Martha Alexander shares her first month of life with a newborn and reveals why she’s banning herself from google…
I’d love to be able to say that I’ve found my feet and motherhood is a breeze. Alas, I’m in a terrible pickle. Basically, two things are going on here: Robin is crying an awful lot and I have become addicted to seeking out baby-related information from any available source.
In the face of sleepless nights (even when she sleeps I lie awake worrying about when she might stir), a daytime soundtrack of howling baby, feelings of being unqualified for my new job and the worry that I’m doing it all wrong, I’ve become overwhelmed with information, which has rendered me frozen by indecision.
It’s hardly surprising: there is so much conflicting advice available to new mothers, I’m amazed more of us haven’t combusted. In any given day I’ll text at least four other mums: “Did you have a routine with Dylan? Did Lyla sleep in a cot during the day? How long is it normal for newborns to cry for? Should I be doing a routine?”
Then I’ll spend hours asking the internet questions. My search history is made up of: How to make a baby sleep, colic definition, green poo, Gina Ford, attachment parenting, reflux…
And there are always answers. From faceless women in Dallas or Toronto or Aberdeen who use mummy code on chat forums, to formal NHS websites and the homepages of parenting gurus. The trouble is, all the answers are different.
This is what I have gleaned from my extensive research: “Never rock a baby to sleep except when it’s tiny. But then, of course you should start setting up good habits from birth, so perhaps leave it to self-settle. Wait, hang on, self-settling is cruel. Is it as cruel as never allowing your baby to have a good sleep? But seriously, just use a dummy, hun – whatever works, right? Dummies are SO BAD for babies’ teeth! All dummies are orthodontically endorsed these days, so…
“I drove DD up and down the M40 when she wouldn’t sleep – worked a treat! I left all three of mine to cry it out, best thing I ever did. Remember to put your baby down awake but drowsy. Never feed your baby to sleep. I love nursing DS2 until he falls asleep – so cosy!”
So, I have amassed a thesis’ worth of advice and I still don’t know what the hell I am doing. My parents arrive with some sweetpeas and parma ham and attempt to have a nice afternoon. Robin pulls her little legs up to her body and cries throughout their visit. My hair is matted, I feel clammy and drained and again, I can’t stop crying.
“Look at the state of you,” Dad says, not unkindly. He sends for the cavalry.
Alia arrives at 9pm the following evening. She is a maternity nurse. She makes me express as much milk as I can and sends me to bed forthwith.
“See you in the morning!” she waves.
I sleep dreamlessly for 10 hours while my personal Mary Poppins takes the night on the chin. In the morning, Alia leaves at 7am, but I have instructions of how my day should go. A routine. I try to follow it as best I can, but the thing is with babies, they do what they want.
I beat myself up – why can’t I make her sleep? Why is she not hungry at the designated feeding times? I ask Alia what to do when she arrives that night. She tells me babies are not robots and routines are something to try to follow – an ideal, if you will.
For the next two weeks Alia continues to look after Robin at night and I look after her during the day. Slowly, slowly, Robin begins to fit into Alia’s routine. I can’t say she’s an expert napper, but the days become more predictable and we both cry less.
Do I feel bad about someone else looking after my baby? The answer is no. I am thrilled. Because on the final morning, Alia tells me she didn’t have to do a night feed – Robin slept for 10 solid hours. We go to have Robin weighed and she has packed on the kilos.
“She’s thriving,” says the doctor, and I beam with complete pride.
I am almost inconsolable when Alia gets ready to leave but she has the best bit of advice for me: “You are Robin’s mummy, you know best. Stay away from the Internet, OK?”