Today I want to share a new segment on my blog where I review each month of parenthood up until Abigail’s first birthday. I plan to document what I’ve learnt, my experiences and overall thoughts/tips. It will be a great way for me to reflect on this special year plus hopefully help other parents that read my posts. I do hope you enjoy!
You’re probably thinking, how much can happen in one month with a baby? A lot! There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is the most effective form of torture. In those first couple of weeks, Francis and I felt like we were constantly jet lagged. It didn’t help that I was recovering from an emergency c-section (see My Birth Story…), we had to move house and that I had contracted mastitis (an infection you can get from breastfeeding). A lot of that time felt like a blur. I could barely get out of bed, I was that sore and feverish. I must’ve uttered “I’m such a failure of a mother” a billion times to Francis in the beginning. I was so lucky he had long-service leave and was able to assist with basically everything except feedings. I hated that I couldn’t be a hands-on mother who could barely change a nappy due to pain and fatigue. Family were a huge help during this time. Our parents helped us pack, brought us food and assisted with whatever we needed. By the end of the two weeks, we had moved in with my mum and decided to live with her until Abigail was no longer a newborn. Things started to get a little bit easier then. For one, I had started to recover from both my surgery and mastitis. For another, my mum was able to cook and clean for us plus take care of Abi when we needed a break/rest.
One major thing I learnt in the first month of having a newborn (which may sound obvious) is that you need to be 100% adaptable. There will be days you don’t brush your teeth because you have your hands full with a screaming baby and when she finally does sleep, you pass out too. Not only that, when you think you are getting into a good pattern with your baby, she will cry for hours without warning. Enter cluster feeding. I was introduced to this rite of passage after I noticed Abigail fussing night after night, ravenously hungry and unable to settle. She would start to fuss around the afternoon or evening and wouldn’t stop until 5-6 hours later. She would then sleep for long stretches of time, full on milk and exhausted from all the screaming. This was both good and challenging. It meant that Francis and I got a great sleep but come the following evening, we had to once again ride the emotional wave. The hardest part of being a parent, in my opinion, is when your child cries and you cannot soothe them. They stare up at you, face red and tears streaming down their cheeks with a ‘help me‘ expression. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Those times were the hardest. They still are! For any mother or father reading, it’s okay to admit that parenting is full-on. I’ve already broken down and cried from the stress. It’s much healthier to get it out. You’re going to have days that are better than others. Just know that all parents go through it and to take each day as it comes. They say it gets easier!
In terms of feeding, a good tip I was given by two maternal child health nurses was to space them out every two hours. I fed her so much early days which led to projectile vomiting everywhere. Babies have little tummies and they need time to digest even after a good amount of burping. Since following this rule, I’ve found she spits up much less often. The last thing you want is for your baby to lose all the milk you’ve just given her. In those two hours, you will need to find other ways to soothe your child. Give her a warm bath, rock her, try a dummy, swaddle her or even take her for a drive! Do whatever works best for your baby. Abigail is most relaxed in water or when she is close to me in the baby carrier. Also Google ‘Tiger in the Tree’ hold – babies with gas pain love that! Our poor darling struggles so much with trapped wind. She screams and bunches her legs up after nearly every feed. Once she releases the gas, she calms down.
Despite all of that, we are both very lucky. Abigail feeds and sleeps very well. She has gained a lot of weight and is a super healthy bub. I am exclusively breastfeeding which has been both a wonderful and painful experience. As mentioned, a week and a half into motherhood, I contracted mastitis. I developed a sore lump (blocked milk duct) on my right breast that quickly became inflamed when I couldn’t unblock it. This led to a nasty fever that needed to be treated with antibiotics. It made me want to give up on breastfeeding. I even rang the Australian Breastfeeding Association to talk about my fears of getting it again. They were extremely helpful and encouraged me to keep going. I am very grateful that services like this exist for fretting mothers. When it finally cleared up, I was gifted a nasty, painful blister on my nipple from poor attachment. Once again, I needed antibiotics (this time a topical cream) to cure it. I cannot describe how painful it was to feed on that breast. I actually had to take painkillers beforehand just to make it through. I don’t say any of this for pity. I just want it to be known that breastfeeding is not easy. It is incredibly rewarding, very healthy and a beautiful way to bond with your bub, but it can be hard. I’m not giving up though. I refuse to throw in the towel just yet. A friend of my mum’s informed me of a probiotic that helps prevent mastitis from returning. I am waiting for it to be delivered in the mail as I had to order it online. For anybody that is curious, click here to learn more about the product. It’s expensive but I will take it if it means I can continue breastfeeding without anymore awful infections. In the meantime, you can prevent mastitis and blocked ducts by practicing proper latching, draining the breasts with frequent feeds (express for comfort if needed), applying warm compresses before feeds and cool compresses after feeds.
This post probably sounds very negative but I assure you, this past month has been the best of my life. Sure parenting can be tough but I wouldn’t trade it for a single second. It’s a dream come true. The love we have for Abigail is overwhelming and unconditional. Every single time I see her face, my heart melts. I want to cry with happiness when she curls up in my arms and falls asleep. I miss her whenever we aren’t in the same room. She makes us laugh all the time with her funny faces, strange noises (newborns can be very loud, especially when they are sleeping), and relentless bouts of gas. I am so in love with my child, it’s ridiculous. It’s such an honour to be her mother. In just one month, Abigail has gotten so strong. She can kick and headbutt and scratch with her baby nails when she’s cranky. She is even starting to hold her head up. Her face is getting plumper and her beautiful hair keeps growing. She’s already starting to outgrow some of her clothes. It won’t be long before she’s too big for her bassinet! I can see the beginnings of a loving and expressive personality coming through. It excites me to continue this journey of watching her change and develop as the months go by. Every day is a new experience. You never know what you’re going to get but that’s the beauty of it. Our whole family adores her, visiting frequently for cuddles and tons of photographs.
I have learnt so much during this short time of being a parent (and I’m going to keep learning for the rest of my life). There is so much more to motherhood than just changing nappies and dressing your baby in cute outfits. Each child is unique and communicates their needs in different ways. It’s all trial and error. You persist and try everything to help them settle. Remember, sometimes babies just cry – Google ‘The Purple Period.’ I carried my daughter for 9 months but only now are we getting to know each other and bond in such a special way. I love how much she needs me or the way she turns her head when she hears my voice.
My final words of wisdom (lol) are to nap when baby naps, ask for help when you need it, take it in shifts (have your partner hold baby whilst you shower and vice-versa) and enjoy every moment because as cliched as it sounds, they grow so fast…
See you next month!
Peace & Love xoxo