If you would have asked me to write this post six months ago I would have broken down into uncontrollable sobs (snot and all) and I would have probably said no. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy being a new mummy, I did, but my word was it hard work for the first six months. Now I’m not saying I am unique and that I am the only mother out there that found the first six months to be the hardest (probably the majority of mums do) and neither am I saying that all mums find it hard (please tell me your secrets, I’ll pay good money). This post isn’t intended to cause upset, I am incredibly grateful that I get to be a mum to my gorgeous girl but I also don’t want to sit here and tell you all a bunch of lies. Parenting is hard. Be warned.
Part One: 0-6 months
Even before I found out I was pregnant, I had always had strong views on breastfeeding. Not the ‘I-want-to-shove-it-down-your-throat’ type of strong views, just my own personal views on the matter. I knew I wanted to (try at least) to breastfeed if I was to eventually have my own kids. This view was built on my experiences of seeing my best friend go down the breastfeeding route and just generally my opinion on the whole matter. So when I found out I was expecting I knew that I definitely wanted to give breastfeeding a go, but I also knew that I couldn’t put ‘unrealistic’ pressure on myself. So my approach to the whole breastfeeding journey was ‘if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t’.
In the above photo, we had just been wheeled into the recovery room after my c-section. My daughter hadn’t been on my chest for longer than ten minutes and she wasn’t even an hour old when she instinctively moved herself down to feed and she stayed latched on for a good 20 minutes. How? From going inside a nice cushy womb and being fed by a tube does a baby know how to do this? I find that amazing.
But it didn’t stay that easy. Everytime after that when I tried to feed her, she would work herself up to a bright shade of purply red and scream because I wasn’t fast enough at pulling my boob out and getting it to her straight away. So much in fact that Stuart or a midwife had to take her from me so that she couldn’t smell my milk and would calm herself down enough for us to repeat the process. But alas, this only went on for about a week (longest week of my life, after being induced) before the “magic”, that some breastfeeding mothers speak of, started to appear. In that moment, it felt like it was just me and my girl, our special bond. Although at 1am, 2am, 3am and 4am nightfeeds that magic does eventually wear off after a bit. But I have to admit at 5am, when the sun was starting to rise through the gaps in the curtain, I would be rocking softly in the rocking chair and looking down at my daughter feeding, and that would be my favourite time of day.
I managed to breastfeed Ivy for seven months, something I am incredibly proud of myself for, because they weren’t the easiest of months. All thanks to a nasty little thing called reflux, which brings me onto our next topic.
The first three weeks of Ivy’s life, she was a dream. She pooped, she fed, she slept (in her crib), she repeated. And then those three weeks were up and she pooped, she screamed for hours before feeding, she only slept attached to one of us in an upright position, she repeated. It took us several remedies and doctors appointments to figure out it was reflux and Ivy was put on Gaviscon. During the day Stuart and I would take it in turns to wear the sling with Ivy in, while simultaneously bouncing on an exercise ball and also while the hoover or hairdryer were switched on, whichever was to hand. Eventually we had the hoover permantly plugged in downstairs, a hairdryer in the bedroom and a hairdryer in the spare room.
When nighttime strolled around, she would cry from 6pm till midnight, sometimes till 1-3am. And so would I. Because Stuart was the one that worked and I was on maternity leave, nighttime was my territory (yay! not). Around 9pm, I would lug myself into the spare room, switch on the hairdryer (and also open the window as wide as it would go because the room would soon resemble a sauna thanks to the hairdryer), wrap Ivy up in the sling, bounce on the ball and binge some TV (with headphones on, once again, thanks to the hairdryer). I would do this from midnight-3am, until I was certain that Ivy was fast asleep enough that she would eventually go down in her crib in our room (which contained a special reflux pillow). To then have her wake every two hours to feed. This went on for six months. It’s safe to say for those six months I resembled what you would only refer to as, a zombified version of myself.
All in all, the first six months of Ivy’s life and the first six months of my experience of being a mother were incredibly hard. Sometimes I look back on them with a kind of sadness because I wish my daughter had had it easier. Nobody wants to see their child suffer and I think every mother would wish their child could go down the easy route. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my little girl. The first time her eyes focused properly on mine, her first smile, her first laugh, the first time she held a toy. Even those moments with her in the sling, her warm cheek touching my chest. I remember rushing home the first time I went out without her to put her straight in the sling as soon as I walked through the door and Stuart staring at me like I was mental (I most definitely was).
I choose to remember this face.