“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” —Sophia Loren
Lots of people who have had children are so excited when you’re pregnant (Which I now understand, as I have pregnant friends, I am bursting with excitement for them), however no one ever tells you how hard the first weeks of having a baby really is. In prep for this post, I decided to speak with a few friends who have all recently given birth, and find out what they thought were the hardest things.
I had a natural birth, and felt fortunate to only needed gas and air, and came through it with one or two stitches, some cuts and bruises. It was only the next day that the adrenaline started to disappear, the painkillers wore off, and the tiredness kicked in. My whole body started to ache, it hit me like a brick wall. I had pushed a baby out after being awake for over 36 hours, barely eating for 24 of that, and not had any solid sleep since Harry arrived. I just hadn’t expected to be in so much pain, you think you do the hard bit by giving birth, but oh no, there is more. I just kept taking the painkillers, and telling myself that in a week or so I would be healed, and i would be fine…but then came breast-feeding!
One of my biggest challenges, and I am sure many will agree was breast-feeding. I tried, it was hard, very painful, I got mastitus (breastfeeding infection), but I worked through it, and fed Harry for 16 weeks, but I did have cracked nippled for at least 8 weeks, and no one can explain how painful they are. However I do know many people who have wanted to stop, and were told by their health visitors not too, that it wasn’t healthy for their baby to be fed formula “breast was best” apparently.The pressure for women to breastfeed is completely unnecessary, I believe it should be up to the mother if they decide to breast-feed and their decision when to stop.
I recall a moment when Harry was about 2 weeks old, it was 2am, and I was up feeding him. I had gotten about half hours sleep. I was so tired I could barely hold my head up, and I remember thinking “I am never going to sleep properly again”, I felt overwhelmed by my emotions, so happy to be feeding my baby, but so desperate to sleep longer than an hour. It only dawns on you once your baby has arrived, that you may not get uninterrupted sleep again and you will never have a day off from being a mum….’weekend’ for mums don’t exist.
I was warned a little about this by a one or two friends, they told me “five days in and you will cry, ALOT, for no reason”. Yes this happened, I would just burst in to tears, for no reason. I think everything kicks in, the sleep deprivation, the breast-feeding struggles (buckets of tears over this), the enormity of the challenge you have taken on, the post-birth pain, no wonder your body doesn’t have a clue what to do. The crying did ease for me after about two weeks, and most of the time i cried, i would have no idea why, but knew it had to be my hormones as i certainly wasn’t sad.
A few of my friends mentioned in their responses how they struggled once their partners had gone back to work, and were alone with their baby most of the working week. One of my friends (who must be wonderwoman), had twins, and her husband worked away during the week, and that not only did she miss the support, but it was difficult for her partner to bond with their children. Luckily she had her family close by for solid support, and her partner has managed to changed jobs, so he is back living with his family.
What I really struggled with, was the fact our relationship was no longer just us, and we couldn’t watch TV together in the evenings, go see a film etc, we had a third person, who seemed to be hogging all the couple time. I started to miss my boyfriend, even though we lived together, slept in the same bed, I missed having a conversation and staying up to watch tv with him in the evenings, but I was so tired, I would have to get some sleep before Harry woke again.
There are so many more that I want to write about in this post, but it is already getting far too long.
Even after all of the above and more, nothing can compare to the incredible love and affection you feel for your baby, and at least you can feel much more prepared for baby no.2.
Huge thank-you too Julia, Jane, Keri and Kate for your help!
p.s. I love this quote!
“It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.” —Dorothy on The Golden Girls