The aim of my blog is to bring clarity to the mass of information thrown at us online.
I trawl scientific articles to bring you the most relevant up-to-date information, easily utilised in your day-to-day life.
As the first year of my baby’s life draws near I feel the need to reflect and share on the year that has passed…
I was not someone who always thought I would be a mum, having had hormonal issues and going years without a consistent relationship, babies were something I now believe I protectively forced from my mind. If you don’t want them you won’t be disappointed if you don’t have them.
Hugo was a blessing.
I won’t go into the lead up to falling pregnant with him but I’m fortunate enough to say falling pregnant was not a struggle and the pregnancy was relatively unremarkable.
What I will mention however though is the powerlessness and fear that suddenly falls upon expecting and new mothers. Even being what I would call “well informed” when it comes to health, given my career, and the fact I advise women on fertility, pregnancy and post partum issues. Once it was happening to me, I felt completely powerless and at the mercy of the medical profession.
The fear of doing anything wrong that may negatively impact your unborn baby is real. Suddenly I was torn between what I knew was best based on my own clinical practice and what the medical paradigm was telling me.
I have endless amounts of gratitude for my partner for sticking up for my views on occasion when I felt completely helpless and vulnerable and it turning out the best for Hugo and for myself.
Anyway lets fast forward to the arrival of our little man and the months that follow. I was so impressed by the support through home visits and check-ins that the amazing midwives provide.
I feel blessed and fortunate that I had what I’d consider to be an easy baby. Apart from the first few weeks of cluster feeding he slept decent chunks of time, settled easily and was really good natured.
After having told myself babies were wayyyyy too hard work I felt like I was smashing it. However, all babies are different. Some are colicky and don’t feed well. Some don’t settle off the bat. For me though things got challenging from around 5-6 months when my sleeping baby no longer wanted to sleep long chunks through the night. Only wanted to nap 45 minutes at a time in the day and often wouldn’t let me out of his sight.
I still consider my journey easy in the grand scheme of what many mothers go through, though sleep deprivation is real. In recent weeks I’ve had the amazing guidance of a good friend, Kate, who works for @Sleepscienceguru and we are finally sleeping through the night. The first few nights you suddenly wake terrified there is something wrong with your baby and either check or use all self will to go back to sleep and tell yourself it is ok.
I think around the 2-3 week mark of sleeping through I woke one day and felt like I could smell the roses. This feeling like I’d taken off a weighted coat, like I could see things as they were for the first time in almost a year. I wish that I had sought help earlier and I employ every mum who’s baby is not sleeping well to do the same. We convinced ourselves he was a good sleeper and his constant wakings were normal. There was a better normal and the sooner you can achieve it the better – that is the health practitioner in me speaking, the mum in me at the time secretly loved how much my baby needed me in the night despite the exhaustion.
If asked what would be the biggest thing that surprised me about becoming a mum I would have to say the instincts. Being so tied to another human that your bodies cry out for each other with pain is something so raw and special that only mothers and their babies experience.
Alongside this though is the worry. I’d seen in happen in my friends and being a laid back person by nature and then being gifted with a laid back baby in the early months it took a while for this to hit me. And then it did.
Suddenly my mind was awash with what time did he wake, what time did he feed, what side was first, how cold is it, is he warm enough, is he behaving differently, was that feed was shorter than normal, do I have enough milk… a constant stream of what ifs? And Did he? And Is this ok?
Something so foreign to me, your soul suddenly belongs to this small human and the love you feel for them is the biggest return that you’d give your entire headspace, body and energy to them again and again and again. I have to say my partner got the scraps of what was left of me and though repaid me with unconditional love I am and will be forever grateful for. Though no amount of hands on dad could understand the mindset of the new mother. I do not doubt he was challenging hurdles of his own.
Together we fought silent battles of our own.
Around month 6 or 7 I was so exhausted I decided to have some tests done. My doctor told me my cortisol was through the roof. Those closest to me found it funny… again stress was never something I outwardly displayed and I wasn’t working… what was going on.
A functional test outlining my cortisol response throughout the day physiologically summed up my comments above, “The excess surge in cortisol is believed to be due to a patient’s response in
anticipation of the day ahead. An increased CAR [cortisol awakening response] is observed in individuals with perceived elevated burden, manifesting in Cortisol overproduction.”
There is so much going on for new mothers and even with all the support in the world putting your own health first is hard. I failed at it and I’m a health practitioner.
The support through pregnancy and in the early days/weeks of having a baby are amazing, though it is the months that follow when things can start to go haywire and you put it down to being tired, and that’s when often no one is checking in.
The other thing that came back in my bloods were autoimmune markers. I’m so grateful to have had a doctor who checked. When pregnant your body maintains a level of immunity that allows a foreign body to grow without being attacked essentially as a parasite by the immune system. Once the baby is born many women go on to develop autoimmune or prior conditions that suddenly went dormant during pregnancy re-emerge.
Autoimmune markers suddenly showed up in my bloods. It was scary. This is however a discussion for another blog.
Research showed me how common this was, especially when it came to thyroid disorders which I’ve seen doctors wrongly diagnose as post-natal depression.
The first year of a being a new mum requires support, the head trash makes you feel lonely and crazy in a way that sane independent women have never experienced before. The loss of control is out of this world.
The beauty of hindsight is a profound thing. I share because new mothers need to be checked in on. I would say ask for help though pride is a beast and I have to say that until I achieved the gift of sleep it was not a something I had the mindset to tame.
My advice to expecting and new mothers, check in with other new mothers, no one makes you feel more sane then someone else going crazy!
Have a health practitioner you trust. Do not think that because you’ve had a baby you no longer need supplements or support. You need it more then ever. Pregnancy was the easy bit.
Check in with your partner. I wish I had more. There is a good chance you are both behaving like the ducks with the cool calm demeanour on the surface, kicking your legs to survive underneath.
Be grateful. My son has taught me to appreciate simple things, his smile lights me up and experiencing awe through him and with him is something all my years of travelling the globe and seeing so many beautiful placed has not come close to. I will be forever grateful for his love and for his presence. It is very easy to grind through every day without stopping to smell the roses, I was in survival mode without realising it for many months.
Stop. This time is special. Look after yourself. Enjoy it.
All my love, hugs and appreciation to all the new parents out there, and those more experienced that have the knowledge to teach us new ones the way.
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