The first night at home; Natalie’s story
You feel like there should be an instruction manual. That you’re in charge and no one’s checking on that or calling you to account feels sort of alarming and amazing! Especially with all the fuss that’s made around risk and induction just days before, when you’re still pregnant.
Now no one’s worrying – and of course, rightly so. It just takes a while to get used to that. That the baby is robust and does all this stuff, all by itself, it takes a while to dawn. And in the meantime, you feel clumsy, clueless, like it’s all down to you to get it right.
I actually think that anxious hyper-vigilance is the main cause for the exhaustion. Once we started to trust that she would continue to breathe, even when we weren’t watching it felt a lot easier.
I was also completely flummoxed by the way she’d wake the moment I’d put her down. I guess I’d thought that as long as she was fed, warm and clean, she would sleep. But I had a lot to learn and got myself unnecessarily fatigued in the process. I must have got up, sat up, fed, burped and changed about three times a night – that combined with her not settling meant I was totalling about two hours sleep a night. And it was unsustainable.
Then one day, exhausted, I just pulled her in beside me in bed. I made sure there were no pillows or duvets around her, that we were quite safe – and that was it. Life transformed.
There were still up and down days of course, but they were more manageable once I was sleeping better, and I got it, that that stuff was just par for the course.
Calm followed chaos, chaos calm. It was the blueprint, peaks and troughs, pain and pay off. It seemed that was the way that confidence took shape.
Soothing was a big thing too, working out what worked for her. No one tells you how personal it is, that some babies like firm pats, or this song or a jiggle in just this way. But of course, they’re people, with their own preferences. That was such a lesson. Working out our language, the one me and her spoke.
‘Separation is a process, not an event,’ one thoughtful midwife told me. That was balm. It helped me to take my time and not beat myself up when everything felt crazy. There were days when it was dark before I’d got dressed, when I forgot to eat, when my own life was a discarded thing. But I learned to go easy on myself about it and see it for it was. Learning.
‘Is it weird out there?’ I asked my husband once he was back at work. ‘No,’ he said, ‘it’s weird in here,’ because everything about our old world seemed to have gone. The baby appeared to have upturned everything. But I’d never felt more satisfied.
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