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Inspiring families with fresh thinking on parenting

Yano — Inspiring families with fresh thinking on parenting

The first eight weeks (help I’m drowning, not waving)

Posted on 14th April, 2012 | filed under Yano Life

Jessica's baby daughter Didi

Jessica Wilson finally had the baby girl of her dreams, but now came the hard part. In our second instalment she shares her first tentative steps after leaving hospital.

R came to pick us up, car seat in hand. The baby watched us trying to get into the car, nervously fumbling around. I could feel the pressure; there was a look in her eye. Couldn’t we have figured this out before? We got home and took her into the house while still in the car seat. We put her down on the kitchen table. Then we stared at her and then at each other.  What do we do now?

Feed her. Change her, cuddle her, feed her, watch her sleep. Try to sleep. Feed her. Try to eat. And so, life with a baby, began.

The first major hurdle was breastfeeding. It was easy in the hospital with a midwife beside us, adjusting her, adjusting me. But once home, alone, just the two of us, it was a whole different, awkward matter. Neither I nor the baby was very good at it and it really hurt. They didn’t tell us that at the breastfeeding clinic. They told us it doesn’t hurt when you’re doing it right. I have yet to meet one woman who felt no pain (other than the workshop leader and I think she’s just conveniently forgotten). It may be natural but it certainly didn’t come naturally to me, or my baby. We kept going.

I had the midwives on speed dial – I think I’ve got mastitis, she hasn’t stopped poo-ing. Hello, me again, now she hasn’t poo-ed. After every home visit the midwife had to detach me from her ankles, ‘please don’t leave me’. My previously busy, professional, social world was suddenly filled with tiny details. Nappy rash, the colour of her belly button, a tiny red mark on her chin, skin colour, poo colour, minutes on each breast, minutes since the last feed. What a tiny a world it is.

I thought I knew what I was getting into. Perhaps I was naïve. My sister had a four-month-old baby and I had watched her in action. I didn’t have a clue.

I read all the books, everything from Gina ‘routine from birth’ Ford to William ‘attachment parenting’ Sears, but I still felt clueless. Everyone has an opinion on how to do things, and they will let you know what they think, whether you ask or not. I was frustrated. I’m a problem solver, a producer, but I couldn’t troubleshoot my baby. I just had to keep going.

Feed her, change her, cuddle her, feed her, will she sleep?

The next hurdle was sleep. For me, it was the biggest, most earth shatteringly hardest part of having a newborn and the toughest question – how do you get a baby to sleep? Friends, books and family all told me not to worry, there’s no such thing as the ‘wrong’ way to do things in the first few weeks. Phew, that’s a relief. But you can establish bad habits. Oh no, really? I tried everything, I swaddled, I rocked, I patted, I shushed. I even gave in to the dummy. My days and nights became a blurred cycle of trying to get her to sleep in the basket and then giving up and letting her sleep on me. Apparently it takes 20 minutes for a baby to fall into a deep sleep. I would sit by the basket counting the minutes, ‘14, 15, 16, we’re nearly there, 17, 18 hurrah, oh no, don’t cry, please don’t cry, you can’t wake up, I’m so tired, you must be tired. You’re awake’. Here we go again. Every morning I’d wake up with my baby asleep on my chest. What did they say about bad habits?

TV work can be hard involving long days and long nights, but a baby means total loss of control over your time, at least in the beginning. No one told me about the meals eaten at breakneck speed, never finished. The phone unanswered, emails and texts unread. Brushing my teeth before 5pm became an achievement with moisturiser application a distant memory. R tried to warn me – he has a six-year-old-daughter – but it is difficult to explain, just as it is hard to describe how lovely it is to wake up with a tiny baby snuggled into your neck, even if they are meant to be in their basket.

Feed her, change her, cuddle her, feed her. Will she sleep?

The first few weeks were full of new and unfamiliar baby paraphernalia that  require a degree in engineering to figure out. I found the buggy, the sling and the car seat all terrifying. When she was five weeks old I took her to my mum’s for a few days. R packed the car.  When it came to the return journey Mum and I couldn’t collapse the buggy. Two bright, capable (if a little sleep-deprived) adults utterly defeated by a pram. In desperation, I wheeled it to the garage up the road. Does anyone know how to take this buggy apart? The two ladies behind the till couldn’t do it and neither could the man who came in to buy a paper. Finally, someone pressed the right button, and it came apart. Everyone applauded. I hobbled back awkwardly clutching the cot and wheeling it at the same time. At least it wasn’t just me.

Meanwhile, we were trying to find a name. At six weeks she was still ‘the baby’. People had stopped asking and we had almost stopped looking. A crying baby and exhausted parents is not a combination conducive to creative name searching. R didn’t want to discuss it before she was born as he wanted to meet her first. I had lists, he had one name. We couldn’t agree. Officially, you have 42 days to register the birth. We finally made it to the register office 47 days after she was born. We sat in front of the registrar debating names until the registrar asked us if we wanted to come back a week later. Seven and a half weeks after she was born we finally decided. Delilah, which wasn’t on any list. To be known as Didi.

Feed her, change her, cuddle her, feed her. Will she sleep?

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The first eight weeks (help I’m drowning, not waving) was posted on 14th April, 2012 by Jessica Wilson under Yano Life

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Jessica Wilson

About the author: Jessica Wilson

Jessica graduated from Tufts University in Boston with a BA in Child Studies. Combining her academic expertise with her interest in media Jessica put her degree to work developing and producing Children's Programming for the BBC - global leaders in the field. After over 8 years working across factual and entertainment genres Jessica made the switch into the independent sector taking a bespoke role for Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment. Her responsibilities spanned Europe and the US managing 5 children who made up a junior pop group. She also worked on the TV phenomenon 'American Idols' including touring the US with the show. Most recently Jessica returned to her role of Series Producer for The Apprentice (series 5) and the highly successful and acclaimed Gimme a Break. Since the birth of her baby girl in the middle of May Jessica has swapped professional life for the 24 hour job of looking after a newborn. Drawing on all her experience of studying and working with children Jessica's blog will chart the ups and downs of life as a new mother.