The First Six Weeks Are The Hardest

On August 12, 2011, our beautiful little Scarlett Rose entered the world, after a long, drawn out labour that ended in the decision to transfer to hospital.

My birth story was a bit of a saga that I will write out another time.  To be honest, I think I still need more distance from it to be able to sort through the emotions it has left me with.  To say it didn’t quite go the way I was hoping is an understatement… but of course, as I’ve learned, there really is no planning for birth.  Birth is going to take it’s own course and there really is little you can do to prepare for or control it.  My bub ended up being in a funny position, which lead to four days of spurious, painful back labour, and after transferring to hospital, I was finally able to give birth to her on the fifth day.  I am just so grateful that I got to push her out nature’s route, as I think the staff were half expecting to be wheeling me to theatre.  Luckily my body cooperated in the end, and the actual birth part was a wonderful experience.

Apparently there is a saying that “the first six weeks are the hardest”.  I wish I had known of this beforehand, for as the culture shock of new motherhood hit me, I thought it was going to always be like this, and fell into a numb kind of despair.  I began writing this blog because I wanted to present honestly what this journey is really like, so here I must continue to be honest.  I thought that upon the moment of birth I would be filled with feelings of elation and immense love.  But I don’t think I was prepared for the assault upon my body and emotions that labour really is.  I think some women do experience that high, but to be brutally honest, I just felt a kind of dazed numbness.  Whether it was because I hadn’t slept in five days, the long drawn out disappointing labour experience, the pain I had been in for five days, the feeling of having failed at the homebirth I had so wanted, the epidural… maybe it was a little of all of the above.  All I wanted to do was to go home and sleep for a very long time.  But of course, I was now the mother of a newborn, and that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

I really feel that becoming a mother for the first time is a lot like culture shock.  Suddenly the landscape of your whole life has changed.  Not only has your body just been through a massive upheaval, now you are on demand 24/7 by a tiny little being who needs you absolutely.  In the early days, bub only has a tiny stomach, and so she needed to feed every 1-2 hours around the clock.  She was also undergoing a state of shock, she had been pulled from the safety of the womb and needed to know she was safe.  So she wouldn’t let me put her down at all.  It was ok if dad was holding her, or grandma, or aunty – but if any of us tried to lie her down to sleep, she would start to cry.  Of course it is perfectly understandable, poor little bubba is used to being held comfortably in her mummy’s tummy.  But for me, it was also overwhelming – this sense that there was no downtime, no escape from being needed, not even a few hours for myself to recover from what I had just been through.  My body and my existence was no longer for myself but for someone else.

Of course I loved Scarlett from the beginning, because she was my baby and she came out of me.  But I have to be honest that the true, all-consuming, huge feelings of love that I expected to feel at birth, turned out to be something that gradually grew as time has gone on.  At first I loved her because a mother loves her child… after a little while I began to love her because she is Scarlett.  At birth I had this realisation that, although I had carried and grown her in my abdomen for nine months, she was still a stranger to me – she was not the baby of my imagination but a separate real human being, that I would have to get to know just as I would any other new person I met.

I also have to be honest that in those first few weeks, I often felt like I was going through the motions, doing what I had to do not out of the goodness of my pure mother’s heart, but because it had to be done and I was the one who had to do it.  I am so lucky and thankful that I had my mother, sisters and partner at home with me at different points over the first five weeks.  I am also so lucky that Daddy C has been such a rock to me the whole way through, reminding me of all the good things I was doing when I was consumed with guilt for the lack of enjoyment I was deriving from the early days of motherhood.

At times I have felt like I was in a tunnel so deep I couldn’t see the light at the end of it.  But slowly, things began to get easier.  Towards the end of the first week, she started letting me put her in her cot to sleep (which we have right next to our bed).  Slowly, I began to get used to waking every 2-3 hours and the sense of desperate sleep deprivation began to lift.  I began, with practice, to feel more confident in going on small outings with bub.

Over the past week or so, I feel like I have been emerging from a thick fog.  It helps that bubba has begun to smile and discover her cooing voice, which really helps you feel connected, appreciated and rewarded.  It helps that over the past few days, she has begun to have a 5-6 hour block of sleep overnight (you really don’t understand how hard sleep deprivation is until you experience it).  Now I look at my wee little bub and feel like my heart can’t even contain how much I love her.  Sometimes I look at her or even just think of her and my eyes begin to prickle with tears.  Her little smile is the most beautiful thing in the world.

It feels all the more special because I felt like such a failure and terrible person for not feeling with this intensity right from the beginning.  I honestly think it has taken me this long just to recover from the physical and emotional impact of my birth experience.  You have to be whole yourself to love another wholy, and I think my labour left me a little broken, in more ways than one.

Now, as we approach the 8 week mark, I feel I am becoming whole and happy enough to feel all the intense love and adoration my baby deserves.  Finally I feel excited about the future, I can’t wait to see how she develops and grows, and I’m so blessed that I get to be a part of that.  Daddy C has taken to fatherhood like a natural, and I feel like I have to pinch myself that I have been so lucky to be loved by my little family who I love so much.

Beautiful girl – 7 weeks old
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