Colic, bottles and Chickenpox scare – weeks 3-6

Three weeks in and night times are not totally sleepless but split into shifts of sleep and awakeness. However it is described, my zombie-like state is becoming more bearable and I think my body is simply more used to it now. The next challenge we are faced with though is the wonderful world of colic. Mr B wasn't sure whether this was actually affecting BB but after a visit from the health visitor following my desperate phone call (with the added crying from BB in the background) she was sure that BB's tantrums were due to colic. We opted to use Infacol and after administering it before each feed for a couple of days it finally kicked in and seemed to help BB to settle. We used Infacol for a good few weeks (until about 12 weeks) when BB didn't seem to need it anymore and babies tend to “grow out” of colic at around this time.

At around this time I was starting to get the hang of breastfeeding so I thought I would give expressing milk and storing it for bottle feeds a go. The actual expressing was not as weird as I thought it would be and I luckily seemed to have quite a good let down (the flow of milk from the nipple) so it didn't take too long. I used a hand pump as I wasn't quite brave enough to try one of the electric ones yet. I decided to try BB on a bottle of expressed milk so as to give my nipples a rest and that eventually members of the family could get involved in feeds should they want to. BB took it straight away so I then tried to give her one bottle of expressed milk each day. She didn't always finish the whole feed so I would top her up with a breast feed but I was pleased that she was able to feed from both – luckily no nipple confusion that I had heard from others about. Unfortunately this only lasted a week. BB suddenly decided that the bottle was not her bag and would squirm before it was even put in her mouth. I decided not to force it on her so gave her a break for a few days as I found pouring my unused milk down the drain demoralising. I then tried to give BB some formula – my thinking being that maybe she didn't want to take expressed milk from a bottle when she could take milk from the breast – again she wouldn't take this from me so I eventually asked my mother-in-law to give it a go. BB took half the feed but when given a break for burping wouldn't go back to it. Still, a minor victory! Unfortunately the bottle feeding is still very sporadic and not always successful. I still sterilise the equipment and prepare a fresh load of cooled down boiled water on the off chance that she may take a bottle, and always take a bottle and powder with me when I am out for a long period of time just in case, but I tend to opt for the old boob which BB is more than happy to take.

A new discovery for me is getting our food shops delivered – why oh why would anyone with a baby or children go to a supermarket – or even without children, it is so much easier when you are busy! This truly makes my life easier, especially in the early weeks – although time does have to be taken to prepare the shopping list so a tip - try and prepare the order when baby is napping or try and set this up before baby arrives so that future shops are much quicker to arrange.

One of my neighbours (who has a two year old) invites me to join them at one of the local toddler groups to meet other parents and little ones. This is a fairly small group and most of the children are actual toddlers apart from a little girl who is 8 months old. Rocking BB in my arms and side-stepping the charging toddlers I am not too sure that I or BB are quite ready for this sort of group, but it is still nice to meet some of the local parents. A couple of days later I get a text from my neighbour letting me know that her little boy has got Chickenpox. I immediately wonder whether BB might have caught it and get straight onto the phone with NHS helpline and let Mr B know, who gets more scared than me and states that BB should not be taken to anywhere until after her first set of jabs! I am told that the symptoms of Chickenpox can take up to 21 days to come out so we are on tender hooks till then. Luckily though these don't materialise so we have had a lucky escape!

At the end of week 5 I have a hospital appointment for physio to help with my divarication of the recti. They go through the exercises that I was already told about before leaving hospital after the birth and I am told that my gap has reduced from 8cm to 1.5cm – I am so relieved! However, when I go to my 6 week check up with the GP I am told that it is more like 3cm – still an improvement though!

The first three weeks..."They were the best of times, they were the worst of times"

The words of Charles Dickens: “They were the best of times, they were the worst of times” have been used many times and they seem rather appropriate to me as a description of the first few weeks after the birth. I was truly grateful that BB arrived fairly safely and that she was healthy and well. But, and this is a big but (along with my own big bottom), it was a very dark period for me emotionally and physically. I do not believe that I suffered from post natal depression but I certainly had days that I felt very low and other days which I thought “yes, I can do this”. One of my friends just recently gave birth, about two months after me, and luckily her birth was fairly straight forward and she was allowed home that same day; she even went out for lunch with her partner and baby the following day, something that I just could not contemplate the day after the birth of BB. And this made me realise just how brutal my birth experience had been. My experience is personal to me and many others will have a much nicer experience, and others may have a harder time. That's the thing, no two births will be exactly the same nor will babies. 

