A letter to my first born

My OG. Bad boy ginge, our resident bobble head.

You made me a Mum.

If only I knew the things I know now.

I wasn’t sure if I’d have the capacity to love another like I love you, but the love you’ve shown towards Lily has made me realise that love never runs out, it only expands.

I’ve always been told that a mother has a special bond with her son, and you’ve shown me just how true this is.

You have taught me things about myself that I never knew existed. You made me find a strength within myself that I didn’t even know I had, a love I didn’t even know was possible.

The moment you were put in my arms, I was overwhelmed with emotions. So much love, and so much fear. I was so scared because this whole motherhood thing this was/is new to me.  I was so scared of not being a good Mum to you. I got post natal depression and I cried a lot. I would sit there and look at you, and cry. I was so scared that I was failing you because I wasn’t coping. The first few months were really difficult for me, coming to terms with such a big adjustment, my hormones were all over the place and I was discovering a new side of myself.

I hope that one day you will be proud of me and that you’re OK with me writing about you and your sister and how I am feeling. I have found a safe haven within this blog and people really love hearing about you and how you’re doing. It’s really helped me by helping others who were also struggling.

I was so afraid when Lily was born that you would become withdrawn. Sad and jealous of the attention I was giving your sister, but you’ve been amazing. You have been so welcoming and shown her so much love. You have such a kind heart and I know you’re going to do amazing things in your life.

We got some bad news this week and just having you around has made things a little easier to deal with. You have brought so much joy to our family. Seeing the bond you have with my Dad is something in itself. It literally brings a tear to my eye. You’re like his little shadow and it just fills my heart. Seeing you with my Grandad makes me so happy that he was able to get such joy from both you and your sister. I know Grandma would have been so smitten with you as your cheeky just like my Dad.

You’re an amazing wee boy Baxter with such a gentle soul. I sit here writing this with a tear rolling down my cheek. You are 2 next month and it has gone so fast. You’ve achieved so much and I know you’ll achieve so much more. I am sorry its not just you and me anymore kiddo, but I promise you that the love I have for you will never change. It will only grow. I promise we will have lots of Mummy & Baxxy time. We will go for secret ‘supermarket trips’ and eat chicken nuggets in the car and then dispose of the rubbish so Daddy and Lily will never know. I promise that I will make you proud. I will be the best damn Mum I can be to you and your sisters.

You’re going to go places B, I just know it.

Love you now, and forever xo

The fourth trimester

As if the 3 trimesters of pregnancy weren’t enough, there’s actually another one. Yes, the fourth trimester is an actual thing. Basically, it’s the idea that the first 3 months of life are very much an extension of life in the womb for baby.

In my opinion, the first 12 weeks with a newborn (see my survival tips here) are the most difficult. Hence why it’s been dubbed ‘the 4th trimester’. Nobody really tells you (warns you) or talks about it and I’m not really sure why. In the hospital they often tell you about the dreaded 2nd night, I’m pretty sure with Baxter we were even given a print out on what to expect. Constant feeding being the main thing and most babes don’t know their day from night in those early days (sometimes weeks).

I did some googling….

“Your baby’s fourth trimester starts from the moment he/she is born and lasts until he/she is three months old. The term is used to describe a period of great change and development in your newborn, as he/she adjusts to his/her new world outside your womb. You may find the term “trimester” odd, since your baby is already born.”

So there. It is a ‘thing’.

I’ve always told people that things get better after the first 12 weeks, they’re not so fresh, they respond (some what), they smile and are a lot less fragile and become more interactive each and every day.

Back to the whole ‘fourth trimester’ thing. Imagine what the life is like for you wee one tucked up inside your womb: tightly cocooned in a warm, dark, comforting place. Constantly hearing the safe sound of mums heartbeat. This is why they’re like koala’s once earthside. They take comfort in the sound of mum’s heartbeat and her smell. Mum’s chest is their safe place. Your baby will want to be held by you, and only you. Babywearing can help during this period to enable you to still go to the bathroom and do things that help you feel sane without being stuck under a newborn 24/7.

I look at the fourth trimester similar to the third trimester for many. You’re tired, your uncomfortable and many of us are anxious. Some of us still look like we’re pregnant, I know I did – just a lot more squishy!

Nobody warned me about the contractions after birth if you’re breastfeeding, your uterus contacts when you feed and it can take up to 12 weeks for it to return to is normal size. I found I bled more during those first few feeds too.

