He’s here! Our bonny baby boy was born in early January. He didn’t quite arrive in 2018 like the palm reader in India predicted but was prompted out via induction at 41 weeks. He weighed 8lb 3ozs and despite being back to back for most of pregnancy and labour came out face down without interventions as I had been fearing. We named him Miles in honour of the 30k plus he’s done in my belly and the many more we hope he’ll explore in future.
While I’m still technically on maternity leave, I have been jotting down some random thoughts on my experience as a first-time mum (one-handed on my phone while the baby sleeps), in particular on the birth because (and I NEVER imagined myself saying this) I actually enjoyed it a little bit.
So, without further ado, here are 24 thoughts on being a first-time mum from someone who was pretty apprehensive about every part of the process.
- The best thing I did during early labour was get walking. When we arrived at the induction suite we were warned it could take up to 3 days to for the process to work and I was so not up for that. After being checked and fitted with a pessary I decided to get walking to see if I could get things moving. 10k steps around the streets of Reading later and we were in action*! (*And by action I mean proper contractions.)
2. Despite being absolutely terrified of childbirth, in the end, a part of me really enjoyed it. Sure, the back pain, contractions that made me vomit every few minutes and blood pressure spike that meant I spent a further 4 days in hospital weren’t fun but the final stages – where the pain was productive and every primal push bought you closer to meeting the baby – were kind of awesome. I’m still in awe at how incredible the sensation of having a little person with slippery arms and legs come out your nether regions feels like. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and out of all the ways I imagined feeling about birth ‘cool’ was never one of them.
3. Being stitched in your bits, however, was more painful than childbirth! Those needles are ouchy.
4. I always thought I’d want the baby thoroughly wiped before being placed on my chest but of course in the moment I couldn’t care less. If anyone looks closely at the photo we eagerly snapped and sent to family from the delivery suite, the baby is wearing a blood-stained hat that would have made pre-birth me faint and/or vomit.
5. The first question the midwives was what way was he facing. After being posterior all pregnancy and most of labour – hence the back pain – clever boy turned at last minute and came out face down without needing assistance.
6. The midwife asked me if I wanted to see my placenta and I was like err no thanks then later I thought I spotted it on a tray being wheeled out but it turns out that was my haemorrhage. Lovely.
7. How awesome are midwives though? I felt like everyone I met was on this incredible journey with me even though they do this day in and day out. The hug I received from the midwife who handed me over from induction suite to delivery suite was one of the sweetest moments of my year.
8. As anticipated I went totally inwards during labour. I’d told Justin to expect me to not want anyone near, including him, but I think it surprised both of us how silent I was. I went into a zone and no one – not even doctors administering blood pressure medication – could bring me out of it. It took everything I had to stay calm and I became so focused on the job at hand that even moaning was out the question.
9. In hindsight, we should have had music in the room because the silence was probably really eerie for those who weren’t in the zone with me.
10. The most unexpected bit for me was how long the minutes between contractions would feel when it came to the pushing phase. When you can feel the baby is so close to arriving – you know ladies, the ring of fire bit – those contractions couldn’t come fast enough for me. It was like time stood still in those lulls and I remember thinking how bored the 2 midwives & Justin must feel – awkwardly making conversation – as we all waited for another contraction so I could get on with it.
11. After spending 9 months nauseous it was almost miraculous to feel hungry the minute I’d had the baby. It was wonderful to finally feel both hungry and not sick at the same time. Those Percy Pigs Justin popped in my mouth felt like the best thing I’d ever eaten, as was that first post birth cup of tea and everything they served in hospital really.
12. And my goodness the thirst. I’d been put on an IV because of puking but I have never been so thirsty in my life than when delivering and breastfeeding a baby. I regretted having braces at this point as the dryness of mouth meant that everything stuck to them.
13. Our baby looked nothing like I’d expected. In my dreams I’d birthed a chubby little thing with a big shock of dark hair. If I didn’t see this long, skinny human come out of me I’d think it wasn’t my baby.
14. I completely understand why all parents think their babies are the cutest. You can’t help it. It’s like you’re wired to think they are the best most beautiful thing ever and you lose hours just staring at them.
