This post was kindly sponsored by Rellery, however as always all opinions are my own. I only ever recommend brands that I personally love!
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now – which is how most things go at the moment! Lots of thinking but not much time for action. Ollie is now five months old and I simply cannot believe how fast time has flown by. I feel like I wasn’t fully able to process his birth until he was over three months old and sometimes I still can’t believe I’m not pregnant anymore.
The last weeks of my pregnancy felt like they dragged on and on and I just couldn’t wait to meet my baby. But now I look back on those days as such sweet memories. I loved feeling his kicks and wriggles, I gave my body all the rest it needed and indulged in doing the things I loved most. I knew life was about to change and I prepared myself in all the ways I possibly could. I did all the courses, read the books and created the perfect little nest for our little one.
Now with the power of hindsight on my side I wanted to share my postpartum story with you. I want to share what I learnt, what I loved, what I struggled with and what I would change if I could go back in time. Maybe you’re reading this to prepare yourself for what lies ahead or perhaps you have your little one in your arms already and just need someone to relate to.
A couple of weeks ago on my Instagram Stories I asked you to ask me anything about my postpartum journey and I’d like to use this post to answer those questions and share some things I think you’ll find helpful, comforting or relatable.
I also just want to quickly say that each and every baby is unique and just because I had struggles with certain things doesn’t mean that you will. And just because I enjoyed certain things doesn’t mean you have to as well.
What were your first days as a mama like?
I had big Pinterest worthy dreams for my first days as a mama. Unfortunately due to a lack of sleep and a very long labour (if you haven’t read it yet, you can find my birth story here) it didn’t go exactly the way I envisioned it.
In the lead up to Ollie’s birth Jase and I had discussed whether or not to get a private room and if he should stay with me at the hospital during the nights. I honestly thought I’d be absolutely fine to share a room (maybe make a new friend) and that having Jase there during the day would be enough. And for some mamas those first days are sleepy newborn bliss. But that’s not how it turned out for us.
Ollie was extremely difficult to settle and wanted to be either feeding or in my arms at all times. I was so afraid to fall asleep in case I dropped him or rolled over onto him and so after 48 hours without sleep I spent my first 24 hours with him wide awake. On my second morning with him I had a bit of a breakdown, calling Jase before visiting hours had started and telling him I just couldn’t do it. I was absolutely exhausted and I had a baby who needed me constantly. I had not showered, I had not changed, I had not left my room (I didn’t even know what my room number was!), and I had not taken any of the sweet newborn photos I’d dreamt of (I hadn’t even opened my suitcase to get my camera out).
At that point I had the room to myself and I was so terrified that someone else and their baby would join us. I was a mess and I really didn’t want a stranger there to witness it. I was beyond relieved when Jase suggested we see if he could move into the room with me for the rest of our stay. And thankfully we were able to do that. Once I had him there with me things felt much better.
My first days with Ollie were very overwhelming. Even with all the preparation I’d done I felt totally out of my depth. Of course I wish a beautiful sleepy newborn for everybody but if you happen to struggle during your first days too, know you aren’t alone. You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed. It’s totally normal and things get better, much better, I promise.
Did he wake in the night? How did you handle the tiredness? How did you adjust?
Can I answer this with one word? Coffee. Haha no but really…
Even though Ollie was difficult to settle during the day we were very lucky that from the day we brought him home he slept very well during the nights, only waking once for a feed. In those first weeks he would have his last feed around 11pm and then sleep until around 4.30am. This gave me a decent chunk of sleep most nights.
However we still had some days/nights where I didn’t get much rest at all. This is when I really had to be strict with myself and try to nap when he napped. This isn’t as easy as all those advice givers make it sound though! I found it really difficult to sleep on demand, even if I was exhausted, my mind was usually racing and I needed time to wind down. I was also paranoid to fall asleep because then I couldn’t check if Ollie was still breathing (I think this is something most new parents become paranoid about).
Looking back I also should have gone to bed at 8pm and woken to do the 11pm feed instead of staying up until 11pm. I think I just felt like I finally had a little slice of the day to relax and spend time with Jase. After the first 8 weeks Ollie gradually settled into his own routine and now goes to bed at 7pm, wakes between 4.30am and 5.30am for a feed and goes back to bed until 7am.
I was really amazed at how responsive my body was (and still is) to Ollie’s cries. I thought it would be hard to get up in the middle of the night but I was wide awake as soon as I heard him stir.
Honestly I think the best way to prepare for this time is to be as well rested as possible leading up to your baby’s birth. I know it’s also difficult to get comfortable and sleep during the last months of pregnancy but make the time to nap and have lots of down time.
How did you keep up with Ollie’s schedule?
In the beginning he didn’t have a schedule. He was either sleeping or eating or crying! I found it really difficult not to be able to fit everything into neat little time slots on my calendar. I also stressed thinking I needed to try and work him into some kind of routine. But I wish I hadn’t worried, after around 8-10 weeks he started getting into a more predictable pattern all on his own.
I did find the Taking Cara Babies Newborn Course very very helpful though. Jase and I did it together before Ollie was born and it set us up with realistic expectations and some gentle guidance for working toward a routine.
What did you struggle with the most?
There are two things I really struggled with. The first was breastfeeding – I share my full breastfeeding story on IGTV here. With breastfeeding we had multiple issues going on at the same time and I don’t believe I got the right help I needed in the beginning. I tried and tried for months to make it work but unfortunately I was not able to exclusively breastfeed in the end.
Even having done a breastfeeding e-course I felt totally unprepared for just how intricate and complex it can be. Something that you would assume is quite straightforward is for a lot of women a very emotional and challenging journey for a multitude of reasons. In hindsight I wish instead of relying on the hospital to support me at the beginning of my journey I’d found a lactation consultant myself and had them lined up to help me as soon as the baby arrived.
