Joanna Ellner and baby Noah arrive home to discover nothing is quite the same as before
We’re home. We shut the front door as two and returned five days later as a three. I had decorated this moment in my mind, during the bouts of insomnia that punctuated my pregnancy: we’d waft in to the sound of distant birdsong. I – a newly de-bumped earth-mother in a cotton tunic – would be beaming with the sort of joy only witnessed at the end of Richard Curtis films.
Ha! The reality is that I clumsily hobble to the bedroom wearing an XXL nightdress, Ed’s socks, Birkenstocks and an adult nappy. No one told me about the nappy bit. Nor did I know that almost all clothes would become surplus to requirement over the coming days; that the merest brush of fabric against my abdomen would make me wince. The nappies, in the most glamorous of fashions, are high-waisted to keep a safe distance from my c-section incision, while dealing with the post-birth bleed. Fortuitously, I invested in a breathable linen robe weeks before. This will soon become my second skin, peeled off only every few days to wash.
I sling it on and take position in the newly anointed ‘feeding chair’, a vintage leather armchair, commandeered from the living room and draped with a quilted blanket. Here’s where I’ll learn to breastfeed Noah, where it’ll finally click, but that moment is still several days away. For now, we muddle on, gently changing positions, determined to find one that neither rests on my middle, nor puts weight on my painfully-numb tailbone, but will still help Noah latch properly. In the hope that Ed might take on a night feed, I express too, cranking up the Philips Avent electric breast pump until its whirring thrum switches to something that can only be described as late-nineties drum and bass. We convulse with laughter. Delirium has set in, and after the past week, it’s welcome.
It’s a clichè I know but @edwardellner is quite literally the Best Dad Ever. For being Captain Nappy Change when I could barely walk, for doing three washing loads per day when Noah and I didn’t leave our bed, for saying the right things when the tears came, for keeping us fed, watered and loved throughout the hardest and best of times. We love you. ♥️
Overnight, our once serene bedroom becomes a hive of baby-related activity. My neat clutch of fragrances are swiftly replaced with nipple pad sachets, a tube of Lansinoh nipple balm, antibiotic cream for my c-section, antibiotics to clear the sepsis, Nystatin nipple thrush drops and the eight different medications I’m under strict instructions to take each day, including an injection in my thigh to prevent blood clots, which I administer during Love Island. Aside from loo breaks, I scarcely leave this room for the next 14 days. We cancel all visitors and quite literally, bed-in for the duration.
Time is no longer absorbed in days, but hour by hour, sleep by sleep, feed by feed. The bed becomes a control desk strewn with muslin cloths. Ed, ever the logistician, sets an alarm to wake us every two hours, and I shuffle from bed to chair to feed a dozing Noah as Ed watches on, doing not much of anything other than being present, which feels so vital. The sleeplessness will be the hardest thing, everyone said. But it’s oddly manageable for Team Insomniac. It’s in these half-conscious 4.23am moments, while marvelling at her curled toes and admiring her perfect ears, that I’m overcome with a visceral sense of wonderment. It’s in these moments, when she’s as close to me as she was in the womb, that I know I’d do it all again in a heartbeat: adult nappies – the lot, just to have her.