Pregnancy and parenthood can be daunting experiences for first time parents. So, as a support system for other first timers such as myself, I’m excited to share with you our second exclusive interview with another first time parent (this time a new mum!), who has generously offered to share her insights, highs and lows, top tips and words of encouragement from the front line of parenting.
This week’s interview is with SJ, a first time mum from Birmingham (and creator of mum blog The Mama Cave), mother of Bambina (born on 15th August 2015 weighing in at 6lb 8oz).
Firstly, massive congratulations SJ on your new arrival! How does it feel to finally be a mum?
Thank you 🙂 It is impossible to put into words the feeling – it is like nothing else. For me there was an overwhelming sense of completeness, happiness and peaceful excitement with a recurring twinge of apprehension of the new responsibility.
So far, what have been your highlights of life with a new baby?
Bambina makes me proud every day; admittedly this has included passing her first solid poo but these little things really do make me proud of her and in turn of myself – and that is pretty awesome and life changing. She is a reason to get up and make the most of everyday as she is this little person who looks at me like I am all that is required in the universe.
Any low points/challenges?
Not going to lie – there is a heap of crappy stuff but you push through it. There will be tears, shit in hair, sick in the bed and sleepless nights, but none of it lasts forever. The biggest challenge for me was asking for help and accepting that sometimes I needed a cry – especially when Colic came into town (Infacol and gripe water were essentially my batman and superman rolled into one for a few months).
What’s been the grossest thing you’ve seen or had to do so far as new parents?
I expected the poo and sick – but I did not expect to be showered (actually drenched) in my own warm regurgitated milk thanks to some pretty horrendous reflux mid-breastfeed in the early am and then to be happy to go to sleep in the puddle wrapped in a beach towel to save a precious few minutes of much needed sleep. Pretty gross, eh?!
What tips do you have for first time mums and dads in the first weeks of parenthood?
The days may feel long but the memories fade quickly with sleep deprivation afoot, so record videos and take photos of everything, of your wife, of your husband, of the baby, of everything.
Talk before baby about your parenting styles, and then continue to talk. Give each other smiles, hugs, look into each other’s eyes and remember to say “Well done, you’re doing a great job” to each other. I’d also recommend tag teaming to get rest – I breastfed but that didn’t mean Mister O couldn’t look after Bambina whilst I slept just bringing her up for feeds. It saved me and gave him time to bond.
What have been your most useful items of baby kit so far, that you couldn’t have done without?
Oh wow there are a few – A bouncer and Infacol for soothing baby to sleep in her colic state, a breast pump for relieving the painful moments, a jumperoo for getting some hands-free time, Ashton and parsons teething powder (I had to taste it to see what the euphoric expression on Bambina’s face was about), and a stock load of baby wipes – they clean everything including armpits when you don’t have time to shower.
Any ‘parenting hacks’ you’ve tried so far and would recommend to new parents?
Did you know baby vests are designed so that the neck can be pulled down a baby’s body, meaning no spills have to go over head? I learnt this late and mid-poonami.
The ‘Feed Baby’ app was also a stress saver for me – it meant I didn’t have to remember when or how I last fed Bambina as it was all logged. Time is something the slides by and gets all a bit contorted so the reminders on this app let me relax a little.
I’d also recommend not to get to caught up in the guidelines and do what is best for your family – co-sleeping, pre-made bottles, weaning, the lot should be up to you to decide.
What pram did you buy? Would you recommend it to new parents?
I have the Chicco London Stroller – and I love it!!
We made the decision to just go straight in for a stroller to save some pennies and I do not regret the decision. Bambina loves it and strangely cries to get in it. She is comfortable, it is light weight, and it comes with a fleece cosy and rain cover. It isn’t great for ‘off-roading’ (I mean mountain walks, forests and beaches) yet it has survived in perfect working order.
How was the birth itself? Highs and lows of labour from your perspective? Any surprises/funny stories/terrifying experiences? How did your other half cope?
The labour was three days slow and exhausting, but also the most exhilarating experience of our lives. I had read a lot of hypnobirthing material befrehand and Mister O had read little bits of it too. He also read about acupuncture pressure points to speed up and relieve the pain of labour and made a list of positive things to say in case his mind went blank.
I had requested pain relief as soon as I entered the hospital as my pain threshold had fallen through the floor after 48 hours of contractions at 5 minute intervals. I had a bath whilst I waited and was then too dilated for an epidural (that was a shock) and surprisingly I then managed the whole thing with swigs of cola and gas and air (another huge shock).
The scariest moment was when all the alarms went off and Bambina was showing signs of fatigue and distress. We were told I had 10 minutes to get her out or I would need to go into surgery. The Doctors, midwives and Mister O were incredible and helped me summon the last bit of strength.
And the funniest moment was when I was bouncing on the birthing ball with Mister O behind me massaging my back. We were being recorded for a home video, but the angle and the noises combined with the fact he looks straight into the lens and smirks makes the moment look like a misplaced sex scene of a porno.
