Bringing Henry Home
I was requested to put blog together about my experiences and thoughts on those first few days, weeks and months when you bring home your newborn as a first-time mum. I have decided to share my experiences, but also give some advice around both supporting a new mama and some straight advice for you if you are in the thick of baby blues. All experiences will vary, but I can safely say this – bringing home your newborn can be scary, wonderful, intense and a total shock to your system, and if you are feeling or have felt out of your depth once you walked through your front door, me too, girl.
I came home 2 days post Caesar. I elected to, because Henry was not sleeping well in the hospital as we were sharing a ward with quite an unsettled baby. Every time he started dozing, the baby next to us would start crying. It was like a tennis match of crying. Once I was cleared and my iron transfusion was a success, I was out of there like a bullet. We drove and arrived home by about 8pm, and I remember clearly feeling a flood of having no idea what to do once we dumped our bags inside. I knew I wanted a shower, but would Henry be okay? Should I change him into pyjamas? Do baby pyjamas exist? Should I give him a bath now and start that routine from day 2? Girls, that was the tip of the iceberg. The absolute tip.
Henry did not want a bar of his bassinet. I tried to feed him but feeding got really hard once we got home. He screamed. He was not happy at all, and we had to pace the floor with him for hours to calm him down. I was looking at him scream, totally upset I couldn’t calm him, tears in both of our eyes. I was his mother but I did not feel like a mum. All I had in my head was that I needed to get this baby in bed, so I could have my shower, unpack my hospital bag, and sort myself out. LOL. It’s a blur but I remember us trying to get him down for ages. Queue Josh and I getting crankier and crankier at each other because we both felt like we were failing already and functioning on virtually no sleep in the last 72 hours. It was day 2 – we were basically only on the tutorial level, and we were sucking at this! It was then, where I tried something illegal. We tried something every book, website, know-it-all advised strongly against. Are you guys ready? We brought Henry into our bed, and we all slept. Shock horror, we absolutely did it and did not regret it. He instantly settled, snuggled right in, and only woke up once that night to feed. He was nestled in our arms, and I felt like we cheated our way through the tutorial. We didn’t really pass, but we kind of motherloded that bad boy, and found a way. First night at home done.
We woke up feeling okay. I finally got that shower, and then I basically set ourselves up in the loungeroom with Netflix and homemade ANZAC cookies made by our friends. The feeding still wasn’t perfect, but our midwife was visiting and stoked with Henry’s weight gain, so at least there was that. Even though I totally adored sitting and snuggling and soaking Henry up in our little safe bubble, I had this really icky feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t put my finger on it, I had no reason to feel as if there was anything wrong, because, how could I? I was holding our baby, who we prayed for, wished for and talked about for months, only to feel this gross feeling and an exhaustion headache? What was going on?
I’m going to pause here for a sec. The answer to the above question which I can now answer with confidence, is hormones. Hormones go ape crazy those first few weeks. Your body just birthed a human, and there are crazy things going on hormonally. I can say this in hindsight, but feeling those intense feelings of change, sadness, depression and anxiety when your baby is freshly earth side is one of the scariest experiences I have ever felt. There was nothing more I wanted in life than to have a baby, but I was so confused as to why I was feeling so low. I remember crying to Josh in the kitchen when Henry was a week old, and I said to him, ‘This was a really big change, and I feel like I need to mourn us because we are never going to be the same.’ He held me and cried, too. He told me he was feeling the exact same way, and we stood in each other’s arms, missing our old carefree, date night every night, hour long baths life. It was then that I had put a finger on why I felt so icky. We had just experienced the biggest change of our lives, possibly ever. I had prepared so much for pregnancy, and birth, but I had not prepared my heart or mind about the fact that things were about to change, radically.
People called them the ‘baby blues’ and I stupidly and ignorantly thought that the term was on reserve for those who already battled mental health illnesses. I am pretty sure I cried for fourteen days after we arrived home, not all day, but during certain parts of the day, it was a dark and incredibly lonely time. Visitors would gush over Henry and I would sit there, faintly agreeing, aching from exhaustion and a numb depressed feeling. They snuggled him and chatted to him cheerily, but I was jealous of them. I was jealous because they got to enjoy him but not have to sit through the cluster feeding, or the bleeding nipples or have to recover from a major surgery all at the same time. They could go home and sleep. I was overwhelmed by advice, doomsday warnings about never having a life again, responsibility and it all felt like a tidal wave that kept pulling me under.
After a few weeks, and once we got the breastfeeding down pact, life was starting to look brighter. I was making sure I set myself up a little routine of at least a shower a day. I leant into the lazing on the lounge watching Gilmore Girls on repeat and didn’t even bother with the bassinet for naps or night sleeps if he put up a fight. I allowed myself to feel the change, but I surrendered to it instead of resisting it, and I started to enjoy our newborn. But it took time. I felt like I had bonded with Henry while I was pregnant, falling in love with our little Pretzel, but I had to relearn it once he was here, and that is okay.
If you are about to enter the fourth trimester for the first time, I am not going to tell you to enjoy every minute, because that is unrealistic. I am going to tell you to lean into the change and go with it. If you feel a flood on anxiety or depression after you baby is here, do not panic. It is normal and expected, but make sure you keep your loved ones on speed dial because they will help you get through it. It is also okay to feel like your life has just performed a major continental shift, and it is normal to feel the pain of that shift. It doesn’t last forever but know that you are feeling something very real and valid. It personally helped me set up a little routine early on. We always gave Henry a bath in the evening and then ate dinner which Josh cooked after. We then snuggled on the lounge together, where I breastfed him on and off until we put him down at around 9ish. The routine helped me to know what at least the evening would look like and calmed some of my anxiety. Of course, this won’t work for everyone, but it helped us, tenfold.
If you are supporting a girl about to enter her fourth trimester with her new baby, make sure your priority is to support, not to teach, instruct or crowd. Offer quick tips that helped you if she asks, but keep in mind her mind is most likely a scramble and all she wants from you right now are Tim Tams and for you to unload and load her dishwasher. Give her time to snuggle and bond with her new baby, she has waited an absolute minimum 9 months for this, probably even much longer if she has faced a tough road to conception. Tell her she is amazing and tell her that her boobs don’t look THAT engorged. Don’t ask if she needs anything, just bring those Tim Tams. Double choc coating, obviously.