I can’t sleep, it’s 3am and Roy’s sleeping next to me. I wish I could of told myself or prepared myself for these hard times. And I know what your thinking… you have just had a baby-what did you expect? I guess I just never realised how emotionally draining feeding a baby would be for the first 6 weeks. I tried to persist with breast feeding and for us- it went something like this… Do a breast feed then do a formula top up because he was still hungry. Next, I would need to pump to increase my supply and then after he was fed, burped and settled (this process usually took about 2 hours) I would start that process again… 1 hour a later. I remember saying to my Mum on the phone one day, “I’m going to go insane or get postnatal depression, it’s either one or the other and with that- I stopped breastfeeding but I continued expressing for another 6 weeks. It was still just as hard and time consuming but the guilt I felt for needing to give my baby the best start to life I could was real. Being born early brought many feeding hurdles and I finally got to the point where I was like ok, I’m done -we can go to formula now.
There are so many expectations put on mothers and guilt around breastfeeding, whether it is the opinions of others or your own thoughts driving you crazy with what “you” should be doing. I don’t know if this happens with a baby born at term but in hospital, Roy had a strict feeding routine to ensure he was gaining sufficient weight. He was fed every three hours around the clock and he slept great.. I felt that when we came home was when reality hit, especially when I was mixed feeding to ensure Roy was getting enough milk. When Roy was 5 weeks old, we worked out that he liked to sleep on his tummy and he actually slept a whole lot better! I know this was a big no no and I knew because I worked in the childcare industry… but hey if it was working and I’m getting a little sleep then it worked for us and it felt amazing.I remember I made myself go to the doctor just to convince myself that him sleeping on his tummy was ok. My mum had already told me it would be ok and she told me that we all slept on our tummies as babies but I had to hear it from different professional.
After we worked out the tummy sleeping, things were going along quite well until we had a check up with the paediatrician, she found that Roy had a hernia and had to have surgery ASAP. Roy was 11 weeks old and was going in for surgery! I had no idea what a hernia was and she told me it wasn’t serious but he would have to stay in over night for observation. He was so tiny and it was such a weird feeling waiting for him while he was in surgery. Roy recovered well and he seemed to be a different baby after that. A few months passed and we were doing great, but I had a crazy thought that I needed to return to work as soon as possible because I was bored. I was so determined and I had convinced myself that this was what I had to do. I look back now and I definitely couldn’t see this at the time but returning to work caused me so much anxiety, especially because he would only sleep on his tummy for me at home and I knew he would be upset and may not sleep whilst in care and at the end of a working day, I would have a tired and upset baby.
I ended up changing jobs when Roy was 4 months, I was working at the same centre that Roy was in and I was in the same room as him. It was amazing and I got to see him all day, everyday and I thought- how great is this, not a lot of parents get this opportunity and I was feeling very grateful but on the days that he wouldn’t sleep it wasn’t great, they were long days at work and then going home to do the nightly routine was very hard and very demanding. Bunt was working away a lot at this time which was fine and we coped by allowing him to sleep in my bed. This was one of the things that I said I would never do. I don’t know if Im the only one but my pre baby self said that I would never let my children sleep in my bed and I definitely wouldn’t co sleep. And as I write this blog, I have a 2 and half year old holding my hand asleep next to me…so obviously that all went out the window and I’m totally okay with it. Everyone knows that the first year any child enters care is horrible for them contracting any illnesses going around. I can’t remember when it started but it felt like we were off for a whole week…every single month. This was so draining, the guilt of not being able to work and the guilt because your child is sick…again. Having to call my boss on the days when Roy was unwell to tell them I was unable to work again was horrible, I literally used to make myself feel sick as I was letting them down. I was torn in half of wanting to be a reliable worker and having to stay home and care for my son which was the right thing to do. As I said previously, I never saw it at the time but I see now that going back to work caused me so much anxiety and stress. When Roy was sick, he didn’t want to eat and that meant that he wasn’t putting on the recommended weight and that was the next hurdle for us. We were though, very fortunate that Roy was born at a decent weight and that he drank his bottles well but we had a lot of trouble with food intake. I hated going to the appointments and getting him weighed. It was such a let down when he had only put on 100 grams in 3 months and they would begin to question what I was doing and what I was feeding him. To me, he seemed like a normal little boy who was happy. He wasn’t tall but I’m not tall and neither is my husband. Every time we went to those appointments, I would come home in tears and felt more anxious then before even attending the appointment. I think we went up until he was 1 and half and then I just said to my mum, I can’t do it anymore, they kept saying the same thing but to me he was fine and he was happy!
These are just a few of the struggles we had in our first year, I look back now and think that it was hard and I did struggle juggling everything.. but what Mum doesn’t? We all feel like we need to struggle silently because life is still rolling on around us. For me, I firmly believe that every mum needs to have a village around her because you definitely need to surround yourself with people who can help, who you can talk too, who you can vent too and who can come over and tell you that you are amazing. You can’t do motherhood alone, I always knew that children grow fast by working in childcare but when it’s your own child, they grow up even faster. Being a mother is the best journey that I have been on in my life, I feel like I was born to be a mum to this little boy of mine and it has taught me so much about life that I didn’t even know. If I could leave you with one thing it would be that in any parents first year- will probably realise that some of your friends are at different stages of their lives to you and that’s ok. It’s ok call to your mum a million times to confirm that your doing the right thing. You don’t have to soak up every moment because not every moment is enjoyable and that is okay. Your doing the best job you can and some days are better then others. Always trust your gut… a mothers instinct does exist and you won’t be able to see any other option because of how strong your instruct is.