7 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Postpartum Self
Max’s first birthday has got me feeling a little bit reflective – and by that I basically mean that, for the last week or so, I’ve been bugging the crap out of Terry by constantly going, “Can you believe that this time last year he was just one day old? Just two days old? This time last year he was only three days old: can you BELIEVE it?”
Yeah, I hate me too, sometimes.
Mixed in with the constant amazement at the passing of time, however, there’s also quite a lot of incredulity about how completely and utterly clueless we were in those first few days and weeks with a newborn. There are just so many things I wish I could go back in time and tell myself of this time last year: so here are just a few of them…
THE BUMP WILL GO DOWN. EVENTUALLY.
Here’s a photo of me taken on January 1st, 2018:
When I posted this photo on Instagram Stories that day, I gave it some kind of faux-positive caption, all, “Haha, I know I still look 100% pregnant, but I don’t care, because LOOKIT MAH BEBE!” That caption was a lie, though, and I only wrote it to stop people messaging me to tell me I should be more grateful or whatever. Because, the fact is, I was quietly dying inside at the size of my belly, and if you could see my Google search history for that time, it would be full of things like, “Do some women just look pregnant FOREVER?” and “People who never lose their baby bump,” and various other search strings all revolving around my utter conviction that my belly was NEVER going to go down, and that I would literally spend the rest of my life looking 8 months pregnant.
(You’d also find a lot of searches for “ultra baggy jumper, good for hiding giant stomach” and that kind of thing. But we’ll get to that later…)
(Oh, and just in case you’re curious, Google kindly informed me that, YES, some women JUST KEEP ON LOOKING PREGNANT FOREVER, OMG. Google is kind of an asshole sometimes, though right?)
And, I mean, I wasn’t TOTALLY naive about this. I’d known, for instance, that my childhood belief that when a woman had a baby, her belly immediately just deflated like a balloon, wasn’t actually true. I wasn’t expecting to just snap back into shape right away, and knew I would still look pregnant when I left the hospital, it’s just… I thought I’d maybe look like I was at the start of my second trimester, say. I didn’t for a second think I’d still look like ready to pop, or that I’d continue to look like that for what felt like a really long time, so, when I still looked heavily pregnant a good couple of weeks later, I truly believed I was some kind of freak of nature, and that I would have to keep buying maternity clothes and fielding questions about my due date for the rest of my life.
That didn’t happen, though, obviously, so the first thing I’d say if I got the opportunity to pop in on my postpartum self would be, “Stop freaking out, woman: your belly WILL go down – eventually.”
(The next thing I’d say would be, “Amber, if one day you get the opportunity to have Russian Volume eyelashes fitted, JUST SAY NO. Trust me on this…)
Sticking with the post-partum theme, though, here’s another thing I’d tell myself…
YOU CAN STOP BUYING MATERNITY CLOTHES NOW. AND MAYBE BACK AWAY FROM THE BAGGY SWEATERS, TOO…
Because of my conviction that I was going to go down in history as The Woman Who Remained Pregnant Even After Giving Birth, I panic-bought a bunch of new clothes in the weeks after Max was born: mostly the aforementioned baggy sweaters, but also a couple of pairs of maternity leggings, because my existing ones were worn out by that point, and I was absolutely sure I’d continue to need them.
But I didn’t, obviously.
Because I WASN’T ACTUALLY PREGNANT BY THEN, was I?
No, I was not. And, even although I still had a fairly substantial bump for a couple of weeks, it DID go gown, and I didn’t need the maternity leggings, or the tent-like sweaters. Honestly, I should just have continued wearing the few non-maternity pieces I had that fit over the bump, or the maternity clothes I already had, and not bothered buying anything new: in retrospect, the “still looking pregnant” phase REALLY doesn’t last long enough to require its own wardrobe…
YES, YOU WILL NEED THE PEPPERMINT TEA EVERYONE KEEPS ADVISING YOU TO BUY.
When you tell people you’re having a c-section, they immediately tell you to buy peppermint tea for all the gas you’ll have afterwards. True story. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll just nod and smile, and totally ignore this advice, because, well, everyone told you ginger biscuits would stop the morning sickness, didn’t they? And now you still have a cupboard full of ginger biscuits, which did absolutely nothing to stop the morning sickness. And you HATE ginger biscuits. So, you assume the peppermint tea won’t work either, and don’t bother buying it, then, a few hours after your c-section, you find yourself lying in your hospital bed, idly wondering if it’s possible that you were actually carrying twins, and the surgeon has somehow left one in there, because seriously, that HAS to be a baby you can feel licking your stomach? SERIOUSLY?
(Google search history for that night: “What are the odds of doctor not noticing 2nd baby during c-section?”)
Folks, I’m not joking: the gas was so bad that you could actually see my belly moving on that first night. It actually looked a lot like it did when Max was still in there, and was having a good old kick – and it felt like that, too. So, not only did I still LOOK pregnant – I still FELT pregnant too, right down to the baby kicks. I get all the luck, don’t I?
