Here it is, my final write up in a 4 part series of blogs; Getting Pregnant, Being Pregnant, Giving Birth & Parenthood. This has been a journey of self discovery, where I learned that I had a reservoir of strength and patience I never knew existed.
I hope those on their own journey to parenthood will take comfort in my bumpy ride and will remain hopeful that dreams really do come true.
PART 4 – PARENTHOOD
Our little Peanut
The moment we had longed for over the last three years was finally here. I couldn’t quite believe that in my arms was our son, our pride and joy, our little Peanut, our everything.
I felt physically broken, mentally drained but emotionally complete. Although I was still drowsy from the drugs, I realised that for the past 32 hours I had gone completely AWOL from my phone, which was very unlike me. I couldn’t wait to announce the birth of our gorgeous boy and as hubby called a few people I carefully drafted the message.
With the blessings of the Lord, today we were given the greatest gift we could ever have dreamed of. We proudly welcome our beautiful son into the world, weighing 7.6lbs…Mummy, Daddy and Baby Patel are all doing well. 💙
The congratulatory messages came flooding in and with each one I read, I felt how much joy this little boy had already brought into the world.
As I lay there trying to reenergise, my mum had gone home and cooked me some food which was full of nutrients to get my body into recovery mode. I hadn’t eaten in so long that even though I wasn’t a fan of the lentils and grains she had made, I scoffed it all down. I knew that for the next month at least, I would be on a strict diet full of traditional, natural and herbal recipes all designed to speed up my recovery, help produce breast milk and pass on lots of goodness to our little Peanut. I had prepared myself for this and even though in that moment all I wanted was a pizza, some chips and a fizzy drink, I ate what was given and put my cravings to one side.
In for the night
Given the traumatic birth, we were asked to stay in the hospital for the night. It felt strange that we would be spending our first night as a Mum and Dad in a cramped shared postnatal ward. I could barely move, let alone walk! I had no idea how I was going to get through a night of feeding and nappy changes. Thankfully, my hands on hubby was right there by my side to help.
The night felt oh so long, even though the midwives would come at regular intervals to administer pain relief, and as morning eventually arrived we watched the sun rise over Hampstead. We’d somehow managed to bag ourselves a bed with a view, but even though it was picturesque, we were so desperate to be in the comfort of our own home. Finally, 26 hours after giving birth, we were released at about 5pm. When I hobbled my way out of the hospital, I realised the true extent of the pain my body had endured.
Home Sweet Home
As I walked through the door, I saw my first challenge. Stairs! They were so painful to climb, I pretty much cried myself to the top. Scared to shower, go to the loo, sneeze or even laugh, I stood besides my bed and wiped away my tears. Even though the house was full and buzzing with people cooking, cleaning and attending to Peanut, I felt very alone and absolutely broken.
Everything one takes for granted, I now had an appreciation for. Every action required such an effort, getting in and out of bed, holding Peanut, even lying down. Little did I know that these would be the toughest 7 days of this entire pregnancy journey.
The labouring truth
Many describe the pain of the actual labour, but very few elude to the afterbirth pains one experiences. All of a sudden I had a little person to look after when I wasn’t even able to attend to myself without assistance. For the first few days I felt like quite the invalid, my mum even had to help me to shower. I was scared to use the loo, it hurt to laugh, I daren’t sneeze or cough and I couldn’t believe how difficult the most menial of tasks were.
I’d always heard of postnatal depression, wondering how mothers could be depressed about having a beautiful baby in their lives. Now I knew how easy it would be to fall into this spiral; with hormones all over the place, sleep deprivation and physical agony it would be enough to throw anyone over the edge. But thankfully when I felt low, a cuddle with my little Peanut helped to lift my spirits and gave me a reason to focus on my recovery.
Breast is best
As soon as I was wheeled out of the theater, Peanut was placed onto me to feed and it was such a loving skin to skin moment. My antenatal classes described breast feeding as being the best form of bonding with a newborn, the most natural way of giving them the nutrients they need and the most rewarding feeling for a new mum. It also meant no constant fussing over bottle sterilizers, no huge weekly shopping bill and for an added bonus, it would even help with weight loss! Sounded like a no-brainer to me!
