Tuesday, 6 January 2015

This may sound weird, but after all this time, I finally feel like a Mum. Because I'm allowed to BE a Mum. I don't have anyone looking over my shoulder while I change her nappy, like I'm going to do something wrong by not wiping her enough or doing it up too tight (once, I was even questioned about when she was last changed as there was a tiny bit of poop on her bottom, like it had been left over from last time, instead of being what it was - a little bit of fresh fart explosion). I can dress her in whatever I like without being questioned about not having seen that outfit before (does any Dad know exactly all the clothes their child has unless they have physically purchased them all themselves?) I can put her down for as many naps as I feel necessary, give her as many bottles as I like and when I like, feed her how I like (no, she didn't need to start solids at 6 months and no, I wasn't going to start with purees and no, the crusts do not need to be cut off because she doesn't have teeth!)

I may be a first time Mum but I'm not an idiot. I know how to read and do a search on Google. I know how to ask for advice on a forum. Also, I carried this child in my body for 9 months (well, 7 actually) and along with that came a little thing called "instinct" which I just had to learn to listen to. FYI a baby's bath towel does NOT need to be washed after EVERY use. Don't make me feel like it's child abuse.

From very early on in my pregnancy, I had discussed my feelings with G. Having already had a baby himself, I didn't want him to make me feel like he knew everything and I knew nothing. I didn't mind if he had an opinion on something, but essentially just let me do the mummy things and guide me in the right direction if I need. I had always said I didn't want a baby with someone who already had one as then the experience wouldn't be the same for both of us. I didn't want him to have the "been there, done that" attitude. I also didn't want any furniture that he and his ex used with their son. That was his old life, this was his new one.

The first 5 weeks after L's early birth, she stayed in hospital. "Birth" is not really the right word to describe her entrance into the world. Birth makes me think of contractions and labour and pushing and crying and screaming. I only got the crying part. Before I could fully comprehend what was happening, I was being rushed into an operating room being told they were going to take my baby out and then was drugged into unconsciousness. I was alone, except for doctors and nurses. I didn't get to hear her first cry. I didn't even know if she was actually a she or a he. I didn't see her umbilical cord being cut. I didn't get a first cuddle until much, much later.

All this really effected me. It's not like I had a birth plan that didn't work out, but I'm a very emotional and sentimental person. If this was my second baby it might not have hit so hard. G had seen his first baby born, had been with the Mum during labour etc and I just felt robbed and hurt that she got this experience with him that I didn't.

To top it all off, I then underwent another surgery later on that day to fix internal bleeding. Looking back, it's scary to realise that we both came close to dying that day.

L was hooked up to machines and monitors which made it difficult for me to do anything with her. G was more confident. He was able to change her nappy while she was in the humidicrib and give her a quick top and tail. He learned how to switch the monitor from one foot to the other. He was able to lift her out and place her back in. I was scared. I didn't want to hurt her. I don't like to do something unless I am confident in what I'm doing and I know you get confidence by actually doing, but I also don't like people watching me doing something I'm not confident with. The midwives understood, my Mum and Dad understood but I don't think G did although he obviously didn't say anything at the time.

I didn't feel like I was bonding with her. I knew I loved that little girl but she didn't really feel like mine. Other Mums would spend hours and hours sitting with their little ones and I could only manage an hour or two. The first couple of days I couldn't really move so my bed was wheeled down to see her. Then I needed someone with me to take me in the wheelchair. I always waited til either G or my Mum could come with me. I had midwives hand expressing me for the first couple of days, until I was well enough to start using the machine. I was setting alarms for every 3 hours to pump but sometimes during the night I just wanted to sleep, so I did. I needed to recover so I could be there for my little girl. By day 5, I'd had enough of being in hospital. They wanted me to stay longer, but I just wanted my own bed and knew I would recover faster at home. This meant a 40 minute drive either way to see her and we always missed certain times like "cares" and having her bottles or a proper bath.

When we brought her home I was still paranoid about changing her nappy. I worried that she was going to poo everywhere overnight when I was the one up with her and I wouldn't be able to clean it up without making even more of a mess. I never felt like I was doing the nappy up properly, it just didn't look right to me. Every time she did poo, I had to get someone else to change her. Mum stayed over a lot and fed her overnight so I could sleep but I still got up and made her bottles and did her gavage feeds. Somewhere along the way, I gave up on expressing. I was taking the tablets but they weren't helping. We'd tried breastfeeding in the hospital, but it was awkward with her attached to the machines and I was uncomfortable with people watching me. L also didn't have the sucking reflex as she had been fed through her nose for so long. It took her a while to even be able to drink from a bottle properly.

