Five things I’d do if I had a newborn again

At almost sixteen weeks it finally seems official that Talitha is not a newborn. She’s passed the eleven-pound mark on most newborn disposable nappies and grown too long for all her 0-3 months’ clothing. Those first twelve weeks, that fourth trimester, was such brief time and yet living it took yonks.

Looking back with the sagely wisdom of one with a slightly less young baby, I’ve been thinking about what I’d change if I could have a do-over of the newborn thing. These aren’t regrets so much as a gentle interrogation of the experience for next time.

1. I’d get into the birth pool with my baby
I haven’t really talked about what went down with Talitha’s birth in this space yet. That will come. I know my experience wasn’t particularly unusual – birth is generally harrowing – but I’ve needed time to process everything that happened.

I ended up in hospital and struggled to bond with my baby afterward. It felt like I needed something to help salvage a bit of the birth I’d wanted her to have but I didn’t know what. Then when Ella from Purple Mum told me over a cola that she’d into the pool with her newborn daughter after coming home from hospital (another home birth that didn’t work out) it struck me that this was a beautiful thing to do.

At the time I was relieved that my parents took the birth pool down before we got home. It would have depressed me seeing it blown up, full of water, waiting for nothing. But if I could go back, I’d get into that pool, naked with my naked baby, holding, feeding and just looking at her.

2. I’d see a lactation consultant early on

I don’t even need to go into the why’s and wherefore’s on this one. We’ve had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding and the situation was seriously time sensitive. The latch was fine so medical professionals told me, essentially, to “just keep going”.

If it hadn’t been for a compassionate lactation consultant who’d heard about our situation and offered to come see me for free, I would not have been able to continue breastfeeding for as long as I have. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it now.

It took someone who really knew her stuff to sit with us for a couple of hours and see what was going on. It took her many supportive phonecalls to keep me going. Unfortunately, help came too late for us to manage exclusive breastfeeding – it may still be possible but at sixteen weeks, I’m knackered – but to be able to breastfeed at all is a blessing.

I’ve got her card stored for the next baby, though, and will be booking an appointment as soon as!

3. I’d buy a bigger bed

Forget the moses basket and the cot, I’d buy a bigger bed. That’s primarily where we all sleep anyway. I soon got over my angst about co-sleeping or sleep sharing or whatever you want to call it. We love waking up next to our baby, her little face smiling wide at us.

From my point of view, lying down with my baby after an hour-long night feed is somehow preferable to staying up another half-hour for her to fall asleep deeply enough to lie in her cot.

My worries about intimacy? It’s only made us closer, watching over our baby. But what about when she’s got to go into her own bed, her own room? We’ll think about that later. A friend of ours with grown children even made the point that we don’t have to make her go into another room. She regrets not keeping her daughters with them longer.

So I don’t know if we’re planning to be a continuum family or whatever yet but, dude, we need a bigger bed…definitely before number two arrives… Currently Talitha has about a cot’s worth of space as she sleeps with a starfish sprawl and Laurence and I might as well be sharing a single bed.

4. I’d wear my baby more
Laurence always takes exception to anyone calling it “babywearing” instead of simply “carrying” but there’s so much involved in the activity than just holding and transporting a baby. The extensive and frequent time Talitha has spent in slings strapped to me has created a great oneness between us. We’ve gotten to know each other in ways we could not have otherwise done. It’s enabled me to share the world with her while assuring her sense of security.

I didn’t start babywearing until she was almost three weeks and then only out of sheer desperation as I could not settle her. It took weeks before I’d wear her regularly. In that time I oscillated between enjoying and resenting it. Slings gave me the freedom to actually get things done but they made me feel claustrophobic.

Finally, someone made the point to me that she clearly had a strong need to be close to me. This made me realise that the problem was not with her need. I had to learn to enjoy being close to her.

I still have times of longing for more physical space. Anyone who’s been party to my tirades about not being able to get her to take a nap anywhere else knows this. But this time is so short and were I to do it all again, I would only start earlier and be more consistent.

5. I’d take her to a cranial osteopath sooner
I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve mentioned the cranial osteopathy on Circus Queen. When we’d improved the latch, had her tongue-tie cut and her suck didn’t improve enough, the lactation consultant suggested we could think about cranial osteopathy. I looked into it and was a bit cynical. I’d read something somewhere about cranio-sacral therapy, a related alternative therapy, giving the baby the opportunity to “complain” about her birth. It seemed almost laughable.

I was desperate, though, and willing to try anything. We’ve had five or six sessions with the cranial osteopath now and I really do feel it helps. It’s helped a lot with her jaw and her sucking, though something still isn’t right there.

