Since I managed to successfully run a series of pregnancy diaries over the past 9 months, I wanted to continue with a similar series, focusing on Emmy’s development over time. Rather than every week, which would be very hard work, I’ve decided to do monthly updates – although these could be long sometimes (I imagine this one will be very long!). I’m really doing these mostly for myself, so I’ll remember all the little things that I might otherwise forget, but hopefully there’ll be some information that’s useful to other new mums too. Just like I found other bloggers’ pregnancy diaries invaluable sources of information and reassurance, I hope these will be the same!
The first 2 weeks of Emmy’s life felt like a bit of a blur where my perception was all slightly off and everything was a bit strange. I felt like I couldn’t judge how fast cars were driving (good thing I had Ben to drive me places!) and how far away objects were from me. I’m not sure whether this was sleep deprivation from the first few days of Emmy’s life that we spent in hospital (can anyone sleep there?!), or whether it was the newness of everything, but it started to wear off towards the end of Ben’s paternity leave.
Speaking of which, paternity leave is the best – I just wish it was a bit longer! We spent a couple of weeks just getting used to life with a newborn, and Ben was fantastic. When we first came home, he helped with everything – keeping the house clean, cooking me some awesome meals (this was something we’d really looked forward to about paternity leave!), bringing me water, cleaning bottles and whatnot. Over that fortnight though, he slowly started to reduce what he was doing – very cleverly! – so that I started to get prepared for being left alone once he was back at work. This worked very well, and he did it so slyly that I didn’t really realise! It meant his transition back to work went pretty smoothly for us but I do end up feeling guilty when Ben arrives home from work, I’ve spent the whole day with a happy baby, and she reaches the “witching hour” just as he walks in the door! Paternity leave is so short and we look forward to the weekends so much to be able to spend time as a family!
And speaking of Emmy being a happy baby, this first month was wonderful – far less crying and a lot more sleeping than I anticipated. Everyone keeps saying we have a “good baby” – although she chooses her moments, she’s always good when we have company! I’m writing this as we’re part way into her second month and things have slightly changed (more on that in future!), but I’m feeling very lucky that we managed to have some excellent nights and days with little crying. I’d expected to never be able to do anything ever again, and I’d be spending the next 20 years cradling a smaller version of me trying to stop her crying. There have been moments, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as I anticipated for the first month. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I expect the worst – everyone said pregnant would be awful, but even though I felt so sick for the first few months that I lost nearly a stone and even though I had pelvic pain for the last few months that stopped me even walking around the supermarket, I didn’t think it was that bad! And the same with labour – I had what some people might call a traumatic experience, but I still didn’t find it horrendous! I guess if you expect the worst, it can only be as bad as that?!
So sleeping has been strangely good…I barely dare to talk about it for fear of jinxing it! Emmy started off super sleepy because she was jaundiced. While this meant she slept a lot of the first week, it also meant I didn’t! I was having to wake her to feed every 3 hours, if she didn’t wake herself, and in those 3 hours, I had to try to breastfeed her (up to an hour of struggling), feed her with a bottle of expressed milk, express the milk for the next feed, then clean the equipment ready for the next round before I could finally get some sleep – usually 45 minutes! This was much easier when I got home as Ben could help out, but I think I barely had a couple of hours sleep in total between going into labour and leaving hospital 4 days later.
Luckily when we got home, though we continued on the 3 hour feeding plan to start with – particularly as Emmy stayed at a static weight between day 3 and day 5 – sleep got better. As we’ve gone through the month, Emmy has settled into something of a nighttime routine – I also hardly dare to say this as routines are not a thing with newborns! It’s more accidental lucky timings! At first we were waking 4-5 times per night to feed with 2 to 3 hour gaps in between (when I was setting my alarm for every 3 hours, she would wake 5 minutes before it and alert me herself – she was a much nicer alarm clock!). But those 2 to 3 hour gaps have been stretching out to 3 to 4 hours over the course of the month, and at the very end of the month, we even managed a couple of 4.5 hour stretches overnight!
The only problem with this is that I’m still not used to longer stretches of sleep from Emmy so I wake up around the 3 hour mark wondering whether she’s hungry. I even woke Ben up by accident one night as Emmy was “chattering” away to herself in bed in a semi-awake window – she wasn’t hungry or bothered, just a bit awake and active – but I mistook this for hunger and couldn’t figure out why she didn’t want to eat…so I stared at her for a while trying to figure out what she wanted, until Ben told me I looked creepy and to stop that! As she drifted off, it turned out she didn’t want anything!
