Welcome to my Birth to 3 Months diary of sorts!
While this wont be a journal/story like my 11-month post, it will be much more practical and hopefully more detailed in nature so you have an idea what this period of my life was like! I don’t profess to know everything, and I am in no way an expert, so what I write here is just to share what went on, and if anything you take from here encourages you, that’s wonderful! If not, I just want to thank you here first for reading anyway :)
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Before I go on, I should probably quickly summarize my pregnancy.
While you can read in more detail what my pregnancy was like here and here, I can quickly recap and let you know my 1st trimester – was honestly horrible for me. I never felt more sick in my life, and I swear I it was like I was in a constant state of vertigo and motion sickness the entire time. Thankfully the 2nd trimester got better, and while I never really felt a full 100% for the remainder of my pregnancy, I could at least function like a human being without feeling like all the cells in my body wanted to hurl. It was also around this time, I stopped looking like I had eaten too much, and my baby bump decided to show.
Also, I missed exercising (I was super active before I got pregnant ) but it just got too hard with limited energy and just not being agile enough due to the growing belly weight and the strain it put on my joints and back. The plus side though, is that we took a last minute trip to the Maldives for our babymoon (I have so many photos which I will eventually share) which was the most relaxing trip we have ever done…. And then by the time I knew it, I was already seeing out my 3rd trimester and finally completing the nursery with just a couple of weeks to spare :)
People often say to me, don’t I miss being pregnant? And in all honesty, while I respect all the women out there who had a glorious 9 months baking a bun in their oven, from my own personal experience (and I know it is very subjective from person to person), I don’t miss pregnancy much. I will say though, one thing was very special. It was feeling Sienna move inside. It was something only I, myself, could feel when she kicked, rolled, and hiccupped. And while Ju, could ‘see’ the movements from the outside, there was just something quite indescribably special and soul-tied about knowing those sensations intimately from the inside. I know only mothers will understand this strange yet wonderful miracle, so mammas/mamma-to-be ladies out there, I hope you know what I am talking about :)
The Birth Onwards
You can read the birth in full detail here, and see some photos that were taken by the husband as well of the moment Sienna came into our lives, while I try to wrap my head around what happened these first 3 months. In all honesty, a lot of it was a blur. I thought I was somewhat prepared for what newborn life would be like, and while in my head I knew it would require sacrifice, change, lack of sleep, and challenges, I don’t think anything really got me ready for the runaway train of a wreck that these few raw and new months were truly like. Most of the time, I felt so lost and overwhelmed, and worried. Always worrying. I know most mothers will tell you that as a parent, you will forever worry about your child, but I think these few months as virgins in the land of parenthood, everything freaked me out and I was constantly wondering if I was doing the right thing. What was wrong with my child? Why is she ALWAYS crying. It really did a number on us.
You see, Sienna was a very very unsettled baby.
Breastfeeding/Pumping Vs Formula:
She never learned to latch or breastfeed despite so so many attempts and help from friends, family and trained medical professionals alike (so I pumped all my milk every few hours which honestly drove me crazy because by the time I was done, she would want to feed again… and the washing/sterilizing! Don’t even get me started…so for my sanity, I eventually weaned my breastmilk off at around the 3 month mark and slowly introduced formula which was one of the best decisions I made in this period as it meant I got more sleep, and the time I wasn’t washing/sterilizing meant I could actually spend it with Sienna. I could finally actually bond and learn to appreciate her. It also meant anyone could now feed her and I didn’t have to worry about pumping at a job/meeting, or when I travelled for work, etc). I know everyone has their own choices and preferences, which I completely respect… this was just mine.
Then she was never really a good feeder so there was a phase where she refused to drink any of her milk for stretches as long as 12-14 hours a day, every day, for weeks. It drove me crazy… but eventually with the persuasion of the Dr, I decided to just go with the flow… slowly but surely, she began to drink her milk again, and by her 4th month she was consuming the stuff regularly and in a fairly predictable routine :) We some how hit a crazy phase by month 7 or 8, but more on that later.
Sienna’s Skin issues:
On top of all this, she had reflux. And really bad cradle cap (which thankfully, went away with use of Detinox for cradle cap and using QV Bath Oil in her daily bath to bathe her instead of shampoo/soap). And last but not least, she had really bad eczema. Her skin got so bad, people looked at us and wondered what we were doing to our child. It ended up getting blistered, oozing out with liquid. I sobbed as I looked at my baby’s face and felt so damn helpless. People were offering their opinions for this everywhere, and believe me we tried EVERYTHING. We even had her blood tested for any allergies – she had none. In the end, while I know it isn’t the most natural of routes, and probably the least desirable, at around the 2.5 to 3 month mark we put Sienna on a course of steroid cream on Dr’s advice, in hopes that her body’s immune system would keep growing stronger while we used the cream so that in time, we could depend on it less and less.
