Like most first-time mums, the worries start as soon as you get that positive result on the pregnancy test. My baby was so long awaited that when I took the test I thought I was dreaming. Another (more expensive) test later and I was shaking my partner awake from a night shift, screaming & crying, after which he thought he was dreaming.
The wait for the first scan at 12 weeks was like torture. I was constantly checking if I was bleeding, and freaking out over every little twinge I felt. I carried sanitary towels around with me in my bag, so sure that I would get my period.
At the scan itself I couldn’t even look at the screen as I had convinced myself that there would be nothing there! As the pregnancy progressed, it brought new worries…‘has the baby stopped moving?’…’what if I can’t hear her heartbeat at the next check-up?’…’have I drunk too much caffeine’?!
I had some seriously weird cravings too which definitely weren’t normal…chalk, cement and sand anyone?! I made it to full term though, and had a normal (painful, with lots of drugs) delivery.
When we first brought Molly home I was in a state of shock. She quite literally was a miracle baby, (I was told by a senior consultant that I would never conceive a child naturally due to blocked fallopian tubes, but that’s another story).
She was actually here, a living, breathing, healthy, beautiful baby girl, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her, I was besotted. I’d forgotten about the fact that I had just been through 25 hours of hard labour, hadn’t slept for nearly 3 days and had hardly eaten, I just wanted to look at her. The overwhelming sense of love and protection took over, and I cried tears of happiness.
The first major hurdle was breastfeeding. I wanted so much to give my baby the best start, to nourish her, but after 3 days of her attached to me constantly, cracked nipples, no wet nappies, and her losing weight, I had to give up, or she would have been very ill.
My milk just wasn’t there, and she was severely dehydrated. The midwives came every day to encourage me to carry on breastfeeding, but in the end they had to advise me to give her a bottle of formula. I cried after she gulped down that bottle because I could see how content she was…
“Oh my God I’ve starved my baby for 3 days”!
The midwives kept telling me during that time that she could survive on just colostrum (the stuff that comes out before the milk) until it came in, but I knew she wasn’t getting anything, and I should have just trusted my instincts on day one.
Instead I listened to them, and put us all through hell. I still hadn’t slept properly and I was covered in cold sores…
“Oh my God, I read somewhere that you can kill your baby if you go near them with a cold sore! I can’t even kiss my own baby!”
I later discovered that as I had had a hormone injection during my labour to speed up contractions, then this can interfere with producing milk. Not one doctor or midwife told me that though.
After we had decided to formula feed (my milk came in the next day – typical), it meant that my partner, John, and my mum (who was staying for a bit), could help out with the feeds. They ordered me up to bed as I was literally falling off my feet with exhaustion.
However, when I got there, all I could hear was her crying. I came running downstairs to find that she was sound asleep in her Moses basket! I was hallucinating due to the sleep deprivation (there’s a reason they use this as a torture device). I went back up and eventually passed out.
When my mum and sister (who had come up to visit) left a few days later, as soon as the front door closed I burst into tears.
My family and friends all live back home in Wales, while John’s are all up north. We’re in Brum due to work commitments, so we are pretty much on our own.
I went into the kitchen and tried to concentrate on cooking dinner, but I could feel myself shaking, and felt the panic rising (I suffered with horrendous panic attacks in the past, so I knew what was coming).
I went into the living room and broke down. John was really understanding, but then Molly started crying, and the panic worsened. “What the hell am I supposed to do when she cries?! I have absolutely no f***ing idea what I’m doing!” I sobbed.
John comforted me…luckily he already has a child from a previous relationship, so half knew what he was doing. I eventually calmed down after a good cry, and went on good old Dr Google later on to find out what was wrong with me.
The day after, my health visitor came to visit, and she agreed that I had the baby blues.
Near enough every new mum gets them, and they are caused by the hormones that are going crazy in our bodies and lack of sleep. Coupled with the fact that you have a brand new human being to look after, and physically recovering from giving birth, it’s no wonder you feel so emotional and fragile.
Jesus, it’s a wonder how we all survived isn’t it??!
It did all calm down however, and we did all survive. Even when John went back to work after 2 weeks (he works different shifts so I was doing all the night/day feeds by myself). I didn’t manage to shower or eat much (I lived on breakfast biscuits and coffee), and washing my hair was a thing of the past!
The first six weeks went by in a blur of feeding, changing and sterilising, interspersed with tears and moments of sheer happiness. I slept when I could, and slowly Molly started to go longer at night without a feed, so I was able to get around 5 hours in one stretch (that was heaven, trust me)!
We ticked along, and I absolutely loved being a mum. The anxiety was always there though. I was obsessed with keeping everything clean and washing my hands (I still am now a bit), and obviously making John do the same.
I remember the first time I took her out in the pram by myself. I was so on edge, absolutely terrified that she would start screaming and people would stare at me as I failed to console her, or a gust of wind would blow the pram into the path of oncoming traffic. My knuckles were white as I gripped the handle when we were stood at a crossing.
When we were home I was constantly checking her when she was asleep to make sure she was breathing. Putting blankets on her then taking them off as I couldn’t decide whether she was too hot or too cold.
I was stood at the top of the stairs once and I was convinced that I was going to fall down them with her in my arms and squash her at the bottom, or that I would drop her and watch her hit every stair on the way down. I had to come down one at a time, shaking from head to toe.
I cried for an hour once when I accidentally cut her finger when clipping her nails, convinced she was going to get an infection!
Even when John was feeding her or changing her, instead of having 5 minutes to myself, I would watch what he was doing and tell him he was doing it wrong.
He used to tell me to relax and have a glass of wine…ALCOHOL? WHEN THERE’S A BABY IN THE HOUSE!
“What if she suddenly contracts meningitis and I have to drive her to the hospital”?!
It sounds absolutely ludicrous now, and looking back I can’t believe how bad I was, but that’s what anxiety is…complete bullshit.
I knew it was irrational though, and it wasn’t affecting our life. I slept (when I could) and ate well, Molly was a happy, healthy, well cared for little baby.
I made sure we got out and about every day. I just assumed that it was normal ‘new mum’ worries, and as I was prone to anxiety anyway I just shrugged it off. That’s why, when the intrusive thoughts started a few months later, they hit me like a ton of bricks, I just didn’t see them coming…