In any case, I was so relieved to be back home for our “first night” and for me to be in my own bed. However, with the noise of the other babies in the ward I hadn't realised just how noisy BB was herself with her general mumbles and groans; none of which Mr B had experienced so his first night with BB was a fairly sleepless one. He would reach over me to look into the moses basket asking “Is she alright?” and “Is that normal?” every few minutes as BB gurgled a bit more.

The first two nights we made frantic calls to the hospital as we couldn't get BB to stop crying or settle her to sleep. She would cluster feed all evening till 11pm or 12pm and then wake several times during the night for more feeds. They reassured us that we were doing the right thing by checking that she needed feeding, burping or a nappy change and checking her temperature. I often had to resort to skin to skin (taking all her clothes off and putting her skin next to mine by taking my top and bra off) during these first few weeks - and on very rare occassions now when BB has a real tantrum and can't bring herself back to neutral. In these first few weeks we often used the phrase that BB was a “0-60 baby”. This helped us to make sense of her tantrums that would appear all of a sudden.

Breastfeeding was a real challenge and I made the most of the breastfeeding specialists through my ante-natal clinic. BB just couldn't latch on properly and would slip off after just a few seconds. During a session with one of my “helpers” we tried nipple shields and massaging the breasts but none of this helped. Eventually we realised that I had fairly flat nipples so I tried using a hand pump to bring them out. This really helped and I felt as if I was finally getting somewhere. But, feeding was still pretty painful so I knew that I still hadn't got latch sorted out properly. This led to blistered and cracked nipples and at one point blood was drawn – pleasant! This carried on for some time and was so painful that it would lead me to tears. Mr B would get upset at this and order me to give up but I didn't feel I could yet. I wanted to keep going, and so I did. I was then given a book which changed everything - “what to expect when you're breast-feeding...and what if you can't” by Clare Byam-Cook. It put my mind in a totally different place and I suddenly felt as if I knew what I had to achieve with the breastfeeding. Now, I know many people either do not breastfeed or stop early on for various reasons and I was very close to being one of these people. This blog is not about judging other peoples' experiences it is just setting out my own. I personally do not think it is “bad” to stop breastfeeding and to go on to bottles as long as both mum and baby are happy to do so. What is most important is to do what is right for you and your baby and if you cannot physically or mentally breastfeed then do not beat yourself up about it! Your baby will still be a happy and healthy baby as long as you are, and as long as baby puts on weight. But, and this is another big but, if you do decide that you want to breastfeed then I would recommend this book. I perservered and being on the other side now I am really glad I did. Although, I have since tried to get BB to take a bottle and she will only do so from time to time and others will flatly refuse it!
My memories of these first few weeks are of basically feeling shattered and that it took a while for me to feel vaguely normal again (took a good couple of months). I had to wear compression socks for a week and wear a tubular bandage round my mummy tummy; it took two weeks for my stitches to dissolve and for some time it generally felt uncomfortable to sit down; the wonder of leaking nipples as you get up in the morning (leaky nipples can happen at any time day or night so do find yourself some comfortable breast pads) and the lochia (post natal bleeding which lasted a good 6 weeks for me) all led me to having periods of feeling very low even though I loved BB. Even with that love, which can take moments, days, weeks or months to establish, it was still a very big transition for me going from full-time work, to 6 weeks of waiting for baby to arrive to being a full-time mum and after the first few weeks, essentially spending a lot of time on my own with BB.

During the first couple of weeks I had a few visits from midwives, assistants, breastfeeding specialists and health visitors and I have to say they were a blessing! Some days you just want to have someone there with you so that you can ask all the questions that you think are silly or just have a moan or cry to. I know that every region is different but the health professionals that I have come across from the hospital to the home visits to the my new GP surgery have been extremely helpful and kind. So moral of this paragraph is, if you are at all worried, concerned or just have something on your mind about your baby or yourself do reach out. There are people there to help. And of course family and friends are there too, even if they are just at the end of the phone. If you are feeling out of your depth or are going through a difficult time you are not the only one, trust me! I also found some of the forums on the internet really useful, In particular I have found this website great for finding general information on BB and her development and the ladies in the groups on the forums are all going through the same things as you so it is nice to read or share experiences. I would also recommend that “Your baby week by week” book by Simone Cave and Dr Caroline Fertleman. I have tried to read a few books and quite frankly once BB was here I barely had time to have a shower let alone read a very thick book so this is a good one to dip in and out of week by week and is written in plain English.

I knew that sleepless nights are part and parcel of becoming a parent but no-one could prepare me for the zombie like days ahead – three months down the line as I am writing this I can safely say that it does get better!

