Just over two weeks since the birth of our second son, I thought I would do a little update on how it’s going now we are a family of four.
“it has been the most beautiful and painful two weeks”
In all honesty it has been the most beautiful and painful two weeks that you can try to imagine. I’m writing this whilst sitting up in bed and it feels like someone is slowly sawing into my breasts with a rusty serrated knife, my c section muscles are burning and I can’t help but let my mind wander and think whether this week all hell will break loose and I will have an almighty breakdown as Mr LouBou returns to work and the running of the family falls back to me.
“it feels like someone is slowly sawing into my breasts with a rusty serrated knife”
First of all, my toddler. Two and a half year old George. How has the past two weeks been for him? I really wasn’t prepared for George and myself adapting to a newborn joining the clan. 9 months pregnancy didn’t at all register in George’s reality as a new child in the house that would need a lot of attention that used to be exclusively reserved for him alone.
After only 48 hours in hospital and only a few FaceTime calls and visits, when I got home and George returned from his grandparents, the first time I laid eyes on him I wanted to burst into tears. Holding a newborn baby and seeing this big two and a half year old boy, my firstborn baby, was a real eye opener. I think I’ve been seeing him as my baby and not quite realising the little boy that he had become. With his delayed speech and language I think has exasperated my mothering treatment of him. It felt like someone had taken away my baby George, made him grow up and returned him home to me and it was so emotional. To top it off, of course George was apprehensive. He came bounding into the room excited to see me and then bam, saw his newborn baby brother and stopped dead in his tracks. I couldn’t help but take in that expression, fear and confusion of this baby that was in his mothers arms and feel a pang of pain for him.
“confused and upset over a massive adjustment in his home”
Don’t get me wrong, George has been so caring from the beginning. Even the first day after we all returned home he would look concerned if the baby started crying and would call out for me or his dad but there were lots of changes too. George wouldn’t bound up to sit next to me or sit on me like he usually would have done. With me recovering from the c section surgery I’m not able to pick him up and have been forced to take a backseat to his dad who has been caring for George’s needs more than ever. This stung a lot. To see your child look confused and upset over a massive adjustment in his home but not able to have him on my lap or run after him when he refused to come near me with the baby is something I am sure lots of second-time Mums have to go through, but it sucks.
Two weeks down the line, we are making progress slowly. We have been showering lots of love, reassurance and attention on George and showing him he’s still our amazing George. Not the easiest job when recovering from surgery, sleep deprivation and the life adjustment yourself, but we are doing the best we can. His behaviour is very changeable, with George purposely not listening or being extra cheeky and doing things he normally wouldn’t. Apparently all standard child practices for coping with a new sibling. I pray that isn’t one ounce of doubt in my George’s heart that he is loved, now, more than ever. A newborn baby brother hasn’t come into his home to share his parents love, if anything, this newborn bundle has exploded the size and capacity I have to love and has made me love both of them and their dad even harder.
So we are riding a rollercoaster with George developing a relationship with his baby brother but I’d finally say I think we have some acceptance and the blossoming buds of friendship and love. George has been keen to get involved with the baby at all opportunity and I am so pleased that late night baby feeds or cries haven’t disturbed George either, who has slept through most nights as usual with no complaints. I have to suck up these silly guilt feelings for George, I am a loving parent of two beautiful boys now. My two amazing little guys. My half pint and my squishee and I am so unbelievably lucky to have them both.
“two weeks of constant pain relief has left me nauseous and fed up”
Coping with my second c section hasn’t been a walk in the park. When I try to think what it is that has made this one so much worse than the first is probably down to a change in lots of circumstances. After the birth of our first born, recovery from the c section was horrible and painful but all we had was one little newborn to care for. I had no pressure or want to be out and about shopping, dressing a toddler, and the want to constantly pick up toys thrown about the house. In fact there was barely a toy in the house when George was born, that all came later. Now I feel a fully fledged, real life “mum” of over two years. I clean harder and faster than before, I manage school runs, mealtimes, his dad whose career has been flourishing and keeping the household in check. Having to pause all that for surgery recovery has been difficult and Mr LouBou has caught me many times doing things I shouldn’t (which stupidly is probably delaying my recovery – oops!).
The section scar is much bigger than my first, it was a bigger operation than my first with the removal of scar tissue and I was in the theatre for a longer time but even with all that in mind, after less than 24 hours post surgery the nurses and midwives in hospital were encouraging me to get up, moving around and were happy to discharge me same day. My first section I was in hospital for 5 days! 5 days of on hand help and advice with the newborn, meals on tap and pain medication only an IV or doctors signature away and no responsibilities at home.
