As I stood and looked at my three days postpartum self in the mirror, a thought struck me. Well, more than struck me, wailed out of my mouth via the sounds of an enormous scream. Why did no one tell me it was this hard. Whhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
Bar going postnatally bananas, I did have the sense to know that my exhaustion and sheer disbelief at the hard work being a mum those first few weeks was down to that – exhaution, disbelief and shock at having to be an on call responsible person for a small child 24 hours a day , while bent over double from childbirth. I wish someone had told me all the things that happen in those first few weeks after having a child. The good, the bad and the ugly. All I wish is that someone had told me you bleed ALOT, every time you do a wee, you think your fandango is on fire,that after having a c section ( the easy way to give birth apparently) you won’t be able to stand straight,get out of bed,breathe without feeling searing pain,that your nipples are capable of being cut by a baby with no teeth, and that babies don’t ever actually sleep.
My boobs, though always ample, were like volcanos that hadn’t worked out how to explode yet. The midwife came round to weigh the baby and john said’ Eve, you might want to put some clothes on, the midwife is here’. I shuffled past him bent over and stood at the front door, au natural if you will. I burst into tears and said ‘ I can’t do this’ and went to seek solace in her arms. I meant I can’t do parenthood, I can’t be a mum forever, I’m terrified, please help me and take the baby away. She however thought I meant I couldn’t breastfeed and so began squeezing my boobs in and out to as she said ‘ get that juicy milk flowing’. The vision of standing there as naked as I could be , being milked like a cow by a milkmaid is one I will always hold dear to my heart. I hope she remembers me so fondly.
Saying that, I did find breastfeeding hard. I can’t remember a lot of the early days but John often says, as he looks at me nursing my now four year old, god Eve, I never thought you would be feeding him four years on considering how hard it was those first six weeks. He says I would be in tears with Joe not able to latch on to my left boob. It was bleeding , cut, went bright red and so full at the need to be released, would squirt all over John every time I rolled over in bed. This apparently happens when you’re turned on as well but let’s not discuss that.
I typically had no breastfeeding support in the hospital. Once I’d given birth, I fed Joe from my right boob and it was the only time where I though, oohh,the birds are singing around my head and I feel like skipping down the street. For about ten minutes, as it seemed to be so easy. Fast forward a few hours though, John had been made to leave the hospital,my baby was crying, I was attached to the bed with a catheter and the midwives button appeared to be broken. I rang it for 6 hours to ask a nurse to pass me my child. No one came. By the time it was 2am, a nurse came in and shouted at me to ‘get my baby to stop crying as it’s keeping people awake’,I asked her to hand the baby to me, she did just that and turned to walk away. I asked for her help to get Joe to latch. ‘Rub his nose with your nipple, that will make him do it. If not, give him a bottle as breastfeeding might not be for you. Breastfeeding alone equals no life’. And that was it. My breastfeeding support done.
I persevered though giving Joe just boob as for me, I think it was the only way I would allow myself to be near him. I was so scared of his very presence and had many scary,psychotic thoughts about who I was ,why I was alive, the purpose of life,was I in a coffin,was I in the Truman Show,was John an actor and is that star in the sky really a light of a studio, that I think somewhere deep down, something in me knew if I didn’t keep feeding him, I would lose all connection with him completely. But that’s not my point. My point is,if I had another baby, I would not leave the hospital until the baby was feeding. I would make sure John could stay with me. I’d check the midwives are available to be contacted all the time. I wish I had been told all these things before I had Joe and asserted they be done , or have John there to do it for me, I don’t think I’d have left hospital in the total breakdown state I was in. I would have still developed psychosis and anxiety as that appeared almost as soon as he was born, but I definitely would have left hospital slightly confident in my ability to nurture my child via my breasts.
Breastfeeding is hard but with the right support it works and its wonderful. As it turned out to be for me.I’m very in support of breastfeeding. I think women should be able to feed wherever they want,without having to cover their child in a tent and they should be able to feed for as long as they and their child want to. Feeding a four year old really isn’t because a mother is selfish and wants her child to remain a baby. Trust me , there is no way you can force a child to nurse and considering the gymnastics that are performed while my child feeds, I think he sees it as practise for a future Olympic sport .It’s because , pure and simple, a child wants to keep breastfeeding from its mother.
Back to the mirror incident. I stood there with milk hanging of the end of my nipples, fishnet knickers over my c section scar and black rings under my eyes ,I looked like I was about to appear in an ahem, special interest, film. The fishnet knickers that I was wearing, I was told, were an ‘an absolute must if you are having a c section darling’ by some middle class friends. They cost a lot of money and all they succeeded in managing to do was to tangle themselves around the bead attached to the end of my stitches causing them to unravel. John phoned labour ward and said , what on earth do we do? Puzzled, the midwives said, we don’t have a clue, but maybe you could put a plaster over it? So that night , john painstakingly cut and trimmed 24 Spider-man plasters and stuck them along my wound. I resembled a patchwork doll. Still, when I had my meltdown in the gps office the next day, the nurse who took my pity on me said he hadn’t done a bad job of patching me up. At least he has a new career option should his current job fail to work out.