Those “kicks” however, were really just gas – and yes, I can confirm that it really is as bad as everyone tells you it’s going to be, and that yes, the peppermint tea really does help. The midwife actually brought me some peppermint in water the morning after Max was born, and it worked well enough for me to get Terry to add peppermint tea to the online shop we’d ordered for when I got home. I’d been sceptical, but it really did work – so, if there’s even the slightest chance that you might end up having a c-section, my top tip is to pop some into your hospital bag: you can thank me later…
YOU WILL SLEEP AGAIN… EVENTUALLY.
Like most new parents, I spent the first few days genuinely believing I would never sleep again: not just because babies need constant attention, and wake up frequently throughout the night, but because I was utterly convinced that if I took my eyes off him for even a second, he would die in his sleep. Google searches for this period – and this time I’m not joking – included me trying to find out how much it would cost to hire a night nanny: not because I didn’t want to get up with Max myself, but because I wanted someone to watch over him CONSTANTLY, and I knew I’d eventually die myself if I tried to commit myself to just never, ever sleeping.
(I briefly considered filing for divorce when Terry dared to fall asleep during our night in hospital, instead of just sitting there solemnly staring at the baby, like I’d asked him to…)
The fact is, though, that, a) most babies DO start to sleep through the night eventually, and, b) not even I was able to maintain that level of anxiety forever. It took a while, but I DID start sleeping again, and we’re now in the blissful position of having a one-year-old who sleeps for a solid 12 hours per night. I meanwhile, only sneak into his room to check he’s still breathing occasionally… (OK, twice this week, but that was just because the baby monitor wasn’t working properly, I swear…)
YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE A NAPPY THE SECOND IT GETS EVEN SLIGHTLY DAMP
When we brought Max home, the nappies we used were the kind that have a little strip on the front that turns blue when its wet. Terry and I used to monitor this little strip as if our lives depended on it never, ever turning blue – so, the second there was even the SUGGESTION of it starting to change colour, we’d have the nappy off, and a new one in its place. We would do this even if the nappy in question had been put on just a few minutes earlier, or if the baby was almost asleep at the time: I don’t THINK we ever went so far as to actually wake him up to change a nappy, but I’m pretty sure we’d have at least considered it. It was like a kind of insanity that took over us for a while there.
And, I mean, I’m obviously not saying here that you should just leave a baby in a wet nappy for hours, because that would be even worse. The whole point of modern nappies, though, is that they’re designed to keep moisture away from the baby’s skin. They do not need to be changed THE EXACT SAME SECOND they get wet, and, if you try to do this, you’ll spend the first few days of your child’s life doing nothing BUT changing nappies.
So, yeah, that’s pretty much all Terry and I did for the first few days of our child’s life: we changed nappies, and wondered why we had to keep sending someone out for more nappies. And, on that subject…
YOU DON’T REALLY NEED TO TRACK EVERY SINGLE BOWEL MOVEMENT. NO, REALLY…
Did you know there are apps you can download which allow you to track every single bowel movement (Including colour and consistency), wet nappy and feed you give your baby? There are: and I know, because I downloaded all of them, and spent quite a bit of time diligently filling in all of the information, and then cross-referencing my information with Terry’s (He declined to download any apps, but did keep detailed notes on his phone. To this day, I’m not 100% sure he didn’t have a secret spreadsheet tracking Max’s bowel movements. It just seems like the kind of thing he’d have done back then, you know?), to make sure it was 100% accurate.
Seriously, I’m starting to think that if I DID get to go back in time to visit my post-partum self, I’d just give myself a good shake, then I’d take my phone away. I really wish someone had done that, actually…
In our defence, you are encouraged to keep track of this kind of information at first, and when the midwives and health visitor come to see you, they will ask how much the baby is drinking, and roughly how many nappies he/she is going through. (US: “8 ounces of milk every four hours, and 173 nappies per day. Does that sound normal?”) I’m pretty sure they’re just looking for a rough estimate, though, and not the detailed analysis Terry and I were able to provide. I mean, they’re not going to sit you down, shine a light and your eyes, and say, “OK, can you tell me how many nappies you changed between the hours of 2am and 5am on Friday the 4th of January?” You know?
(You’ll be relieved to know that I gave up on the statistical analysis of Max’s nappies fairly quickly. Terry only stopped once his iPhone was out of storage space, though…)
THERE WILL BE MINOR ACCIDENTS. THEY WILL BE SCARY, BUT EVERYONE WILL SURVIVE THEM – EVEN YOU.
One day when Max was about 4 weeks old, he was sleeping with his head on my shoulder when I somehow managed to back into an open cupboard door in the kitchen, and “bumped” Max on the head with it. Now, I’ve put the word “bumped” in inverted commas here, because this “bump” was so slight that Max didn’t even wake up. I, on the other hand, cried for the rest of the day, on and off – and then cried again every time I thought about it after it. I was utterly inconsolable over something that a more experienced parent would barely even have registered: and, I mean, I’m not saying here that you shouldn’t take these things seriously, obviously – just that accidents will happen, and you can’t beat yourself up about them forever. (Unless you’re me, in which case, yes, you most definitely CAN.)