“The walk from the ward down the huge corridor to the multi-story carpark nearly made me throw up from the pain”
I actually was discharged from hospital 48 hours after the birth of our second son, 24 hours was so unachievable for me, I couldn’t take the pain of the surgery with only paracetamol and ibuprofen to assist me. I am not ashamed to say it, call me a wuss or whatever you like but that first day after getting up and moving I needed morphine and a fair few dosages of it. Then the following day I was able to get up and shower and leave, despite still being in intolerable levels of pain. The walk from the ward down the huge corridor to the multi-story carpark nearly made me throw up from the pain and getting in the car was tear-inducing. I did it though!
Being at home after such a big open surgery and only able to take paracetamol and ibuprofen is the reality of cesarean sections. If I could have stayed on morphine I think I would have coped a lot better during the first few days of recovery but it just isn’t possible (or allowed).
“Why is there so much pressure?”
Feeding. FEEDING A BABY. Why is there so much pressure, stigma and expectation when it comes to the nourishment of our offsprings? I don’t just mean from other people (although that is common) but also from a deep place within ourselves or at the very least, me.
I couldn’t help but feel proud as punch that our newborn latched onto nursing from day one of his birth as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Yes, yes, I know it is a natural thing but any other Mum will know that mother nature can hide many a different surprise for us when it comes to feeding.
So, I had the perfectly latched baby and thought that was it, job done, gold star for Mummy and baby. Sadly over the past two weeks our baby dropped down from his birth weight but lost more, then a bit more and failed to naturally gain back to his birth weight again and beyond. Midwives and Health Visitors where there to help, give advice but there was none to give. I was feeding on demand which meant I was pretty much always feeding baby. I was going without sleep and not able to focus on anything but feeding. Baby Thomas still wasn’t putting on weight.
“It felt like that scene in ET where Elliot and ET’s connection has to be broken in order to make them both better”
Sat in the hospital on Saturday afternoon we were given advice from the midwife that formula feeding was needed to help baby Thomas put on weight. It stung, like being told I had failed to achieve a dream job or was about to go through a breakup. I felt like I was being separated from Thomas, it felt like that scene in ET where Elliot and ET’s connection has to be broken in order to make them both better. Crazy, huh? Of course I knew that ultimately Thomas’ health was the most important thing and agreed that we would start formula feeding, with a certain amount of ml for regular feeds and cross our fingers that he would gain weight.
“I felt a failure”
The first time I watched Mr LouBou feed baby Thomas with a bottle of formula it broke my heart. I felt a failure. A bad Mum. I burst into tears and couldn’t watch. I know that is a ridiculous response but I had built up his feeding in my head that it was my job, I was suffering so much post surgery that I was struggling to do so many normal things but feeding, feeding I could do and even that I was losing.
Not only all of that but the special bond of nursing a child, the quiet time, the staring at each other and the skin on skin. The first 48 hours of suspending nursing has meant agonising breast pains, swelling and tummy cramps. Every cuddle with baby Thomas was him looking to nurse, nuzzling my breasts and crying for me, argh.
“striving to be the ‘perfect’ parent”
All these emotions and reactions are fuelled and the direct reaction of hormones, exhaustion and the unspoken pressures that I put myself under striving to be the ‘perfect’ parent. I know they are relative, selfish and self-deprecating but they still came and were real but thankfully they are leaving now too. I know, how ridiculous it is to measure parenting success against method of feeding?
Baby Thomas was weighed today and he’s now nearly back at his birth weight at 17 days old. YES! That means there is nothing to worry about regarding his digestive system and that really is the best news that gave me a hard kick up the butt.
Being so hard upon myself isn’t a new thing, I am forever picking myself apart, critiquing, comparing. It’s not healthy and to mix it with the hormones of childbirth, that meshes itself into one huge ball of despair. Is it really just the stigma of breastfeeding vs. formula or is it just parenting insecurities in general? I wonder where these feelings of inequality stem from? Are they something that I let society teach me and punish myself with or is it something deeper? Or an evolution of some humans that means we aren’t programmed or allow ourselves to leap to the positives first, rather than a afterthought when we are in need of healing later.
Thomas is happier on formula feeds. His dry skin from being delivered past his due date cleared up within 24 hours on formula. He now sleeps for longer than a few minutes at a time and his plump pink cheeks and big eyes are telling me, we did the right thing. I’m sleeping longer, more relaxed and I finally feel prepared to ‘get back to normal’. That feels like good parenting.
“focused on the positives”
Now I’m solely focused on the positives. For Thomas, for our family, for me. Yes, it’s squeamish to share personal events and details of life but I hope I’ve shared these private thoughts so that another Mum out there can relate, and maybe won’t be so hard upon themselves when it comes to other children, nursing or for struggling after a birth of a child.