Mister O was an absolute legend and never left my side. I had all of his attention, all of the time (except for when he fell asleep for 15 minutes with sheer exhaustion). I cannot imagine how hard it is to watch someone you love in so much pain – I really rate him for handling it how he did!!
What special items did you pack in your hospital bag?
My gosh I packed so much stuff. In fact I listed the more unusual items in a blog post The Hospital Luggage Haul the list includes a change of clothes for the Mister and a fishing net…
Did you prepare a labour playlist for the delivery? What were your favourite tracks on there?
Actually Mister O prepared it for me. I suppose it was a little but like a love letter and allowed him to become involved in the preparation. It was all old school R&B and Ibiza chill out. I listened to Café del Mar Ibiza Chillout Mix April 2013 on loop for the first 48 hours; it kept me calm with a beat to pace to. Perfectly, this soundtrack is now Bambina’s napping music.
Any tips for dads in the labour ward? What should we do to make labour less painful for you?
You cannot make labour less painful for us but you can be our eyes and ears so we can focus on what we are doing. You can be our protector and have any scary information come to you. You should probably ask your partner lots of questions beforehand to see what they want and what they definitely don’t want.
Mister O asked for the lights to be dimmed and for the midwives to whisper to keep the atmosphere how I wanted it (for the most part). He also was hovering at my side with a bottle of liquid and my lipsalve to rehydrate me between contractions.
I suggest you try to be your most attentive – this may mean giving space, it may mean massages and holding hands – I’m afraid you will have to figure out which (sorry).
Did your other half take a sneaky look down ‘the business end’ during labour?
Yup he sure did – and I would have too if I could have to be honest. He actually watched the full placenta delivery and then got the midwives to show it to me in a bowl. Bleurgh.
Did you read any of the pregnancy and baby books before your new arrival? Which would you recommend most for first time parents?
The only books I read and I would also wholeheartedly recommend are The Hypnobirthing Book: An Inspirational Guide for a Calm, Confident, Natural Birth by Katharine Graves and How to be a Hip Mama Without Losing Your Cool by Jenny Scott.
I was always on Mama blogs, mumsnet, netmums, Instagram and Facebook groups entering competitions and looking for answers to a million questions, especially in relation to my Hyperemesis Gravidarum (a severe form of excessive nausea and vomiting during pregnancy).
If you could sum up the 9 months of pregnancy in 3 WORDS from your perspective, what would they be?
Troubled [but] worth it.
What did you and your other half enjoy the most about pregnancy (guy vs. girl perspective)?
Both: The end of it. Haha. He wanted the pregnancy pillow out of the bed and intimacy back on the cards, and I wanted my body back (I didn’t realise that it would still be on loan for some time).
Mister O: I enjoyed the bigger bumper too. 🙂
How did your other half cope with your pregnancy symptoms? Were any difficult to handle? Any tips on how expectant dads can make these more bearable?
He coped incredibly well.
I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the first few months of my pregnancy so struggled to keep any food or liquid down and lost more than 1.5 stone in 3 weeks. It was hard for him to watch especially so early on. I couldn’t work, drive, cook, clean, go out or do anything really because I was so ill; I depended on him to do everything for me and I wasn’t even particularly nice or thankful to him for all his efforts because the frustration got the better of me and we would argue.
Later in the pregnancy I was all about independence and proving I could still do things on my own. Again he coped well and just hovered at the side-lines in case something went wrong.
My tip is to try to remember hormones are flooding your lady and some of her strange behaviour may not be completely within her control, so give her a few more chances than usual if you can. (We don’t mean any harm but sometimes it is tough growing a person). And perhaps take her out on some lovely dates.
What are the three things you wish you’d known before having a baby (that you know now as new parents)?
- There is a massive, supportive community of parents out there which you are about to join.
- That I will get shit on my finger and in my hair and will not vom but laugh loudly from the pit of my belly.
- That I and my perspective on life will subtly change and all for the better.
Finally, why (and when) did you start blogging in the first place?
I originally blogged back in 2011 but I wasn’t proud of it and felt without purpose so never told anyone or promoted it. But when I had Bambina I just wanted to write, share and have an active and supportive role in the parenting community and so ‘The Mama Cave’ was born.
What has been your blogging highlight so far? Favourite post?
I think my favourite post is ‘When the baby screams in the still of night’ because I finally got to tell everyone how fab one of my mama pals is – she is one of my everyday heroes and I hope she is proud.
Any advice for any new parents to be out there who are considering starting their own blog?
Don’t give up and write honestly. You are about to join an incredible parenting network and community!
For more from SJ and The Mama Cave, click through to her blog and social feeds via the links below – well worth a follow!
Do you know any first time parents (or are you one yourself?) who would be keen to share their insights and experiences in the next iteration of ‘First time parents – interviews from the front line’?
If so, please do send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!