I became a Mum at the end of March {crowd cheers}. My uncomplicated conception and pregnancy was followed by an equally straightforward birth and fourth trimester {applause}.

Here’s a follow up to my initial blog where I surveyed my friends on the basics of having a baby, and what happened next.

 

1. BIRTH

I managed to pull off all of my birth ‘intentions’ – I wrote them as intentions as having a ‘plan’ seemed to rigid and one thing I learnt about birth plans was to be prepared to ditch them.

I managed to get through it (about 12 hours in total) without drugs (!!)– basically thanks to my fear of vomiting.  By the time I was asking/squarking for ‘the gas’ I’d been puking and was warned it would nauseate me further. I can’t remember the last time I spewed (possibly in mid-2011 when I got gastro in St Petersburg and had to come home early from The Hermitage) so avoiding it was preferred to pain management!

I’m grateful to have had a straightforward labour and that there was room in the birth centre the night we needed it.  Without really planning it – we had a water birth.  I can’t imagine having to deal with gravity as well as everything going on with child birth – lying on my back in the water made tonnes of sense to me.  Our midwife was exactly the right combination of strict/officious and encouraging when it came to show time.  HOW FUCKING GREAT ARE MIDWIVES?!

Norah was born about 2.5 hours after arriving at RPA at about 6:30am. We had her at home with us about 30 hours later which I felt really great about (I have never spent a night in hospital since I was born!).  I always imagined I’d be nervy about taking a tiny human (3.2kg) home but we actually were pretty excited and happy about (I wouldn’t go as far as saying ‘confident’ but anything to escape the incessant buzzer at RPA).

There was one thing that I didn’t include on the intentions list – avoiding a perineal tear.  Hence my first piece of advice is DO THE PERINEAL MASSAGE.  Sure it doesn’t guarantee you won’t tear (for me it was all about how quickly Norah arrived after I transitioned, that is: very), but it can help lessen the impact.

 

 

2. THE FIRST WEEKS AT HOME

This was a super special time cocooned in love and excitement.  The Midwifery Discharge Support program visited for three consecutive days and gave us a good solid hour of support each day – that I don’t think I would have gotten in the same way being in the ward with all the other demands placed on midwives and nurses.

Leigh fortunately did not have a great deal of work on and has been a very hands-on Dad, involved at as many opportunities as possible.  I said to someone I was ‘spoilt’ to have him around, but they (rightly) corrected me and pointed out having a supportive, present partner shouldn’t be a kind of naughty treat, just part of the new family experience. So instead I say how ‘well supported’ I am. When he does work long days, I really notice it.  He is so calm and patient – he balances me out so well.

We got out and about pretty fast, but also limited visitors and family in the very early days (which was very tricky). The visits we had are a blur – to anyone who visited during this foggy time, sorry (not sorry)!

 

3. BREASTFEEDING

Again I was #blessed (no hint of irony) to have no troubles with latching, milk supply etc. My boobs and babe were very co-operative in this department.

I screwed up my neck pretty badly in the pushing and grunting Norah out – so couple this with the loving gazing down at a nursing babe and holy mother of god, I was in more pain that in labour.  By Day 5 I was at the Chinese massage place getting some serious unknotting of my shoulder done. Why does no one talk about ‘nursing neck’?? It’s a very real thing.

I have breastfed walking around The Good Guys while buying a heater, in front of 150 Year 7 girls while giving a presentation on Digital Nutrition, in most café’s of the inner-west.  I don’t want to waggle my areolas in the wind for all and sundry to see, but I don’t/won't drape a muslin cloth over myself when Norah feeds, just as I don’t expect other people to do so when they’re eating…

I have a Medela Freestyle pump that I use occasionally (it’s so great to have the LED display with the timer) and have a good stash in the freezer for when Leigh takes Norah and needs to feed her.  She is a bit random with her bottle feeding and that’s something we’ll be working on in coming months as I design my life as working Mum.

