Q&A First Few Months of Motherhood

Alexandra and Zachary

Alexandra and Zachary

You may have noticed if you’ve read a few of my posts that my sister Henrietta had a baby in May this year. Zachary is now nearly five months old and, as we did a question and answer post while Henrietta was pregnant, we thought it was time to update on her experience of motherhood so far.

How would you sum up your first few months of being a mother?
Tiring, lots of crying and lots of poo! But great overall.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you in terms of becoming a parent?
I feel like I sort of knew what to expect because of being around a newborn baby a lot when Alex was born. I prepared myself for the worst of everything and so far there’s not been any massive issues with him so I don’t think anything came as a massive shock to me.

Zachary was diagnosed as having silent reflux when he was six weeks old, what advice would you give to parents who think their child might have it?
Don’t delay getting them checked out. When we noticed there was something wrong, we went to get him checked within 48 hours. You know yourself if there’s something up and they’re not going to turn you away because you know your baby best and you know if there’s a problem. Also don’t trust everything you see on Google, they will be fine!

What’s been the best thing so far?
Smiles and laughs! Also newborn cuddles.

What did you buy which you’d recommend for any prospective parents?
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep has 100 per cent been the best thing. At night time, it makes everything so much easier. You don’t have to put up with a screaming baby for long. Also the bouncer we got, the Baby Bjorn one, was quite expensive and he didn’t really like it at first but now he does it gives you five minutes to get on with jobs you want to do as he’s quite happy to sit in there for a while. And muslin cloths. We’ve bought loads and they’ve been a daily essential.

When we talked about your pregnancy in a post back in January (here), you said you thought people treated you differently because you’re fairly young. Have you found this to be true since having him?
I think a little bit, more from older people to be honest. When we go to get him weighed or see midwives or health professionals they always comment how well he’s doing and that we’re doing a good job with him; so I think that proves you don’t have to be older to do well. I do sometimes miss the freedom I had before but I’ve got a good support network to have Zach when I’m ready to start going out again without him.

Harriet and Alexandra (and Henrietta and Zachary!) x

Who Supports You?

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Hello all, a bonus blog for you this week to talk about some fabulous awards that I think are a great idea!

One of the key words surrounding this whole parenting journey we’re all on (apart from sick, poo and sleep) is support. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve talked/thought about how vital having a great support system around you is. Life can be confusing, worrying, stressful and hard even when you just have yourself to care for; throw in a tiny person who can’t do anything for themselves, doesn’t stick to a schedule and produces a lot of poo and sick (see I told you those words were pretty key too!), and it’s quite frankly an absolute miracle all us new moms manage to function on any level!

Anyone who’s read my past posts will know I didn’t get the start most moms get. I didn’t walk out of hospital in the first couple of days, have two weeks with Dylan on paternity leave and then get left mostly by myself to figure out how to keep the baby alive weekdays 9am til 5pm. Our start to family life was a lot more complicated and that’s why I am more grateful than I can ever say to everyone who helped us during that time. Of course, there was the fabulous Dylan who became Mr Mom and did everything I should have been doing, everything he should have been doing and a million, billion other things. There was my mom who took months off work to be there every day for Alexandra, for me and for Dylan. There was my sister Henrietta and her other half Ben who stopped at ours, did overnight feeds (and cheered me up – the first thing Henrietta said to me when she saw me in intensive care was ‘nice eyebrows’ – they were pretty horrific to be fair!). There was my dad who took every Wednesday off work when I got home to come over and help me run errands. There were my besties Manda and Beccy who had a girly sleepover with Alex – all the more remarkable seen as Manda doesn’t actually like babies!

There were the NCT couples who were just beyond fabulous: they organised food parcels for Dylan that we were still making our way through weeks after I got home! They looked after Alex and took her to baby sensory and were just the most supportive friends you could ever hope to have in that situation even though they were all new parents themselves. There were countless other friends who stepped in to have her for an hour or two. There was Dylan’s family who came over to help out, do night feeds and keep Dylan somewhat sane. There was the rest of my family. There were many, many friends who kept our spirits up, dragged us through the worst days and helped us along the way to being reunited as a family.

So you see, support is a massive, massive thing for me.

That’s why I think the Real World Parenting Awards are such a fab idea. There are two categories: one for a health professional who has gone above and beyond to help a new mom, and one for supportive family and friends.

If a nurse, doctor, midwife or health visitors has been dedicated, compassionate and hard working – making a real difference to your life as a new mom, then do think about nominating them! The awards are supported by an educational grant from Infacol and the winning professional receives £1,000 from the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology to further their career or chosen area of research. Those nominating them are in with a chance of winning a short break at Knoll House.

To enter, simply e-mail competitions@satellitepr.com with the person’s name, workplace (if it’s a health professional you’re nominating) and the reason you’re putting this person forward by Wednesday, August 31. Winners will be announced in November.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Motherhood is…

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I’ve been a mom for eight months now and while I’d never claim to be an expert, I wanted to share my thoughts about motherhood and to share some of the thoughts I have at this time, like a snapshot of my mind to look back on in future.

Motherhood is… looking at someone with snot coming out of their nose, dribble on their chin and breakfast mushed into their hair and thinking they’re the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

Motherhood is… worry. Constant worry.

Motherhood is…knowing exactly which stairs creak and avoiding them after putting baby to bed.

Motherhood is… convincing yourself tonight will be different and you’ll totally get loads done in the hours between baby’s bedtime and yours.

Motherhood is… feigning excitement about courgettes.

Motherhood is… using every single pillow in the house to make a safe fortress to stop bumped heads.

