Imagine being in a world of constant warmth, being continuously fed and constantly cuddled in a safe enclosed space… suddenly you are wrenched from that world and bought swiftly into one of bright lights, loud noise, no constant cuddles and a feeling of hunger and thirst. It’s no wonder it takes a baby a while to adjust to the changes of being inside the womb versus out there in the ‘real world’. This period of adjustment or the first three months of a baby’s life is called the fourth trimester and it’s a period of great change where a baby gets used to new reflexes, senses develop and of course a world full of people. I mean I’d cry if I was thrust into such a harsh new environment, wouldn’t you?
Oscar’s first few minutes in the world were spent in harsh light of an operating theatre as the doctor finished gluing me back together. But it wasn’t long before he was in the warm darkness of our hospital room placed on both me and Mr S for skin-to-skin contact and my first time breast-feeding. Though I was scared both about having an operation and being a new mum… it was the best day of my life and the days that followed lived up to that first day. The day we bought him home with us was the second best day of my life after the day I first met him. * Sorry Mr S but now our wedding day pales into insignificance in comparison.
Those first few days… when he was five hours old, then 24 hours old, and then a week old are the most precious memories I’ll ever have and as the days and weeks have passed he’s gone from a little wrinkled duckling who barely opened his eyes to a bouncy, smily baby with chubby arms, big curious eyes and the sweetest temperament. He’s my best friend, my soul mate… he’s the one that made me a mum and he’s best thing that ever happened to me. As precious as those memories are, it’s easy to forget the little things with so much change, a ‘baby’ brain and sleep deprivation so I thought I’d continue to document Oscar’s development here so I can look back and remember the early days.
Everyone (doctor, midwife, health visitor, your next door neighbour etc etc) will tell you the most important thing about having a new baby is establishing feeding. Having attended NCT classes and read lots of books on taking care of babies, I was keen to try breastfeeding but also determined not to beat myself up if it didn’t work out for us. Those first few days in the hospital were hard – a teeny baby doesn’t need much just those first drops of colostrum before your milk comes in but establishing the latch is vital. As the midwives taught me how to do it: hold the baby, position him by holding his neck (!) and shape the breast it was very hard to coordinate and I felt like I needed three hands plus having just had a c-section, things were even harder. But little by little I got to grips with the action and the midwives said I’d gone from being the worst pupil on the ward to the star! Honestly the key was just forgetting about the ‘right’ position and doing what felt natural.
It’s taken to 12 weeks but an action that seemed so hard and overwhelming at first seems easy as can be now and the most natural thing in the world. Oscar and I are a team when it comes to feeding and on breast milk alone he has grown from 6 pounds and 6 ounces at birth to the 10 pounds seven ounces that he was when we weighed him week 12. That’s not to say it’s been an easy road… weeks of cluster feeding made breastfeeding feel relentless like there was hardly a time when he wasn’t on my boob. Tiny Oscar constantly seemed to want to feed and could sometimes be going as long as an hour – and sometimes doing so at 3am. I’ve experienced very painful blocked milk ducts, bleeding nipples and screaming baby at my boob but it’s all been worth it to see my little man blooming! As the relentlessness subsides to very quick feeds, I really appreciate the convenience of breast-feeding, a steady supply that’s always there, no sterilising bottles and cuddles with Oscar every time I feed. After breast-feeding was fully established (experts say wait six weeks) I was able to express milk and start enjoying the occasional day or night out with Mr S able to give baby a bottle.
The first few days in hospital we thought we were very lucky, we’d got a good boy who rarely cried… but soon Oscar found his voice and was very vocal if he was tired, hungry or needed a cuddle. At about six – eight weeks a baby’s crying apparently reaches it’s peak. And this was certainly the case with Oscar who started crying for no explicable reason, leaving me unsure what to do as he howled every time I took a bite to eat or tried to have a shower. Sometimes even cuddles wouldn’t work though Mr S discovered his son was happiest in certain position on his shoulder while he paced up and down the flat. Fortunately the crying eases off and now Oscar can happily sit in his bouncer chair, play on his mat or lie contentedly in his cot giving me chance to get the house in order and actually be able to eat breakfast / go to the loo and even write a blog post out of nap time hours.
When Oscar was first born people asked me how his sleeping was… well all he seems to do is sleep was my response. Mr S and I worried, was this normal? As our little man barely seemed to open his eyes and was always asleep, sometimes in his cot but often on one of us as we craved cuddles with our new addition. In the beginning we were keeping Oscar up with us until around 10ish when we put him in his Snuzpod… soon it became clear that Oscar wanted a routine and was getting tired so I started an evening routine (bath / massage, night-clothes, feed, cuddles) before putting him down at 7 / 8pm in his cot. At the beginning naps were at the random times he fell asleep where ever he was whereas now I try and put him in cot at particular times a day. With him being well rested he’s become less grouchy during the day which has aided the reduction of crying.
As he’s got bigger he did longer and longer stretches through the night and now we’ve achieved the dream of him sleeping through the night. He doesn’t do it every night but we are getting there! The better night’s sleep the gets, the better he’ll be during the day so now we actively avoid taking him out in the evening unless necessary.