In terms of sleeping arrangements, in the day time, Emmy sleeps sometimes on me, but also in her box from the Baby Box University and a Moses basket we were given by Ben’s uncle. The baby box was her favourite place in her first few weeks of life – she was really really interested by the black and white elephant picture on the inside of the box when she was awake! We later started using the Moses basket more in the day time and have realised how useful this is as I can move it around the house more easily – for example, if she’s happily laying in there while I’m cooking or putting away washing, I can move her to that room without waking her. I like to have her in my sights as much as possible! In fact, that was something I was really worried about at first – I didn’t know whether I was “allowed” to have her out of my sight and worried about even leaving the room for a minute to wee!
At night, Emmy sleeps in our bedroom in a Chicco Next To Me cot. I’ve found this so helpful as I can easily move her when I need to feed in the night time without having to get out of bed (because I’m lazy and would like to avoid leaving bed as much as possible), but it keeps her separate enough that she’s safe. I have a pretty huge fear of accidentally squashing her, so this feels close enough to co-sleeping to get the benefits of that while still practising safe sleeping.
In terms of crying, Emmy only really started to find her voice around 4 weeks old. Before this, she would chatter away to herself or just “shout” – a little “BLAH” type of noise if she was getting hungry or wanted attention. The first time she really cried was coming back from Aldi at around 2.5 weeks old – I knew she was hungry when we were leaving but I was too nervous to try to feed her in the car park as we were still struggling with nursing at this point, so she screamed her way home. And this was the first time we had a real tear from her which I spotted rolling down her cheek as we pulled up at home – it nearly broke my heart!!
As I hinted at earlier, breastfeeding was our biggest challenge this month. Due to Emmy’s jaundice, she was too sleepy to latch on properly, then she would get hungry, impatient and very agitated, so we’d end up “fighting” – as I kept describing it – where she would push against me so hard and start sucking before latching on. For the first week, every feed had to include a bottle of expressed breast milk after trying to get her to nurse, and it wasn’t until later that we started to get the hang of breastfeeding. I’ve written about the first 3 weeks of breastfeeding here, so check that out rather than making me recount it all! But the last week or so of the month is where things really started to click.
I went to a Treasure Chest group at the beginning of 4 weeks, which is a local breastfeeding support group where they have experienced and trained peer mentors. I had a really good chat with one of them (although they couldn’t watch her latch as she slept right through the whole thing!) about all the issues I’d been having, including her issues with latching and positioning, and got some really handy tips. Over the past week, I’d started to notice something that was happening every time I nursed her – she would latch on after a bit of a fight, then suck for a minute or so before pulling off, mostly choking and coughing – it was a bit scary! After speaking to them and a health visitor, they reassured me that this sounded like an overactive letdown and gave me some tips on dealing with it, including expressing a little at the beginning of a feed and not worrying too much as babies get used to this as they get older. More on this another day! I also chatted to another lady who had an older baby, and one who had a baby a few days younger than Emmy – the second one was experiencing very similar things to me so, even though I was terrified of attending these groups and the “small talk” thing, I chatted to her for ages about the issues we’d been having. Even though I was nervous, I came away feeling really reassured and positive.
Speaking of groups, as well as the Treasure Chest one that was about a 30 minute drive away, we went to a local Weigh, Stay and Play group run by the health visitors twice in our first month in our town. It’s walking distance away which makes for a nice trip out! This was our first group and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone if Emmy didn’t need to be weighed, but I was glad I did! Luckily there was another mum there that I actually knew – not since I was literally a child myself, but having someone say “Hi Sian!” when I walked in meant that I didn’t just freeze in the doorway and run out again. I chatted to a couple of other mums at this, including one with a baby of a similar age, and it meant when I went back for the weighing again the next week, I had a couple of familiar faces say hello to me when I walked in again.
This first month was full of visitors and outings. It’s only when you have a big event happen like a baby or a wedding that you realise quite how many people you have around you. We’ve received so many gifts – some of which I can’t figure out where they came from as people handed them to be in that first week blur, all of which are so so lovely. I’m going to note down all the visits and outings we had below so I can remember them for future, but feel free to skip the next 4 paragraphs if you’re not interested!
In the first week, Emmy met all her immediate family in terms of grandparents, aunts and uncles before we left hospital, plus her great uncle Gareth. When we arrived back home, she met her great-grandparents on my side (she’s very lucky to have all 4 on my side, and 3 on Ben’s side), my uncle Gareth (again!) and aunty Karen, along with my cousins, Mollie and Eva, then my friends Helen (along with her little boy, Frankie), Fran and Rosie. Our outings this week were mainly to Aldi to practice using the car seat and pram, and to the midwife for weighings, plus a trip to get Emmy registered as we headed into week 2.
The next week saw her meet my friend Sarah, take her first walk out in the pram with my mum and sister in tow down to the shop as a practice run. Then she met her great grandparents on Ben’s mum’s side and her first great great Aunt (who we count as basically another great-grandparent), Ben’s uncle Trevor and aunt Noo, and his cousins William and Lydia. Then we had Charley and Frankie come to visit that week too.