Hospital stay

Still in theatre, once the medical team were happy that baby BishBosh (BB) was OK, they put her to my chest. As I was lying down it was a bit difficult to keep hold of her and unfortunately I had a sudden urge to be sick. Nothing to do with BB but, I think, it was simply as a way for my body to cope with what had just happened with the delivery. I have always had a bit of an upset stomach during stressful times so it was not a surprise to me that this was the case now. BB was handed over to Mr B who was promptly told to take her to the delivery suite and to wait for me there. Having been sick, filling up two of their cardboard trays – so glamorous - the team moved me to another bed and changed my gown. I presume, as I could not lift myself up to see, that my original one was now quite a mess. I started to cry as I was on my own with total strangers who were clearly seeing far more of me than I would normally be comfortable with and feeling totally overwhelmed by the recent events. I was then wheeled back to my room in the delivery suite where Mr B and BB were waiting. I was relieved that the birth was over but I did feel somewhat removed from the whole situation and utterly exhausted.

Now that I was back, the midwife weighed BB and did a general inspection before handing her to me to do some skin to skin and to establish breastfeeding. BB latched on pretty well considering I had no idea what I was doing. 

We were allowed to stay in the delivery suite for quite a while longer than I thought we would, which made me feel as if I at least had a chance to catch my breath. I smiled for the new family photos of the three of us, but not feeling at my most photogenic quite frankly. Soon, the midwife who had been with us the previous night and in the early hours was back to start her next shift. She came straight to me and gave me a big hug and kiss. A little overwhelmed by this lovely gesture I smiled and showed my lovely baby daughter proudly to her. 

My bed on the ward was now ready for me and I was swiftly transferred. I sleepily settled into my curtained off room. Mr B helped me unpack before he went back home for some rest. The visiting hours for partners were from 10:00am till 8:00pm. The time in between seemed to stretch out as thinly as humanly possible and I would crave for the time to speed up, not wanting to be left on my own with BB for too long a period for fear of not doing something properly. 

Because of the use of the forceps, BB had two sets of quite severe red marks on both cheeks which looked as if they may not ever heal (they pretty much have now) and because of the pethidine (I'm sure) she had a glazed look in her eyes and was very still. So still that I would check that she was still breathing. So still that when she had her eyes open just looking up at the ceiling that I was sure she was no longer with me and I was scared to check for sure. I was torn between checking her and not wanting to know, so would end up doing both.

For the first couple of days and nights BB did not feed very frequently and would easily go 5-6 hours without a feed – a length of time which the midwives were keen to reduce but whenever I tried to feed her she wouldn't always latch on. I would press my buzzer requesting assistance to feed BB which would inevitably end up with my breasts being manhandled (with my consent) trying to squish my breast into BB's mouth, sometimes successfully, but most often not. I had to resort to hand expressing into a syringe so that my milk could be fed to BB. I was amazed at how little milk came out at first.

In between feeds I tried to rest as much as possible, quite a difficult task with the three babies in the ward crying, particularly at night. The night times were often the worst for me, knowing that I would be on my own, caring for BB, in a room of strangers, and not getting any visitors till at least 10:00am the following morning. 

As I had an epidural I had to have a catheter, which meant that I would have to stay in hospital for at least 48hrs so as to make sure that everything was working properly in that department. Having to carry the bag full of urine to the bathroom in order to empty it several times a day and night, infront of the other new mum's who didn't have catheters, were pretty low points for me. As well as having to deal with the catheter there was the usual post birth bleeding to contend with. This was quite heavy over the first few days and the hospital did provide a few jumbo pads – hence the need for big black knickers in the hospital bag, which everyone advised me to get – but I soon resorted to my own maternity pads. This bleeding did slow up after a week or two and stopped totally at 6 weeks after the birth.

In the end I had to stay in hospital for three nights following the birth, and with the two nights following the inducement I felt as if I had been in hospital forever. Just as I was being checked to make sure that I could be discharged, one of the nurses informed me that I had divarication of rectus abdominis muscle and that the gap was a whopping 8cm. The nurse gave me some exercises to do at home, as well as being reminded to do the old pelvic floor exercises, in order to try and close the gap and gave me a support tube to wear around my stomach. Perhaps naivly I had no idea that this could happen and as I had no symptoms (no pain) I was quite shocked and scared that this would set me back in my recovery, or worse, that the hospital would want me to stay even longer. Luckily, for my sanity, the nurses were happy to discharge me and I was able to go home on the Tuesday afternoon. 

The journey home was fairly surreal, and a little painful to sit in the car on the bumpy journey, but I was simply relieved to be going home. Going home with my lovely little baby.