Is this normal?! 

In my experience when it comes to parenting the answer to this is almost always yes. In the 10 and a half weeks since Arthur was born I’ve learned a lot very quickly, but the biggest thing I’ve learned wasn’t about Arthur at all; it was about myself. 

We’re led to believe that when we have a baby it’s all lovely and perfect. Maybe for some families it is, but for me it wasn’t that instant. Those first few days you’re so exhausted and hormonal that its all a bit of a blur really, and then you just go on a never ending roller coaster of emotions that challenge you in ways you never even knew possible. It’s only now, that I feel like we’re understanding each other. Now it’s starting to get a bit easier. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat crying and wondering if what I was feeling was normal. Is it normal to not like your baby very much some days? Is it normal to seriously contemplate leaving and never coming back? Is it normal to be so sick of being vomited on that you just want to scream? Is it normal to be so tired that you can’t think straight? Is it normal to 100% believe that you’re a terrible mother? 

In my case the answer to all of these questions was a resounding yes! Thankfully, I have some mum friends who verified that yes, that’s all normal, and yes they’ve felt the same thing (and that list isn’t exhaustive by any stretch by the way) and you know what? That made me feel better. Sleep deprivation is no joke and really can make you feel like you’re losing the plot. Couple that lack of sleep with a constantly screaming/puking/feeding baby and it’s little wonder you feel frazzled. 

I’m extremely lucky to have a very supportive fiancé and family and that has been a huge help, but it doesn’t stop you being hard on yourself or beating yourself up. 

The biggest thing I’ve learned so far in this motherhood lark is that it’s really bloody hard. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? You go in to it knowing it’s going to be hard, and yet somehow it still doesn’t prepare you. I think because “hard” is an abstract concept. Motherhood is 100% harder than you think it will be. It’s still totally worth it, but when it’s so much harder than you expected you do then find yourself thinking it must be you. You must be a crap mother, you must not be able to cope with the sleep deprivation. Let me tell you something; all of us feel the exact same way. 

There’s also a lot of pressure on mothers. Pressure to lose the baby weight, pressure to breastfeed, pressure to have a clean home and look nice all the time. Those pressures don’t necessarily come from outside sources though. Nobody puts more pressure on me to lose weight or keep a clean home than myself. People kindly say “go easy on yourself, you’ve JUST had a baby” and although that’s true, I do not like being this big and no amount of kind words from supportive friends and family will change that. Equally I don’t like having a messy home, so whether you as a visitor to my home expect it to be messy or not, I want it to be clean and tidy. 

The breastfeeding issue though I do feel comes from other people. I’m still breastfeeding Arthur, and it’s really hard. I can’t say I especially enjoy it, I do it because I think it’s what’s best for him; something that’s reinforced by every person who tells me how great it is that I’m breastfeeding. But when the sleep deprivation peaked at about 9 weeks during another growth spurt, and I started to come down with the lurgy a few days later I was all set to give up. I cried A LOT. Paul was, and always is, loving and supportive of whatever I decided but I felt torn that if I quit breastfeeding then I was a bad mother, and if I continued breastfeeding I’d be a bad mother because I was so frazzled and ratty. What nobody tells you about breastfed babies is that they don’t sleep through the night like formula fed babies do, and at 9 weeks Arthur was still waking every 2 hours or so for feeds. It was killing me. Eventually by 10 weeks we decided we had to try something different, so we started giving Arthur one bottle of formula at night. The 1am feed that Paul’s always done with expressed milk has now become a formula feed…the result is that Arthur now wakes every 4 hours for feeds. I feel like a new woman, and Arthur is still predominantly breastfed and still a happy little dude. I am however, terrified to admit this to my health visitor. Why? Because breastfeeding is pushed on pregnant women so much and the health visitor always tells me how great it is that I’m breastfeeding, and how well Arthur is coming along. 

At the end of the day though, a happy mother makes for a happy baby and this mother is so much happier with a little more sleep! 

So the thing I’ve learned is that I’m not a bad mother, I’m just human. It is sometimes really hard, it’s sometimes frustrating, but it’s also worth it all when you see your little one giggling and smiling back at you.  


The etiquette of visiting a newborn. 

A good friend of mine and his husband came to visit us a few weeks ago for the first time since we’d had Arthur. He surprised me by admitting that he’d googled the etiquette of visiting a newborn. At the time I laughed thinking “what an Owain thing to do!” But on reflection it was a bloody good idea! Owain had been itching to meet Arthur and see how we were all doing but wasn’t sure when is a suitable time to start nagging for a visit, and it occurs to me that lots of people probably wonder the same thing while others turn up unannounced on day two when the last thing you need or want is visitors! Here are my thoughts on what you should and shouldn’t do when visiting. 

