Monday, February 11, 2008

Contented Mother... (4)

This is an excerpt from Chapter 3, And then there were three. On settling in It seems to be a favourite with my readers - my lovely friend who is a GP has just told me she now makes sure she tells all her new mum patients it is ok to stay in their PJs at home and not get out of bed.

Slobbing out at home
I do not believe it is possible to underestimate the importance of hanging around the house with a new baby (or any age baby for that matter). Going out and making friends is obviously also natural and important, but I have many friends who, in retrospect, feel they tried to do too much too soon and if they could turn back the clocks, they would get back into their pyjamas and take their baby back to bed. My happiest memories of our first few months together were just being at home with her doing normal household stuff. I talk about doing nothing a lot in this book because I think we set ourselves too many high standards and targets at the time in our lives when we most deserve and need to stand still and take each minute as it comes. The physical and emotional toll of bearing a child are enough, let alone having to learn on the spot how to care for this new life.

I first took Jemima out when she was a few days old, for a walk to the local shop. Although I appreciated the fresh air and getting out of the house for a bit, I also remember the incredible feeling of calm and relief when walking back in the door and unloading Jemima, putting the kettle on, playing some music and just collapsing exhausted on the sofa with my baby. I spent hours in bed with her and shared long midday baths. I would get in and relax while it was hot, with Jemima lying on the floor next to me, then when it cooled I would bring her in with me. We would curl up on the sofa so I could read my book, or watch a film while she slept or lay awake in my arms. Sears calls this “rooming in”.

Oh and I cooked for England. Jemima slept a lot in the day and I spent hours in the kitchen with Jemima in the sling, or lying on the floor. Sometimes James would walk into a kitchen full of more different kinds of food than even he could handle. Mostly though, he just found the remnants of a cake I had already polished off earlier in the day. The freezer was bursting with pasta sauces, soups and ice-cream. Ever noticed that when you go to the supermarket when you are hungry you buy loads of rubbish that you would never normally buy? It was like that with cooking. I was hungry all the time from so much breast-feeding and the result was some seriously manic kitchen activity. Oh, and the sad fact that while everyone else was losing their baby fat I was piling on the pounds.

Of course what I enjoyed as domestic bliss could well be another woman’s idea of utter hell and drudgery. Although I suppose one thing we all have in common is the desire to sleep so at least some of the above might be an attractive option for everyone. I also recognise it is not always easy, even for me, despite my lazy instinct. I guess there is a mixture of the desire to prove ourselves, show the world we are coping and are out and about, and the healthier human urge to meet other parents and socialise. I was new to Winchester and am someone who thrives on the easy company of close friends, so I suffered a serious bout of ‘must make a friend today fever’. I probably put people off I was so desperate. I do remember one day of total liberation though.

It was my birthday and I had a date with my only real friend living locally, Emily, who I met a month earlier over our naked bumps in the shower after pre-natal swimming, on what we discovered was our shared due date. We had planned to have tea at her house as I had felt I had to do something sociable on my birthday. Just as I was due to leave however, Jemima fell asleep. In a rare moment of clarity and decisiveness I called to cancel the tea. I told her I was going to stay in and eat my birthday box of chocolates and finish my book all by myself while Jemima slept. Could we reschedule? She thought it was a great idea, fully understanding the joy of realising you have a sleeping baby and a few hours to yourself. It was probably the best birthday afternoon I ever had.

At the end of this chapter, as with all my chapters, there is a 10 lessons learned...
Ten lessons learned about being a very new mother
1. Read books based on scientific fact rather than one-size fits all routine-advocating manuals that discourage emotional responsiveness to my unique baby
2. Have confidence in my ability to read and respond to my baby
3. Take my baby to bed with me whenever possible
4. Pamper myself with baths, yoga, nice food and good books, magazines and videos
5. Remember that once they start crawling the sofa will never seem so attractive again
6. Baby yoga and massage is a great way to soothe and bond with my baby
7. Don’t be afraid to get serious answers for why my baby cries
8. Go out and spend time with warm loving friends
9. Stop caring about what other mothers are doing or what other people think
10. There is no such thing as ‘too many photos’

Read on - a snippet from Chapter 4


Anonymous said...

Ahhh - definitely my favourite chapter and something I personally should have done more of... I was too busy wondering why she was sicking up her milk and crying all the time (as she never actually left mine or another human's side for the first few months, my hormones decided it was obviously just me she didn't like).

I wish I had built up a sleep bank - it would be handy nowadays.

Btw, I think you have so few comments on your chapters as everyone agrees with you and thinks you're I right everyone? T x

Kasia said...

Great chapter. Actually, I enjoyed all the chapters you have posted so far. I also should have done more of sleeping in and being lazy with my first. Now with two, I longingly stare at my bed as I leave it early in the morning, knowing that most likely I won't see it until late at night.

I just wanted to tell you that your book is so encouraging. Personally, the information gives me courage and hope to keep going on tough days. Perhaps because your love/passion for parenting is contagious.