I started to pre-make the formula bottles for the night feeds, clearly labelling what the bottles were. Some were formula+breast milk with added thickener, some were just formula+thickener and one had added vitamins (we had to record what she was having). Some were made up in bottles with dodgy teats so had to be poured into the proper bottle once they were sterilised. And some were just plain breast milk which were kept aside to be added to formula (and needed fortifier added if to be used on their own). G ignored all these labels, said he didn't need them, could make up a bottle on his own (this is why he often got it wrong, even after leaving instructions!) Every time I heated up a bottle he had to check if it was too hot or cold, like I couldn't be trusted and didn't know what I was doing. I also wasn't washing and sterilising the bottles correctly. Later on when she was older, he even supervised while I gave her a bath and had to double check the water temperature like I was going to give her a bath that was too hot. Usually it's the Mum double checking the Dad.

Like any Mum, I was exhausted. I just wanted to sleep, but ended up staying awake for hours and hours. I had a Facebook group to keep updated on, I had TV shows I wanted to watch, bottles to sterilise. I knew if I started getting a decent amount of sleep then I was just going to feel worse when I couldn't. Yes, being exhausted is part of being a Mum but it should also be part of being a Dad too. It's frustrating that while you're feeding, burping, rocking the baby to sleep, you can hear them in bed snoring their heads off and then they STILL sleep-in in the morning. Some think that looking after a baby is easy (and sometimes it is) but it's always easier when you've had sleep, a shower by yourself and been able to leave the house on your own for a few hours.

In the end I had to watch what I said in case it was used later on against me. I shouldn't have to feel like that around my partner. G had already brought up the fact that I didn't bond with L in the beginning, like I wasn't interested in her and he had to take over. So while I initially thought he was being supportive, it was really an "I did this so I could throw it back in your face at some stage" coupled with a "where was my thanks?" moment. When we went to visit his parents, he would be the doting Dad, changing her nappy and feeding her, while I stayed outside and kept to myself. They all knew what they were doing with babies and I just didn't feel needed. Any questions they asked about her were directed at G anyway. I once mentioned it was easier for me when she napped, especially in the morning so I could have a shower and get dressed. This was when he told me I was trying to get her to have too many naps, suggesting I only wanted her to nap so I didn't have to deal with her. Everything I said was taken out of context. Apparently, I also only wanted a baby so I could show off and pushed the pram cos I was showing off. Yeah, I don't understand that either.

When L was about 12 weeks old, we went to a birthday party at G's sister's. It was a stinking hot day and L had been very unsettled during the night. I was hoping we didn't have to stay too long. It was time for her bottle and G's son wanted to feed her. I said no. We were in a new environment for her, it was hot, noisy and people were everywhere. G said nastily "I'll take you home then". Excuse me? I was so upset that I sat in the front room crying. No one came to check if I was OK. G's Mum fed L and when I could hear that she was finished, I went and asked for my baby back. I wasn't rude, I even said please. But apparently I needed to apologise. I had been spoken to nastily, was upset and I was the one who should apologise? That wasn't going to happen.

It was never up to me to decide how long we took L out for. One day we arrived at G's parent's and she just screamed and screamed and screamed, as everyone took turns holding her, rubbing her back, feeling her belly and declaring it was tight, while I sat there looking on in anguish just wanting to take her home where she would be comfortable and I could settle her with Panadol and wind drops. We were there for over an hour before G suggested we should probably go. Funny enough, as soon as we put her in the car she was fine.

I now don't have to wait for someone else to decide whether she should go to the doctor or not. If I think there is something wrong, I make an appointment or take her to the hospital. I'd rather be safe than sorry. Watching my baby develop a severe rash all over her body that kept coming and going was scary. Not being allowed to get it checked out was unbelievable and really put things into perspective. His son had a rash a few months beforehand and his ex had taken him to the doctor and been given some sort of medication, but G was still not satisfied and wanted to take him for a second opinion. I was getting regular updates on his rash. But he did not seem to care about L's rash at all, which she had for 4 days before it went away and I realised what had likely caused it. No concern for an all over rash, but always made a big deal of tiny patches of dried skin which we'd already had confirmed as excema and had a cream for. And to publicly declare now how much he cares about her and will do anything for her makes me want to laugh and scream at the same time!

Oops, sorry this is another long post! My point is, G was acting like the Mum and the Dad, just as he had been doing for his son on his weekend visits. This is not just my opinion but was also confirmed by the counsellor and admitted by him, although he said he would change but never did. L didn't need him to be both and neither did I as I was there. Now I can just concentrate on her and not be fearful of him watching and judging me all the time. I've learned to read her and know when she's hungry or tired or in pain. I knew when she was ready to stop being wrapped to go to sleep. I was able to give her a lovely first birthday party, although not what I dreamed of, but it was all about her.

Of course, I still have days when I don't know what I'm doing or how on earth I'm going to do it all again so soon! I'm used to getting at least 10 hours sleep now! And some days I look at her and still can't believe I grew her inside me and she is mine, but I'm so incredibly lucky that she is :)

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