Don’t worry too much about creating bad habits during this time, you can’t spoil a newborn. They’re still too young to form bad habits.

The fourth trimester is an adjustment period for all, mums/dads & babies. I just wish there was more discussions surrounding it so we can align our expectations and not be so overwhelmed.

Hospital Bag Essentials – UPDATED

Right, I’ve had sooooo many people messaging me on various platforms asking me for my updated hospital bag essentials list.

I did use my initial list as a starting point as well, it was a bloody good list!

Similar to last time, I’ve packed and unpacked the bags (yes, bags) several times. This is mainly due to me being terribly behind in the washing and saying to myself “oh, I wanna wear this in the next few weeks”.

Like last time, I would recommend taking enough clothes etc to get you and baby through 3-5 days that way if you end up having a long stay, you’re more than prepared. In saying that, I was in for 3 nights (4 days) and I’m pretty sure I wore the same clothes for a large majority of the time. Yes mum, I changed my underwear. Even though most people say “oh I can send my partner home to get more” I’d rather just have it there with me. We have a 30 minute drive (no traffic) to the hospital.

I will say in advance, I am super anal so took everything whether or not I ‘needed’ it, it was good to have it ‘just in case’. It’s better to be over prepared than unprepared, right? I am all for being over prepared, it’s easier than sending people out for stuff.

Right, I’ve broken this down into 5 lists;

For you:

  • Comfortable clothes for after the birth – I took slouchy yoga type pants and a nice baggy top to hide my newly acquired pooch, track pants will become your best friend. I have my amazing Silent Theory pants that I’ve lived in throughout my pregnancy, hence why I keep packing and unpacking them
  • Socks
  • Nana undies – the higher the better, especially if you have a c-section you don’t want ones that rub on your stitches. The Warehouse do awesome packs of nana gruts super cheap so you can chuck them after.. or keep wearing months after like me. You can get a 5 pack for $10. I took 2 packs ‘just in case’ (plus I know I will live in daggies for months after, hahaha
  • Toilet paper – the hospital stuff is like baking paper and that’s the last thing you want to be wiping your lady bits with. You can also get those amazing hoo-hah wet wipes, I used these once I got home (up until about 8 weeks when I got the courage to wipe and not dab). I found putting some WaterWipes in the fridge/freezer is ahhhh-mazing down there
  • Maternity pads – you’ll need em. The hospital supply you with ones that resemble a large single mattress but I found the libra maternity ones better as they had wings. In saying that, I was rolling two up (hospital ones) until I came home and once the bleeding died down I swapped over to the libra maternity liners
  • Maternity bras if you’re planning on breastfeeding, take sports bras with no underwire if you’re not going to BF. I don’t think I’ll ever wear a bra with underwire again, haha.
  • Labour clothes – if you don’t want to get stuck in a hideous, unflattering hospital gown, pack some clothes you’d like to labour in. It all happened pretty fast for me so I ended up in a long singlet, it covered my lady bits while walking around the room (some dignity) but also meant the midwife etc could do their thang
  • Slippers & Dressing gown – a lot of people say the hospitals are hot but I personally found it bloody cold!
  • PJ’s – Peter Alexander do amazing maternity pyjamas but they’re hella expensive, I was lucky enough to be gifted some by my amazing mama!
  • Phone/Charger – I also packed my portable battery pack ‘just in case’
  • Snacks: I took barley sugars, gummy snakes and Powerade. All of which got demolished during late nights feeds the following days and that dreaded second night. I also came across these devine Lactation Cookies which I’ve been eating now for the past 2 weeks – they’re delish!
  • Essential oils (if this is your thang) – I used the Le’esscience Labour Blend & Clary Sage during Baxter’s birth and will be using them again this time around. They have a huge selection of ah-mazing pregnancy safe blends AND they’re made here in NZ
  • Your own pillow – hospital ones are s.h.i.t – make sure you use a bright pillowcase so you don’t forget it when you’re in a rush to get out of there like I almost did!

Toiletries:

(I went and raided Countdown/The Warehouse for all those mini travel bottles)

  • Shampoo & Conditioner – save room and find a 2 in 1 or just rock the dry shampoo!
  • Hairbrush, Hair ties or headband if you want to ensure your hair is out of your face
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Lip Balm – by god did I need this
  • Moisturiser
  • Soap/Body Wash
  • Breast pads if you’re intending on BF’ing – I got some awesome reusable ones from Bibbitty Baby! I also purchased some Hydrogel Breast Discs to try this time around as my nips were RUINED last time
  • Lanisoh (nipple cream)
  • Hand cream
  • BB cream – I could not be fucked with full on makeup but this made me feel, and look less like a zombie when it came time for visitors
  • Medications you may need
  • Weleda Hypercal Lotion if you have a vaginal birth – this stuff was amazing the weeks following, I chilled it in the fridge in a shot glass then syringed it onto my lady bits, you could always make a heap up in a pump bottle but I found this awkward as hell and it just ended up everywhere but on my hoo-hah

It looks like a lot, but all of this fit in a small toilet/makeup bag for me. As I said, I went for the small travel sized bottles that the supermarket/Warehouse stock.

For partner/family/support person:

  • Camera (make sure you charge your battery or take spares) and don’t forget a memory card! My partner was on birth photog duty last time and done an awesome job
  • List of people who need to be contacted after the birth if you’re not up for doing it
  • Snacks/drinks
  • Change for the carpark/food etc

For baby:

  • Hats, booties, scratch mittens (you can also use socks)
  • Light blanket or muslin for swaddling
  • Merino onesies or suits – some people prefer gowns as they’re easier for late night changes
  • Singlets
  • Leggings
  • Woollen cardigans
  • Baby wipes/nappies
  • Wool blanket
  • Capsule or carseat – the hospital generally check this on discharge

NB: With Baxter, I packed all newborn clothes but he was quite small so ended up in prem clothes for a week or two once we came home (he wasn’t prem), so if you think/know you’re having a wee babe then I would take 1-2 prem suits just in case.

Backup bag in the boot of the car:

  • 2 spare outfits for bubs
  • Extra blanket/swaddle in case other gets soiled
  • Extra nappies/wipes (hospital often has this stuff but if you have a preference as to what you want to use then take your own
  • Change of clothes for my partner + toiletries
  • Camera charger

Ladies, leave a towel in the car if your waters break at home and you have a wee (haha) drive to the hospital. I needed a towel in the car, and on my side of the bed which was lucky as my waters broke in bed. I finally remembered to take the towel out of the car a few weeks later when I rose from the newborn haze (ha, ew).

As I say, everybody is SO different. It’s likely Reuben won’t be staying so he probably won’t need half of his stuff but he used it all last night as he did manage to stay a night or two (I would have discharged myself had he not been allowed too). Every birth can be so different so we are prepared for all situations and if we don’t use it, no major. Some people take the bare minimum while I like to feel comfortable and have my things with me.

I hope this helps!

Hey mama, you’re doing just fine.

To the mum tapping her brakes at the lights, we’ve all been there.

To the mum struggling to carry her newborn while her toddler is having a tantrum, I feel for you.

To the mum rocking her shopping trolley while the person in front faffs about with no regard or awareness that your baby is about to go from 0-100 REAL quick.

To the mum feeding her baby in the cafe while her own meal goes cold, I don’t remember the last time I ate a full meal – uninterrupted. You’re a good mum and your child will one day thank you (maybe).

To the mum who hasn’t washed her hair in over a week, you rock that mum-bun.

To the mum persevering through the pain of breastfeeding in order to prove a point or to keep others happy, do what’s best for you. A happy mum is more useless than a broken one.

To the mum who isn’t sure if that stain on her pants is food or fecal matter, you rock on.

To the mum who’s stuck on the couch under a sleeping baby while your phone is out of reach, I feel you sister.

To the mum stuck in the car with a sleeping baby/toddler not knowing whether to risk the dreaded transition. Stay there, get your phone out and relax.

To the mum swaying side to side in the coffee line, I still do it 18 months on. I don’t think it ever stops.

To the mum reading this while gritting their teeth because there child won’t go to sleep – breeeeeathe.

To the mum hiding in the bathroom crying so she can get one moment’s peace, we’ve been there.

To the mum scared to feed their child formula because of fear of judgement, just do it. Happy mum = happy baby.

We’re in this together mamas! I salute you! Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and realise this parenting gig is a tough one. We’re not alone and that there are SO many mums experiencing the same things as us each and every day but very few will openly admit it.

If you see a mama out in public, struggling, who could do with a helping hand or a hug. Reach out, you could make her day. You could be that one adult conversation she has been craving for all day.

You’re doing an amazing job, don’t question yourself mama. You’re doing just fine x

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GUEST BLOG – 10 things I’ve learned in 10 weeks as a Mum

written by Melanie Hall.

  • Parenthood is the most hotly debated topic in the world. Even more so than politics, religion, and which team will win the next English Premier League. Listen to all the advice (smile and nod – it usually comes from a good place), and take from it what you please. Lean on a handful of people that you trust most, and save your questions for them.
  • The only constant is change. I thought I’d “cracked” a routine with my newborn baby until she cried incessantly for 3 days straight. It took me that long to realise she was just more hungry than usual – her feeding “routine” had suddenly changed from 3-hourly to 2-hourly, with cluster feeding in the evening. Babies grow and develop every single day, so you just can’t expect any day to be the same.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. You’ll make mistakes (like the above) many, many times as a parent and I’ve been told that those “parent guilts” never go away. I have to keep reminding myself that the best i can do is your best.
  • Leave your ego at the delivery room door. It’s true that everyone’s a perfect parent until they have kids! A dummy may be your lifesaver, and you might be too busy or too tired to ever use those cloth nappies you bought. You’ll find yourself doing things you said you’d “never do”, but those little things (yes, they are little things) really aren’t a big deal as long as you and your baby are both happy and healthy. And don’t concern yourself with what other mums are/aren’t doing either – every baby is different.
  • Always get a second opinion. Actually, get a third. It took that many to figure out why my baby was struggling to latch – she was finally diagnosed with both tongue and lip ties. She had laser surgery at 4 weeks old, and now feeds perfectly. If something doesn’t feel right, keep asking until you find an answer.
  • Read your baby, not the book. Babies develop at their own pace, in their own time. Some will be below the curve, some will be above it. That’s how bell curves work. Most of the time it’s nothing to be concerned about. In the early days I was told that my baby MUST feed for at least 20 minutes, and must feed off both breasts in order to get enough milk. I stressed us both out trying to force this, until a 320g weekly weight gain proved she was getting more than enough from one breast, in a 10 minute feed. Our babies haven’t read the textbook, they’re just following their natural instinct – trust them.
  • Breastfeeding is hard. You already know pregnancy is hard, everyone tells you how awful labour is going to be (I came out of it looking like I’d had an affair with Edward scissorhands), and you know to prepare yourself for sleep deprivation. But when it came to breastfeeding, I definitely went into the whole thing with rose-tinted glasses. Black and bruised nipples, cracked nipples, bleeding nipples. They happen, and they really, really fucking hurt. With the aid of Lansinoh cream, hot showers, hot and cold compresses, gel pads, some expressing and syringe feeding, I managed to battle (yes, battle) my way through those first few weeks of breastfeeding with gritted teeth. If you are battling, just remember it will get better. It got a hell of a lot better for me after my milk came in, and better again after my baby had her lip and tongue ties treated. If it’s not getting better after a week or two, go and see a lactation consultant (they’re free through the hospital until 6 weeks, and free through Plunket after that) and have a look for a breastfeeding support group in your area (wharekai Pepe in Wellington is amazing).
  • You can’t spoil a baby. It’s true that babies aren’t wired to manipulate you. If they’re crying, it’s usually for a reason. Check the usual things – wet nappy, hungry, over-tired. If all else fails, give them extra cuddles, let them sleep on you, feed them for comfort – whatever works to give you both a break. And don’t sweat it. If everything you did at this early stage was “creating a habit” then they’d still be shitting in diapers when they’re 20!
  • Find your village. My village is a modern-day one – it comes in the form of the New Mum Club Support Group on Facebook, it comes from my antenatal group girls who I meet with regularly for coffee, it comes from group classes at Lower Hutt Parents Centre and it comes from friends and family. They’ll guide, listen, deliver hot meals, and babysit while you nap. Parenting is a tough gig, and no one should have to go it alone.
  • Enjoy it. Some days you’ll bake cookies, do 7 loads of washing, and vacuum the house. Some days you’ll be glued to the couch wearing puke-covered pyjamas. Embrace them both. And find a really good series on Netflix (shameless will make you feel better about your life). Before you know it your baby will no longer want those cuddles that stopped you from hanging out that load of washing today. Each stage is over far, far too quickly. Every day I try to find time to cuddle, sing, read, laugh and go for a walk outside with her in the pram. Whatever you do, just remember to enjoy it.