This Time After Birth
It’s 3.05am in the morning I think, or it could be 1am, 2am or even 4. The time is irrelevant. All that matters is I am awake. I try and somehow heave my sore and broken body up as my little 6 day old son cries out for me, his little shrieks getting more and more frenzied as he waits for me to comfort him. The first couple of nights I was back from hospital I had to wake my husband to pull me up gently, my stomach muscles too weak after my c-section to be able to do it on my own, but it’s getting easier every day.
Two little navy blue eyes blink at me in the darkness, the only light shining from a nightlight that we have on especially. I stroke his little face, his hair is incredibly soft like silk, stroking and kissing his head is almost addictive, and he searches for me, his little mouth open wide, with a face almost angry as he struggles to find what he is looking for. He latches on, I feel a searing pain in my nipples, it makes my toes curl, but it only lasts a few seconds. We lie there in the night together, I can feel my eyes closing I am so exhausted, but I fight with all my might to stay awake. After he is finished I burp him for a few minutes, swaddle him back up tight and pop him back in his cot. I hold my breath, willing him to settle, but I can already tell he won’t. All my children have suffered quite badly with wind in the early days and it seems this one is no exception. His little whimpers start to develop into louder ones and I get him out once again. I told myself I wouldn’t do it, but if he’s snuggled next to me content in my arms we will both get at least a little bit of sleep. We lie there together, him as close to me as can be, me stroking his hair and breathing in every inch of him, and I fall into a light sleep.
In these first couple of weeks everything is so raw. So so raw. Life is both incredibly intoxicating and a little overwhelming. It has changed dramatically, but will soon return to a new sense of normal. Just six days ago I was lying in a hospital theatre, putting my trust in the surgeons to deliver our baby boy safely. I held my husband’s hand, in this strange environment, with machines buzzing, people fussing and kept waiting to hear that sound. To hear our baby boy’s first cry. I cried along with him, the accumulation of nine months of praying every day for him to be born safe.
And since then there has been so many moments. So many powerful and intense moments in our journey together. That first breastfeed, not long after I was in recovery, when I could still not feel my legs and it all just felt completely surreal. That first night together in the hospital when he slept all night long, but I could barely muster half an hour. Too busy looking at him, getting to know him. Too scared to go to sleep cause he kept sicking up mucous. Too sore to be able to get comfy in my hospital bed. The way I cried when my husband left, knowing I would have to ring the call bell to get the midwives to help me get him out of bed. There’s something so intense about having just given birth but needing care yourself. There was the first time he met his big sisters, the way they both walked in looking a little nervous and unsure. But the way they accepted him into our family instantly without question.
Then there was the day we went home. That long walk from labour ward to the hospital entrance, where my broken body felt the enormity of every painful step, yet at the same time feeling as proud as anything when people smiled at our new arrival. The way old ladies gave me knowing glances as if to say ‘that was me once.’ There was that slightly surreal feeling of feeling a little emotional about the fact that I would never have a stay in hospital for the birth of a baby again. That even though hundreds of women do this very thing every single day, that it feels like you are the only one. The way the staff are so caring and compassionate and you feel safe and looked after. It’s such a hard thing to explain.
That’s the thing. I am feeling it this time. I am feeling the passing of time with almost every second. I am willing the time to slow down for I know how quickly it is going to go. That first euphoric couple of weeks after birth is a feeling like no other. It’s intense, it’s overwhelming, and I wish I could bottle it up and save the way I am feeling forever. Life feels so extraordinary, so special and you live in this little bubble for a while, this wonderful little bubble that in a way you never want to end. You are exhausted, you are overwhelmed but you are on top of the world.
You get to see how many people care, the gifts and the cards that arrive even though we thought they wouldn’t because it is a third baby and we have done this journey twice before. The way my husband looks after me, showing incredible kindness even though he is going through it too. The way he doesn’t flinch at my ferocious looking scar, or the fact that I need help getting in and out of the shower. He reminds me to take my pain killers and he snuggles up with our baby boy for an hour or so so I can get an afternoon sleep. Or the fact that just for a couple of weeks it’s like being a child again myself. To feel different to how I felt before. To be someone my baby needs, to feel this powerful nurturing instinct, yet to need people yourself. To feel overwhelmed by people’s kindness. My Mum comes to get us because I can’t drive and she takes us up to her house. She gives us lunch, she does our washing. She rings every day to see what kind of night we had. She turns up unannounced and spends the morning tidying our house. I’m always her baby even though I have had a baby myself.
