What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

Evelyn's first few weeks

By Juliet

Evelyn's first few weeks

After the crazy last night in hospital Evelyn did really well once we got her home.  She seemed to be quite content to have left the hospital and be in this strange, cold house.  Luckily the first night at home she went back to sleeping how she had been the first few nights.  I think if we had had the sleepless night we had the last night in hospital at home instead we would have been so afraid we had broken her and probably would have been on our way straight back to the hospital to find out what was wrong. 

The Brisbane grandparents were still around for her first week at home.  They were a fabulous help, cooking, cleaning, shopping.  My fabulous husband also went to the shops and bought all those foods (soft cheeses, cured meats etc) that I hadn’t been able to eat during my pregnancy and prepared feast after feast of them.  The grandparents went home after a week and while I was sad to see them go, it was nice to have some time with just us as a new little family.

Feeding Evelyn seemed to be going quite well. She got the hang of feeding pretty quickly, however, she is not a fast feeder and needed quite a bit of time off the boob during the feed to get those surprisingly big burps out!  The first month or so she would wake about 3 times during the night but sometimes the awake time was just as long as her sleep times because of the time it would take to feed and burp her.  My husband, Johnny had the first 4 weeks off work which was pretty amazing.  Especially given my slowness at doing stuff while my incision healed having him around the house was amazing.  Just the small things, like getting me a glass a water mid feed or a snack after dinner he was always on hand for.  My mum flew over from NZ when Evelyn was 12 days old for a week.  She was also awesome to have around the house.  We started getting out to our local cafes and for short walks.  I was surprised at how quickly I started to feel better from the caesarean but then would go for a walk and would get sooooo tired from just a walk around the block, so I was happy to have two people around me to do all the mundane domestic work so I could rest in between feeds.  I remember May as being a fabulously warm month so it was nice that we were stuck inside with cold and wet weather. 

I did my first trip with Evelyn to town while Mum was here…to buy maternity bras.  I put Evelyn in the baby carrier and we got the tram into Swanston Street.  Halfway into town Evelyn cracked it…she cried so loudly, I didn’t really know what to do so just tried to shush her…I realised later that I should have just taken her out of the carrier and held her but didn’t even think of that at the time.  Shopping was successful and quick and once she had had a feed in town (at the Myer parents room which is such a great set up!) she was perfect on the journey back home.  It was sad to have mum leave and then it was time for Johnny to head back to work too.

I was a little daunted by that but it worked out that his first day at work was my first MCH parents group.  So it meant that I had something planned so didn’t just stay at home with Evelyn feeling sorry for ourselves.  The parents group was big, but all the mums that were there seemed really nice.  The first session was a baby massage lesson which Evelyn liked.  She is happy being naked so didn’t cry at all lying in her nappy with olive oil all over her!  When Evelyn hit her six weeks we had a week of appointments.  She was a breech baby for pretty much the entire time (I had an ECV when I was 37 weeks and she turned successfully) so she had to have an hip ultrasound. We headed off to the Cabrini Hospital for that, then she had her 6 week immunisations and I had my 6 week check up with my obstetrician.  The hip ultrasound was a painless experience for E but she still didn’t really enjoy the sonographer holding her down while he scanned her hip.  But compared to the immunisations it was a walk in the park.  To be honest I thought the injections for the immunisations would have been fine for her as she is usually such a content baby so I was very surprised when she cracked it so quickly and was extremely upset after.  The nurse who did the injections was lovely and did it super fast so there was hardly anytime between the two jabs and was really sweet with E but it didn’t really help soothe her.  Once that first jab had gone in she was inconsolable.  Even trying to get her to feed after they were over didn’t work as she was so worked up.  However, by the end of the day I think the poor little pumpkin was so tuckered out she was asleep by 5pm and pretty much slept through the entire night apart from waking at 9pm to get quick cuddle and settle by her dad.  

It must have been around this time as well that Evelyn’s sleep pattern started to change.  When she was brand new, she would sleep during the day for 2-3 hours at a time, wake up for a big long feed and then go back down again. However, once she was about 5 or 6 weeks those day sleeps shortened and she sometimes would not go down in her cot at all (but would happily sleep in our arms instead!).  And then in the evenings she would feed for about 3-4 hours (what felt like non stop but there were breaks in between each boob swap) and then finally go down in the evenings at about 10 or 11pm.  But usually once she was down at 10ish she would sleep through until about 4am so I felt that those long evening feeds were worth it to stock up for a long sleep. 

