HA HA HA NO THEY DON’T!
Well, mine didn’t anyway..
When we brought Teddy home, he wouldn’t sleep anywhere but on my chest. For so many weeks I worked hard on trying to figure out what was wrong with my baby. Why didn’t he like drinking his bottles? Why didn’t he sleep?
I have always talked about the fourth trimester from the perspective of a Social Worker, and now I am talking about it from the perspective of the (utterly clueless) first time Mother. The fourth trimester is nothing short of ugly, dissatisfying, traumatic and exactly NOT what you thought it was going to be like, that is, if you end up with a baby anything like mine.
My nephew was born around 9 months before my boy. He slept through from the night he got home. He took to the breast, and transitioned well to formula. He was a dream. I thought that that was what parenting looked like, and it looked like a pretty good time!
Not so much the same though for Teddy. Teddy didn’t take to the breast, and we were rushed out of our public hospital like the place was on fire. Every. single. nurse. judged me for not being able to breastfeed. The sideways glances, the little nods to ensure that I knew how obvious it was that I was falling apart, and the constant yet completely different every time “here if you just do this” from every nurse. I walked out of that hospital after my Mother lost her S*** and told me to express and bottle feed (thank god she did otherwise I was likely raising my child in that special care ward in the hospital.
So, finally, I convince a Paediatrician in the Special Care Ward to let me take my child home. Funny, when they’re in that ward they actually aren’t your kid. They can’t sleep near you, you visit them, you’re always being supervised. None of the decisions for your child are made by you, and the doctors on the ward try to avoid eye contact with other big people that aren’t medical staff (that’s you).
Anyway, I get distracted.
So I get this little bubba home and hes EFFING ADORABLE! But he won’t sleep! He screams and writhes after every bottle. I changed his formula, I asked the Child and Youth Health nurses, I asked the GP, they all said that his spilling was normal, and that “looking uncomfortable” was normal for babies. A nurse told me to put him on Lactose Free formula, which helped a little, but not much.
Coming to 10 weeks, we started to get some sleep but Teddy wasn’t happy. What I learnt was that you don’t realise that you’re having this intense communication all day long with your baby without talking. Teddy was telling me he was unhappy, he was showing me that he was unhappy, and inherently I could see that, but everyone told me to “wait it out”.
I took Teddy to the Paediatrician who told me that he had a clear case of reflux (mainly because he vomited all over her office and she could see the acid burning his tongue). She told me that he is potentially cows milk protein intolerant (CMPI) and that the Lactose Free formula was not going to help him, but not to change formula again for fear he might vomit his stomach out (she never said that, but did suggest I’d changed it too much).
So I walk away from the appointment with the Paed scarily close to $400 lighter, and with a handful of prescriptions. I try the meds for weeks, they don’t work. Things worsen for Teddy and it seems like he starts to rocket backwards. He isn’t smiling, Tummy time is certainly out of bounds, we can’t go places cos he cries and cries. This is when the walls start closing in. I stay home. I stay in bed. Teddy stays in bed with me and there’s a lot of crying going on in my house.
Cue Post Natal Depression.
Around 14 weeks my Auntie (who I consider my second Mum) visits me for her once a week Teddy fix (the only family member that my baby smiles at for some reason). She shares with me her experience of her first child, a boy, who was just like Teddy. She listens to me cry, she hears me . She suggests Soy formula, and tells me it “magically fixed” her baby. At this stage I’m like well F*** it, lets try it out, because at this point Teddy and I really have nothing to lose.
AND IT MAGICALLY FIXES MY BABY!
What I learned was that you know your F**** kid. Sure, you’ve known them for a short period of time. Sure, you can’t read minds and your baby certainly cant speak English (they can scream in English though so that helps). Sure, you might be a first time Mum, but when your baby is unhappy, uncomfortable, or something is just not right, something in your gut tells you.
What I also learned is Babies are new (obviously, but I really mean metaphorically new). Most of them want to be on you. They just spent around 9 months inside you. They will eventually leave your arms and sleep in their own cots/beds/whatever they decide, and you’ll really really miss cuddling them. All I can say is that first 12 weeks, the Fourth Trimester, is hard for Mums, but it’s also really hard for babies.
The satisfaction for me eventually came with the realisation of how much patience and empathy I had when it came to my son. He was a hard baby, the type people didn’t put their hand up to give a bottle to or babysit, but he was always loved and admired by me.
I regret listening to the doctors, I regret taking so long to trust my gut regarding Teddy’s health, but I don’t regret standing by my decisions and doing (in the end) what I thought was right for my son. Because, at the end of the day, it was the right thing for him and for me.
This was Teddy after a feed before we moved to Soy based formula. Needless to say I was not coping with his extreme reactions, and he was not coping with the pain that he was in.