Postnatal surprises

With two sets of antenatal classes, scouring of blogs and forums and a fair bit of book-learnin’, there are a few things I still wasn’t quite prepared for before getting to the other side of natality/natalism/the dark side of the moon. For instance…

1. The horror film bleeding
Disclaimer: this is gross but honest. People kept telling me that breastfeeding would keep my period at bay. I thought: “Score.” What I didn’t know was that I’d bleed for weeks post-birth. At times it’s been particularly, uh, interesting. About to rush out of the house, having gotten dressed up for church one Sunday, I could have sworn that I was peeing myself. Looked down and it was like a scene out of the Vampire Diaries (not a horror flick, I know, so shouldn’t fall under this subtitle but bear with me, the third one explains any randomness in this post). Blood bypassed the pad, seeped out on to the floor, necessitating a full change of clothing – which brings me to…

2. My wardrobe becoming virtually useless

The bump should have prepared me for this but I think somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I figured that I’d be able to wear my clothes again after having the baby. I somehow forgot that breastfeeding would have something to say about that. Everything is either too short/tight to provide any cover for wapping my baby onto the boob or too fitted to facilitate my now unrealistically enormous “rack”. This latter point isn’t even an exaggeration. I’m talking my H-cup nursing bra being a bit on the snug side. I am now dumping almost every rag I own into a rubbish bag for storage until – when? Will Talitha feed for one or two years? Will there be another baby on the boob by then? Are we talking possibly four years then? Will these clothes still be relevant to my life?

3. The reality of baby brain
Generally, the more comfortable I am with someone, the more likely our conversations are to lose structure. It’s normal for me to flit from one topic to the next through the loose connective tissue of word association – it’s likely to be a baby-related word apparently. It seems that now the new lack of mental space has thrown this out of control. Laurence finds this at times frustrating but usually humorous. I often don’t understand why. Stronger evidence of baby brain has included accidentally attending an NCT nearly new sale in my bedroom slippers and standing on the pavement outside my house, having just put the baby in the car, with my boob hanging out in clear view.

4. All the emotions

I know I should have expected this, but its sheer intensity has surprised me. I am amazed at the heights brought on by my baby’s smell and by the twitches that will one day become her smile. It’s hard to explain, but at times holding her sleeping body against my chest makes me feel “more human”. But a throbbing headache, sleep deprivation, missing kittens and a baby who spends an entire day either feeding or crying is enough to send me over the edge, wondering if I’ve made a horrible mistake, if I’m cut out to be a mother, if I can do this. At least once each day I feel powerless. Then Talitha sleeps, I change her nappy and she looks at me instead of crying, the pram obeys me, I drink something hot before it goes cold and it feels like rhythm, even if inconsistent, is possible.


In praise of the boob or How my daughter put me back together

You may have read about my worries over how my little baby was going to manage feeding herself off my titanic baps.

How much of these great orbs of areola did we need to get into that mouth really? [Quick biology lesson: the areola is the dark bit around the nipple. Babies take this into their mouths to get a good suck.]

This was my first concern when Talitha was handed to me for feeding.

Feeding soon after birth had been in my birth plan.

But like so many things in my plan, I felt like I didn’t care about it anymore. I was too tired, out of it and disconnected. I looked down and saw a baby but couldn’t yet think of her as mine. Thankfully, feeding was not phrased as an option.

They [I was still a bit drunk from all the entonox and exhaustion so when I say “they” I’m guessing my mother or a midwife but I really don’t know who] handed her to me and I hadn’t a clue how to hold her let alone how to stuff the moon into a golf hole.

When I got her on there, I was sure that I hadn’t got it right. Was there *any* areola in there? Was she comfortable? Could she feel how scared I was?

“They” assured me that everything looked fine and I was left to feed her for what felt like hours before having a bath and being wheeled to the ward for the night.

The birth had been rough – I suppose labours generally are – and I’d been delirious for quite a lot of it. I’d forgotten a number of times that I was having a baby while lost in a dream world.

Talitha thought she’d suck me back to reality by staying awake until 5am, which I thought was impressive, considering she’d been born around 9pm. In those hours, she sucked and sucked and sucked.

In fact, she sucked so much that I worried she wasn’t getting what she was looking for. I asked a nurse about it the next day and she taught me to hand express. When I saw the clear fluid [colostrum – they call it “liquid gold”, it’s so good for babies] I could have cried. My body knew I was her mother even if my mind wasn’t ready to acknowledge it.

