I will write Freya’s birth story someday. But right now… I can’t. Parts of her birth were beautiful, and wonderful, and make me so proud. Other parts were emotional and difficult, and ultimately very traumatic.
The days after were incredibly hard. If I’m being honest, every day still is. Freya is a lovely baby, but my body has done a huge job bringing her into this world and I underestimated just how weak I would be after what happened.
For days, my shoulders were pulled high up to my ears. Teeth grinding together, legs tensed, back tight. Even with consciously breathing I couldn’t relax them at all, my body was remembering again and again. The sleep deprivation – no more than an hour’s sleep at a time for days – gave me night terrors, waking up sweating and screaming every so many minutes. The breast feeding felt like her attacking me, the feeling of her latching onto my bleeding nipples grindingly terrible. I was shaking with pain sitting down or moving at all with my stitches. And crying, crying endlessly, for no longer being pregnant, for having to go through it all, from sheer misery.
And then the horrible day where we both greeted the midwife by bursting into desperate tears because Freya wouldn’t settle no matter what we did and it turned out she was not well at all and we had to choose between a paediatrician or the emergency room. She was four days old then, and I’d failed her already – or that’s what it felt like to me.
Our midwife has been a godsend. She has been here for hours every single day, monitoring Freya, helping us. I am so incredibly grateful for her. I am grateful for the two donors whose blood I received in hospital. I am grateful for the person who gave us donor milk when Freya desperately needed it, and for the women who are selflessly offering to help us now. I am grateful for Jo, who has been a rock in keeping all of us going, and who has had to deal with all of it as well.
We are all getting better, little by little. Breastfeeding has stopped hurting so much. I now manage to get several hours of sleep a night, and I went outside for the first time yesterday without passing out. Freya is an alert and happy baby, who loves being cuddled. We are learning every day. We will get there, we will <3
I’ve only been the witness of my friends becoming parents, but I’m not surprised by what you’re writing. It’s something that I’ve heard before and I don’t think anyone can ever be fully prepared to what it’s like to give birth and go through the first exhausting and stressful days that follow. I’m sure other mothers already told you that it will get better, and the time will come when you’ll be able to say it yourself to other new parents. You’re not failing your baby by not being able to handle everything. The professionals like midwives and paediatricians are there to help you with the things you can’t do. You and Jo were already wonderful parents-in-the-making during the pregnancy, that won’t change now that Freya is here. :-)
Mentally I did know that it was going to be one of the hardest challenges of my life, but physically and emotionally I don’t think anything could have prepared me. Every day is a little better though, a little less exhausting and a little less hormonal, so we will get through it… Thank you for your support <3
For the first few days I couldn’t sleep at all. I kept having night terrors, waking up suddenly afraid something happened to the baby, hearing phantom cries, flashing back to the birthing experience… etc. At 5 days, baby was readmitted to the hospital for severe jaundice and it was the first of many times I’ve felt like I was failing as a mother.
Your body has done a tremendous and miraculous thing, and I know we think women do it all the time but I think we don’t talk enough about these early days probably because we’re afraid we’ll be seen as mad.
At least for me, who processes trauma through writing about it, I found that until I wrote about my birth experience in my private journal, I didn’t sleep for the flashbacks. My midwife agreed, however you process trauma, do it. Do it as much as you have to.
I read all of the books before this, and yet I wasn’t prepared for this to happen at all. You’re right that it’s not talked about nearly enough, and when it is it’s in the context of severe PPD or such, not that it just can happen like that, one day I was pregnant and fine and the next I was absolutely not okay at all. I’m ‘glad’ it’s not just me who experienced this, even though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The midwives have offered to sit down with us and talk us through what happened, and we will take them up on it, but there is no way I can face that right now without falling apart. I think you are right that writing about it will help me though, I definitely plan to write out my birth story both for this blog and maybe privately as well. Thank you so much for your comment <3
I wrote privately about mine. It’s just a bulletpoint list, I think. I haven’t looked at it since I wrote it down, but I think the part of me that says “okay I’ve recorded this now and I don’t have to keep remembering it” helped a lot. I’m not saying don’t make a public post, I’m just saying that to get it out of your head so you can move on, it doesn’t need to start that way.
