To say I don’t know what I am doing is a complete understatement! I literally haven’t got a clue how to look after a child and so when he came home it was a big shock to the system.
The first week went by in a blur of bottles, nappies, baby grows and formula. Olly was still at work so I had the week to try and establish some sort of routine like thing with this little creature all on my own. My days were focused around him and his needs and I was constantly on alert, watching him like a hawk. I had the moses basket with me in whatever room I was in, including the bathroom when I showered! I began to get to know my little boy beyond the realms of the hospital. I learnt how to make up a formula bottle and how long it took to cool! I learnt how many breastmilks I needed to defrost each day. But that’s all I knew! Everything else I was literally just guessing!
I think it took me to the end of the week to be brave enough to venture outside with him! I was so worried about him getting cold and he didn’t have a coat that fitted him so I collected all the blankets I could and put him in the buggy, which I had to pad out with a cushion at the bottom, otherwise my child would have vanished under the cosytoes! We only went around the block – literally a 5 minute walk – but I was so proud of myself and felt such a sense of purpose!
Also that week, my sister and I took him to Sainsburys for the first time! I think he had a great time, but just getting him in the car, then in a trolley and walking around sainsburys was a worry for me. Would he be in the car seat too long? Would he get cold? Would he catch germs? These thoughts were constantly going through my mind, but I bit the bullet and did it, otherwise he would grow up a hermit!
By week 2, we had both come to the realisation that the little guy did not like the dark or the quiet at night time, obviously due to being in the busy hospital wards. He had slept okay since coming home but he slept so much better in the day when it was bright and noisy. So we bought him a nightlight and played podcasts all night to make him feel like he was around people. This did seem to work and he slept better. Olly was home with us so we had two weeks of proper family time. It was really nice and I loved watching Olly with him, although I think I did turn into the bossy mother as I am sure I kept telling him how to things. I think I thought I was now the expert because I had spent a whole week on my own so naturally I knew everything right?! Wrong!!!
Those two weeks passed by in a blur. I remember that we went to a parent baby spin class altogether and I can’t tell you how good it was. I don’t know if it was being out and about as a family or actually doing something physical and getting a sweat on but once we had finished, I felt bloody amazing! I am a really active person and since my 12 week bleed in pregnancy, I had taken things quite slowly in terms of exercise. I still went to dance but I was very cautious, so this was the first bit of proper exercise I had done in a long time. I am so thankful Olly suggested we go to that class because it is now part of my weekly routine and I love it! I’m not the best but I am seeing my fitness improve each week and I feel so much stronger than I did before. I think I had become a bit of a shell whilst we were in hospital, the real me wasn’t really there, but now I can definitely feel her coming back to life. I am beginning to feel like me again but even stronger and healthier than before. I also love that I can have this “me” time but take little man with me and have him by my side whilst I do it.
Also during those two weeks, Olly borrowed a baby book from the library in the hope of helping us learn some tips. It spoke of establishing a routine, which apart from the same feeding times, we hadn’t really got one. So we picked up some things from the book such as changing outfits at the same time every morning to ensure they know its a new day. We hadn’t been doing this because in the hospital, you kind of just changed them when their clothes were dirty (sounds gross and really neglectful) because of the risk of them getting cold. It also spoke about the sleeping patterns of a baby the same age and we realised our little man didn’t really have a sleeping pattern and just slept when we wanted to. Cue us trying to keep him awake in specific time frames and trying to get him to sleep when he didn’t want to. It also spoke about having a specific bedtime routine: bottle, bath, bed, but we found this just made him sick because we were throwing him about undressing him for the bath when he was full of milk! We also couldn’t bath him every night as he was still quite small and would just get cold too easily.
It’s safe to say that what we learnt most from reading those books is that your child is individual. They have their own ways, their own habits, their own routines and you need to let them do their own thing. We have now scrapped most of the advice from the books (we kept the changing outfits idea) and are just letting our little man do what he wants essentially because it’s what seems to work best. I think he is still too little for an established routine and I am sure some people will be reading this an will completely disagree with me but hey, each to their own.
We also conquered the first feed out during these two weeks! Because he was now being exclusively formula feed I researched how to prepare formula out and about. There were many different guidelines but I chose one that I thought was best and we managed to feed him out for the first time! It was a very exciting moment but was one that opened up many more opportunities for us as now I knew we didn’t have to make sure we were back home in time for his feeds. We could go out and about at our own liberty!
Once Olly went back to work, we carried on much the same as before, just me and him muddling our way through the days. We went for walks, visited the shops, played, slept and grew. He kept putting on weight which we are so proud of. Olly and I established our feeding times: he did the 6am, 6pm and 10pm and I did the 10am, 2pm and 2am. Our little man was blossoming into a real baby with his own little traits. He rewarded us with the occasional smile, which melted our hearts. He showed us when he was hungry by putting his hands in his mouth and making a kissing sound. He would sit in his bouncy chair for a long time, looking around at his surroundings with curiosity. He was just being a baby.
We had days which were awful. Nights where he woulnd’t sleep a wink, days where he wouldn’t stop crying. Those days I found so hard on my own. I had to make all the choices and take all the responsibilities. The pressure was massive and I don’t really deal well with pressure. Mix this with ridiculous tiredness and I just turn into a crying mess. There have been many a day where I have cried into his muslins or just cried all over him. I did think that when he came home it would be so much easier than the hospital and in some aspects it is – I have unlimited access to my baby and can make all the decisions for him and about his care – but it is also so much harder because you are on your own. My advice to anyone in the same situation as us is utilize the staff at the hospital before you get to go home. Ask them those questions that you are unsure of or worried about. No question is stupid or pointless. Because believe me, when you are at home on your own faced with a crying baby, you will really really regret not asking that stupid question to the experts! My second piece of advice is ask for help. Even though you are not in the hospital anymore, they are always there on the end of the phone when you need help. They have come to our aid on a couple of occasions since being home and we are very glad they were there!
To sum up this blog because I literally have no idea what I have written and if it makes sense, we are all winging it when it comes to raising a child. Every baby is different and has different needs and routines. Just because Carol’s baby down the road sleeps through the night doesn’t mean that your baby will sleep through the night just yet. They will eventually, just not yet. There is an end to everything. It will happen at some point, they will reach that goalpost, you just have to let them take it in their own time. This is especially true with preemies. It’s hard to gage milestones with them as they reach an age e.g. 3 months, but actually their “corrected age” is just 1 week old, so they are too advanced for their corrected age but not advanced enough for their technical age. You just don’t know what they should be doing when. DONT WORRY! It really doesn’t matter! As long as they are healthy and happy and growing, it doesn’t matter what else they are doing.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to become the perfect parent straight away and to get all these routines established from day dot. Just let your child be themselves. Let them take the lead and you follow. You will make mistakes but you will learn from them. It’s a hard journey, but we have been on a harder one so I feel strong we can make it through.
Here’s to the next few years winging it!