Breastfeeding has not been easy. Every time I think I’ve learned the rules, Talitha changes them. There is no schedule other than “whatever the day feels like”.

But the unpredictable nature of early breastfeeding has done me a lot of good.
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Kitty litter vs Nappies

My husband Laurence, oft mentioned on this blog, decided to try his hand at guest posting here. He normally blogs about photography at eyediamondeye.tumblr.com.

Head to head – the ultimate show down. These are exciting times for both corners. We have nappies in the red corner and kitty litter in the blue corner. The winner, well the winner doesn’t get anything at all apart from slightly less frowns and sighs!

kitty litter vs nappy's

The warm-up:
For any big event preparation is key: getting your mind in the right place, visualising what is going to happen and when. The unpredictable timing of nappies means that kitty litter takes the first point. Every evening I change/clean the kitty litter before I go to bed [I know, I know I should probably do it twice a day, but they seem to cope and life is a little short to be so fastidious].
Kitty Litter 1 Nappies 0

The equipment:
A bad sportsman blames is equipment. Hell yeah! Good clumping litter is pretty rewarding allowing you to quickly identify and target Number 1’s but non-clumping litter is frustrating beyond belief and you’re using a shovel with holes in it. Regular readers of Adele’s musings will know that we are using reusable nappies, they seem to work (and my vs Adele’s thoughts on the pros and cons of this could be another post). So forgetting disposables for a minute…

When I approach a smelly and screaming girl I have to choose between the origami of terry towels/muslin cloths and Bum Genius style nappies, weighing up time of day, location and the state of my mind. I would choose Bum Genius every time if I could, but we don’t have enough of them, and I’m told they take too long to dry. Clumping beats terry toweling, Bum Genius beats non-clumping. A goal each.
Kitty Litter 2 Nappies 1

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Circus Queen finally meets the creature

The circus welcomes its star, long-awaited and affectionately known as the creature, now more appropriately called Talitha.

We pronounce it Tah-LEE-tha, it means “little girl” or “little maid” and is taken from the Biblical story where Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead, telling her: “Talitha cumi” or “Little girl, arise.”

It was a name we both secretly agreed on in jest while dating should we marry and have a daughter.

Then Laurence used the phrase “Talitha cumi” to ask me to stand at the end of his wedding speech as a private message between us. I took it that he was telling me quietly that he looked forward to our future together.

New born

Talitha was born (so they tell me) weighing 7lbs and 3oz. For those for whom that latter bit of information is head-scratchingly trivial, it means she was smallish.

It was both a home and hospital birth, a difficult and fortunate experience, over a long and short period of time.

I will explain more about that later. Time is helping me to put together the humorous and the harrowing. But we’re all in good health and much in love.

Meanwhile, we’re enjoying our baby, spending inordinate amounts of time smelling her head, staring at all her bits and pieces while getting to grips with cloth nappies, breastfeeding and so far non-existent “patterns” of sleeping.

Thank you for all your support on the journey so far! Your comments have really helped me think through some immense stuff along the way.

Images: Laurence Jarrett-Kerr

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Due date dream

I dreamt last night that I was rushed to hospital after an arson incident and gave birth very stressfully within an hour. I didn’t care what was done to get the baby out and was alone.

Afterwards, I didn’t care about what was done with the umbilical cord or the placenta (rich topics for discussions of the birth plan in recent times). I just wanted to get this baby on my boob.

Then I texted Laurence to tell him that he had a son – a surprise.

Nothing had turned out as expected or hoped except that our baby was safe. When I woke up, I realised that that essentially is all I care about. I just want to meet our baby and know that she is safe.

I’ve been getting hung up on my lack of control lately. I really thought for some reason or other that the creature would come early – not sure why. The due date was yesterday, so that’s not happened.

I’ve had false labour (we’re talking regular contractions with increasing intensity when I change positions or walk about, usually for hours) almost every night for the past week.

And a couple of days ago my uterus started pinching a nerve that’s sending shooting pains down one of my legs. All in all, I’ve had to accept that I’m not in charge of what my body does or when this baby comes.

But the dream reminds me that none of this ultimately matters. I don’t have to know all the whens, whats and hows.

And I don’t have to get stressed when people ask me if the baby’s come yet or whether I’ve been getting pains. If I do, I can put it down to hormones and move on, happily looking forward to putting a baby on my boob.

Image: daevious

Circus Queen is up for a MAD Blog Award. To vote, visit http://the-mads.com/vote.htm, enter your name and e-mail address, select “Circus Queen” in the Best Pregnancy Blog category and click “Submit”.