The second thing was having to let go of the things I love doing – daily walks, taking photos, being creative, summer picnics, journaling, yoga and meditation to name a few. These were all little things I incorporated into my days and weeks that brought me joy. In the beginning I felt as though I would never have time for any of them again. I stressed about it, trying to squeeze things in here and there. But that just made me anxious and took away from those precious and fleeting newborn weeks.
Once Ollie reached about 10 weeks old things suddenly became easier and I was able to start weaving small things back into my routine. But I remember seeing other mamas on Instagram baking and going on picnics and I’d feel as though I must be doing something wrong. Why didn’t I have time for these things too? I’ve probably said this a million times already, but every baby is unique and so is the journey you take with them. You cannot compare your baby or your experience to anyone else’s. It’s ok if you aren’t doing all the things and going all the places and seeing all the people. I promise you are not alone, and it always helps to remember what you see on social media is never the full picture of someone’s life.
What do you wish you had known in advance?
I wish I’d known that I didn’t need to force anything to happen within a certain time frame. I didn’t need to force a routine on Ollie or force myself to try and fit in the things I used to do. I stressed that if I didn’t force it, it would never happen. But guess what? Those things happened all on their own without my help.
If I’d had the reassurance that this was the case I wouldn’t have wasted my precious energy on worrying about anything.
I also wish I’d taken that first month offline. I wish I’d stepped away from social media and just taken the days slowly without putting any pressure on myself. For me my social media is my work – so if there are any other self employed mamas out there my advice would be to prepare to totally switch off for at least 40 days. No emails, no Instagram, no deadlines or commitments. Just be with your baby without any pressure from the outside world – it will all be there when you get back. This I think would have to be one of my biggest regrets.
What would you do next time to be better prepared for some of the challenges you faced?
I remember leading up to Ollie’s birth people telling me how prepared I was. I had the nursery sorted, I had his wardrobe sorted, I’d done a breastfeeding course, a sleep course and a hypnobirthing course. I’d read the postpartum books and written not only a birth plan but also a postpartum plan. We had meals cooked and in the freezer and a list of easy recipes and takeaway restaurants on hand. I’d finished preparing for all of my upcoming projects so there were only last minute small things left to do. All of these things I highly recommend by the way – they do help immensely.
But then my waters broke on a Friday night and instead of getting as much rest as possible before my contractions started I got way too excited. I didn’t rest and I didn’t nap. I stayed awake for the 18 hours before I was in active labor. By the time Ollie was born I’d been awake for 48 hours. Then I had a newborn baby to care for and in the end I think I had my break down after having 4 days with only a few hours of sleep.
Sleep is a miracle worker – your mind is clearer, your mood is more positive and of course you have more energy when you get the sleep you need. I truly believe that the lack of sleep I had made those first days with Ollie really challenging. I wish I’d been mindful enough to rest after my waters broke.
I knew my body would take time to heal, but I wasn’t prepared to feel like it wasn’t my body anymore. It took time for me to settle into my new skin, and in all honesty I’m still getting used to it. In hindsight I’d also have organised a postpartum physiotherapist. For a long time my back felt all wrong and I was harbouring so much tension from the birth and stress of the first weeks. But with a newborn I didn’t have the energy to organise anything.
As I mentioned earlier I also wish I’d had my own help lined up for breastfeeding – I would say this was my biggest challenge in the first two months. But I am glad I’d researched formula brands before the birth and picked one out just in case we had to use some. Because when you do need it you probably need it urgently (a hungry newborn waits for nobody) and there’s no time to look into things as much as you’d like.
What were you favourite things during those first three months?
Ok, so I’ll be honest – nobody actually asked this question – but I was hoping someone would because I think it’s worth answering! For all the challenges a new baby brings there are also so many beautiful moments, that yes you guessed it, make it all worthwhile (oh I bet you’re also sick of all the cliches by now too!).
Here’s a list of my favourite things about my first months with my Ollie boy:
- Meeting him for the first time
- The smell of his little fuzzy head
- Kissing his cheeks
- Watching him sleep
- His tiny hand holding my finger
- Letting him fall asleep on me
- Seeing him milk drunk
- Laughing at his burps and farts (seriously so funny)
- Celebrating as he reached milestones
- Seeing his little sleep smiles
- Holding him safe in my arms
The fourth trimester was everything I imagined and also everything I couldn’t imagine. There were highs and lows and every emotion in between. You’ve just got to take it moment by moment. In one hour you can cry, laugh, feel helpless and be on top of the world. It’s intense and challenging and big. All at once your life is different and unknown and scary and exciting.
It’s ok to feel like you can’t do it, it’s ok to cry when your baby cries, it’s ok to need a break. It’s ok if you aren’t full of happiness and sunshine but it’s also ok if you are. If you’re finding it tough I promise it gets easier. If you’re worried you don’t have it all figured out like the others, I promise that’s normal.
Take it one day at a time, accept the help that’s offered to you, rest when you can, ask for help when you need it. Enjoy the little bursts of wonder a new baby brings and soak up their tininess – it will all be a memory sooner than you think.
To celebrate the momentous milestone of the end of the fourth trimester I wanted to create something special for myself. I’d like to thank Rellery for gifting me their personalised necklace with Ollie’s and Jason’s initials. It’s a piece I wear with pride and joy, a celebration of our little family and the two people I hold closest to my heart.
What I love most about Rellery is their meaningful jewellery is made of ethically sourced precious metals, which are produced by skilled artisans. Each piece is made to last and hypoallergenic with a lifetime guarantee. And yes in case you’re wondering I hope to add another initial (maybe two!) to my necklace sometime in the future! Hehe!