Born three weeks early, Oscar was a fairly small baby (although fortunately not so small that he needed any intensive care) and when he was first born he didn’t even fit into newborn clothes. We had to buy first size onesies for him … but now his skinny legs are filling out, his cheeks are chubbier and he looks more robust. As exciting as it is to see my little one thrive, there’s a sense of sadness and nostalgia as I say goodbye to each stage. I actually cried when I put away those newborn clothes that had looked so big at first!
Daily tummy time means his neck is getting stronger and he’s developing the muscles that will eventually help him sit up, crawl and one day walk.
Social and Sensory
In the early days, Oscar would pay no attention as we waved objects in front of his face and rattled toys to stimulate him but now he’ll follow an object with fascination, take in noises and he’s started to reach out and grab things. From the beginning little O would do these sleepy little dream smiles and laughs especially after he’d just fed (some would say it’s wind but I liked to think he’s dreaming about milk and cuddles!) but at about week 8, Oscar started making eye contact with Mr S and I and smiling and laughing as we played and sung to him. When you get those little smiles it’s totally heartbreaking and it makes all the tougher times even more worthwhile.
My Postpartum Mind Set
Early pregnancy, was a time of extreme anxiety for me with constant fear of miscarriage or something happening to the baby growing inside me, that anxiety reared it’s head again when we discovered the complications with my placenta and I was in hospital nearly every day. I feared that I would also suffer from anxiety once I had that tiny baby, oh so delicate and small. However, when Oscar was in my arms and safe, much of the fear melted away and I’m happy to say no signs of postpartum depression that is just so common in new mums. I felt totally relieved to finally have him here but that’s not to say I wasn’t still nervous and feeling delicate myself post c-section.
Mr S took about three weeks off work paternity leave which was a godsend in the scary early days of being a first time mum. We took him for a walk the day after we took him home and everything scared me for example seeing someone smoking nearby (smoking is the number 1 cause of SIDS), crossing the road, the hot weather… the list goes on and on. It was about six weeks before I took him out on my own without my mum or Mr S beside me and even that was a nerve-wracking ten minute walk. Fast forward to the end of the fourth trimester and now I take him all different places on my own and I try and leave my flat at least once a day. I’ve discovered all sorts of fun things to do with an infant in London, and I’ll put together a blog post of them at some point! We’ve been lucky with Oscar as he’s pretty good in restaurants and public places and taking him out with us has been fun rather than overwhelming. I’ve been out a few times without him now, the first time being during the day for the afternoon tea at the Four Seasons and during the evening for the launch of the Bob Bob Cite dining rooms. Of course I missed him these times but it’s incredible the sense of freedom I felt simply getting in a cab minus a pram…
At the beginning the thought of taking him on a flight would have scared the *** out of me but it was actually so much easier than I thought and I’m excited for all the adventures that we will have as a family. I’d love to go away again before Christmas but if not we’ve got a ski trip planned in January
My Postpartum Body
I was worried about how my body would go back after pregnancy (I know you’re not supposed to think about shallow things like that but c’mon I’m only human) especially as there is such a proliferation of images on social media. I was lucky, I didn’t put on much weight in pregnancy and my weight increased by around 18 pounds from when I found out until when I gave birth. Doctors recommend a gain of 25 pounds but as I found out late and had Oscar early, I was probably about right. 25 pounds sounds like a lot but this includes the actual weight of the baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, breast tissue etc and only a small amount of actual fat. So theoretically after the baby is born most of it should go fairly soon after. I have to say that when I weighed myself when we came home after four days in hospital, I was disappointed to have only lost six pounds, which was less than the actual weight of the baby! And of course my uterus was still enlarged after the pregnancy. Within a week more weight was dropping of and my uterus was shrinking and in about two weeks I only two pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight and my stomach had shrunk right back down. After that everything pretty much stayed the same and though I was almost back to my normal weight and my stomach was only very slightly rounded, my shape was still different to before. There was that rounded tummy, love handles and back fat but with no stretch marks or wrinkly skin and my upper body and legs still look pretty similar, I personally thought I didn’t look that bad for having just given birth!
I can see that shedding the few extra pounds and doing some exercise would have me looking better (I know I may never be the same again but I’m ok with that). Honestly, the extra padding didn’t really bother me as I thought it would and at the beginning there was absolutely no chance of dieting. Breast feeding meant I needed to eat well and tiredness means high calorie intake is needed for energy. Of course ideally I’d be living on a diet of avocado, wholesome grains and vegetables but realistically ready meals, baguettes and reaching continually for the biscuit tin is what happens when you need energy and you’re lacking in time. Having a c-section also means holding back on exercise, ideally for the first three months. Now I’m signed off by the doctor I’m tentatively exercising again, trying to walk most places, twenty minute post natal You Tube videos and mummy and me exercise classes. Those extra pounds are still clinging and the love handles are still there but it take nine months to brew a baby and apparently it takes the same amount of time to get your body back. I’ve surprised myself that I’m really in no hurry to get there!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this post, I really like writing personal updates. I think I’ll be writing a monthly round up on Oscar and what we’ve been up and how he’s been developing. Is this something that you’d like to see?
(FYI this post was written at week 12 and Oscar is now 16 weeks and so different already!!)