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

Four months into parenthood

By Alex M

Four months into parenthood

So four and a half months later and I finally found a moment to sit down and write my first blog entry. All the while, I might add, singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to the little one!  It has been an amazing ride so far. So many highs and I will not lie, a few lows.

I want to start with all the good bits. The things that light up our every day.

First, our baby girl. Every day she changes. New expressions, new movements and new noises. The best moment would have to be not a 'wind smile' (you will soon know these all too well) but the real thing. The lighting up of the eyes and the delighted grin that goes along with it. “Thank goodness,” I thought when I saw this first grin, “I must be doing something right?”

I also never thought lying on the tummy could be such an important part of the day. When she finally lifted her head and avoided squishing her button nose on the mat, we were overjoyed. Clapping and praise ensued. What will our reaction be when she walks?!

Second, how incredible is family? This little bundle of joy can, believe it or not, wear one out! ‘Witching hours’ (when the sun goes down leading to inconsolable tears) were made much easier with the endless support of my parents, parents in law and sister who were either there at my side or always on the other end of the phone. At the start, when little is known, it is invaluable to have the help of experienced family members and friends. 

There are times where it can be tough. As my friends and family know, it was a tough time for my partner and I in the first few weeks after our ray of sunshine entered the world. I unfortunately had to go back into hospital after ten days. It was unexpected. I had been feeling feverish and dizzy though, so I should have realised all was not right. If anyone reading this feels very out of sorts, definitely call the hospital and check the symptoms are normal.

Felicity was a few weeks early so feeding her and putting the weight on her was my first priority. To start with it was not easy. She also had a tongue tie so much time was spent patiently feeding her and expressing milk. But after much perseverance, she has doubled in size! 

My partner and I have had a great deal of fun watching our little princess (and occasional dictator!) grow. She is only four and a half months old and I cannot wait to see her grow and to help her in every way that I can.

Anyway having sung “Twinkle, Twinkle” four more times, she seems unamused. And from the looks of things, may need a cuddle. Good Luck! 

Expert response from What Were We Thinking! expert, Jan O'Connell

Reaching the four month mark is frequently when you can pause and really enjoy being a parent. The early weeks and months are generally hectic and it can often feel like a blur. One day moves into the next and as there are so many things to learn, remembering what day it is can be a challenge!

Much of how we parent is drawn from our deepest memory of things our own parents did, such as the song “Twinkle, Twinkle” that you reference, which your mum and dad probably sang with the same sense of wonder and love to you.

The reality of caring for a baby is frequently quite different to what parents imagine it will be like when they’re pregnant. It’s difficult to imagine the accumulated levels of tiredness and all the things to learn from how to feed, change nappies, bathe a baby, put clothes on and off such a tiny body without seemingly over-bending their limbs and many other little things you encounter each day.  And yet you have both done this every day with your continued sense of joy, some tears and waves of indescribable love and wonder at the smallest of changes and events your daughter displays.

It’s worth mentioning that not all parents have these positive feelings about their parenting experience or their child in the early months or later. This can make them feel that something is wrong with them; feelings of guilt, frustration or even ambivalence. If you, or anyone you know, is having these thoughts it is important to speak with a trusted health professional. You will not be judged negatively but linked into services to support both you and your child.

Breast feeding in the early weeks after birth is certainly not easy for everyone. A large percentage of new mums I see experience difficulties with feeding; the main issues are usually related to attachment and supply. Whilst most of these are remedied in the first couple of months, it does mean that feeding (followed by expressing) takes up a large chunk of your waking hours. Well done Alex for persevering; breast feeding from here is so much easier, enjoyable and worth your great efforts!

Parents are frequently surprised with the unexpected level of tiredness they feel and also, amazed that they manage to keep going every day with interrupted sleep cycles. It is important to look after and be kind to yourselves and to each other. Your body has undergone many changes since conception and takes time to recover and resume it’s pre-pregnancy state. Take time every day to have some rest times, to eat nourishing meals and if you can, get out for a short walk.

Even though your place of work has changed, remember that you are still working every day – for longer times than when you were in paid employment. The shift to non-paid work is under-rated and under-acknowledged. It is also more difficult to make headway with your ‘daily work agenda’. The unstructured nature of parenting can be one of the toughest things to adjust to, especially with a small person who has no conception of time or to-do lists.

It’s great Alex that you have many excellent supports around you. Physical and emotional support from family and friends is so important and will continue to be throughout your parenting life. For families who don’t have supports so readily available, it is useful to link with community groups, new parent groups or other social and community activities that are usually offered through your Maternal & Child Health Nurse or local council services. Learn more about the support and help you deserve during this time in this WWWT! program worksheet

Posted in:  A new reality  Baby 13-16 weeks  Every baby is different  Growth and development  Mums