Motherhood is… veering wildly between being really excited about the next stages and being gutted they’re not a newborn anymore.

Motherhood is… having no barriers and no dignity.

Motherhood is… going to sleep each night with the jumparoo music playing over and over in your mind.

Motherhood is… the toughest and the best thing you’ve ever done.

Harriet and Alexandra xxx

Post-baby mental health

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The week before last I watched My Baby, Psychosis and Me – part of the BBC’s season of mental health programmes. I found it extremely emotional to watch, as many people will have done, and to be honest felt like this could have so easily been me. It made me squeeze Alexandra just that little bit tighter and cuddle her for that little bit longer.

Because of my own mental health history (including a hospital admission in 2014) I attended a few extra appointments during my pregnancy where they would check how I was doing. I had come off antidepressants in November 2014 in order to get pregnant so due to the fact I wasn’t taking medication during the pregnancy and I had remained relatively well mentally, they decided I could have a ‘low risk’ birth when they saw me at 33 weeks pregnant. This meant I could have (had the physical health problems not occurred) given birth at the midwifery led unit rather than consultant led.

One of my biggest fears during pregnancy was how I would cope emotionally after the birth – I knew my mental health history meant I was more prone to post natal depression and some health care professionals spoke to me as if I was guaranteed to suffer from it. It also felt like, although I had been extremely well since being discharged from hospital, it hadn’t really been that long. I started dating Dylan just weeks after leaving, although we’d known each other for years previously, and we conceived six months into our relationship. So although I was incredibly happy there’s no way to tell how things will be long term.

When things happened the way they did, I was spoken to a lot about the emotional after effects of being unwell and in intensive care. Especially at the QE they were very keen to let me know it was entirely normal to feel a bit all over the place. And I did for a week or so while still in hospital. I was crying pretty much constantly! When I came home life was definitely very different and I didn’t quite know how to feel but I felt surprisingly well – I think most people were shocked at how well I was?

But now? Now we’re six months into our parenthood journey and life has settled into a routine. I feel an intense bond between myself and Alexandra (and Dylan of course) and feel hugely lucky not to have struggled with PND. I feel ridiculously emotional some days and I know I have changed a lot but let’s be honest, tiredness and being unwell can have a lot to do with that without adding a baby into the mix!

I feel like I’m babbling on a bit here and I don’t really know what the point of what I’m trying to say is. I feel very much like I’m trying to process my emotions at the moment and get to grips with everything that’s happened. Life (and my thoughts, my head and my worries) has changed so much beyond recognition. A lot of things about the future terrify me. But above all that, I am just immensely grateful I have my family and my friends and, by and large, my mental health has fared much better than I thought it would in all my 4am ‘worst case scenario’ pregnancy fears.

Harriet and Alexandra X

Stranger Danger

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One thing I’ve found hugely different when out and about since having a child (apart from obviously taking said child and all of her supplies everywhere with me) has been how often strangers talk to me. Being a former journalist I’m pretty used to going up to complete randoms and striking up a conversation, but only ever when I’m being paid to do it. At all other times I find it a little weird when people approach you and begin chatting like you’re besties.

But now Alexandra exists I’m having to get my head around the fact I’m everybody’s mate. Or more accurately the mother of Mrs Popular who has to answer on her behalf. Every single person I see wants to engage us in conversation. I factor time into my day to talk to strangers. I’m considering getting cards printed up with information on them, maybe even a T-shirt for one or both of us to wear. Yes she’s a girl (head to toe in pink is never a good enough giveaway), she’s five months, yes aren’t they lovely at this age, yes aren’t they lovely when they’re sleeping, yes she is cute isn’t she (pats self on back if stranger isn’t already doing so).

Weirder than this, I find myself conducting conversations with these people where I pretend to be Alex. ‘Say hello to the nice lady Alexandra. Hi!’ *waves baby’s hand at the same time* this is the complete opposite to what I’ll be advising her to do when approached by anyone when she can actually talk!

Harriet and Alexandra x

A Day In The Life Of A New Mom

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1. Notice baby being sick
2. Catch as much sick in your hand as possible while frantically searching for a muslin cloth – which will have all disappeared at that moment despite there being at least three billion in your house.
3. Wipe sick off baby/floor/walls etc.
4. Check whether your clothing/hair has been vommed on.
5. Assess whether you can just rub in the sick and hope no one notices.
6. Change everyone’s outfit.
7. Notice baby doing a poo.
8. Wait for them to finish while simultaneously laughing at the grunting/face pulling and wondering whether it makes you weird watching another human pooing.
9. Change baby while trying not to hurl and wondering how something so cute can produce a smell so awful.
10. Put baby in jumparoo
11. Listen to the same goddamn tune over and over and over and over.
12. Try and do all the housework in the 20 minutes it takes for baby to get bored.
13. Notice baby is rubbing their eyes and looking like they haven’t slept in months.
14. Lay baby down with dummy in mouth.
15. Retreat to the other side of the room.
16. Notice dummy has come out of baby’s mouth and they are now wailing despite having taken the dummy out themselves.
17. Put dummy back in baby’s mouth.
18. Repeat steps 15 to 17 approximately 200 times until baby finally falls asleep.
19. Think about doing something useful while baby naps.
20. Baby wakes up while you’re still thinking.
21. Attempt to get bottle into baby’s mouth in the 2.1 seconds it takes between stirring and baby deciding they are so starving they need to wail at the same volume as a jet taking off.
22. Repeat steps one to 21 until daddy gets home and baby gives him their sweetest smile and wants to cuddle him even though every time you want a cuddle baby attempts to scratch your eyes out.

(I really like my baby honestly!)

Harriet and Alexandra X