Slowly, but surely, the redness that was all over face and body, slowly faded away. She still gets small flare ups now and again (Mainly on her face) but its well and truly better than what it used to be, and its so much easier to control now. People even commented over time how beautiful her complexion was (if only they knew the early days!). I know there is a really big taboo on the use of steroids and so on, and trust me, as a mother all I wanted was natural natural natural stuff all the way too, but when you child is screaming because she can’t sleep, because she is itchy everywhere, because she is in so much discomfort, I felt, the best thing for her and my family was to treat it quickly and ease her pain. Today, we rarely even use the cream, and her skin is beautiful and glowing just like any other child’s. So mothers who are fighting this, don’t feel like this isn’t an option. Decide what is best for your child at the end of the day and don’t listen to anyone out there telling you otherwise.
Sienna’s sleeping habits:
Let me tell you, my baby girl was (and in some ways, still is) a terrible sleeper. I don’t even remember what it is like to sleep through the night in one stretch haha. She is alot better now (sleeps from about 8pm to 730am, and wakes up maybe once, but is easy to settle back if we pat her back to sleep).
As a newborn in this stage of her life, she had to be swaddled (and this remained until she was 6 month old or so). In addition, Sienna refused to be put down when sleeping which meant that we co-slept with her, and I slept with her in my arms the whole night. On top of that, she only settled into sleep when we rocked/carried her. So it made each day a living nightmare for me because it meant I felt constantly chained to her (we all know how much babies sleep). And the nights were the worst. Because that is when I felt the most alone. I literally had a sick feeling in my stomach (the kind when you know you’re expecting a terrible FAIL result for a massive exam, or a big job interview return phone call) as the hours and minutes drew closer and closer to the evening. I knew that the part of the day where I’d be most exhausted but had to keep my body up every hour was arriving… again.
*cue all the parenting advice, good and bad, that got thrown at us from all sorts of directions at this point from here*
Believe me, we heard it ALL. Don’t carry your baby so much, you will spoil her. Don’t rock her to sleep, she will get used to it. Just leave her there and cry. But what they didn’t see were the nights we left her crying endlessly, to the point where she was choking on her own sobbing and only getting worse. They didnt see that I got more sleep holding her than putting her down. They didn’t see that sienna slept better (and was therefore happier during her awake hours) when I had her in my arms while she was slumbering. At the end of the day, for sanity and peace sake, I eventually decided to turn off the internet, to stop reading mummy forums, and to take all parenting advice given to us with a pinch of salt, and to ultimately decide for our own family what was best.
I realize everyone meant well, but what they do not tell you is that, in the throws of trying to figure out your own body that continues to be ravaged by hormones and lack of sleep, trying to figure out your baby, and trying to figure out how your entire life fits in and around this new human being, most parents are already quite….fragile.
People often looked at me and sienna, with pity and alarm as they saw everything that was going on with her and I, and I probably also drove my Dr crazy with the number of visits we ended up having in this period. But I hope what people learn about new parents is, we are doing our best. While we are physically drained, we are already doing our utmost best. Really. Even though on the surface it may seem like a bit of a mess.
Sometimes being told we shouldn’t do things certain ways, or asked why haven’t we tried this yet makes us feel kind of like a failure of sorts. And it hurts our already tired and frazzled egos. Rationally, we know people don’t mean any harm, but I always feel it is best to leave parents to do their thing. Trust me when I say they are already doing everything possible for their babe in the given situation they are in… and they have probably already tried everything. And, when they have the breath, depth, and energy to resurface from this rollercoaster of a season, if they need the help, they will ask :) They will. So don’t worry. So I usually say to people, the best thing they can do for new parents is just ask if there is anything they can do to help, if not, just smile and say they’re baby looks so cute, and that they are doing a mighty fine job. Makes us feel a whole lot better and you look like amazing friends :)
Baby Milestones + Notes:
- Sienna could lift her own head by 1 month
- She was doing tummy time by about the same time. Not that she really liked it. She always preferred to be held upright. To this day, this trait of hers, has not changed.
- She hated the stroller. Still does to this day. Thank goodness for carriers. We used an Ergo performance carrier at first, but then switched to a Pognae HipSeat Forward facing carrier when she was about 6 months (about the time she was able to sit up herself). I’ve heard good things about the Ergo 360 cool air though – something for mummies to check out if they were looking for such a thing.
- We saw her first real smile probably at the 2.5 month mark :)
- One of the things I learned over time, was that Sienna was definitely NOT a textbook baby. She never followed any of the things that textbooks and websites said. While it was utterly frustrating and one of the things that made me feel so very helpless (and hence extremely extremely stressed), it also taught me to eventually go with the flow. That what people said was best for her, was not always ‘the’ way with her. In the end, we took the approach of doing what was best for our family and our baby as a whole unit. For example, if co-sleeping meant everyone got more sleep, we chose co-sleeping :) Or if feeding her formula meant she actually got fed without the screaming and the tears, then we went with formula.