15. The days I spent in hospital post birth are really hazy. I’m not sure if it’s the drugs, adrenaline, love, tiredness or all the above but I remember little of this time apart from endless cups of tea and me begging to be released. I felt great – much better than I expected, even with stitches & a post-partum haemorrhage – so it was hard to understand why I needed 4 days of monitoring. (A doctor did explain to me the day after we had the baby that the meds I had for my blood pressure during labour have some after-effects that meant I had to be monitored every 4 hours for 4 days afterwards. We received this news once I was up and dressed and waiting to be discharged. It was gutting to be honest.)
16. Looking back, I wish I had asked more questions about my birth or just picked up the notes, which I didn’t realise I was allowed to read! It wasn’t until days later that I pieced together details I’d forgotten or not understood.
17. In addition to the birth I’d been terrified of the potential pain of recovery but I found that my body was the last thing I was thinking of once Miles was here. I was more concerned about figuring out breastfeeding, not hurting the baby and trying to stay awake during those long night feeds in the early weeks.
18. How weird is it when your partner is sent home and you’re left alone in the hospital with the baby? We didn’t have a loo in our section of the ward so I would take the quickest wees in the night, rushing back to check the baby was where I left him. I hadn’t learned the sound of his cry yet so I’d panic when I’d hear a wailing baby as I walked back on the ward but 9 times out of 10 it wasn’t even him.
19. I hadn’t anticipated the post-birth swelling. Perhaps because it was winter I had escaped the puffy feet some ladies get in pregnancy but instead my legs ballooned in the week after giving birth. I could hardly wedge my feet into shoes when it came time to leave the hospital.
20. And my goodness did it feel good to get out of the achingly hot maternity ward. We’d been given a bed near the radiator with a window that didn’t open – there was a thermometer on the windowsill that read 24 degrees day and night. Walking out the hospital door and breathing fresh air after 5 days of that heat was truly a special moment.
21. Although I’ve been around babies & attended NCT & first aid classes like a good little geek, I forgot all of it the minute I got home with the baby. You suddenly feel like a big clumsy beast about to break your kid as you try to dress, change or breastfed them. We did so much googling of simple things in those early days & the learning curve felt really steep. I remember poring over books on routines, unable to take anything in due to lack of sleep. (It was week 1 ffs, why was I thinking of routines?!)
22. By far the hardest part for me – yes harder than childbirth – has been breastfeeding. I’d done a class on this too but lo and behold putting it into practise with a real kid is not so easy. I’d actually prepared myself to struggle with breastfeeding because I’d had good advice about it not being as simple – for some – as it seems, but in our case it didn’t work out at all in the end. It’s a long story but I’ve learned that if there is a next time I’ll make sure my kid is checked for tongue tie in the hospital rather than struggling for weeks with ruined nips and a hungry kid. There is an amazing amount of breastfeeding support provided by the NHS but frustratingly a lot of the advice can be contradictory. We hired a private lactation consultant to get to the bottom of our issues but by then it was too late.
23. For the first few days after Miles was born I have never felt more tired in my life. As Miles wasn’t able to efficiently feed on the boob he often fed for hours on end, especially at night when you’ve usually got more milk. He’d fall asleep on the boob only to wake and realise he’s starving and start the feed all over again. This pattern would repeat from 1 to 4, 5 or 6am. There were nights when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get out of bed and when I did I was so delirious with tiredness my head would roll forward in the middle of feeds. I was so worried about dropping the baby in these sleep deprived moments that Justin gallantly sat on the nursery floor, watching me breastfeed and softly trying to keep me awake.
24. But if I could give advice to my pre-birth self it would be ‘it’s not as bad as you think’. Now here on week 6 we’re getting more sleep than we expected and have started to squeeze in some of little pleasures people tell you won’t get to do for a long time, like dining out and reading. I wanted to jot down the details of Miles’ birth because the minutiae does fade quickly. It’s true when they say you don’t look back and remember the pain; the biggest, brightest and strongest memories are of the moments we saw his squidgy little face and said hi for the first time.