At almost sixteen weeks it finally seems official that Talitha is not a newborn. She’s passed the eleven-pound mark on most newborn disposable nappies and grown too long for all her 0-3 months’ clothing. Those first twelve weeks, that fourth trimester, was such brief time and yet living it took yonks.
Looking back with the sagely wisdom of one with a slightly less young baby, I’ve been thinking about what I’d change if I could have a do-over of the newborn thing. These aren’t regrets so much as a gentle interrogation of the experience for next time.
1. I’d get into the birth pool with my baby
I haven’t really talked about what went down with Talitha’s birth in this space yet. That will come. I know my experience wasn’t particularly unusual – birth is generally harrowing – but I’ve needed time to process everything that happened.
I ended up in hospital and struggled to bond with my baby afterward. It felt like I needed something to help salvage a bit of the birth I’d wanted her to have but I didn’t know what. Then when Ella from Purple Mum told me over a cola that she’d into the pool with her newborn daughter after coming home from hospital (another home birth that didn’t work out) it struck me that this was a beautiful thing to do.
At the time I was relieved that my parents took the birth pool down before we got home. It would have depressed me seeing it blown up, full of water, waiting for nothing. But if I could go back, I’d get into that pool, naked with my naked baby, holding, feeding and just looking at her.
2. I’d see a lactation consultant early on
I don’t even need to go into the why’s and wherefore’s on this one. We’ve had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding and the situation was seriously time sensitive. The latch was fine so medical professionals told me, essentially, to “just keep going”.
If it hadn’t been for a compassionate lactation consultant who’d heard about our situation and offered to come see me for free, I would not have been able to continue breastfeeding for as long as I have. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it now.
It took someone who really knew her stuff to sit with us for a couple of hours and see what was going on. It took her many supportive phonecalls to keep me going. Unfortunately, help came too late for us to manage exclusive breastfeeding – it may still be possible but at sixteen weeks, I’m knackered – but to be able to breastfeed at all is a blessing.
I’ve got her card stored for the next baby, though, and will be booking an appointment as soon as!
3. I’d buy a bigger bed
Forget the moses basket and the cot, I’d buy a bigger bed. That’s primarily where we all sleep anyway. I soon got over my angst about co-sleeping or sleep sharing or whatever you want to call it. We love waking up next to our baby, her little face smiling wide at us.
From my point of view, lying down with my baby after an hour-long night feed is somehow preferable to staying up another half-hour for her to fall asleep deeply enough to lie in her cot.
My worries about intimacy? It’s only made us closer, watching over our baby. But what about when she’s got to go into her own bed, her own room? We’ll think about that later. A friend of ours with grown children even made the point that we don’t have to make her go into another room. She regrets not keeping her daughters with them longer.
So I don’t know if we’re planning to be a continuum family or whatever yet but, dude, we need a bigger bed…definitely before number two arrives… Currently Talitha has about a cot’s worth of space as she sleeps with a starfish sprawl and Laurence and I might as well be sharing a single bed.
4. I’d wear my baby more
Laurence always takes exception to anyone calling it “babywearing” instead of simply “carrying” but there’s so much involved in the activity than just holding and transporting a baby. The extensive and frequent time Talitha has spent in slings strapped to me has created a great oneness between us. We’ve gotten to know each other in ways we could not have otherwise done. It’s enabled me to share the world with her while assuring her sense of security.
I didn’t start babywearing until she was almost three weeks and then only out of sheer desperation as I could not settle her. It took weeks before I’d wear her regularly. In that time I oscillated between enjoying and resenting it. Slings gave me the freedom to actually get things done but they made me feel claustrophobic.
Finally, someone made the point to me that she clearly had a strong need to be close to me. This made me realise that the problem was not with her need. I had to learn to enjoy being close to her.
I still have times of longing for more physical space. Anyone who’s been party to my tirades about not being able to get her to take a nap anywhere else knows this. But this time is so short and were I to do it all again, I would only start earlier and be more consistent.
5. I’d take her to a cranial osteopath sooner
I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve mentioned the cranial osteopathy on Circus Queen. When we’d improved the latch, had her tongue-tie cut and her suck didn’t improve enough, the lactation consultant suggested we could think about cranial osteopathy. I looked into it and was a bit cynical. I’d read something somewhere about cranio-sacral therapy, a related alternative therapy, giving the baby the opportunity to “complain” about her birth. It seemed almost laughable.
I was desperate, though, and willing to try anything. We’ve had five or six sessions with the cranial osteopath now and I really do feel it helps. It’s helped a lot with her jaw and her sucking, though something still isn’t right there.
But more than that, it’s helped with Talitha’s overall wellbeing. When she first started going to the cranial osteopath, she was constantly arching her back, never relaxed and often unhappy. Morning until night was a stress-fest for both of us and she would never nap.
The cranial osteopath showed me that she was uncomfortable and in pain due to the stress she’d undergone during birth. She was engaged for a long time and had endured an unusually long series of contractions which had created stress in her head, neck and back.
Each time I took the claims not knowing what to do with them. It looked to me like they – there were two osteopaths working on her because she was considered a complicated case – were just resting their hands on her. Surely there wasn’t really anything happening.
Yet after every session, I saw a marked improvement in Talitha’s comfort and happiness. The cynic has become an alternative therapy convert.
Those are my five. What would you do if you had that time again with a newborn?
Images: Laurence Jarrett-Kerr