Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Phew I'm sorry there hasn't been a post for a little while. It turns out reopening your small business in lifting lockdown, ensuring it meets all COVID secure guidelines, is quite the time consuming task! But enough about that, you're here to hear about postnatal life (although we'll of course at some point come to lockdown parenting and the challenges that brought up!).
Day 3. Well what can I say about day 3. I was warned, I was. Day 3 postpartum is renowned as being a particularly difficult one. It's the day your milk comes in. Whether you chose to breastfeed or not your milk is still coming in whether you like it or not, and that comes with a huge influx of hormones. By 'milk coming in' I'll explain this a little bit more. When you first have your baby you don't immediately produce breast milk. As we've talked about before you first produce colostrum (the 'liquid gold' stuff) but around 2-4 days after giving birth that's when your milk 'comes in'. Your breasts will noticeably become fuller as they are now filling up with milk and after each feed, if you chose to breastfed, your body is incredibly clever and learns, and knows, how to make enough milk for the next feed. All very clever. So that's happening, but like I said it also comes with a huge surge of hormones.
By day 3 it's also likely you won't be in hospital anymore. I was told that , on average in the UK, women stay in hospital for a day and a half if they have an uncomplicated labour and baby is feeding well. For a c-section I believe it's more common to stay in for around 3-4 days. At my hospital they also wouldn't discharge you until a midwife had observed a successful feed (this was for breastfeeding) but I don't know if this is policy across the NHS or just at the maternity ward I was on. Either way I gave birth at 4:33 AM on Saturday 5th October and we were discharged at around 8 PM on Sunday 6th October. With how straightforward my labour was I don't know if we would have even been in this long had we not opted for a private room.In the good ol' days women got to spend the first 2 weeks in hospital and the baby's were taken into a nursery at night so you could catch up on sleep. No such thing anymore! Leaving at 8 PM in October lead to a very slow and scary drive home in the pitch black with me sitting nervously in the back checking my son was breathing because we didn't trust the angle his neck was at in the car seat. Of course he was fine and sitting perfectly in his car seat but as new first-time parents you will be paranoid about EVERYTHING at the beginning.
So you're home, you're recovering from the most physically draining thing you will have ever done in your life and I can pretty much guarantee you won't be getting enough sleep. Newborn babies often sleep really well for the first 24 hours or so because apparently they still think they're in the womb and haven't adjusted to the fact they're in the outside world. It really lulls you into a fall sense of security. But by the time you've left the hospital and you're home, slightly terrified you've just been waved off and entrusted with this tiny, precious new life, your little bundle of joy decides it's time to party all night and all day long. It is true that newborns do sleep for most of the day. But not in helpful solid chunks. More like little spurts of sleep which don't give you enough time to do anything, particularly when you're moving very slowly and tentatively because of the stitches in your vagina or your stomach. So you will be sleep deprived already by day 3.
Let's count this all up then:
Stitches - check
Whole body hurting like you didn't know it could - check
Sleep deprivation - check
Milk coming in - check
Hormone surge - check
It's no wonder that for a lot of new parents you also then get:
Anxiety over what they hell you're meant to be doing and whether you're doing it right -check
For me this went to another level. Day 3 is when my Postnatal Anxiety first really reared it's very ugly head. We hear so much about Postnatal Depression, but often not so much about Postnatal Anxiety but it's an equally awful beast. By this point I had already descended into frantically Googling everything; panicking that what I was doing was always the wrong thing and feeling like I didn't have a clue what I was doing (my community Midwife actually banned me from Google a few days later because I was obsessive). But day 3 was the day I also thought I was dying. Seriously. I'm not being over-dramatic here or exaggerating to make this story more interesting. On day 3 I truly thought I was dying. I couldn't believe that it was normal to feel as awful as I did at that point so I thought that there had to be something wrong. I thought I must have sepsis, or have caught an infection or something, anything, I spiraled into anxiety hard. At about 1 AM that morning I turned to my husband and told him straight up "I think I'm dying." He was obviously very concerned but he's also, thankfully, quite possibly the most chilled out and non-anxious person I've ever met so, again thankfully, he was quite a bit more level headed in the situation and reassured me that I probably wasn't dying. I nodded, tears streaming down my face, and carried on with whatever number cycle I was already on of feed-change-sleep with my tiny screaming baby, however I was still spiraling internally truly thinking that I was going to die.