But more than that, it’s helped with Talitha’s overall wellbeing. When she first started going to the cranial osteopath, she was constantly arching her back, never relaxed and often unhappy. Morning until night was a stress-fest for both of us and she would never nap.

The cranial osteopath showed me that she was uncomfortable and in pain due to the stress she’d undergone during birth. She was engaged for a long time and had endured an unusually long series of contractions which had created stress in her head, neck and back.

Each time I took the claims not knowing what to do with them. It looked to me like they – there were two osteopaths working on her because she was considered a complicated case – were just resting their hands on her. Surely there wasn’t really anything happening.

Yet after every session, I saw a marked improvement in Talitha’s comfort and happiness. The cynic has become an alternative therapy convert.

*

Those are my five. What would you do if you had that time again with a newborn?

Images: Laurence Jarrett-Kerr


23 Comments

  1. Grenglish
    September 29, 2011 / 12:59 pm

    Hi Adele, I think if I had my time again I would try and hold out a bit longer before giving the dummy; I would be more selfish with my son and not let him be passed to numerous relatives who all wanted a turn to feed him; I would give myself a break sooner about not being able to breastfeed; I would join more mum & baby coffee mornings as I became quite lonely towards the end of my maternity leave…  I found the newborn stage exhausting – it felt more like an endurance test than anything. If I had my time again, and I knew what I know now, then I’d relax and enjoy him a lot more.  The time goes so quickly, it really does get better and easier.  If only I’d known that, then…

    • September 29, 2011 / 3:52 pm

      That’s a great way of putting it: an endurance test. I felt like I was in survival mode the whole way through. I was basically functioning at as a low a level as I could get by with because I was so tired and stressed. To be honest, I still feel a bit like this now from time to time. Very wise about the breastfeeding and the coffee mornings. 

  2. September 29, 2011 / 3:17 pm

    A good list – set me thinking
    With our second we did a lot of these things earlier – I also had more confidence to trust myself, afterall we had managed the first time around

    My big thing would be to accept that whilst I naturally tend towards continum parenting you can pick and mix – that I can do a range of things and they can all be good for us

    • September 29, 2011 / 3:55 pm

      Confidence has been a big thing for me. I’ve felt so much like a crap mum most of the time but bit by bit things are settling into perspective and I see that I’ve done a good job with her so far. I’ve not “broken” her yet! Picking and mixing – we’re learning all about that too. 

  3. Snafflesmummy1
    September 29, 2011 / 3:40 pm

    I would abandon the dummy. It has caused me no end of sleep association issues. I’m fairly happy this time after learning from the birth of my first son.

    • September 29, 2011 / 3:53 pm

      Probably good that Talitha never accepted a dummy then! Good to know it’s easier second time ’round.

  4. September 29, 2011 / 7:17 pm

    I would stop worrying so much. I would make my husband address his issues about the birth and bonding with the baby sooner. And I would spend more time smelling her head. Not five things I’m afraid – I can only think of three!

    • September 29, 2011 / 7:30 pm

      Smelling her head! Yes, yes, yes! That should be in all the literature – smell her head often and wash her hair little.

  5. Kat - Housewife Confidential
    September 29, 2011 / 7:21 pm

    Nice to reflect but you never have the same newborn or experience twice x

    • September 29, 2011 / 8:53 pm

      LOL!
      I read somewhere that nighttime parenting is supposed to be good for bonding. I can’t see how. I just end up getting bloody-minded!

  6. Ella
    September 29, 2011 / 7:55 pm

    The joy of your second baby is how much more sure of yourself you are. My first baby felt a little like a hurricane had hit my life tossed it about and left it scattered.
    Third babies really rock because you really feel
    In your element and screw anyone who thinks your doing it wrong.
    Sorry if I left you with a regret after sharing my experience. Thanks for the mention though. We must meet up again soon.

    • September 29, 2011 / 8:52 pm

      You didn’t leave me with regret, hon. You just pointed out something that could have helped. I’d already known I’d felt there was a gap in that experience. Let’s meet up again soon for sure. I quite fancy making it to a third baby but someone may be unwilling to lend his chromosomes to make that happen!

  7. September 30, 2011 / 10:42 pm

    I’d stop trying to predict the future, because things rarely turned out how I’d plan them in my head!  I would definitely wear baby more in a sling, as mine was one that you had to wrap from scratch and I didn’t learn properly how to use it.  From seeing friends with second babies, I’ve observed that they can be quite different characters and this impacts how they feed/comfort them.  So I hope I’d believe in myself more from the start to trust my instincts and blend what we’ve learned from LLC with the new to best meet the needs of baby.   

