I’m not afraid to admit, I was terrified when we brought D home from the hospital. It was inconceivable that a new baby, a whole tiny helpless life, was entrusted to our untrained, untested care.
There were no definitive guide books, no rules. We had ultimate power and ultimate responsibility. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing.
For a whole host of medical reasons, I had a planned c-section under general anaesthetic, so was put to sleep and woke up two hours later to be handed a baby. The GA took a while to wear off and I was a bit spaced out for the rest of the day. It also made D sleepy so it took her 24 hours to have her first feed.
I’ll talk more about our birth story in another post, but what I wanted to talk about here was what happened when we brought our baby home.
What happened when we brought our baby home
The midwives and health care assistants have got your back when you’re in hospital. but when we got home, it was just the three of us, plus my sister who popped round to help us get settled.
I think I was still in a sleep deprived daze, and following the stress of the hospital stay and an awful car journey home, all I wanted to do was sleep. But then there was a tiny new baby who needed me to feed her. A tiny new baby who had been so quiet in the hospital but had now found her voice, and demanded mummy at full volume with no regard for mummy’s welfare.
A tiny new baby who was a stranger in our home.
I think that’s the bit that shook me the most. Even though I’d grown this child for the last 9 months, carrying her everywhere and thinking about her daily, now she was no longer a physical part of me she felt alien. I loved her and was besotted, but wary along with it.
We’d only known each other 3 days and had yet to build up that familiarity that only comes with time. I hadn’t learned her cues and quirks yet, yet I was her mother, so surely I should know her better than anyone?
It hurt when I couldn’t stop her crying. And when she only seemed to want me for milk, then needed daddy to walk and bounce her to settle again afterwards.
I felt a huge tumult of feelings within those first 5 minutes of getting home, and was severely overwhelmed.
I cried. I was sent to bed. I gratefully obliged.
I lay there, mind racing with the terror of having to face my baby again, and the stark realisation that there was no going back. This was the most permanent thing I’d done since being born myself. This was it. This was my present and future, and I couldn’t change my mind. I was terrified, I felt trapped, I wanted to rewind the tape, to have her back in my belly where it was easy to keep her safe, where she couldn’t cry.
I also knew that sleep deprivation and hormones were probably not helping my mental state, and that I needed to pull myself together or risk spiralling down to a place I didn’t want to be.
So I built a wall.
I built a wall in my mind, made of big blocks, not too tightly packed so you could glimpse through the cracks. It was tall and wide, and a few rows of blocks deep. I allowed myself to mentally put D on the other side of it. She was safe there, being well looked after, and I was safe on my side, taking my time to feel the tumult of feelings without pressure or judgement.
I gradually started removing blocks from the wall so I could peek through and see my baby. One at a time, in my own time. And I put them back if I went too fast and got scared again. A few deep breaths, a quick pep talk, and I’d start removing them again.
I can’t remember how many times I mentally took down and rebuilt that wall, but each time I did, the gap got bigger and I felt calmer.
I can’t remember if I eventually slept, though I suspect not, those early days are all a big blur. I do know however, that allowing myself that space and time to mentally come to terms with my new baby was so valuable in starting our relationship off on a positive note. It was only an hour, perhaps even less, but without it I fear I’d have dived head first into life with a baby that terrified me, and started my parenting journey feeling both trapped and like a failure.
I still found it difficult, the first few months especially, but I wasn’t running away in my mind any more, and I felt able to be physically and mentally present with my baby.
A thought for new mums
I think it’s important for new mums to be given time to process, especially the first time you become a parent. It’s a massive shock to the system, becoming a parent, and not something I think you can truly prepare for, no matter how much research you’ve done in advance. I also think it’s important to give yourself the space to have all your thoughts and feelings course through you, without judging yourself or feeling guilty.
I’d like to say this to new mums who might be feeling and thinking things they hadn’t anticipated when bringing home a new baby… Having a thought and acting on it are very different things. It’s natural to run through a whole host of different scenarios when faced with such a big change, and thinking these through doesn’t make you a bad mum at all, it just makes you human. Give yourself a break, take your time, respect your mental health, and don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it.
I’ll be forever grateful to my husband and sister who let me off the hook completely for that short time when we got home. It wasn’t the last time they came to my rescue either. Parenting is a tough job, and it’s natural to have a mental blip or drop in confidence from time to time. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your less welcome feelings, allow them to linger a moment, knowing that they are only fleeting. You’ve got this. You might have to nip behind a wall for a sec to compose yourself, but mama you’ve got this.