I’d also say, if one is having a c section , don’t buy these pants as they make you look like a has-been porn star. I repeat, they are FISHNET PANTS . They may assist with airflow but when the wind whips around you, your breath will be severely taken away. I went on holiday when I was 21 to Spain and got very sunburnt. I hobbled to the Spanish doctor and said I need help. They handed me some emergency contraception. I said no, I don’t need this, I need something to help my melting skin. The doctor who saw me spent an hour applying cream and wrapping me in a ‘protective dressing’. When I got back to my hotel and took my top of, my friend looked mortified and burst out into hysterical laughter. Puzzled, I looked at myself. I’m not sure if I can describe this properly, but he had wrapped bandages around my body, but had left my boobs bare. He had then put a fishnet body stocking over me. I looked like I should be in a bar with a pint glass collecting pound coins ahead of my strip show. I didn’t look quite the same with the fishnet pants three days after having my child, but it has meant I’ll never wear fishnets ever again.
Advice here is, get yourself to Primark before sprog has dropped and buy yourself some massive potato sack style pants. You can bring out the Ann Summers nipple tassels after the six week check, but until then , stick with pants that go up to your under arms. And buy about 57 pairs. Attach the biggest maternity pads you can find to them and revel in the glory that a) you don’t look like you belong in Razzle and more importantly b) potato sacks aren’t capable of pulling out your precious stitches and the maternity towel won’t shift around in said pants. This not what the baby magazine said I would look like. I am supposed to have daisies in my hair, spending hours just staring at my child and thinking , oohh lets do it again and have another one straight away. In reality, I was walking round with my legs so far apart it looked like I needed the loo almost constantly,with ice cubes in my bra and DVT socks under my leggings. Mmm I looked a right treat.
My friend came round over one afternoon when I was really starting to lose it. Those of you who read my first blog post will know I was starting to go beyond slightly crazy at this time. When she came in, she looked like a goddess. Hair straight,size 10 white jeans on and a big broad smile. The baby looked like this seasons perfect accessory. I looked at myself. Considering the last time I was a size 10 was when I was ten years old, so that part didn’t count, but my hair was stuck to my head with enough grease to fry an egg and I had my black maternity pyjama bottoms on, complete with a sanitary towel that went halfway up my back. She asked how I was and I smiled through shaking teeth and said yeah fine, isn’t motherhood wonderful. She said, yeah it is, but it can’t do a shit yet and I’m going up the wall. I then got a full low down on vaginal stitches and the terrifying fear she had of ‘passing stools’ in case she caused herself some damage. I admit, I felt some light relief that even though she looked like a supermodel, she too wasn’t living in the pink coloured bliss we are led to believe the first few days and weeks are.
The first week was beyond hard. Not only was I developing a deep anxiety with a few psychotic incidents thrown in for good measure, but I found the role of just being a mum, so very very hard. I wish my £400 antenatal classes had said to me , buy some nipple cream before you give birth instead of spending 6 lessons on how to perform a six legged yoga pose while hypnotising yourself through labour .Especially when you are having a c section.
I wish someone had said look, they shit all the time. Especially when it’s 4am, you’ve changed their nappy,feed them for an hour and lay them back in the Moses basket. And the poo is bright yellow and will somehow end up in their ears.and will remain there for six weeks , similar to sand in your bikini bottoms. But do you know what I really wish someone had said? I wish someone has been so honest about how it can be hard but then said look,it’s so hard but you know what, It does get easier. And don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing fine.
Soon, they will smile.and that’s gorgeous. And soon, they won’t be feeding 57 times a day. And at some point, they do sleep for more than half an hour. And at some point, around six weeks, the bleeding stops and you can retire the Primark potato sack pants and engage in conjugal relations with the other half. Then,they are six months. And they throw food everywhere. And it’s hysterical. They make little noises and they have lovely little tiny feet that smell all sweaty and dirty and gorgeous. I would look at Joe and smell his little feet and say to him that stinky feet are the sign of a fun day. Of course at six months old, he just said goo goo gaa gaa back to me and vomited down my top but it’s still something we say now, four years later when he kicks his sweaty little socks off from nursery.
And then they start walking and clapping at themselves and say those lovely words ‘mama’. I won’t ever forget the day Joe said mama. My heart, the heart that I thought was too terrified of him to revel in anything he did, filled with so much joy that I cried. My boobs also started leaking everywhere and made a terrible mess. The early days are hard. Super hard and they seem like they will never end. And every new age brings new adventures and new hardships. But it does really become the most wonderful thing in the whole entire world. Just go and smell your kids little feet. And see how much fun they have had. And you have had.