In her third week of life, after Ben had returned to work, we had another great aunt come to visit – aunty Caroline, along with my mum and grandma – and we went out for lunch at a cafe – my first time breastfeeding in public! Luckily we were in a fairly private room so I didn’t have to feel worried. I also met my mum at Monks Cross shopping centre just outside York for our first shopping day this week – we’ve since done this twice more, the next time, Ben’s mum and my sister also joined us and we had a lovely lunch in Giraffe too. We also had our old neighbour, Rebecca, call in for a visit, and Emmy met some neighbours at my mum and dad’s house, one of which, Bev, came round especially for a visit too! That weekend, Fran came to visit again and we had a lovely lunch in town, then Beth and Alex arrived later too.
In Emmy’s fourth week, my friend Christina travelled up from the Peak District to meet her along with her boyfriend Thomas, then the next day I took my first trip back to work so my Bronco team could meet Emmy. Sarah and I went for a walk up to town this day too to spend some time together. That weekend we went to see Aunty Beth and Alex’s new house, where Emmy mostly ate all the time! We also had my friend Kiki to visit just at the end of her first week, and we took a walk into town for lunch too – maternity leave feels like it might be a lot of lunches out!
The end of this week marked my first ever Mother’s Day! Emmy got me a box of chocolates and a Disney phone case…which Ben had to reveal to me as it was stuck somewhere with the shipping – it’s still stuck! We went out for lunch that day to a local pub (Emmy’s first time at the pub!) with my mum, dad and sister plus my grandparents on my dad’s side.
In terms of getting stuff done around the house, it’s been a bit easier than I expected – I think due to Emmy’s early sleepiness! Ben and I decided to devise a “chore chart” for me. Sounds brutal, right?! Don’t worry, it was my idea too! I thrive on having a to-do list, and I would otherwise sit on the sofa and watch Netflix and faff on Instagram if I didn’t have things to do! I’ve managed to keep up with a lot of stuff, even if that’s just emptying the dishwasher and wiping down the kitchen worktops ever day, because of this list. Having a sling and baby carrier has been totally invaluable for this too – Emmy likes to be around me (and I like to be around her), so wearing her around the house means I can get stuff done.
The biggest thing that’s happened this month is that Emmy has changed so much. I mean, this is obvious – babies grow and change, and the first month is a really big one for that. But it’s so strange to see! There have been days when Ben’s come home from work and said she looks like she’s grown just that day! By the end of the month, we had a couple of sleepsuits in First Size that no longer fit her – scary! I’ve been making sure to take lots and lots of photos and videos – we have photos from every day of her life so far, and I think over 1000 in total, whoops! And I’m thinking of starting a series of the many faces of Emmy – she has so many facial expressions, her favourite being the “Ooh, the claw” face, made famous by the Toy Story aliens!
I know this all sounds like a lot of positives – and it is! Babies are wonderful! – but there have been difficult things too. I was very wary of baby blues and luckily this didn’t hit me, but there have been times that have been hard. The feeding journey has been really hard and I definitely had a night where I just totally broke down over it. I’m also constantly worrying that Emmy has stopped breathing – she hasn’t, babies just breathe quietly a lot of the time! I think the constant worrying is probably the hardest part – for at least 2 weeks, I googled everything. Ben had to threaten to confiscate my phone because I’d got so addicted to checking every teeny tiny little thing, multiple times and rereading the same articles for reassurance over and over again. You think the worrying ends when the baby’s out of you, but it turns out it doesn’t!
Then there’s my healing and recovery too, which has actually gone much better than I expected! I think the biggest thing was the fatigue (read: sleep deprivation) in the first coupe of weeks, but I also had stitches which needed time to heal. I didn’t dare to look at them until around 3 weeks, at which point I decided that, since I could barely feel them, I wanted to look – and they weren’t that bad!! By this point, I couldn’t even see the stitches any more – basically it just looked like a scar. I was pretty impressed! I was lucky that I didn’t need a lot of painkillers as the pain from the incision was very minimal and the swelling went down quickly. I was also very lucky that the tummy left behind from my bump went down quickly – I was told it’s likely because I had a “tall” bump rather than a “sticky out” one! I’m able to wear a lot of my old clothes already, including a pair of jeans I’d thought would never fit me again! I’d also worried a lot about the postpartum bleeding, but this also wasn’t the waterfalls of blood I’d been led to expect! It does last a long time though, which isn’t all that fun, but wasn’t as horrific as I thought.
PS: If you’ve made it this far – firstly, well done!! Secondly, I’m setting up a new Instagram account for my Emmy updates as I didn’t want to overwhelm my personal one with baby stuff – check it out here!