I’m also going to say something I wish more people told me in those early weeks—you’re doing fine. We as a society have gotten really hung up on how we gave birth (in reality, very few birthing plans actually go anything according to the plan), how we feed our newborns, whether we weaned baby-led or purees (and whether those were homemade or store bought), the kinds of nappies we used (or didn’t!), buggies vs. carriers, cot vs. cosleeping…etc. But the truth is, that’s just the first couple of years of a long childhood (not to mention the rest of their life).
What babies need are:
A full tummy
Not sitting in a soiled nappy
Lots of sensitive parental attention/love.
Everything else is just details and preference of how we do it; what’s right for our family and what ends up working. Don’t let anyone judge you about them, and don’t feel like a failure because it didn’t go according to an idealized plan or what someone else or a book thinks your plan should have been.
Yeah it’s probably a good idea to write for myself first, that way I don’t have to worry about it making sense. I’ll make a list with questions for the midwives as well, because I have a lot of ‘what if we…’ and ‘if only we would have…’ sort of scenarios in my head.
And thank you for saying that…. There is such enormous pressure to do it right, to enjoy it, to have every second be perfect, and to make the best decisions always (especially with breast feeding and cloth nappies and gentle birth and and…). She is loved, held, changed, and paid attention to all the time. That is what matters most. Everything else is dreams, really. Thoughts of how I’d do it and why, when reality isn’t exactly like that. It’s a hard one to swallow, but so very true. <3
Sending big love to you all. Deff no chance to recover as well when you have a little being to look after. Glad you have lots of support use it as much as you can! I’m not sure if you have it but ‘the wonder weeks’ app I found the most useful thing when I had Freya (my first, now 3!) it let’s you know what’s going on in their brains and lets you know when things are likely to get tough and when it will pass! Sending love, your brain has gone through massive chemical changes too and it takes a good while to find that equilibrium again. Be kind to yourself too. I felt so guilty for not feeling the way I wanted to but sure enough it comes xx
I hadn’t heard about that app! Anything to make it easier would be good :) And you have a Freya too! It’s not a super common name here, but still well-known enough that we liked it for our daughter, we didn’t want her to have to spell it all the time. I didn’t really consider the changes my brain underwent with all of this but I suppose it must be huge with the rush of hormones and endorphins. It’s good to know that the feeling gets there eventually… xxx
Sending you love and big gentle hugs. I don’t really have anything to say that can help, only that I know you’re not alone in feeling like this. Your body will heal, and your feelings will settle. Until then I’m glad you have support and I hope everyday gets better. ?
Thank you *returns the hugs* Even just knowing that people are out there reading what I wrote and caring about it means a lot <3
No matter how much you read, how much you hear nothing can prepare you for child birth and the 4th trimester. Child birth is one of the hardest things a woman can go through, it’s not just a matter of it being physically draining but mentally too. Your body has to go through so much.
I remember having an easy labour but then I suffered a 3rd degree tear. It hurt like hell for weeks, I couldn’t sit or go to the toilet without wincing in pain.
Then there’s the breastfeeding, a few days in your milk comes in, emotions running high, nipples are on fire but trust me a month or so in it’ll be a breeze.
I really hope you’re all okay, and please don’t feel you’ve failed. You definitely haven’t. You’ve got this mamas!
I’m at the end of the phone if you need me.
Thanks for sharing that, it’s good to know we’re not the only one’s who struggled with this period. We did know it would be hard but yeah, it’s really impossible to wrap your head around just how hard it is until you’re living through it. I think the sleep deprivation really doesn’t help, it makes even the littlest of things feel overwhelming sometimes!
We know we’ll get there, it’s already so much better than it was this time last week. Though I’m sure we’ll have tough days along the way too. Thank you for all your support and will definitely want to pick your brain about all the baby things I’m sure! <3
Sending you positive thoughts for getting through these struggles. <3
Thank you <3