 

4. NAPPIES

We’ve worked our way through packets of Tooshies by TOM, ThankYou’s and Huggies.  We’ve settled on EcoOriginals nappies (and wipes – they home deliver!) and the Aldi cheapos for nights (though I think the Eco’s would give them a run for their money).

I haven’t bothered to investigate MCN’s.  Right now, I feel like paying the extra for the Eco’s is my contribution to mother nature.  I also am slightly tentative about using our laundry after an elderly mentally unwell neighbor assaulted me in the backyard when Norah was 4 weeks old (true story, AVO obtained – just to keep things exciting!).

 

5. PRAMS AND CARRYING

The Mountain Buddy Swift we borrowed has served us super well.  First with the baby capsule attached, then with the normal forward facing seat which I moved to faster than many others might (we didn’t have space to use the bassinet bit). I felt a real sense of freedom once Norah was in the seat – she could look around more and was less confined than in the capsule.  She is a real gazer – loves checking out trees and light/colour - and having more space meant I felt like she could spend longer amounts of time out and about (she’s been to several conferences, a #StopAdani protest, tonnes of long walks etc).

We ended up getting a BabyBjorn One to replace an older Ergo baby we were given.  The Ergo just didn’t feel right for Norah’s size/shape and every time I used it she sat differently and increasingly awkwardly.  Given the Ergo was only inward facing we decided to go with getting something new that she could eventually face out in.  Leigh was tasked with the job of choosing the new option – as with capsules and prams, it was all a bit too overwhelming for me!

 

 

>> OTHER STUFF

// You will sleep again. Eventually.

I found that wearing a FitBit was actually really helpful in allaying my anxiety about not getting enough sleep.  The new Alta HR does some very fancy sleep tracking which shows the sleep stages and benchmarks – so even when I feel like I have only had 27 minutes sleep it shows me in fact I’m doing OK.

The biggest thing is not getting long chunks of sleep – when you get your first 3 hour sleep you feel like dynamite! Again, we’ve been pretty lucky that Norah is keen on sleeping at night and I am now getting 8-9 hours of sleep over 3 sessions most nights.  We’re bracing ourselves for the 4-month sleep regression/progression by trying to keep the bath/bed routine and sleep hygiene in check.

You will rarely sleep during the day even if your baby is. #sleepwhenbabysleeps is nearly impossible. Norah tends only to sleep when in the pram or car during the day – which generally negates my ability to have a nap too.  I went through a period of sprinting to bed ASAP after she goes down (my record was 6:24pm).  I find myself apologizing to Leigh over choosing sleep over hanging out or watching shows (that said, I have managed to churn through The Good Fight, House of Cards and keep up with GoT, but am avoiding The Handmaid’s Tale until I am a bit further from the subject) but it’s the way to keep sane and not be a complete cow in the morning.

// You will one day wear something other than black leggings.

Maybe.  If dressing for comfort was an Olympic sport I'd be making some semi-finals.

// Routines Schmoutines – start with bath & bed.

We didn’t really enforce any sense of routine for about the first 4 weeks, then we simply started with getting quite strict with bath and bedtime. It seems that by having a clear process for that time of day them becomes a bit of a catalyst for the rest of the night and into the day.

We kick off with bath time by around 6-6:30pm, put on PJ’s and read a book (usually the golden book title ‘I am a Bunny’ - its seriously boring but at the end, bunny goes to sleep). Somehow Norah knows to go to sleep by about 7pm.

Daytimes can be waaaay harder.  She goes with my flow – though the 830/9am nap seems to be firming up as she goes to the crèche at my gym 3 days a week from 9am (incredibly there the combo of the gross gym music and kids making noise send her to sleep much better than the quiet of home).  We try and get 3 naps in throughout the day and follow the ‘eat play (eat) sleep’ kinda routine. Mostly though she works into what I am doing – knowing that she sleeps and plays well in the pram means we can keep a routine of sorts, just in different places.