If I’m totally honest though, breastfeeding was just as difficult, if not more so than labour itself. The psychological journey a mother needs to go on, to even produce milk in the first place, then the constant emotional torture of whether you are producing enough to satisfy your newborn and give them all they need, not forgetting the physical pain that comes with constantly maneuvering your baby to correctly latch them.
Feeding Peanut every 2 to 3 hours even through the night was so draining, both emotionally and physically. In addition to this, I was also expressing between feeds so that I could get some respite over night. Sometimes, I could hear the pulsing vibration of the breast pump in my sleep. It was however incredible to see the milk fill the bottle, it reassured me that Peanut was indeed getting what he needed from me.
But I felt ready to quit. Every single day. I had to dig deep into the reservoir of strength to get through the pain, through the biting, through the engorging. One side in particular really hurt. Each time I had to feed him off it, Peanut would be crying because he was hungry, I would be crying because it hurt me to feed him. But I persevered, and boy am I proud that I did!
Hands on husband
From day one, hubby was extremely hands on and a very active parent. This made a world of difference, after all two pairs of hands were better than one. But because I was breastfeeding, much of the strain fell on me. A father’s life changes, of course it does.. but, they can return to a form of normality after a while. As a breastfeeding mother though my life became unrecognisable.
Citizens Advice Bureau
As a new mum, one of the most challenging things is people passing constant advice and is some cases commentary on parenthood (particularly when not asked). Obviously it’s all done with the best of intentions, but it leaves very little room for mothers intuition, which I think is very important to develop. The hardest and most annoying thing for me to hear when Peanut cried was ‘maybe he’s hungry?’. It didn’t matter who said it, it just really made me feel inadequate, particularly when it would be said to me just after I had fed him. Breastfeeding is hard enough, the last thing I needed was people putting more doubt into my mind.
It takes a village
As is the norm in Indian culture, for the first fortnight, both my mum and mum in law were on hand to support Peanut, hubby and I. Cooking me special meals, helping around the house and assisting with all the nappy changes! It was tough to find the balance, in some ways I wanted to spend every second to bond with Peanut, but I knew I needed also to focus on my rest and recovery. My advice would be to take all the help that is offered, but also be vocal if you need your own time and space.
The first two weeks were by far the hardest, hubby and I were on a steep learning curve, but with each day it got a little easier and a little more familiar.
Although we are British born Indians, we found there were many Indian traditions at play when practicing parenthood. One such tradition is that of using auspicious letters to name your child which are determined on their date of birth. Our letters were D or H. I had thought of lots of names beginning within an A so I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t among the options.
We agreed that we wanted a name with meaning, and so we chose Diyan, meaning bright light in Hindi. It felt very fitting as our world was so much brighter as a result of having him.
Its OK to not always be OK
I got so used to people being around that when Hubby went back to work, I found myself at a bit of a loss. It felt much harder attending to Diyan on my own. Being a social butterfly and the owner of a newly refurbished house, I did what I knew best. I invited people round so I could be the hostess with the mostess. For me it was important to have adult conversation, for my brain to be stimulated and for my maternity leave to be more that just nappy changes and Netflix.
Sometimes though the sadness would kick in, particularly when I’d had tough day with Diyan. I’d often find myself feeling guilty for being sad, especially as I’d prayed so hard for this. But I was always very open and honest about how I was feeling and found comfort in people telling me how normal these feelings were.
Baby’s day out
Once I’d mastered staying in, I knew taking Diyan out would be the next phase. As scary and as daunting as it was, it did us both the world of good. It’s amazing what a bit of fresh air can do and I was eager to show Diyan the big outdoors. Luckily for me, I had a few friends also on maternity leave and some recent mums who had returned to work part-time, so we had lots of play dates to keep us both entertained and make the day go quickly.
The first of many firsts
I found that doing everything for the first time was scary, the first time being in the car alone with Diyan, the first bus ride, the first time feeding in public, the first time popping into the supermarket etc. But with each second time I became more confident. I knew life would be full of many more firsts and it quickly went from being daunting to being exciting.
It’s not a happy ending, it’s a happy beginning
As tough as the journey has been and as difficult as it has been to document, I wouldn’t change it for anything, for it has helped to shape the mother that I am. Here’s to the beginning of a wonderful adventure with my darling Diyan!
Thank you all for your readership, words of encouragement and your support!