Baby brain and other stories.

Recently, I emailed a friend who is about to have a baby as she requested my top tips. I never normally share these as I think most pregnant women become overwhelmed with advice and information, which is often difficult to put into the useful, or not really me buckets. All of it sounds relevant and generally you wouldn’t know what works until the baby arrives, at which point you’re too tired to work out which is which! As a result, I hesitate to advise…

However, I then spoke to another Mum who had post natal depression and came to the conclusion that there are certain things you really need to know in time to absorb the information rationally, prior to the birth. The National Childbirth Trust does a brilliant course on labour and a few key skills in the first few weeks, but the information stops there. It is also delivered in a ‘soft’ way and as such does not fully represent how a new mother (and father) may feel. Quite a few things really shocked me in relation to the labour and my feelings about my body post birth and no on tells you about that stuff. No one. So here are my top tips, delivered as straight forwardly and simply as possible!

Drugs and labour

Don’t be proud, if you need the drugs, take the drugs! I didn’t have an epidural because the midwife team were short staffed and I was on the wrong ward when I could have had one! I’m glad as apparently people tear more (down there); they can’t feel when and how to push with the numbness. It means more stiches which are sore and reduce sensitivity later… On the other hand, if I had needed one I would definitely have had an epidural – women respond to pain differently, so whatever suits you is the best thing.

I did have a Tens machine in early labour which was helpful (do not give the controls to your partner!) and shedloads of gas and air (deliciously high as a kite for 4 hours or so afterwards). I also had pethidine, which made me feel lovely and spaced out as it’s a derivative of morphine. With pethidine the baby is born a bit sleepy but I think this is a bonus as they usually sleep next to you after the birth! Only one of my friends did not have pain relief at all, but she had a private midwife and birthing pool…

Just take what you need, have music available and any other entertainment as labour can last a long time. Plus bring cushions, blankets etc from home if you go to hospital. Feel free to groan, swear and grip onto your partner as much as you like!! Please make sure he takes some sandwiches as often there’s no nice food available and it’s exhausting for the Dad. Remember it’s a primal process, and warn your birthing partner that there’s a fair amount of blood, so he may want to stay at the head end!!

Top tips post-birth

1. My best advice for breast feeding, buy Lansinoh nipple cream as it sticks your nipples back together… if you have a biter like me it basically insulates…
2. Feel free not to breast feed if it doesn’t work for you. It happens, don’t feel guilty or put yourself under strain. Better that you and your baby are happy and have peace of mind that they are getting what they need. 3. Do not worry about being judged for bottle feeding, it means your partner can you too, giving you more time to sleep.
4. Do not worry if you don’t get a shower at all and are still in pyjamas at 3 pm! Babies keep you very busy.
5. Ask your partner to do the washing and hire a cleaner for 3 months or so (if you can afford it). Otherwise do not worry if the house is a total mess and you haven’t brushed your hair for days.
6. Get someone to come and cook for you around week two or three, as you’ll be knackered by then. Ask them to make stuff to freeze too. Make sure you eat enough, basically.
7. Go outside at least once a day, as soon as you’ve mastered the baby logistics – having a baby bag permanently packed is helpful and master the pushchair construction and de-construction preferably before the birth (can be a nightmare with a baby in arms to learn this).
8. Arrange for at least two friends to meet up with you from around a month in – you’ll need to see other human adults by then! It can be boring being at home alone with a baby who doesn’t speak or do that much.
9. Find a baby massage group or toddler group in the early weeks, baby groups are there for a reason… However, don’t believe the ‘yummy mummy’ who pretends everything is perfect for them. Its not. They may want it to be but its unlikely that it really is.
10. Only take in the advice that’s right for you. Only you know you, and your baby and you are not necessarily like anyone else. You have your own personality and experience and your baby has its own character too. Unique.
11. Forewarn your partner that you are likely to neglect him for at least 3 months or so… Don’t feel under pressure to have sex quickly – your body will be sore for a good while after birth. You’re also likely to weep after 4-6 days when the pregnancy hormones leave your body. You may feel overwhelmed generally at first, motherhood is a massive change and rocks you when it kicks in. However, do not worry if you don’t feel ‘love’ for the baby at first: sometimes the love doesn’t kick in for a while, I think it’s something to do with the pain of birth. Do go to your doctor if you’re still miserable after a month, it’s probably Post Natal Depression and there is no shame attached. Call someone 2 or 3 years in if you need reassurance, other mothers know.

Two excellent books to recommend, are a commonsense baby care book called ‘Secrets of the Baby Whisperer‘ as it acknowledges a mother is a person too, and therefore needs sleep. The second is ‘Life After Birth‘ by Kate Figes – it is not recommended reading before the birth, as many things will not happen to you and could freak you out. But if you have any trouble adjusting afterwards, please do read it. It really helps put stuff in perspective.

Finally keep warm, secure with lots of hugs in the last month of pregnancy. It’s a weird time while nesting – I cleaned the skirting boards and I never clean! Nesting makes you look crazy sometimes…

I hope my honesty helps and is not too scary. I wish someone had forewarned me of these things…

Love Ruth x

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