Later on, on day 3, we also found out we had to return to hospital for a jaundice check on my son. Jaundice is very common in newborn babies and the community Midwives who come and do visits at home check for it regularly. Now my son had been a little jaundice at the beginning but by day 3 the Midwife was concerned about the levels of jaundice she was seeing so said we had to go back into hospital. So I already think I'm dying but now I think at least we're returning to hospital! However this meant dragging my incredibly sore, recovering postpartum body out of bed, with heavy postpartum bleeding in my adult nappies, having to get dressed, get in the car for the 35 minute drive back to hospital and drag my body out again at the other end. I don't know if anyone has ever been to The Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford before. It's a fantastic hospital and the staff have always been wonderful, but it has the worst hospital parking I have ever experienced. It's also the most expensive hospital parking in the country too. So you get to pay through the nose for the pleasure of the worst parking. It, on average, has taken us at least 45 minutes to park every time we've been, apart from when I actually gave birth thankfully as it was so early in the morning. But you just have to circle the tiny cramped, car park trying to find a space. Finally we found one. But the spaces are so small you can't park and then get a baby car seat out and there are no parents and child spaces. So we have to then pull back out of our precious space we've managed to lay claim too, to get the baby out. It then starts to pour with rain. And I mean torrential downpour. So I'm now standing in the car park, drenched, trying to get the baby seat out for the first time on my own as my husband is in the drivers seat, with cars now signalling trying to take our parking space thinking we're leaving and I'm waving them round. Finally I get the seat out and realise it's the heaviest thing I've ever tried to carry. So now I've got to start waddling towards the hospital entrance while my husband finishes parking, lugging the car seat and my baby in the pouring rain whilst also trying to not tear open my stitches. All while already thinking I was dying. And my milk is coming in. FUN.
Finally we get inside and up to the Maternity Ward. They knew we were coming and took us into a little room for the jaundice check. It turns out this check is literally just a little handheld machine they gently press on his chest that within seconds say his levels are fine and he doesn't need any further treatment. They smile and tell us we can go. Shell shocked we sit there. By this point it's over an hour and a half since we left our home, we're drenched and that was it. It turns out the little handheld machine is so ridiculously expensive that they can't afford to give the community Midwives this amazing piece of equipment that would have saved us a very long arduous journey. Not the Midwives fault of course but we were both just a bit shocked. However the return to hospital was worth it because of my husband. At this point I burst into tears,the Midwife understandably thinks it's just because I'm relieved my son doesn't need any further treatment but my husband spoke up for me when I couldn't. In that moment, when the Postnatal Anxiety had started to tell me internally I shouldn't say anything about how I was feeling, he told the midwife that I felt unwell and that I had said thought I was dying. I am so grateful he was there because I would have left, feeling horrendous, but because of him we didn't. Because of him they took us to a spare private room, fitted me up to a monitor and did full observations on me for over an hour to check I was physically OK. Once it had been established that yes I was physically OK and no I actually wasn't dying it also meant that a specialist mental health Midwife was able to come and talk to me, give me advice and support me. It also meant that my Community Midwife visits were extended so they could continue to support me. It also then meant that my Health Visitor visits continued to be more frequent and in my home rather than at a centre for months so they could then support me. All because he spoke up and advocated for me in that moment. It had taken a lot for me to turn to him at 1 AM that morning and tell him I thought something was horribly wrong but I will forever be grateful I did. Because it kick-started a whole network of further support that I so badly needed.
The hardest thing with Postnatal Anxiety and Depression is speaking up about it. Because inherently they are wicked things that make you feel like you're awful, like you're a bad Mum who doesn't know how to look after their baby and is doing everything wrong. But you're not. And speaking to someone, anyone who will support you, about it is the first, hardest and most important step. Because then you can start to get the help and support you need. And I needed help and support. Within 10 days of giving birth I had taken myself back to my GP, at the encouragement of my husband and the amazing Community Midwifes, and I was referred for Postpartum CBT. Now I didn't know this at the time but if you are pregnant or postpartum, in my area at least, you get fast tracked for Mental Health Support. So less than 2 weeks later I had already been assessed over the phone and had begun 1-2-1 therapy sessions that helped me enormously. All on the NHS, so free for anyone who doesn't understand what that means outside of the UK. Bloody incredible. So please if you feel at all like you're even struggling, even a tiny bit, reach out. You don't have to think you're dying to get help! No one will judge you and the framework is there to support you. And also remember that Day 3 is a b***h regardless, but you will get through it.