1. Never turn up unannounced. No new parents want surprise visitors. I was very fortunate to have had a lovely, easy, straightforward birth. I was home the same day and feeling great but I still didn’t want people just turning up unannounced! Always call or text and ask if you can stop by. 

2. When you call or text make sure you give plenty of warning. “Can I come around in half an hour?” Is the most stressful text message I got as a frazzled new mum! I guess people forget how hard it is to be awake, dressed and not crying in a corner somewhere in those first few weeks! I tried to make sure all of our visitors planned their visits at least a week in advance. It meant I knew I had time in the lead up to said visit to make the house look less unloved, be showered and dressed and have my face on. Ideally I’d have Arthur fed and changed and ready for cuddles too if possible. These things may sound unimportant to you, but to be brutally honest, it isn’t about you. A new mum has been through a physically and emotionally traumatic time, and if being showered, dressed and having their make up on makes them feel better able to tackle the day then give them that. 

3. When you make a plan to visit, stick to it or let them know as much in advance as possible if you can no longer make it. As I mentioned in point number 2, it’s an epic mission to be ready for visitors. It isn’t just a case of throwing on some clothes and away we go. If I’ve spent a precious “free” hour cleaning the house for the sole purpose of your visit when I could’ve been sleeping or having a relaxing bath, and then you don’t turn up I will plot your death. 

4. Don’t leave it up to the new parents to invite you around. Mainly because that just won’t happen! Lots of people said to me “let us know when you’re up for visitors” and then backed off. While I appreciated the space, I never felt like I had a “good time” to invite people around and frankly, between the sleep deprivation and the steep learning curve of being a new mum I really didn’t have time to stop and think “right then, who do I need to text now and invite over”. Leave it a week or two and then drop a casual message to see how everyone is doing and if they’re free for a quick visit soon. It prompts us Mombies to remember we have friends who’d like to see us (always a nice feeling) without being pushy. 

5. When you do pop around, keep it brief. We’re Knackered and barely able to string a sentence together most of the time. We can manage an actual conversation for maybe half an hour but that’s your lot! There is nothing worse than having your routine (such as it is) disrupted when a visit you expected to last 30 minutes turns in to several hours of you painfully trying to drop hints while secretly plotting their deaths for not just buggering off already! 

6. Forgive us if we don’t offer you teas/coffees like we normally would. I try and remember to do this when people arrive, but honestly, sometimes it’s been a very sleepless night and I totally forget. It’s not that I’ve lost my manners, or can’t be bothered. Promise. Normal service will resume when we’re all getting a little more sleep. 

Arthur, 7 weeks and 4 days old. 

One year on. 

Yesterday marked one year since that horrible 12 week scan and what was to be the start of the worst week of my life. I try not to dwell on it, as dwelling does no good, so I spent the day doing normal everyday stuff. I went to the dentist, met some friends for coffee and had my hair done. And it was ok. 

I’d be lying if I said my mind didn’t wander, but I needed to be busy and wanted not to dwell on things that can’t be changed. I think I succeeded in that. 

So, a year on and a lot has changed. The miscarriage association are still plugging away doing a terrific job of helping and supporting those who suffer a loss, and I had the pleasure of an email from lovely Ruth (to use her full name) a couple of weeks ago updating me on the latest with the educational videos I talked about in a blog post months ago. The videos have been made and are being rolled out to GP’s, Ultrasound technicians and anyone else likely to come in to contact with a woman suffering a miscarriage, any time now. I’m really glad I was able to offer some insight for this project and so pleased that it’s come to fruition. I sincerely hope it has the effect we all hope it will. 

On a personal level, although my loss still at times feels very recent and very raw it was in actual fact a whole year ago now. In that year I’ve got a new house, new job, got engaged, and of course welcomed little Arthur in to the world safe and well. I’m thankful and very lucky to have all that I have, I know that, and I try very hard not to take any of it for granted. Do I still wonder what that baby would have looked like? Of course. Do I still long for him or her? Absolutely. But then I remind myself that I wouldn’t have had Arthur, and he is pretty awesome so I choose to focus on that on the tough days. 

Although this is a morbid anniversary, I felt I needed to mark it somehow. Just let the universe know that I haven’t forgotten. Will never forget. Here seems as good a place as any to do that since here is where my recovery began really. Here is where I found unending support and understanding, here I found friends accross the world. We dragged each other through those awful times, and celebrated together through the happy times. Let’s hope there are more happy times to come for all of us.