But soon that will stop. Our baby induced newborn haze will end and life will regain some sort of normality, albeit a whole different kind of normal. Every day my body is getting stronger, it doesn’t hurt as much to laugh or to cough, it doesn’t hurt when I get up off the sofa. The human body has such an amazing capacity to heal. My tummy is shrinking, my uterus is retreating back and slowly these first post partum days will be over. The midwife will discharge us, we will no longer need attention and we will just carry on and enjoy our new life together.
I glance down at my tummy, it seems surreal to think that less than a week ago he was in there cocooned and safe. Yet I am already forgetting exactly what it felt like have him kick inside me. A week is the shortest amount of time, yet it feels like a lifetime ago. Those last couple of weeks of pregnancy go so slowly, yet now it’s passing by at a fast pace. Now my tummy is empty- it’s a saggy, doughy looking mess covered in marks and blemishes that signifies the end of my pregnancy journey. And I am not ashamed to say it makes me cry. I have shed so many tears over the last few days. Not because I am sad, far from it. But in a way I am grieving. Even though everything has just begun, in a way it has also just ended. That sweet time of pregnancy, of hopes, of dreams, of wishing and of waiting. Of feeling him move and imagining what he would look like. My last born baby has been born. I’m not sad about no longer being being pregnant, but I’m sad about not doing these newborn moments again.I won’t ever do this again. I won’t feel these feelings. And even thinking these thoughts makes tears freely flow from my eyes. I know it’s hormones but I actually have to hold back sobs at times. I feel raw. Emotional. Different. I sway between extreme happiness, gratitude, exhaustion and sadness that it is all going so quick.
Hindsight is a powerful thing. I know my body will be soon be better, every day I feel stronger and within a few days I will be back to normal. Crazy really that you can be cut open, be literally opened up, but be back on your feet so quickly. I know that searing pain I get in my nipples when my baby boy latches on for a feed will soon stop. I know that I won’t lie in bed at night covered in a combination of baby sick, leaking milk and with skin damp from night sweats, I know my body is just adjusting to all the hormones. With my first born I as utterly shell shocked, I didn’t fully enjoy her first few months as much as I adored her, with the second I enjoyed it a little more and this time I just know how damn quick it goes.
I know that although at the moment he won’t let us put him down, he is very much a cuddly baby, that soon he will start having longer periods of time on his play mat or in his chair. Those sleepless nights, where we wake every hour, will soon start to stretch to two or three hours. Soon my baby boy won’t curl up on my chest like he is currently doing, he won’t pull those strange little milk drunk faces that he does. I know that while each stage that comes is just as wonderful as the rest, there is nothing like the feeling of these newborn days.
So I treasure them. I treasure the feeling of feeling special and I treasure the feeling of people looking after us. I accept this radiant happiness I am feeling, yet also accept the tears that come too. The way my hormones are raging. I breath in the sweet smell of my newborn’s head, the feel of his warm belly snuggled against mine at night when I promised I would put him in his crib. I take in every single bit of his beauty, every tiny perfection like it is the first time I have ever seen them. I treasure even the hard moments. I let myself be consumed by the love I am feeling.
Life doesn’t stop for anyone. It just zooms ahead. I have done this twice before, I know that. But with this being the third and final time we will do these fleeting postpartum transitions, I beg of time to be my friend and to slow down just a little bit. These days aren’t easy, motherhood isn’t easy, but it’s 100% worth it. It’s crazy, amazing and such a gift, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. This time after birth is so sacred and special, and I feel like I’m living a dream which I never want to wake up from. But I know we will all have to wake up eventually and a new sense of normality will commence.
However in the meantime I am soaking it all up. My heart has never felt so full.