It’s a funny old time. Having a baby. You experience such a range of emotions in such a short space of time. You celebrate. You cry. You laugh. You cry some more. Your other half looks on with a mixture of wonder and helplessness. Sometimes fear. So what can you really expect from that first couple of weeks with a new baby?
Day One. ’I can do anything!’
There is NO day like this one. The one where you successfully birth your baby. Imagine that post-exercise high then multiply it by about a million. You’ve run the equivalent of a marathon. And you’ve survived. This day will be spent marvelling at that teeny, tiny human being that YOU made. Eating toast. Sharing the arrival of your new addition. And feeling so relieved that both you and baby are safe. You’ll feel on top of the world, despite the after pains of labour and being completely knackered. Nothing can knock you off your perch. This is how insanely euphoric Day One really is.
There is NO day like this one.
Day Two. ’Wow. My baby is good.’
Day Two is a calmer version of Day One. You’ve had the first night with your newborn, who may well have fooled you by sleeping five hours or more in one stretch. ’Wow. My baby is good,’ you think. You’re surprised how well you feel. Not yet tired enough to mind the nightfeeds, you actually enjoy having those little pink fingers gripping yours at 3.00 AM in the morning.
You’ll possibly get some visitors on Day Two. Definitely some cards and flowers. And the adoration from everyone around you will further enhance that post-labour glow you’re sporting.
Life is good. Having a baby is a joy. What has everyone else been moaning about?
Day Three. The ‘Jordan’ phase.
Ugh. What is that pressure on your chest?
You wake up and look down to find that, overnight, your body’s been possessed. By Jordan. And a dairy cow. Yes, whilst you were sleeping, your milk’s come in. The pain is excruciating. The only thing that relieves it is feeding your baby but this in turn makes you feel like someone is poking hot pins through your nipples. You try and explain this to your other half, who hasn’t yet stopped staring at your giant mammaries.
‘Imagine someone biting your testicles and pulling down hard. Then repeat 8-10 times a day,’ you say. ’I'd pay good money for that,’ he half jokes back. Whilst you resist the urge to disembowel him there and then.
At the same time, your good hormones decide to take leave. Suddenly you feel low, tired and teary. Having a baby is hard.
Day Four. Tears and more tears.
Day Four is a volatile continuation of Day Three. The Baby Blues have probably well and truly hit. And although they are usually gone in a few days, whilst you’ve got them, it’s hard to see beyond them. Expect to cry. A lot. Often for no reason at all. This is perfectly normal.
As well as making you miserable, the departure of the post-labour endorphins, the dramatic hormonal changes and the discomfort of your milk coming in will probably also make you want to do one of the following things a) kill your husband b) kill your husband or c) kill your husband.
Because now is the time you’ll notice that he hasn’t bought you flowers (dads, for goodness sake, buy her flowers!), praised you enough for giving birth (dads, you cannot tell her often enough how amazing she is) or hugged you (dads, being too busy running around after her/other kids is not a valid reason for not cuddling her).
There is nothing you can do but wait this out. Try not to think. Or rationalise your feelings. Rest assured that it will pass. REST. Dads, do NOT anger her. Or be a tosser. Don’t answer back. Or try and score points. Instead, hug her. Praise her. And know that even doing these things will probably be the wrong thing. Carry on doing them regardless. Don’t get frustrated or feel helpless.
Because when this phase has passed (and pass it will), she will remember that you were kind. When you could have been mean.
Day Five. Reality bites. Ouch.
Phew. You wake up feeling less hormonal. More like yourself. Albeit it a tired and slightly more frazzled version.
The tears have subsided. Leaving you feeling a bit numb. You’re suddenly slightly overwhelmed that you have to do this every day, every night for the rest of time. The night feeds have already lost their appeal and you may have had THAT night. The one where the baby refuses to settle ALL night no matter what you do. The one where you cry because you’re so tired. The one where you give your other half a kick in the back because he gets to sleep while you don’t.
This night has a purpose. It moves you into reality. And forces you to look at your new situation. Which, you realise now, is going to take a little more effort than lying in bed all day, watching Sex and The City and eating chocolate cake.
Days Six to Nine. Getting on with it.
This is a relatively peaceful phase. You’ve had the extreme initial emotions and now you’re just doing it. Because you have to. Feeding is becoming a little more comfortable. You might have won some small victories like getting the baby to settle in its cot. And your uterus is back where it started.
Even if your belly button isn’t.
Day Ten. ’On yer bike.’
If all is going well, the midwife discharges you. If it’s your first baby, this might not mean a whole lot. You’ll likely do this baby business again. If this is your last baby, however, expect to feel a sudden wave of sadness and nostalgia. Because the thought that you will never do this again can do strange things to you like make you a) cling to your midwife’s leg b) beg her never to leave you c) get pregnant.
How do you think some people end up with 10 children?
Days Eleven-Twelve. Welcome to Motherhood.
Contrary to what this heading might imply, motherhood doesn’t end at day 12. You don’t graduate, pass GO or collect £200. No, you’ve got about another 6,558 days to go (assuming you get rid of them when they reach 18).
What does happen during this period is acceptance. Acceptance of your new life. Of the tiredness. Of the demands. Of the responsibility. It might come a little later if this is your first baby but even so, at this point you start to realise that you can do this. Because you CAN do this.
You can do anything when armed with a good slab of chocolate fudge cake.
I write this as a third time mother with a 10 day old baby in tow. And I can say one thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, these first couple of weeks always catch you by surprise. Especially days three and four. If you’ve just had a baby, congratulations! I hope this helps. Come and join Surviving Life and Motherhood. For the cake, if nothing else.