Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Chocolate Teapot Tales Part Two: Meeting the Baby

Meeting the Baby: Advice which may be as welcome or useful as a Chocolate Teapot!

After 1stSister was born, I remember everyone turning up at the hospital at once. A best friend was flying back to the UAE and it was her only chance to visit; my grandmother had rocked up at the hospital unannounced, because that was how she rolled. There were two sets of parents meeting their first grandchild; baby's aunt and uncle lived nearby and could visit.

Mum & 1stSister in hospital 
Only thing, I was in no fit state to talk to anyone, let alone introduce my baby.

1stSister was almost two weeks overdue, not ready to meet the world at all. 48 hours later, 'failed' water birth, 'failed' first stage, 'failed' second stage, epidural, forceps attempt (which got her down but she went back up - did I mention that recalcitrance to meet the world?) and finally an emergency caesarean that got her delivered safely. If I didn't have PTSD, I had something akin to it (and would soon be experiencing extreme postnatal anxiety) and spent the next couple of nights barely sleeping, experiencing anxiety and flashbacks, and trying to learn breastfeed a hungry baby who was desperate for my milk to come in. (Thankfully at this time midwives would still take your baby off to the night nursery on the ward so you could get some sort of rest.)

I can look back on this time positively now - I spent a total of five nights in the hospital before she and I were discharged, and although I was absolutely exhausted, I was well looked after and although the delivery was not what I had planned, there are some beautiful memories I take from it, and 1stSister was here to stay!

But still. FabDad was similarly completely out of his depth in managing the situation; he simply couldn't comprehend the unfathomable exhaustion I was experiencing following a difficult delivery which involved surgery. Add a first baby into the mix and even the simplest things became a challenge. Like talking. Thinking. Being. Neither of us had the wisdom, the innocence or the audacity to say: there is no way on earth anyone else can come and meet the baby right now. Come in a couple of days when things have settled down. Better still, wait until mother and baby are home.

I feel your pain, 1stSister

I hadn't read the words of wisdom I saw on the internet this week (that I will reference if I find out what it was!) that reminded me to write this post, which suggested that later on, no one will hold it against you that they didn't meet the baby until she was two, three, four days old. And, let's face it, some people will hold it against you, because people are people. But I think it's important to try and distinguish between other people's expectations, and your own.

Because I was overjoyed to meet my baby, and could have benefited from some time getting to know her, with her father sitting with us, becoming a family unit. But I had it in my head that others would be equally overjoyed to meet my baby, and that the sooner they met her, the better. I knew there was a priority order that should be followed - grandparents, grandparents, great grandparent, aunt & uncle, and that bad things would happen if this wasn't played out. Like most things to do with parenting at this stage, I was completely inflexible, and at the total mercy of what I assumed others' expectations were. In retrospect, those first few days at the hospital didn't need to have been full of people

Having just recently had a minor keyhole operation eleven years on, where I struggled to get out of bed for two weeks, I realised just how challenging a caesarean section is when you are having to attend to a newborn. To get recovered, you need sleep. You need feeding. You don't need to entertain visitors and you certainly don't need to put pressure on yourself for everyone to meet your baby. Whether in the hospital, or at home. I did feel completely different after my one vaginal delivery, and went home the same day, but I suspect it's the same principle. Introduce baby when you are ready. While it's not possible to have rational judgement post-partum, it's up to you and your partner to decide how imperative it is for other people to meet baby. If you have more than one child, it changes the picture even more - it's of primary importance for siblings not only to bond with the new baby, but to feel secure in the family unit rather than pushed out by a constant stream of visitors.


(Funnily enough, when 2ndSister was born and I was in hospital on my birthday, things worked out differently. My parents were away, FabDad had 1stSister at home to look after, and I felt unbelievably lonely! When my grandmother did her whole turning up unannounced thing this time, I was so happy to see her and the bunch of grapes she brought with her. 3rdSister, I was home in a hop, skip and a jump before anyone had chance to say "when are visiting hours?" By my third C-Section, with 4Sister, nobody was bothered came to see us at the hospital at all - my husband brought the girls in, and that was enough, and nobody questioned it.)

How you deal with things post-baby is certainly up to you, and you may be pressed upon to conform with familial and cultural expectations - but I plead with you not to do as I did first time round and assume I knew what other people's expectations were. I certainly see the lack of rest and recovery as a factor in post-partum difficulties I encountered. The first few days, the first week, need to well-managed if possible, especially if you have had a difficult delivery and/or do not have people to look after you and your home. If people are coming, get them to bring food and take your washing and ironing! Similarly, if there are expectations to be somewhere - work, church, someone else's event - and you simply can't be there, try and manage your, and others', expectations of this, if at all possible.

1stSister; hospital blanket & bruised nose from forceps

Once at home, I kept up with the steady stream of visitors because of a sense of duty to family and friends, as well as filling in birth announcements (all the while struggling to feed and get on top of washing nappies.) Once my husband was back at work, I obeyed the health professional guidelines of getting out and about and seeing people even though it was ruinous for me physically and mentally. (Perhaps this may have helped for someone more extrovert, but I could have done with quiet time at home just sitting with my baby). Again, it's important to work out what you can manage.
Parenting requires you to be superhuman in many ways - any added pressures need to be carefully considered. If, like I did, you rush back to work to show off baby because your employers thoughtfully put a "can't wait to meet her!" note in with the flowers they sent, prepare to be worn out if you do it too early. (Such a phrase isn't usually meant to be interpreted so literally.)


Like all of the advice in this series, though - just work out what works for you. Family, friends, health professionals and the entire internet will be chipping in telling you what is best for you and baby. As a first-time parent can take some working out, but as a parent, you are the one who should be able to make these decisions.

Links that came up when I Googled this subject which may also help: - I like this one because it reminds you not to forget about Dad!

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