  8. October 2, 2011 / 8:48 pm

    Gosh, If I could do it all again, I would also use my sling more, I’d lay about more not worrying about trying to get things sorted and I’d cuddle more!  the last one could be hard as I cuddled a lot!

  9. Anonymous
    October 8, 2011 / 12:03 am

    Great post, I started one similar when Jenson was 6 weeks old which to me is when you start to see the wood for the trees and get more than 2 hours sleep!! But I never completed it! Breast feeding is hard to accomplish – I had great support from my partners mum and if she hadn’t intervene I dont know if I have been able to continue.
    Anyway, I have had my time again in a way as I am on baby number 2 and although bloody hard work in those first couple of months you are more relaxed in a way because of the experience you gained with your first – you know the signs to look out for , what crying means etc..
    With Burton though, I regret not having more confidence in myself and following my instincts more. I also wish I had joined a baby group because I find now with two I don’t know any real life local mums in the town in which I live (asides from my own friends who live in different town ).
    Sorry I do waffle a lot 🙂
    Great post xx

    • November 28, 2011 / 10:52 pm

      It’s a relief to know that I might be a bit more chilled out next time. I have the same regrets as you but there’s no way of gaining real confidence without experience. I find that even though I go to mums groups, a lot of people are getting ready to go back to work anyway. It’s the SAHMs and WAHMs who I’m looking for!

  10. November 28, 2011 / 10:42 pm

    Oh my God you have brought it all back – I saw a massive improvement in Aaron after he went to the Osteopath xxx

    • November 28, 2011 / 10:50 pm

      The improvement in Talitha was unreal. Before she started going, she was constantly uncomfortably arched. She would never relax and curl up like babies that age usually do. I’m glad Aaron was helped as well.

  11. January 10, 2012 / 12:17 am

    When I had my first daughter four years ago, it all went a bit like clockwork (apart from the birth) she slept, she smiled, she bonded, she thrived. She was so chilled out she made me have naps with her even when I was not tired.

    So when number two came along and was the polar opposite of her big sister, it was a shock to say the least.
    Birth was another harrowing episode, and then afterwards, although daughter-number-two took eagerly to breastfeeding, she was often very sick afterwards.
    She did not like going in the car. She did not like doing a poo. She did not like me going out of her sight, and so the list goes on.

    I could not help but wish the days away. I was desperate for the first three months to be over, the first six months if I’m honest, I resented the breastfeeding, the constant night-waking. The holding and rocking. I was very keen to put her in a routine ASAP. I wanted some “me” time back in the evening.

    I pondered on all of this whist pregnant with number three – our last child – so my last chance to have positive early-on experiences.

    My five resolutions were as follows

    I had the birth of my dreams:
    I still think this was mostly down to luck, as we all know, when it comes to birth it can go ANY way. Even so, I planned. I read books and practised breathing and listened to CDs and made playlists – and I got the birth of my dreams. No pain relief. Not even a sip of water. I said where and when and what. I did it, 100% on my own. An experience I will carry in my heart forever.

    I have no expectations:
    When I had my second daughter, I thought “Cool, I’ve got one of these already. I know how little girls work” WRONG. With my third I expect nothing from her. Every night of good sleep is a miracle to be cherished, not expected again the next night. Every day we spend in good health and high spirits is a gift to be thankful for.

    I love breastfeeding: 
    In the grand scheme of things, you really don’t breastfeed for very long in your life (unless you are that woman on that programme who was still nursing her eight-year-old). 
    Daughters one and two soon wanted bottle more than boob once introduced.
    This time round I’m taking the time to bond when breastfeeding. To marvel at her finger, curled round mine. I catch the gummy smiles she send up my way and tuck them in my pocket. I’ll keep them thank you little lady, and you can keep boob, for as long as you like. 

    I took a break from the old routine: 
    I introduced number two into a routine early, to help me feel like I had some control. This time I decided routine can bog off. Number three goes to bed when I do and gets up when she likes. She has a bath with me and then we catch up on soaps together in bed. I have no idea how often she naps in the day or how many poos she does in a week, I don’t count and I don’t care. She can just be, and I’ll be with her.

    I love what she can’t do, not what she can:With both one and two, I was always keen for the next stage. I was all “Look, she can almost hold her head up, sit up, hold a spoon” etc. I wished her helplessness away. This time round I am savouring it. I love how she gets drunk on milk and can’t focus both eyes in the same direction. I love how she tries to hold her head up, gets tired and it flops against my neck.

    In fact, I am enjoying my tiny baby so much, just the other night I turned her upside down and looked for the pause button. I guess third time is lucky after all…

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