Hormones, nappies and travel systems are just the beginning, as Martha Alexander welcomes her baby daughter to the world
I have given birth (one day’s worth of slow labour, one sweep, three uncomfortable baths, a million contractions, seven isotonic drinks, one epidural, two blood-pressure-related seizures, four midwives, nine junior doctors, eight hours of active labour, zero forceps, one healthy baby girl) and, despite all my moaning, it turns out that morning sickness, sobriety, weight gain, immobility and giving birth were small fry compared to the big fish – otherwise known as Robin Tamara Hamilton – I’m battling now.
I spent nine months focusing on the birth. Big mistake. The real work begins after you leave the hospital – knackered and terrified. We left the labour ward without any fanfare or ceremony. A midwife told us we could go, so we packed our 8lb, 2oz bundle into a car seat, said goodbye to the staff 1,000 times and loitered around the reception area, waiting for someone to intervene with a “not so fast! Do you really think we’d let a pair of incompetent morons like you two take a baby home?”
But we did. We are incompetent morons and we took a real-life baby home. When I say we don’t know what we’re doing, we really don’t. My husband put her nappies on the wrong way round for the first two days of her life.
The first couple of nights were bliss. I was still full of drugs and euphoria and lay next to our tiny babe, shining my phone into the moses basket every 10 minutes to check she was still alive.
Then my milk came in and my tears came out. I sobbed for over 48 hours as it hit me that my daughter was dependent on me, that she literally ate from my body, that I had painful stitches and could barely walk, that when she cried I had no idea what she wanted, that I had no idea how much breast milk was coming out.
Even after I stopped crying I didn’t feel better. I looked at this little person, feeling narcoleptic and famished, and a selfish slice of me grieved my old life where I could do what I wanted, when I wanted.
“I miss you,” I said to my husband as he sat beside me on the sofa. He could not move without me asking where he was going and how long he’d be. When he finally goes back to work, I will be inconsolable.
Our home is a mess of baby detritus, over which hangs a fug of fear and sleeplessness. I am wearing pyjamas and some days don’t brush my teeth.
“You need to leave the house,” says everyone who comes to visit, armed with casseroles and cards and flowers and beautiful outfits I am too scared to dress her in as I’m worried about accidentally breaking her arms by pulling them too roughly through arm holes.
We have a very smart stroller bassinette travel system, which my mum calls “the Rolls-Royce of prams”. The Wayfarer by Silver Cross is sturdy and sleek at the same time. It even boasts a cup holder (“for your wine” – husband), and a pink parasol for sunny days. When our daughter gets bigger it will transform into a pushchair and we can even attach the car seat, too. My husband, who loves machines, systems and equipment of any kind, is now boasting about the Wayfarer to his friends. He folds it up and down to demonstrate how easy it is to pack into the boot of our car and waxes lyrical about the amount of space there is for nappies and picnic rugs underneath it. I must say, I’m thrilled. It’s not as big as the original Silver Cross prams, but knowing my little kidney bean will be wheeled around in comfort is assuring at a time when I feel insecure and in freefall.
After 12 days, we put our baby into the bassinette and wheeled it towards the front door. Navigating the front steps took about seven minutes because we were so worried about bumping her head. We debated “hood up or hood down” for a further 10 minutes – still on the front step. “All the gear and no idea,” said my husband.
Once we hit the street, I looked around as if it was me and not my daughter who had just been born. There were people driving cars and going on jogs. A couple in an upstairs flat across the road were having a humdinger of a row. Next door’s cat had escaped the back garden and was strolling down the pavement with purpose. Life was continuing. I pulled the hood of the bassinette back so my daughter could look at the leaves on the trees as we approached the park gates.
“I’m walking down the road! With a baby! In a pram!” We were outside, at last.
Want more? Catch up on Diary of a Mum part four