Well, little Ruby Jean finally made an appearance at 41 weeks and 2 days and we are home, we are three (plus two dogs) and we are all kind of alright, actually.
This was the moment that I was most afraid of, most unsure about and felt least prepared for. That moment when I was to walk back into my home with my new baby and have to just ‘do it’. With the grand exception of a first born, there is nothing that can prepare you for it, no way of knowing what to do, what you need and what you don’t have and so how on earth was I going to do anything other than royally mess it up. I’d need help, surely and I mean the WHOLE family will have to come and move in with us for at least a week otherwise we’ll all expire through neglect and starvation. Well they didn’t and miraculously, neither did we.
We are now just over two weeks in and the fog is starting to clear. It’s a little as if I have observed the last fourteen days as they’ve unfolded in a film, one with mist and eerie supernatural episodes which seems to run one into another with no ultimate ‘happening’ and no big drama, just the vague knowledge that another ‘happening’ is just around the corner and that it too shall throw up another strange challenge to be overcome. It’s hard at times to tell what’s reality and what’s fog. There are moments when I look at Ruby and it’s as if she’s always been here, it’s like I know her and we’ve figured each other out and then there’s the rest of the time when I feel like I’ve never before laid eyes on this little creature. Breathe…relax…make more tea…
Today, as every day so far my overriding feeling is disbelief. Total awe that I have this little being (currently strapped to a baby bean bag on the table, looking kind of happy) and that she is alive and well in my care. That I haven’t totally f*cked it up yet. Amazing. I feel this too every time I poke her when she’s sleeping, setting off the startle reflex in her and the relief reflex in me. Will she grow to hate me as I’m constantly making her jump out of her skin?
I believe that I was like most first time mums to be; fearful of the first few days home, the fear of failure and the fear of the unknown. The impending doom of being left to ones own devices with a new baby who is totally dependant on you and your ability to keep him or her safe. Well, it turns out that they’re pretty straight forward really and will, most probably, be fine so long as you don’t do anything monumentally stupid.
The ones we really need to worry about are ourselves. Our sleeping, feeding and cleaning needs are way more complex than theirs and when these three basic human needs are suddenly forfeited we feel weird, foggy, ill, emotional, unable to cope.
With this in mind I decided to try and focus on keeping it simple and try to remind myself of the below when I feel like I’m living in that film again:
- Embrace the night – stop beating yourself up because you’re awake at 3am and should be asleep. Hark back to nights of yesteryear when you were simply amazing at 3am and had the superhuman ability to convince yourself that tomorrow will be fine and you can function perfectly well on 2 hours sleep. You can. And you can do it even better without a hangover. You will have read lots of perfectly reasonable articles suggesting you have a family member stay with you to do the night shift (does ANYONE have a family member who would do this?) or to sleep when baby sleeps but for me, neither are an option. Just chill out, try not to cry and wait for morning when everything will seem a little more…achievable.
- Beware the breakthrough – that tribal dance manoeuvre you did that got baby to sleep? It was a one off! Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve cracked the code early and that you are in fact Supermum. It won’t work again. Nor will that wedge-her-up-with-cushions technique nor the calming forehead circles. They’re flukes. Sorry.
- Set small goals – when previously a day at home meant you could do ALL the jobs, now you can only do one. Pick it wisely. What will have the most impact on your house/mood? You can do the washing OR clean the bathroom OR go to the supermarket and MAYBE get in a little walk. That is all and that’s alright. You will be feeding your baby for the equivalent of a full day at work so give yourself a break. And try to tidy up as you go. And shop online.
- Eat. Wash. Coffee.
Trust yourself and keep it simple. Look! Baby is ok and screaming and shit*ing and wriggling and looking happy then outraged then confused all of which are normal. I think. You can read all the blogs and forums and books you like about how to prepare, what to buy and what to expect but I just wish I’d read more to reassure me that it’d be alright and that I’d figure it out.
I for one am proud of my messy house, the hours I’ve put in to Netflix, my daytime pyjama wearing and my out of sync breakfasting at lunchtime because I’ve made it through the first two weeks and WE ARE ALL STILL ALIVE! Hurrah for that.