waiting for the news that their baby had arrived (he was born the next day and weighed exactly the same as Ben!).
Hearing Paul telling Benjamin that ‘I like you, I think we’ll keep you.’ Thinking that was the sweetest thing ever. It might have been the hormones…
Coming home to some lovely treats left by our friends and immediately bursting into tears. Having the sushi they left me for dinner and sharing a whisky with Paul and his Dad.
Let him find the things in life that fill him with joy and happiness. Help him find a hobby that he can do with his hands, because there is nothing better than making something real. Point him in the direction of imaginary worlds that he can lose himself in, causes that he can truly get behind and that one, slightly weird passion that no one else really understands.
Give him the strength to stand up for what is right, especially when the people he is standing up to are his friends. Help him find his voice, but know when it is better to listen than to speak. Give him the courage to walk away from fights that don’t matter and towards the fights that do.
Teach him that what maketh the man is not the strength of his body, but the strength of his character.
Keep him safe when climbing trees too high, driving in cars that are going too fast and walking too close to the edge. Keep him safe.
May he be the best of us, without the worst of us.
Help him find his own community, whatever that may look like. Let him know that they will always be welcome here, if they are important to him. Guide him towards love, in whichever form he chooses it.
May he be the kind of person who never skips out on his round, who always stops to pet a dog, and who would rather share than keep to himself. And if it’s not too much trouble, to always find time to call his mother (or at least feel bad about it when he doesn’t).
But most importantly of all, give me the strength to point him in the right direction, and then watch as he goes the other way. May I always know when to hold his hand tight, and when to let go and allow him to walk his own path.
[Photo by Jenn Richardson]
Unsurprisingly, I think a lot about what our little baby will be like, and what his life might be like. I am boundlessly curious about the future, and an endless planner (even when I know there can be no such thing as planning for the future, not really). If we are lucky, he will be the eldest brother to a sibling or two, which is something I’ve been also thinking about a lot. I recently listened to the Dear Sugar episode on sibling rivalry, and a few comments they made really gave me pause for thought.
I have always thought of myself as the quintessential eldest child; I have a brother who is younger than me by 2 years and a sister who is younger by 7. I don’t know if it is scientifically proven, but myth suggests that birth order can shape your personality, with eldest children tending to be high achieving, perfectionist Type As who have trouble admitting when they’re wrong or accepting criticism. Um… so far, so very, very me.
With great power comes great responsibility, of course, because as the eldest child you are also cast into a surrogate parenting role. I’ve felt that very strongly in more recent years; with my family no longer the tidy unit it once was, I do feel more of a responsibility towards my siblings, to look after and look out for them (not that they really need it so much, they are adults after all). I remember speaking with a friend who is another eldest child about this very idea; when it comes to family trouble, it can sometimes feel as though your worry is doubled as the eldest, as not only are you struggling with the situation yourself, but also perhaps shouldering a greater part of the burden. I remember quite clearly not crying at my grandmother’s funeral; not because I wasn’t incredibly sad, but because I had one sibling sobbing on each shoulder and *someone* in that situation has to be the non-cryer.
This is quite literally the latest photo I have with my siblings (and our hangers on) and it’s maybe 3 years old?! Note to self: take more photos.
It is interesting how much stock we put into friendships and romantic relationships in comparison to those we have with our siblings (I’m sure the breadth of articles on the Internet about the former two would eclipse the latter by far) when in fact our sibling relationships are likely to be the longest relationships of our lives, if we have them. Our relationships with our siblings are a template for the relationships we have with others for the rest of our lives; through them we learn to negotiate, to compromise and what our ‘place’ in the world is. I know not everyone is as lucky as I am; I actually like and love my siblings despite, as well as because of, the fact that we share our genetics, and whilst I wouldn’t characterise our relationship as particularly close, they are still a central part of my life and I consider them often in the decisions I make. I don’t doubt that I am often replicating the role I take with my siblings in my other relationships, and I would be interested in whether my siblings do the same.
One of the most interesting things they mentioned on the Dear Sugar podcast was that you don’t grow up in the same family as your siblings; whilst it sounds absurd, it is, of course, true. We have individual relationships even within our family, and the same scenario that seems wildly unfair to one sibling is likely to feel just or natural to another. It’s interesting to step outside of your own experience (in my case as the eldest child) to think about what those defining years of childhood might have felt like for the people sharing your home, but not your exact same view. Again, I am lucky that I don’t *think* that my parents favoured any of us in particular (my Mum always says that we are all her favourite children) and actively, in my eyes, discouraged sibling rivalry. My siblings and I are all quite different in personality, skills and interests, which certainly helps in that regard.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out in my little family now – once baby arrives, and maybe when we add siblings to the mix. Are you a quintessential eldest/middle/younger/only child? I’d love to hear your stories, too!