I thought I was prepared. We thought we were.
My boyfriend and I had been so focused on having everything set up for the arrival of our baby as well as being prepared for actually giving birth, yet bringing our baby daughter back home from the hospital felt like being thrown into the deep end.
Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely to be able to drive home as a family of three and getting to know her over the months has been the greatest gift of all. But the first few weeks of life with a newborn baby were really difficult. I’m not going to lie.
In order to explain my expectations, we need to go back in time to when I was pregnant.
I had a physically demanding job, working mostly unsociable hours. I worked at an international residence with over 700 students. I had a heavy workload of responsibilities for the students as well as for my team of supervisors. I’d be up early in the mornings to do wake-up calls, a lot of the time for students who pretended to be asleep and needed to be convinced to get up and go to school, hand out medication and prescribe home remedies.
Late at night, I would check that they were all home on time and safe inside the building, or I would have to stay up waiting for them. I loved working with the students and my colleagues were amazing. But even heavily pregnant, I managed to do around 12 000-17 000 steps a day going through all corridors and up and down the stairs.
When a workplace tries to cut corners, one person ends up learning, as well as performing jobs that should be done by someone else.
My sleeping pattern was irregular, to put it mildly. If you get off from work at 11.30 pm, or any other time for that matter, going to bed is not typically the first thing you do. It took ages just to settle down and turn off my work mode. Especially when you live in the same residence as the students and are on call in the nights, and awoken by a fire drill every Tuesday morning.
I didn’t mind, because being this kind of superhuman made me feel important. So, with this, I thought I was prepared for anything.
I had of course not taken into account that my body would be in a different state after giving birth, feeling sore and uncomfortable and somehow stiffer than before.
I learned the hard way that nothing compares to the tiredness of being woken up at night, sometimes several times. So in that sense, I was naive thinking I’d be a superhuman in this completely different scenario.
My boyfriend was the one who ended up coping better with the late-night wake-ups. He would always be the first one to hear when our daughter would start stirring in her Moses basket. I would wake up confused, not even able to make out the words he said.
No one really prepares you for how difficult breastfeeding can be.
I had gone to a breastfeeding seminar and been taught how to hold a baby to ensure comfortable breastfeeding, at least for the baby. Looks easy enough, I thought.
What no one told me about breastfeeding is that your milk might come in late. By that I mean that the initial brown looking colostrum might not develop into breast milk quickly enough. My daughter went through a massive growth spurt when she was 5 days old and my milk still hadn’t come in. The colostrum just wasn’t enough for her at that time and as a result, my boyfriend and I stayed up all night with a distressed, screaming baby.
We felt so helpless we made a call back to the triage. I could barely speak because I was so upset from lack of sleep and the distress I felt from hearing my baby scream so much she was practically shivering. I had forgotten to take my pain relief so at 5 am I stumbled out of the house with my daughter in my arms. At the triage, they gave her some formula through a syringe. She immediately fell asleep and I felt horrible about myself.
After that I got daily visits from midwives and health visitors, more to check up on me than on my baby. I am very grateful for this to this day. It helped me start to slowly get more and more comfortable with everything. I was hormonal and my mind was all over the place. I am not ashamed to say I needed extra support as a new mother, although it completely shattered my previous view of myself as a superhuman.
I felt like I had to almost erase everything I knew about babies and delete all of my previous expectations. I’ve learned that babies don’t come with instructions.
My boyfriend and I had to get to know our daughter as an individual who’s only means of communication was crying.
It was difficult not to take it personally, although I knew very well that it wasn’t. It made me afraid of leaving the house at one point because everyone would stop and stare when she would start crying in the middle of a busy city centre. Some people would look at me almost expectantly, their looks saying “your baby is crying, what are you going to do about it?”. Most people would give me understanding looks. I didn’t appreciate either of it.
My boyfriend was a great support during that time. He kept pushing me to go outside and to do stuff for myself, such as getting a coffee or listen to a podcast.
And with that every week got easier and eventually, more enjoyable.
I made friends with other mums and we would take our babies on different activities and meet up weekly for a chat.
Life slowly got back on track and I got more confident as a parent.
I never realised how happy it would make me to experience my daughter reaching different milestones, from babbling to sitting and crawling.
Having a baby has taught me to let go of expectations and to take one day at a time.
And for someone like me, the alleged superhuman, it was not a day too soon. If my daughter smiles because she sees a dog than that’s a great day for me. When she plays hide and seek, giggles and splashes in the bathtub or when she gives me and her dad sloppy kisses, my heart fills with joy I never knew I could feel before.
I’m not a superhuman anymore. But to her, I am.