My daughters are now 23 and 18 so it’s quite a while since I experienced pregnancy and birth. I was very lucky to have a very uneventful pregnancy first time round and, although, I was a bit confused by gas and air when I gave birth, it was relatively straight forward. My second pregnancy was interrupted at 15 weeks when I was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to have my appendix removed as an emergency. It was very worrying and I can remember reminding every health professional who came anywhere near me that I was pregnant. The obstetrician was brilliant and I woke up to the sound of my baby’s heartbeat on the sonogram. Such a relief.
I had very little experience of babies and, looking back, was quite clueless about what they needed. As the front door closed behind me when we took my firstborn home, I remember the overwhelming feeling of responsibility and fear that I wouldn’t know what to do for this tiny, vulnerable, brand new person. I held her in my arms and gazed in wonder and trepidation. I was scared of everything. I wouldn’t take her out of the house for the first three weeks, almost drowned her at the first bath time and was completely bamboozled by the whole burping thing. Someone had told me that breastfed babies don’t need winding – what rubbish! Three things helped me limp through the first few months and gave me confidence for the first year:
The most effective moral support and wisest words of wisdom came from Hilary the Health Visitor who told me to listen to all the advice that everyone was giving me constantly, to express gratitude graciously and then ignore it. She told me that whatever I chose to do would be the right thing for my child and it didn’t matter what other people thought – “you can’t be a perfect Mum, but you will be good enough”. Her words were reassuring and comforting. Hilary mopped my tears, celebrated my small victories and encouraged me through the mystery of babies. She was gentle, kind, patient, a great listener and had just the right balance of laughing with me and at me.
Hilary introduced me to my second saviour – Infacol (I expect there are other similar colic remedies available). My poor daughter number one hardly slept in her first four weeks – I took to keeping a record to prove my point – she was averaging 9 hours out of 24. She cried constantly, I couldn’t put her down, I had a bout of mastitis (big ouch) and I was exhausted. I fed her, changed her, fed her again, nursed her up and down and she just wouldn’t settle. The problem was what I wasn’t doing; thanks to some pretty poor advice, I didn’t wind her after feeding and I didn’t know about colic. Infacol fifteen minutes before a feed and half an hour of winding afterwards were the much needed solution and settled regular, long sleeps followed for both of us. So look out for the signs – a baby who can’t lie down without crying and pulls their knees up probably has trapped wind and, if you have ever had indigestion you will know, it’s painful.
Finally, my very dear friend Mel (Manager of a nursery), gave me the Complete Book of Babycare by Elizabeth Fenwick. Born in 1994, daughter number one arrived in a world free of the internet and google when help came from books. This particular one suited me perfectly – it was effectively, a step-by-step guide with pictures! There was even a suggested routine, and we all know how important routine is. It helped me enormously and provided me with a framework to work within. Life settled and I finally started to enjoy my beautiful baby. It seems like only yesterday; now she’s just completed an MA and is starting out in the world of work. I am overwhelmingly proud of both my daughters, their childhood has flashed by and if I would be so bold as to offer any new parent a spot of advice, it would be to enjoy what each stage has to offer – savour every moment.