I can’t believe Ava is five weeks old now! So much to write and talk about and yet I have no idea how to organise my thoughts and experiences! I think I’ll do a brief run down to start with:
Ava was just 4lb 10oz when she was born. Andrew is 6ft 3, and I’m by no means small so I was convinced we would have a big 10lb baby and I measured right on point throughout the pregnancy so it was a shock when she arrived. She was TINY. We had to stay in hospital for six days as her weight and blood sugars needed to be checked, thankfully she’s perfectly healthy and has been guzzling milk like there’s no tomorrow (that’ll be the hourly feeding, then). She only lost 1.8% of her weight in that week and has gained nearly a pound a week since then- she’s now a whole 7lb 9oz! Still smaller than some of our friends’ babies who were born this week but she seems massive to me, and is growing beautifully. They diagnosed me with intrauterine growth restriction and my placenta was very small but we don’t know why. She had obviously stopped growing so well at some point and my placenta had started to calcify which means it was getting to the end of its life even at 38 weeks, so lucky she came when she did. Next time (if we’re blessed enough to have another baby) we’ll be monitored and scanned more regularly.
We came home! This week is a blur, lots of visitors and cuddles here. I breastfed from the start (with formula top ups initially as we were keeping up her weight in hospital) and Ava fed hourly- on the hour, every hour! Extremely tough! I was hugely emotional and struggled with the baby blues (more about those and postnatal depression another time!). But mostly a very special time of snuggling down and enjoying our new precious family.
These weeks were a struggle! Ava was extremely unsettled and cried A LOT of the time. She seemed to be in a lot of pain after feeds, very windy and colicky and had reflux. I was sleep deprived and had awful anxiety- probably related to our start in hospital and the fact that she was so small she fed constantly. Cue some extra visits from our lovely midwives, health visitor, a breast feeding councillor and some visits to the GP for both of us and we started to manage a little better. After trying various prescribed and over-the counter remedies for Ava’s pain and reflux and a formula change we decided to go right back to basics and remove everything but breastmilk from her diet. We stopped the drugs, vitamins and formula and she immediately improved. She became more comfortable, slept longer and her reflux improved. I discussed my feelings with the GP and started to realise that I had postnatal depression. As soon as this was recognised (more by family and Andrew than me!) I was supported brilliantly and am working hard to feel better.
I am in love! Ava is a settled, happy baby (this week!). I am exclusively breastfeeding and after attending a breastfeeding class and being shown some really comfortable positions from a breast feeding councillor I am finding it so much easier. Ava is feeding less at night so we are managing to sleep more and I’m enjoying every aspect of motherhood! We go out most days and have started a post-natal class. I feel more confident and am emerging from a hormonal fog of anxiety and sadness. It isn’t something I ever thought would happen to me but I have tried to be honest about it with everyone, right from the start. I openly say that I struggled at the start because if I didn’t, it would imply that it was something to be ashamed of. It can happen to anyone at any time and I’m really lucky that the people around me recognised how ill I was becoming. One day, if I’m ever brave enough, I’ll write about it in more detail but suffice to say I’m improving and feel happy and content at the moment.
The last five weeks have been the biggest learning curve I’ve ever been through. It was really only today after attending my first NCT class and hearing other mums stories of their first few weeks/months I realised that there is no ‘right’ way to do this. But I feel more confident that I can trust my instincts when it comes to my baby and that we’re doing a great job so far! She’s healthy, putting on weight and ever so happy. I got my first smile on mother’s day which was the best present and today, I managed to get up and out of the house by 9.30am!
Day by day I’m learning so much and falling more and more in love with Ava. I can’t imagine not being a mother, and every day is so exciting. In my sad, anxiety filled, sleep deprived moments over the last month my mum has always whispered gently in my ear “you’ve got this.” She believed in me steadfastly and with the confidence that only now I have.
And she’s right. I have.