// Letting go of the work headspace has been H.A.R.D

So the universe, in its wisdom, threw a bunch of opportunities my way soon after Norah was born.   I basically run two small (like, really small) businesses (as well as having a flexible permanent state government position with excellent maternity leave provisions) and I can’t totally park them on a shelf if I plan to going back to them (and I do)-  like a garden they need tending to from time to time.

Centrelink’s Paid Parental Leave allows people to do ten paid ‘keeping in touch’ days with an employer, but small business owners cannot earn a red cent or do activities that are anything more than administrivia.  This is pretty frustrating and unsupportive for parents who are already taking up the challenge of operating a SME’s – I had to pass on small opportunities to do presentations and small paid projects during this time so as to preserve my PPL. This might have been a blessing in disguise but it does seem unfair to lose the PPL for having a finger on the work pulse.

“If you return to actively running or maintaining the daily operations of your business before the end of your Paid Parental Leave period, you’ll be regarded as having returned to work” - Thanks Centrelink

// Catch ups can be a full time job

Once I was out of the fog of the first 6 weeks the catch-ups and hang-outs really kicked off.  It feels really great to leave the house, have places to go and people to meet (along with three gym sessions a week). My diary is pretty packed with activities and hangouts, adventures on public transport and visits.

I’ve spent time with friends I haven’t really seen in years or only known vaguely through friends of friends, and had face to face meet ups with people I only know online or through loose professional connections.

Some previously close friends have been distant and out of touch – attempting to gently connect is met with mildly guilty replies and empty promises to get in touch soon. People I didn’t think liked me that much have sent emoji filled messages and lent me amazing cookbooks and made food care-packages.

// Parent’s/Mother’s Group gets my thumbs up. 

I was skeptical about it, I wasn’t sure I ‘needed’ it, but I really dig it.  We made the great decision to go out for drinks/dinner (and more drinks) to celebrate the end of the Forth Trimester and it helped cement the connections.  It was at that dinner I learnt so much more about these women and their journeys to motherhood. I really look forward to our fortnightly catchup and checking in on our kids progress.

Making friends as an adult can be tough but mother’s group is a bit of a leveler to entry.  As is chatting to Mum’s in the gym crèche as we get into routine and see the same active-wear clad parents checking in varying degrees of snotty faced kidlets to the colourful playroom. Its really quite hard to talk about stuff other than children, there's so much to say!

// Baby blues and the body-bounce back.

I didn’t get hit with the third day baby blues – but I am struggling a tiny bit with the three-month emergence from the fog and remodeling my life as a working Mum (Q: how much can you get done in a 45 minute nap window? A: tonnes more than 5 months ago).

The most I have cried is basically about the state of my lady parts (theyre fine, really) and being tired/confused/not being able to express or explain myself.  Generally I have felt really good, clear and normal - sometimes I have a bit of an off day and feel out of sorts, but a glass of wine usually fixes that!

I was itching to get back into exercise that was more than walking.  I possibly did this a bit early (about 9 week post partum) and definitely should have consulted someone more formally prior. It was only at 16 weeks pp that I got myself to a wonderful women's health physio to ask some very specific questions about pelvic floor issues and what exact core exercises are OK.  I mean how do you get your cor eto work again if you cant do crunches??

2 things I learnt: DO NOT GO RUNNING.  SPIN CLASSES ARE OK.

// There’s no time to watch Netflix (and the ‘chilling’ will be sporadic and delicate)

I did a call out for TV shows to watch while up for the infamous 2am breastfeeds.  I got a list of over 20. I’ve seen none of them.  How do you even keep your eyes open? I generally don’t even use my phone when I am breastfeeding as my eyes are closed most of the time!

 

....And finally – yes, press-studs are a freaking nightmare.

NEXT // I've sent out another short survey on 4 areas I'm keen to get your input on: solids, sleep regression, daycares and going back to work. I hope to have my next pro-tips crowdsourced blog ready in a few weeks!