It took me a while to work out that she had a 90 minute cycle during the day – she would be awake for 90 minutes…although the feed, play, sleep cycle didn’t really work for her.  It was more of a feed, play, feed (burp), play, feed, sleep cycle.  She seems to graze quite a bit and the first part of her feed is short but before she will go down again for sleep she needed to feed more.  That has made it hard for me to get out and about as I would think she was full and content, put her in the pram to go for a walk and she would start screaming again for more food.  

My parents came back in July for a couple of weeks, again it was awesome to have Mum her as she did so much around the house for us and it was nice to see my dad meet his granddaughter and interact with her.  They were both really good to entertain Evelyn during the day and to me, it felt that she would settle much easier to sleep than when it is just me at home with her.  We got out and did a few things with the folks while they were here…trips into town, walks around our local suburbs and we hired a car for the weekend and went to Healesville one day and Mt Macedon and Trentham the other. Johnny and I don’t own a car so we were interested to see what Evelyn was going to be like in the car and she was fabulous.  She slept most times the car was moving!  I was nervous about her getting cranky in the car because of her feeding/grazing habits but we seemed to time everything quite well. 

That same weekend we also got to go to a 40th birthday of one of our really good friends.  We had hoped that we could leave Evelyn at home with Mum and go out but she still doesn’t settle early enough and refuses to take a bottle.  We have tried quite a few times to give her a bottle of my expressed milk but she always turns it away.  We tried Johnny doing it, while I wasn’t in the room, a couple of times I even left the house, he tried wearing my dressing gown, we tried lots of different teats, but she gets soooooo furious and worked up it just hasn’t seemed worth pushing it.  So anyway, we headed out with Evelyn in the pram.  She slept for a bit when we arrived and then woke up and was the life of the party for a while. She needed a feed but was quite distracted from all the people and new environment so she and I headed off home and Dad got to stay out and enjoy the party.  It was nice to get out in the evening though!    

Expert response from What Were We Thinking! expert, Sue Doogan

Juliet you astound me! I’m surprised you could remember the 8 weeks let alone tell us all so much in such a short space!

As I read your blog, for me the common theme I am reading here is support. Whether it was from midwives in the hospital, your husband, in-laws, parents, First Time Parents group etc., you had a tremendous amount of support. What’s more it was all welcomed by you. In reading, it didn't seem like you needed to “do it your way” or “prove a point”. No one can do it alone nor should they.

Granted, some people’s experiences to date may not have been so positive. Sometimes those you assumed would be your greatest support, for whatever reason, aren’t or can’t be at this time. That’s ok! I’m sure there are just as many who you
didn’t expect to be a support to you and they have turned out to be one of your biggest supports! What do others think?

Irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman reading this blog, if you need to revisit the pregnancy and/or labour if the experience didn’t go “according to plan” you also need to revisit your support networks. Seek professional support if you need guidance with these issues but the most important thing to remember is that you do need to work through these issues so as you can move on and learn and grow into the best parent you can possibly be and that you are not alone!

Even if your baby isn’t falling into a routine as quickly as you assumed, being consistent, planning and having a support network will help you move forward. You can do it – you are the person your baby needs and wants the most. You learn together. Just as you stated Juliet, it’s “nice to have some time with just us as a new little family” and “I had something planned so didn’t just stay at home with Evelyn feeling sorry for ourselves”.

Everyone must remember that life is change – just as you are changing in your role as a parent – always growing and learning (emotionally) about what you and your baby needs. Babies are also changing as they grow and learn (emotionally and physically). Nothing ever stays the same!

Juliet, in just 10 weeks you are learning to adapt routines to fit with Evelyn’s needs but also your lifestyle. Some things are in your control to modify, something aren’t. If they are beyond your control don’t give up, think laterally or ask your support network for suggestions – although you make the final decision!

How have other bloggers handled similar issues? A reminder that the WWWT topics of: Help and Support; Going it Alone and Your Family, may help some of you whose experiences may be different to those of Juliet, Johnny and Evelyn.

Posted in:  Baby 0-4 weeks