...they say are the hardest.
But you don't really understand that they mean you will be jolted into a new kind of reality. You will be faced with decisions to make quickly, and at almost every turn. And your heart will break a million times a day...but in the best possible way.
We came home from the birth centre the morning after she was born. Carrying her through the door of our home I felt a surge of excitement and suddenly it all seemed very real. She was our Little One to nurture and love. And she would grow up in our home amongst the treetops.
The first few days are a blur now. Although she was a content newborn, feeding and sleeping as well as could be hoped, I was exhausted (after the hormone high wore off), swollen and sore, and finding it hard to walk and sit. If I'm honest, those first few days I felt completely overwhelmed and functioned in a trance-like state. I was so grateful for the help and support that came so willingly from family and friends, and spent most of the time tucked up in bed, nursing and dozing.
It came as a shock to me that breastfeeding was a real skill, and not something that came naturally and easily. I was lucky that little Saskia was brought to my chest after the birth, found the breast and was able to latch on - but a few days later, the attachment on one breast was causing the most excruciating pain and I cried at every feeding. My nipple was cracked and I was slowly losing confidence in my ability to breastfeed. A lovely neighbour dropped in a care package when she heard about the trouble I was having, which included these life saving devices and a breastfeeding DVD. I would watch the DVD whilst feeding and experiment with various poses and techniques. It felt like hard work. The midwives visited every day and were also invaluable in helping me overcome the feeding problems. Some time in week 2 I had a breakthrough and the attachment finally felt right which was a huge relief.
The first two weeks we stayed at home, venturing out only to take short walks around the Village and check the letterbox. It was lovely to have K by my side at this time, and I was dreading when he had to go back to work. We had our first outing on the last day of his paternity leave, taking a trip to our favourite cafe. K was pretty relaxed about it all, but I spent a lot of time lifting the wrap on her pram to check on her every 2 minutes. She slept soundly the whole time, oblivious to my anxious state. When K went back to work I was surprised at how easy the transition was. The days went quickly, so quickly - something I know every Mama understands. I barely had time to think, it's just me doing this.
I started to gain more confidence by week 4 - the pain from the birth had subsided, feeding was much easier (although I still feel a little clumsy, propping myself up with pillows and fumbling with bra straps), and we were taking short trips in the car. Things were starting to feel more manageable. I was getting better at reading her ways of communicating and felt myself relax more.
The Little One is yet to establish a sleeping routine - still too early, I'm sure. But I'm constantly amazed at how little sleep you can survive on. Early on, she would snooze happily in her bassinet, often being patted to sleep if she was a little unsettled, but now it's a little trickier and we are still trying to get the hang of the sleep thing. During the day, her favourite place to sleep is on her Papa's tummy or nestled into the crook of his arm - and 3 or 4 hour stints at night in her bassinet is the norm, with a cuddle in bed with us when she wakes for her feed around dawn.
These first six weeks have been challenging...but also exhilarating, mind-blowingly wonderful and ever so precious. It's all about those smiles and sparkling eyes. That's why we do it, right?
*Photos taken on Papa K's birthday in the NGA Sculpture Garden