I remember in month three the feeling that if I kept going, with determination, I would soon graduate from my initiation course in motherhood. It is almost like a light and the end of the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel isn’t a tunnel because it’s being a new mum and that would be a bit of a gloomy metaphor. But nevertheless it’s a place where you definitely feel like things are another step easier. A step further along the pathway of learning about being a mum to that baby… and being a mum, period.
By the end of the second month she’d had a huge growth spurt, she’d had a clingy phase and a developmental leap (google Wonder Weeks) and we lived to tell the tale. As we entered month three my confidence had grown even more. I had taken bubby into the city to my office to see my work friends. I had taken her to the hairdressers with me. So the next month was going to be even easier. Right?
Well yeah it kind of was.
One of the main things that had happened during month two, was that as a caesarean section mumma I had now waited out my 6 weeks and could drive again. My abdominals were slowly started to come back to life (albeit a life very far removed from the life before… picture a soggy sack of potatoes and you kind of get the idea), and I was no longer on painkillers. This meant that I was beginning to ‘do’ normal (ha!) life again.
It also meant that I was beginning to go places on my own with bubby in the car. The only trouble with that was that it meant having to deal with crazy car baby on my own. For the first four or so months of Baby OC’s life you just couldn’t take her anywhere in the car without her crying. Or rarely ever. The trick was to get going somewhere quickly, and to choose the route with the least traffic lights. Once you were ten minutes into the journey she would be asleep. And if you kept your journey time to under ninety minutes she would probably be fine – she might wake but the motion would send her back to sleep. But woe betide you if you hit traffic. She’d be awake within five minutes… and then the grizzling would start. And then this would scale up a notch to whimpering. And then full blown crying. And finally hysterics. Which on odd occasions would cry into sleep, but most times would just end in you giving up and pulling over to feed or just cry a bit yourself.
Oh, and never, never ever, take the child out in the car between 3-6pm. Just nope.
Ahhh I don’t miss the tension of car journeys back in those days. But I didn’t let it stop me – I was free! So I started visiting friends and family an hour or ninety minutes’ drive away and just tried to get through it the best I could. The trick was to feed before we left (and clean nappy), then hop in the car, get out of the area via the least traffic lights, keep the car in motion as much as possible, and ten minutes later a baby would sleep peacefully in the back.
But many, many good things started happening too. First up she started sometimes sleeping through at night. The witching hour of 4-6pm wasn’t so witchy and a bottle of formula at that time was really doing the trick for us all. And she actually started noticing and interacting with her toys which meant it was easier to leave her lying on her baby mat for a bit.
By this time too, the newborn clothes are all gone. So you get a whole new set of clothes and outfits to try. You might actually bother dressing baby in something other than a babygrow which I found so much fun.
Other fun things started happening with more frequency too. Like Baby OC started noticing her voice a little. She would coo to herself. She started to wake up without crying and instead would lie in her bassinet and just ooh and ahh to herself. This made me fall in love with her a whole chunk more. I think that’s what I fondly remember about this phase – it was beginning to occur to me that I was actually enjoying things – that this little girl was going to develop her own little personality. I started to understand that she and I would see and do so much together and I was so glad I had all that to look forward to. I realised it was going to be an exciting journey, and that all the hard slog of a newborn was going to be totally worth it.
I’m trying to be really honest about the newborn phase, by the way. I know some people relish those early days and weeks, and that they just love all the cuddling and holding. For me, I found it quite overwhelming to be so totally depended on. And don’t get me wrong, so many people would tell me how relaxed I looked and how I was taking it all in my stride. But on the outside while I was handling things…. on the inside I was almost certainly having a minor meltdown for the umpteenth time that day.
I can remember one particular stand out occasion that was possibly the worst ‘outside’ meltdown that baby girl ever had.I was undergoing a lot of physio to help with some hip problems that pregnancy had exacerbated, and also the strengthening of my abdominals. Most times I put these appointments in for times Mr OC wasn’t working but this one day he had to work and I’d missed my two previous appointments so I just decided to take her with me. On any other day, she would have no doubt been fine, but that day for no particular reason it just wasn’t meant to be. She fell asleep in the ten minute drive over to the physio, and didn’t take kindly to being woken up at the other end. And it just spiralled from there. She was inconsolable – wouldn’t even feed. She went up a notch, then another, then another until she was just hysterical and nothing could calm her. This went on for the entire (fretful) appointment. I don’t remember a thing my physio told me, god love her. I couldn’t focus on anything. Except the damn screaming. And my physio tried to help (while I had acupuncture needles in my hip she went off with the pram and tried to rock her to sleep) but nothing worked. Finally, at the end of the appointment, as I went to the counter to pay and book in again, there was the next client there waiting – a lovely young mum – and my physio said to her “[name] do you remember these days” (or words to that affect). And the lady just said “Here let me hold for a minute while you settle up” and took her from my arms. Well, bugger me, that child just stopped. Just like that.
Man oh man. I couldn’t decide whether I was fuming or just so relieved. I settled on the latter and took her off for a long drive, followed by a walk by the ocean in her carrier. She slept the whole time.
So yeah. I have already spoken about mourning my ‘old life’ lost, but I think that as you come to the end of the fourth trimester, you start to glimpse where those elements of your life are going to come back, even though it will be in a slightly altered form. And if she did go nuts, then she went nuts. Normally feeding solved it. On the odd occasion (I can count on one hand) it was just hysterics and no stopping her!
And I think getting out and about and visiting people was my way of getting a bit of me back. Not to mention the fact, I’m a big advocate for keeping yourself out of the house for part of the day, every day, when baby is so young. It’s very easy to find it too hard to get out the door, but every day I made sure to try. Except one day a week which would be our sofa day. On that day, whatever happened, happened. I couldn’t have allowed myself to be trapped in the house. I think it would have slowly killed me.