And so he came. Eventually. The Tummy Baby is a he. Born by C-Section almost two weeks after his due date. We can only conclude that my uterus must be like sitting on a really comfy sofa, or a cloud, wearing your warmest jumper, eating apple crumble and wearing cashmere socks. They like it in there, these babies. But now that he has arrived, here are some thoughts on the early days of living with a newborn.
We are almost out of our new-baby fog. He has folded himself gently into our little family, like it was ever thus. And these early days have been a different world to those spent two years ago with a newborn Eve. I do not cry, for starters. Well, not much. Obviously some crying is allowed. Like when you drop poppadom in your freshly expressed breast milk. And yes, I still gave it to him – that stuff is like gold. Also when Ben failed to record The Affair…
But there is no weeping, no despair, no panic. I am not afraid of this baby. We are content just to be, me and him. I am not worried about the tumbleweed accumulating on the stairs, or the piles of clothes that need putting away. The health visitor has not felt the need to come and see us 8 times; she tells me we are doing just fine. And I know she is right. I think it is safe to say that I am enjoying it, second time around. Sometimes we go back to bed in the afternoons and he sleeps on my chest. We watch the tennis and we walk in the woods. He’s good company.
I am happy to report that a planned C-Section is a very different animal to the emergency kind. I walked into theatre with my nice midwife by my side, there was chat and laughter and an extraordinarily kind and brilliant surgeon. And after a little while there was a baby. A bundle of too much skin and long limbs and loads of black hair. They placed him in our arms, and we became a four. And just like that, he was one of us.
We had wondered, Ben and me, how it would be possible to love another child as much as we do our wild and funny and brilliant girl. Our fears were unfounded and our love for this small stranger came unbidden. Our hearts are stretchy; there is room for all.
This is not to say it is all easy, or guilt-free, or plain sailing. The C-Section was painful and the recovery was tough, especially with a giant toddler climbing on you, kicking you in your scar, and wanting to be carried. I would often get stuck on the couch or in bed, unable to get up without help, like a giant beetle stuck on my back, waving my legs in the air. I walked stooped over, like a little old lady, shuffling from room to room and clutching my severed belly for fear it would come apart. Eve found it hilarious to emulate my old-lady walk, following me around doing her own post-op hobble. There is something rather humiliating about having the piss taken out of you by a two year old.
My body looked a bit like it had been involved in a road traffic accident. I was battered and bruised and covered in puncture marks from cannulas and anti-clotting injections. The ultra-sticky grey remnants of my car park-sized dressing were still there weeks after the event, and eventually came off only when scrubbed with nail polish remover. My scar is neat but weirdly numb and there’s a new ridge of flesh that sits on top like an inverted shelf. One of these days I will have to stop waiting for my “uterus” to contract, and admit that it’s just flab. I can’t wear harem trousers forever.
The first Post-Baby Poo. Much has been written on this subject. I didn’t even know it was a subject until I had Eve. But sure enough, it’s a thing all right. Mine arrived in the middle of Hampstead Heath one afternoon about a week after the baby was born (and a week of twice daily doses of Lactulose). Having failed to go into labour with either of my babies I am not well equipped to know what a full-blown contraction actually feels like, but I can only imagine that this was it. The pain was staggering. I got down on my hands and knees in the middle of the Heath and howled. Finally those (previously useless) NCT birthing classes came into their own as I breathed through my poo pain. Thank god for park rangers and public loos. Hurrah for both – I am forever grateful.
Rather predictably, breastfeeding eludes me once again. I so wanted it to be different this time. I had some milk, he had a good latch, I broke through the pain, and I thought we’d cracked it. But it wasn’t to be. Supply was always low, top ups were increased until they made up the entire feed, and I was told that “lazy boys” are less willing to make the effort with the breast.
I expressed for a little while: that most depressing of tasks. Twenty minutes each side for a dribble that wouldn’t be enough to put in your tea. You have to put your baby down to express. Call me a defeatist, but I’d rather hold him. I’d rather stroke his arms and marvel at his wrist fat. So, formula it is. I am trying not to be sad, and I positively refuse to let it send me crazy. Those adverts that begin Breast milk is best for your baby should really start, Not going insane is best for your baby. There is more to mothering than milk.
The midwife (happily) did not judge, but instead suggested that Ben have a go himself. Apparently there is a tribe in Peru where the men nurse their young… Right. Good luck to him.
And at the end of it all, there is just something about having babies that makes you want your mum. It’s a simple truth that when you are at your most vulnerable, she is the one you need. When you give birth you are laid bare, in body and mind and heart. Your body goes to places you didn’t know it could; you feel things you didn’t even know were there. And you need someone who will lay themselves down, between you and the world, and protect you. You are sore and tired and overwhelmed and you want someone to take care of you. You, not just you and the baby. And it’s her, always her you want. I have missed my mum, as I will always miss her, holding my hand, telling me I did well and welcoming this tiny boy into our family. She’d have loved him so.