Our first few days at home with Pip were emotional, overwhelming and above all exhausting. After the bubble of being looked after at hospital, it came as a shock to be suddenly fending for ourselves. It took precisely 24 hours at home before we called up my Mum to come stay with us! Although it was an incredible lifesaver having her there, it took me a few more days to pull myself together and learn my own coping mechanisms. I absolutely second all of Elly’s suggestions – in fact she was really helpful at the time – and would like to add a few more things that for me also made a significant difference:
1. Prioritise breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is such a challenge in the first few weeks – it hurts (especially if you have thrush like I had), it takes up an enormous amount of time and it makes you really thirsty and hungry. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, it’s pretty much a full time job! Seeing as you spend hours on this activity, it’s worth trying to nail it as early as possible.
A baby’s main way of communication is unfortunately crying. Life would be much easier (and quieter) if Pip was able to articulate his needs by saying “Mummy dearest, please may I have some of that delicious milk of yours? I appear to be rather peckish.” Instead, I’m treated to the most distressing sound in the world.
In the early days, I hated the slightest peep so much that I would immediately get them out and start feeding him just to make it stop. After a minute or so the plaintive cries – this time from Mummy – would begin: “can you get me my glass of water? And a footstool? And an extra pillow? …etc.” Depending where I found myself at the time of Pip’s request, this could require some running around on the part of Mr Cath, leaving me feeling a frustrated combination of guilty and petulant. I know the new mum is supposed to be waited on, but after a few days of this I wanted to take back control and stop continually making demands.
Now I have everything set up ready for a feeding session before I allow Pip to dig in, even if this means he has to cry for a minute or two. I figure that it’s more important to have a relaxed and tension-free Mummy while breastfeeding, as apparently stress inhibits milk supply. I have two main feeding stations, and so what if one of the footstools is a cardboard box full of books? It’s better than the upturned laundry basket, which I soon broke (cue more tears…) Whatever works and is comfortable!
My DreamGenii breastfeeding pillow has also been amazing, as I can now carry on almost as normal. The best thing is being able to eat while feeding – one stressful aspect of having my Mum looking after us was that she’d make this lovely dinner and then Pip would decide he was hungry too…
2. Drink tea
After enjoying three cups of tea a day in hospital (they looked sad if you refused), I went cold turkey upon returning home. This wasn’t to do with restricting caffeine because of breastfeeding; rather, I had been told “sleep when the baby sleeps” so many times that I was terrified the slightest taste of it would prevent me from napping. A few miserable days later, I hadn’t drunk any tea but neither had I managed much of a day sleep.
On day 5, Mr Cath practically force fed me a cup of tea while convincing me that I’d still be able to sleep if I wanted – it was only a cup of tea! The difference was enormous. I was still tired, but felt so much better about myself and life in general. Coincidentally my Dad arrived that day and said I seemed really well, which I entirely attribute to the Earl of Grey.
By the way, I have given up on naps during the day, but instead have lie ins. It’s been working so far…
3. Wear makeup
The first time I broke out the lipstick after Pip was born, not only did I feel instantly better within myself but I noticed a perceptible difference in the way visitors treated me. They saw ME rather than eye bags and a ghost face, which left their focus free to concentrate on Pip. I guess some people like having lots of sympathy, but it tends to make me cry which is the last thing anyone needs!
4. Enjoy it
I think new mums can almost become automatons after the continual cycle of feed, feed, change, feed, sleep a little bit, feed etc, all interspersed with somehow looking after the house and yourself. I certainly found that having my own Mum there freed us at least temporarily from things like washing, so the three of us could actually spend time together as a new family. Watching Pip grow and develop from day to day is far more important than unloading the dishwasher, and it took me a while to realise this and let go. I’m still house proud, but am far prouder of our little boy – especially when he does things like this: