Max at one week old

Parenting | The First Two Weeks and a Giant Dose of Mom Guilt

cutie pie Max, one week oldI knew it was going to be hard.

I mean, you couldn’t really NOT know, could you? Almost as soon as you announce a pregnancy these days, people start lining up to tell you how absolutely awful your life is going to be afterwards: the sleepless nights, the relentless cycle of nappy changes and feeding, the way day blends into night, and everything starts to feel so totally surreal that you barely even remember your own name any more, because you’re just SO. DAMN. TIRED.

I knew all of this, of course. I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for it, exactly – you can’t actually bank sleep in advance, no matter how many times people tell you to – but I was as ready for it as I could be: I had anticipated the tiredness, the emotional overload, even the Day 3 attack of ‘baby blues’ I’d heard so much about. (And which didn’t actually arrive, by the way: on day 3, I still felt absolutely euphoric – it wasn’t until later that things started to go pear-shaped: and for reasons that had absolutely nothing to do with the baby, ironically enough…)

What I hadn’t anticipated was that Terry’s mum would be admitted to a hospice before Max was even one week old: that we’d be told she probably had just days to live, and that we should prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

I hadn’t anticipated being left alone with the baby so soon after he arrived: when Terry’s mum was first admitted, the hospice suspected she had flu, so we were warned not to bring the baby in to see her, until they’d ruled it out. (Which they did, but not until 3 days later….) Terry, of course, had to be there for his mum, so I stayed home with Max… and lasted approximately 2 hours before panicking and calling my parents in to help, when Max started crying inconsolably, and I didn’t have even the slightest clue why.

(Predictably, he stopped crying and fell asleep as soon as I put the phone down: thanks, little dude!)

I definitely hadn’t anticipated Terry being completely incapacitated by excruciating pain, or the totally sleepless night that followed (Not just the broken sleep you get with a newborn: I mean we literally sat up all night, with Terry groaning in pain the whole time, unable to even place his foot on the ground without being in absolute agony. I’ve always hated the way some parents like to tell you that you “don’t know what it’s like to be tired until you have a baby!” Honestly, the tiredness that comes from sitting up all night in agony is WAY worse than the broken sleep you get as a new parent: you can trust Terry on that one…). It didn’t occur to me that, for a short while at least, I’d be the only person in the house capable of looking after the baby, or that the constant running around after him (I’ve never regretted buying a three-storey house until this week!) would slow down my own recovery time, and make the pain from my c-section scar worse – so poor Max ended up with TWO parents who couldn’t walk properly, and I felt like I was failing hard at even the most basic of tasks.

Most of all, I didn’t anticipate the guilt.

one week old newborn baby boyRight now, I feel so incredibly guilty.

I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to support Terry the way I’d like to: that I literally had to stand by and watch as he crawled along the floor to the bathroom, because there was absolutely nothing I could do to help him.

I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to go with him to the hospice every time (We did manage to take Max in a couple of days ago, once we were told it was safe, but until then, poor Terry had been going it alone…), and help him through this heartbreaking time.

I feel guilty that I’ve had to rely on my parents so much: from calling them at midnight, and asking them to come round at 4am to take Terry to hospital, to having to have them come and sit with me while he’s out of the house, because I’m still too scared to be left alone with a newborn for any length of time.

I feel guilty that I can’t always calm Max down when he cries: that sometimes I try everything I can think of, and absolutely nothing works, so I end up having to wake Terry, who’s still in a lot of pain from his foot – not to mention the emotions he’s feeling over the situation with his mum – and could really be doing with the extra sleep.

Most of all, I feel guilty that Max’s second week in the world has been so overshadowed by stress and sadness – that we will look back on this time as being, not just the first few days with our beautiful boy, but a time when Terry’s mum was dying, and everything felt wrong with the world. Everyone keeps telling us to enjoy every moment: to just drink it all in, because it goes so fast, and Max will never be this age again… I really want to be able to do that – and I DO, as much as I can – but it’s all been so much harder than I anticipated: and for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with Max, or new parenthood.

Max at one week old

So, I feel guilty, but honestly? I also feel angry that we never seem to catch a break: and yeah, I know – Max is, without a doubt, the biggest break we’ve EVER caught. I still can’t even look at him without being totally overwhelmed with the emotion of it all, and the gratitude of having him here safely, and I can’t imagine ever being this lucky again. At the same time, though, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit aggrieved at the situation we’ve found ourselves in, and the universe’s apparent need to illustrate the whole ‘circle of life’ thing in such a clumsy, broad-strokes kind of way. It’s hard not to feel like we never get “allowed” to enjoy anything properly: that every single good thing we experience must be immediately followed by something unspeakably awful, almost as if the universe is trying to teach us some kind of cruel lesson, that never, ever ends.

But, of course, I don’t believe in any of that. I don’t believe the universe has any kind of plan for us, or that it’s decided to single us out for a rough few days. I know this is all just an unfortunate combination of events, and I know that we’ll get through it somehow, just like we always do. I also know that my medical file is filled with warnings about post-natal depression, which I’m apparently a prime candidate for – but I know I’m not depressed. Actually, deep down, I’m pretty damn happy: I think that what I’m feeling right now is just a natural reaction to everything that’s happening right now, and that anyone in our position would probably feel much the same. I know too that any one of the three things we’re dealing with at the moment – new baby, dying parent, chronic pain – would have been enough to completely floor us for a while, so dealing with all three at once? Yeah, it’s not exactly surprising that we’ve both been struggling a little these past few days, is it?

But through all of this, there’s Max:

Max at one week oldAt one point this week, I got into bed, and lay there watching him wave his little hands around, through the side of the cot, happily gurgling away in his sleep. I lay there and I remembered all of those other nights during my pregnancy: the ones where I’d get into that same bed, and lie there on my side, hands on my stomach, desperately trying to feel some movement from the baby, and feeling absolutely terrified that something was going to go wrong, and that I’d never get to meet him.

But I did.

And it changed everything.

Somehow we got lucky enough to have this beautiful little boy in our lives: I don’t know what we did to deserve him, and I probably never will, but I suspect we just got handed all of our “luck” in one fell swoop, and honestly? That’s just fine by me.

So, this morning I’ve had AT LEAST four hours worth of sleep. I have a mug of strong coffee on the desk in front of me, and the world’s cutest baby (Yeah, I know I’m biased, but I stand by my assessment…) sleeping peacefully next to me, and so today I’m going to try to hit the reset button and just enjoy it – for as long as it may last.

We are very, very lucky – we just need to do our best to remember that.

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books by Amber Eve
  • Kristian


    Oh, wow. I am so sorry to hear that all of this is happening and that it is all happening at the same time and at the time it is. My condolences to you and Terry and Terry’s mother’s family and friends (and her!)

    Hope you (and Terry! Oh my goodness!) are at least having speedy recoveries. Also (and yes, I know it is one thing to hear or even think it yourself and another to feel it truly, but-) give yourself a break as a mom. Babies cry and sometimes we know why and sometimes they are just crying. And it sucks because we never want our babies to be unhappy at all,but- you are a good mom. You are a good wife and a good support to those around you if you are giving what you can. And it may not be what you could have given a few weeks ago, but it is all you can give. Good luck Amber, you are amazing!

    PS As someone with a newborn this time last year, I can say…. Max is an exceptionally cute newborn! Like, absolutely adorable. A lot of newborns look….. well, like they’ve arrived from inside someone’s body and all the nurses of our prenatal classes stressed now not-cute most newborns looked, but Max is the handsomest 2 week old ever (right behind my baby. What? Bias? Never!)

    January 13, 2018
  • Jennifer L


    Hello from the other side of the pond! First, Max is absolutely adorable. 2nd, you are a champ. So glad that you have parents around to help with what is frankly a s*@t hand you’ve been dealt here. Sending prayers and love for you all.

    January 13, 2018
  • My heart goes out to you, I have had the joy of two babies, but also experienced a lot of pain with migraines, which were really bad in my thirties, which is when I had my babies and due to pregnancy/breastfeeding could not really use much pain relief – so relate to Terry – your joy and pain become twisted, I also lost my parents when I was quite young, so my kids have grown up with fantastic grandparents on my husband’s side but none on mine, so reading your posts hurt a lot, but you will manage and you have one helluva beautiful son Amber – love to you all x

    January 13, 2018
  • May


    This was so raw and candid it brought tears to my eyes. I’m generally bad at making people feel better, but I hope you and Terry get speady recoveries, I hope Terry’s mum doesn’t suffer anymore, I hope you can all find solace in each other while the hard times last and I hope Max keeps on being the wonderful sweet lad he is. I also hope you remember that, despite the distance and the fact that I don’t actually know you, you have a someone sitting in her table all the way in South America rooting for you. You’ve overcome everything life has thrown at you and you’ll overcome this too.
    Also, babies cry for no reason all the time. It’s not that they’re sad or hungry or that you’re a bad mum (as if!). They have tons of energy but no actual way to spend it (it’s not like they can go run a marathon, is it?), so they cry to release it. It’s heartbreaking to see, but nothing to worry about!

    January 13, 2018
  • Oh Amber, as I said on IG what a nightmare! I’ve only ever been an observer to new parenthood, but I can see that it’s a job in itself without Terry bring poorly and losing his mum too. You’re doing great! And – just a wild assumption on my part, of course – but your parents may be delighted to help out, even at 4 in the morning (great parents!). They’d sooner help you than not if you need a hand.

    My little sister had a couple of months getting used to being a mum with her Max, but now he’s four months old and able to communicate more (not speaking obviously, but facial expressions, etc). There were plenty of crying sessions, but he’s settled down into being a calm little boy.

    Sending best wishes x.

    January 13, 2018
  • Myra


    I am really sorry you have all this on your plate at the moment, at a time that should be simply joyous. Don’t beat yourself up with guilt, it is a waste of your precious energy. You are doing the very best you can, if you could do more, you would. Accept all the help that is offered, particularly from your parents as they long to be useful to you. You are their child and now you have Max, you know how they feel about you.
    Be kind to yourself and focus on recovering. Sending Angel healing, love and light to you all.

    January 13, 2018
  • Getting handed all your luck at once doesn’t really change the fact that you got handed all the misery at once as well. I am so sorry you are going through such a hard time but so happy that you have your Max to mitigate a bit of the misery. He is adorable.

    January 13, 2018
  • Brenda


    I think that Myra above, said it all best. Sending you best wishes that everything will stabilize for you and Terry. Max is, indeed, a beautiful baby! He looks so much like Terry! (Like you haven’t heard that before!)

    January 13, 2018
  • I can’t imagine how incredibly difficult this is for you. If it helps, the crying does get easier. We found with our son that he was settled when he was held when we were standing up (knackering in itself but at least he was quiet) and he loved/loves Ed Sheeran. They all have their tricks which they reveal eventually.

    January 13, 2018
  • You have a right to feel angry! What is happening to you guys (and all at once!) is enough to make anyone annoyed, let alone angry. I can’t imagine what you are feeling, happiness for Max and sorrow for what is happening to Terry’s mum…those are complete opposite emotions… But you don’t need to feel guilty (I know, easier said than done) – you’re doing your best! You call your parents because you want the best for Max and right now being alone with him for too long is not the best for you (and therefore, him). I really wish there was anything I could say to you both that would make you feel better or help somehow…I just hope Terry is able to spend as much time as he still can with his mum. The photo you shared with her and Max was beautiful and sad at the same time, but it was filled with love!

    xo, Rosie //Curvy Life stories

    January 13, 2018
  • Chiarina


    This post and one from a few days ago have really brought tears to my eyes. I can only send you and Terry a big virtual hug. I also want to add that, having been through post-natal depression myself, the fact that you ARE asking your parents to help out is GREAT. I am ready to bet they are glad to be able to help, even at four in the morning. So try to keep the guilt down, even though I know just how hard that is… You are doing great.

    January 13, 2018
  • I’m willing to bet that your Mum and Dad are delighted to be trusted enough to be your go to people for Max. What Grandparents wouldn’t be straight there? Also; the fact that you have the kind of relationship where you can call them at midnight to take Terry to A&E is so lovely. It’s so sad that everything’s been thrown at you at once but Max has no idea, and you’ll be able to tell him when he’s older just how much he helped your whole family get through everything just by lying around, gurgling (I’m led to believe this is something babies do…?).

    January 13, 2018
  • LP


    Really pleased that there are some shining lights for you guys through all this – it really has been shitty timing for it all. Things will get better

    January 13, 2018
  • I am so sorry you are going through this. It won’t help, and you won’t want to read this (or at least I knew I didn’t when my dad was in the hospice) but you will come out the other side. You will be bruised, but you will slowly get through this.

    One thing I will say, which may or may not be any help, is try to let go of the guilt. If you are doing all that you can then you have NOTHING to feel guilty about. You are dealing with so much, don’t keep beating yourself up about the small stuff.

    January 13, 2018
  • I feel so sorry about all this terribly sad situation… I also admire how you can still stay positive or appreciate what you have – I really do. You’re both strong and brave and I just wish it was a little bit different and better for you two. I wish you could enjoy these moments without any stress waiting around the corner. But I hope you guys are doing as fine as you possibly can and that everything is going to be just right. Takce care of yourself and your family. Praying for you!

    With kindness

    January 13, 2018
  • D Johnson


    My heart breaks for you and Terry, yet still smiles when I look at Max. What bad timing! Yes, let go of that useless guilt. Now that you’re a mom you can more clearly see how your parents would gladly help you. I hope Terry’s mom is able to get some joy/comfort from her grandchild. Praying for you all.

    January 14, 2018
  • Marie


    What a breathtakingly candid and honest post. You have nothing to feel guilty about – you’ve been dealt an extraordinarily mixed hand here, and as always you’re playing it out with true class. Can’t imagine the highs and lows of the past couple of weeks, but just keep on keeping on. (And you really do have the World’s Cutest Baby there!). Thinking of you. X

    January 14, 2018
  • Oh love you are having a rough time 🙁 I’m so sorry to hear about your mother in law, I hope you’re all being looked after <3

    January 14, 2018
  • Oh Amber I swear I could have written this! I’m 6 weeks post section now and the week E was born my FIL has a heart attack and MIL got the flu. My folks don’t live here so we had no help and my hubby had to go back to work for 10 hours a day on day 5. Turns out our little lady is colicky and doesn’t latch as well, and man oh man I have days where I think to myself “I’m a good person, why can’t I catch a break?”. Most days I feel I can’t soothe her and the mom guilt is REAL. It’s been the most challenging time of my life. What’s worse is everyone around you constantly going “don’t worry it will get easier!” (Or way worse: offering ridiculously useless advice like “oh just give her a pacifier” – yeah thanks we’ve kind of tried that!)
    Hang in there, cause it’s all you can do, and I’ll do the same!

    January 16, 2018
  • So sorry to hear about this very rough start, this too shall pass. Wishing you every happiness with your new son.

    January 17, 2018
  • Sharon


    Feeling guilty seems to be part of the human condition. But so does wanting to be needed and wanting to help. Terry knew who and what you were when he married you and isn’t expecting more from you than what you can give. Your parents just want to be there for you. Also, you may not realize what a gift you’ve given them – to go through something so difficult to bring this precious bundle into the world!! You’ve probably given them the greatest present you possibly could.

    January 20, 2018