There is no way really to describe the massive impact that childbirth has on you emotionally and physically.  Quite apart from the explosion into your life of a small human, the reality of which is very different from your imagination, there are a host of emotions that you need to process with regard to your own personal journey through labour and into motherhood.

I didn’t have the birth that I had hoped for.  Kitty turned into a posterior position and the result was a long and drawn out back labour.  When the time came I felt no urge to push, she was just in the wrong place, and as much as I managed to get her head all the way through my cervix (which I was told was quite an achievement under the circumstances), I lacked the strength to push her the rest of the way.  I was given an epidural and she was pulled out using forceps.  To the midwives I have spoken to, the fact that she was born vaginally is a triumph on it’s own and I should regard myself as something of a hero.  It’s odd to say, however, that as much as I know that nothing that went wrong was within my control I can’t help but feel on some level that I suck at childbirth.

My memories of the event are largely hazy.  I took pethodin for the pain.  I’m sure that it must have had an impact on that to some degree but I am mostly aware of the fact that it made me feel like I was dropping in and out of reality.  Each time I came round the situation seemed unfamiliar, like I was travelling through time.  At one point I was convinced that I had seen two versions of the future,  one in which the baby was delivered with minimal tearing and in the other the episiotomy I dreaded.  The rosy version was sadly not to be.  When I think back on the birth, it was really quite frightening, just because so often I had no idea what was going on.  The plus side is that I am very able to leave it behind me,  if only because the memories I have are incoherent and fuzzy.

As for the first few days of motherhood, they have been both better and worse than I had hoped for.  The good is that, no matter what I have been told,  I haven’t had NO sleep.  I don’t get as much sleep as I’m accustomed to but it’s not impossible to get a few hours a night and to catch up with naps during the day.  The nappies, even the explosive ones, really aren’t that bad either.  There have been a couple of nights that felt impossible, but I will get to those later.  The factor that makes the first few weeks of parenthood so hard is not what people tell you,  it’s not sleep depravation, or hard work, or hormones, it’s fear.  It’s the simple overwhelming fear that something could happen to this little slip of life that you’ve been given responsibility for and that that burden will never go.  You will always be frightened for this little person.  In time, I suppose, that anxiety becomes more familiar and you become more confident of your abilities to match the challenge, but in the first few weeks, you are out of control and taking each day one moment to the next.  That part of being a parent is far harder to cope with than I had ever imagined and even now as I type and she sleeps soundly behind me,  I have to turn every few moments and touch her cheek to make sure that she is still there and she is still okay.

The hellish nights were caused by the fact that my milk came in late and once it did arrive it was a little sluggish to get going,  Kitty howled with hunger for two days.  Nothing would console her.  She started out small and lost weight.  Most babies lose weight in the first week but Kitty lost more than she should have.  That combined with the fact that my waters broke early lead to a three night stay in hospital while the paediatricians filled her with preemptive antibiotics, in case she had been exposed to an infection after that seal had been broken,  and the midwives had Pete feeding her formula while I worked to express milk and increase my flow.  The good news, although I always knew it would be the case (while it’s scary, sometimes you just know whether your baby is well or not), is that Kitty is in good health, there was no infection and had nearly returned to her birthweight by the time we left the hospital.  The bad news is that my dreams of exclusive breast feeding are fading fast.  I am being able to increase my flow bit by bit and against all the odds Kitty will still take to the breast from time to time (bottle fed babies often refuse the breast afterwards, it’s too much like hard work) but even when I do manage to get my supply up to scratch, I’m not sure I’ll have the courage to rely on it anymore.  She’ll get the bulk of her milk in a bottle and the feeding sessions will be about comfort and bonding for both of us.

The moral of this story is,  that no one is ever prepared for parenthood.  Whatever books you’ve read or how ready you may think you are it will always be more than you bargained for.  It’s not exactly that no one tells you,  it’s that they tell you the wrong things.  But you learn to adapt and you work with it and day by day you learn how to be parent.

 

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