In just over a week’s time my eldest son will finish his first year of school. My very first baby? Finishing his first year of school? It doesn’t seem like yesterday that he was just starting, and before that, that he was still my tiny baby.
Last September I waved my three year old baby off for the first time, to enter into “big school” for the first time.
In his year at school, albeit pre-school but it very much feels like a real school environment to me, he has seen so many firsts and grown so much. My threenager matured into a four year old, one who has his moments (and oh what moments they are) but an all round loving, gentle, caring little boy.
One who can now write his name, sing numerous songs. Who has got up in front of the entire Early Years classes and parents and performed in assembly.
He is flourishing. Growing before my very eyes. I look back on photos from last year and see his chubby baby cheeks, and wonder how I ever thought he was so big then when I look at him now.
Yet some days, those early days, the very tough ones, will remain ever etched in my memory.
The very first days
Bringing our eldest home from the hospital, after a terrifying and traumatic birth, shocked and in awe that they were sending us away with this tiny human who we had no qualifications to look after.
Staring at wonder at his ten tiny fingers, marvelling at those ten tiny toes. In a bubble of bliss, this child was ours. He was wonderful. He was perfect.
Our first stumbling block
In hospital everything was perfect, he was breastfeeding like a pro with the help of the midwives to perfect his latch. They helped me express colostrum into tiny syringes so I could top him up if I felt I needed to, and I did, I needed that control. That knowledge of how much he was taking.
At home? That first feed, I fell apart. He fell apart. I couldn’t make it work, I had no idea how my nipple was ever going to fit in his mouth. My milk had come in, those tiny syringes useless, one hungry baby crying for food.
One distressed mum crying over her inability to feed. Calling the national breastfeeding helpline and sobbing, them not being able to help. Not understanding the incoherent sobbing coming out of my mouth.
One headless chicken dad running round not sure what to do, eventually running out the house to buy breast pumps and formula.
Sitting in that nursing chair, trying over and over again, then. Latched.
My husband running back in and finding me sat feeding and sobbing. Our little human fast asleep.
Going from thinking I couldn’t do it, I’d never manage, to realise that I could and I would. And with only a few hiccups from there on in I manage, he fed, he gained weight, and gained. On and on we went, until he decided it was time to finish.
Something which felt impossible that first day sat in my brand new chair as he wailed.
Something which I thought I could deal with, short bursts that were easily fixed, until that night.
The sound of crying
Everyone always says that all babies do is eat, sleep, poop and cry. Yet you don’t really get it until you are in that cycle.
I mean, I knew babies cried, but I didn’t realise that they cried.
I didn’t realise how helpless you would feel at the sound of crying, each one piercing your brain as you watched them turn red in the face with no idea what to do. No idea how to comfort. Unsure of what the matter was.
For us, that helpless feeling began one cold, October night. When friends came round to visit our new baby laden with gifts, including the now very much loved “Puppy” toy.
Excited to show off our beautiful baby, who until this point had been sleepy and content with cuddles and dozing, that night he woke up.
And began to cry.
Beginning before they arrived we didn’t know what to do. He cried the entire visit. Then continued when they left.
On the boob, off the boob, skin to skin.
My husband hot footed it to ASDA in Clapham Junction, coming back with an array of treatments. In his potion bag we had wind drops, old school gripe water (which we couldn’t use as he was too young), Calpol (ditto, too young but my husband panic swept the shelf into his basket), Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops*, Sudocrem (not sure why this made it in?!), teething gel, anything that had a picture of a baby on that he thought would help newborns settle.
Whilst I visited the NHS site to see what the matter may be.
Why was my baby crying?
What had I done wrong.
Why was I crying?
The night that seemed to last an eternity. That went on into the next night, and the next.
Spitting out of any drops. Constantly seeking comfort.
What was wrong with our baby?
Then as suddenly as it began, it stopped. The world righted itself and I became more confident in my choices as a mother. My husband became confident in his choices as a father. We grew into parenting, together, the three of us.
Since that night, where we could have put off our friends from ever having children (we haven’t, they’re due their second any day now eek!), there have been others.
His first walk in the pram? Hated it and cried.
Sitting in a bouncy chair? Hated it. And cried.
Sleeping in a bed? Hated it. And cried.
First bath? Hated it. And cried.
Sleeping in general?! Didn’t see the point of it, and cried!!
Since he has been born there have been more tears and upset than I ever realised there would be. Even now at four we have tears. We have crying.
Yet none of the tears have been as memorable as that first night.
And even they have faded from the utter panic that I felt at the time. The thoughts that I was a rubbish mother, that I wasn’t cut out for this parenting malarkey.
The night that made me realise that parenting wasn’t going to be the sweet smelling roses that I thought it would. That we would have tough days and wonderful days, and every type of day in-between.
That night made me realise that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my child, that I would take every difficult moment and embrace every wonderful moment more tightly.
In hindsight that night has made me realise that the tough times don’t last forever, that there is truth in the phrase “this too shall pass”.
And it will, because whilst the days are long, the years are short, and before you know it you are waving them off to school.
*Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops
Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops are lactase enzyme drops to which reduces the lactose content in breast milk and infant formula. Lactose is a complex sugar found in milk, dairy products, infant formulas and breast milk. Lactase is the enzyme usually produced by our bodies to break down lactose into more simple sugars so our bodies can absorb it. The immature digestive system of some babies can have trouble breaking down the lactose in milk into more simple sugars. This is where Care Co-Lactase Infant drops can help, simply adding a few drops to your baby’s milk should make it easier for them to digest, reducing discomfort and hopefully resulting in you not having a night like I did above.
Care Co-Lactase Infant drops can be used from birth and unlike some other products you do not need to wait to feed your baby. Always a bonus when they are screaming from hunger.
Care Co-Lactase Infant drops are available at ASDA. Always read the label.
Information source: Care+
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