Mummy notes during this time:
Emotional state – Fragile and frazzled. I have to say, for most of this period, I was kind of a wreck. I lived from day to day on survival mode, and felt like I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. I had a few bouts where I would find myself crying in the shower, for no real specific reason. It was just all overall overwhelming, and I was always wishing I was either more in control of my life, more in control of my baby, or just wishing for a break. In time it got better though, and thanks to some mothers from a mother’s group I was part of during that period, I managed. Their words, visits, and advice really got me through the crazy.
Also, Ju (my husband), besides being as hands on as he possibly knew during the time, he did whatever he could to alleviate the stress, and make things easier. One of those things, was to get me out of the house for a couple of hours each day. This was a saving grace as it meant I had something to look forward to each evening to get me through those rough nights, and it also meant my life didn’t feel like it revolved 100% around nappies, crying, puke, solving skin issues, sleep issues, and feeding issues. While it didn’t make the pain of dealing with all of the above literally easier, it did help the day to day crawling of time pass by. And that really helped me come back more refreshed and charged to take on the rest of the mum-duties when I got back.
Self-care – Much like other new mothers out there, there isn’t much time to do anything outside of looking after our babies. Much less looking after ourselves. I think I looked (and felt) the worst I ever have in my entire life during this period which included my diet, my hair, my skin, and my body. I remember my skin literally flaking off my face, and my hair falling out in chunks in the shower, not having the mental space or energy to think about eating healthy, none of my regular clothes fitting and still having to wear maternity wear for another couple of months. I think I disappeared from the face of the planet for most of this period and only my immediate family and closest of friends knew what was going on in my life in this period. Life eventually eased up enough, and Sienna settled into to somewhat of a routine enough to let me start figuring those things out one by one, but more on that in my 3-6months after birth post :)
Weight Loss – So, the weight gain by the end of my pregnancy was 16KG. It was easily 4kg over what I hoped would be the maximum I would put while Sienna was growing inside. And while after the birth, I lost 5 immediately, the remaining 11 was hard hard work. I know as mums we aren’t supposed to be hard on ourselves as it took 9 months to gain all that weight, and we literally grew a human being inside us, but when you’re battling body image issues on a daily basis, and feeling yucky about yourself, you do think about the extra weight hanging around. But much like self-care, I didn’t have time to work on this until Sienna was a little older – of which I’ll be writing about in my 3-6 and my 6-11 month post :)
Lastly just some advice:
Practical talk – To any mammas out there who are expecting your first child, just a heads up that your milk will come in about 3 -4 days after the birth. No one told me. And for some reason, all the birth prep documents and articles never mentioned it. So what happened was that I got severe engorgement because I let my milk stay inside for almost 8-9 hours without letting it out. Thankfully I did not get mastitis (which is a horrible fever and infection of the milk ducts) but it did mean I had to be extremely diligent and hard working to massage all that milk out and start a regular pumping schedule (as Sienna never directly latched on). Yup, I unwisely didn’t bring a breast pump so all of it was done by hand. So pregnant ladies, do pack one! Even if it is a borrowed one from a friend into your hospital bad :)
This too shall pass – I heard this phrase ALL the time when Sienna was first around. Back in those days, I will admit that it annoyed me to no end, because when you are desperate for time to pass and stuck in what seems and feels like an endless tunnel of when things will change with your baby, its hard to believe other mothers who say that IT WILL PASS. But sitting here at 11 months on, I know it to be true. A difficult, and a long truth to understand, but truth none the less. Which means there is hope. It means it only gets better. Yes ladies, it really does :) Trust it coming from a mother of a high needs baby! :)
So if you are finding it hard, tough, unbearable. Hang in there. You will eventually fall in love with your baby. Trust me you will. Don’t compare your journey with anyone else’s. Your babe will eventually learn how to eat. She will eventually learn how to sleep. In time she is even going to smile at you. And respond to your words. And before you know it, you will have a little human being in your lives that you just cannot bear to imagine life without. I promise you that you won’t even remember what your existence felt like before she came. It will be but a distant memory and you will think to yourself, the tears were worth it. It was all so very worth THIS.
Anyway, I thought to end, to share some moments we managed to capture on camera during this time. We didn’t get a chance to take pretty newborn photos, but all that is here is 100% real :)
Hey Jenny, just read your 0-3 months post. It is so so so similar to what I have went through, the eczema, the baby that don’t want to sleep, etc.. The self doubt and anxiety really drove me crazy, I told my husband that I think I had depression and ask him to look out for the baby and me, was worried I’ll do something stupid. Things got better after the first month and even better the second month. Was back to my old self and starting to enjoy my motherhood around the 3rd month. My girl is now 14 months old, everyday is a new adventure with her and it’s fun and exciting yet exhausting LOL! Thank you for sharing your experience, your words are beautiful :)