All an illusion - The first 48 hours

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

Okay so maybe don't read this if you're pregnant with number 1 because it is far too late for you and you probably don't need anymore people to tell you things you don't want to hear like "you think sleep is bad now, wait until you have the baby", or "wow you're so big, it's too late now, you know you have to push that thing out".

Don't let the title fool you, there were some hard parts of the first 48 hours too, like the fact it started with 24 hours of no sleep, and the stitches, and the fact that there is no possible way to quietly rip the packaging from a giant maternity pad in the ensuite of your room at the birth centre while your father in law sits metres away on the couch at the other side of the door and then as you emerge after an awkwardly long amount of time in the bathroom everyone watches you waddle your (slightly-less) giant, floppy, new mum-bod back across the room pretending like nobody heard anything.

The part that everyone knows about the first 48 hours is that they are spent bonding as a whanau and soaking up this precious new pēpi that has finally made his entrance after 9 months of wondering which week, day, and hour he might arrive. You finally know what he looks like and how big he is - In my case, HUGE is the answer. These first moments involve a lot of healing, learning and love, things that don't usually come together. Healing your body. Learning; to breastfeed; change nappies; hold your pēpi. Loving; your new pēpi; your partner for supporting you through labour; and how whanau admire the new pēpi.

You didn't come here to read about all that cheesy stuff though, or if you did you came to the wrong place. You came here to read about the things nobody tells you, that I have recently discovered are only a very small sneak-peek into motherhood.

Breastfeeding tricks you in the first 48 hours. At that point you are breastfeeding colostrum which encourages your milk to come in but usually there is no milk until you are home. Adjusting to breastfeeding is hard regardless of whether you have feeding issues or not in my opinion. I knew already after 2 days that I had a very hungry baby who was eating every 30 mins - 1 hr and for roughly 45 mins each time. He was really trying hard to get that miraka in. Every nurse and midwife that checked said the latch was good so why was I still sore? Everything I read said there shouldn't be any pain if the latch is good, until my own midwife finally said it could just be overuse! Once my milk came in it gave a whole other part to this new māmā life I was embracing. Washing doubles because you leak on everything and nothing is safe from the milk sprays of doom - if there was a paragraph to explain the name Milky māmā, and Porky pēpi, this is it.

There is no burping in the first 48 hours or until your milk comes in, before then it's just an optional task. This means you feed and put the baby straight back down again. Once you have to burp your baby this will easily double your feeding time and if you're lucky, while you're burping your baby will fall asleep so you can put him down. Once you do put him down you might discover he is now soaking wet because while you were holding him in the perfect burping position and trying to keep your eyes open to stay awake you have leaked milk all over him.

In the first 48 hours here in the Waikato we have access to the best birth centres. Birth centres are amazing...too amazing. They trick you into thinking having a baby can't be so hard after all by doing things like cleaning, cooking, bringing your food right to you so you don't have to sit all the way on the couch with a clustering baby thinking "when in the world am I going to be able to put this baby down long enough to make something to eat". Once you get home, the couch and the kitchen may as well be on different continents and once baby daddy returns to work and whanau head overseas. The birth centre, however, will bring you food 5 times a day and it even has fresh vegetables and fruits in it.

Your partner might also do nice things to trick you like sharing the first night shift when your new pēpi is hōhā and the new big world he has entered has no whenua to feed him constantly, or amniotic fluid to keep him cosy, so he needs to be held alllll night long. Don't be fooled, this will happen a lot and if you are breastfeeding and your partner goes back to work there will be nothing he can do to save you. You will love him all the same, but you may also consider rolling him out of the bed and onto the floor if he carries on snoring.

For me I felt like I had so much more to learn than everyone else. I had never changed a newborn nappy before and I didn't have much experience with babies. I am the oldest and first in my whanau to have a pēpi. Newborn nappies are a little different to changing a 3 year olds nappy I discovered, they can't tell you if it's too loose or too tight or that the hose is pointing in the wrong direction, and they probably don't even like being undressed at all. My son was so delicate (despite his size) and I didn't know how to hold myself in a comfortable position for my stitches or how to hold him comfortably without breaking him but I had plenty of practice coming! I knew babies wear nappies and that I would have to change lots but why did nobody tell me everything goes through babies so quickly and you'll change, feed, burp, rock to sleep and then right as you put them down....brrrrrpppp. *Repeat cycle*.

Once they discharge you to go home there is this weird moment, some time between packing everything up and getting your pēpi into the car for the first time and getting him home, when you suddenly realise nobody is coming to check he is buckled in right, or that you know how and when to bathe him, or even just have the slightest idea of how to look after a baby. It doesn't seem like it at the time because every time you look at your friends they seem to have it all figured out. There is a big secret I have learned though - nobody has any idea what they are doing, we are all just winging it - that's just another part of the illusion. Midwife and Plunket nurse visits fill in the rest of what you don't know, but beware - all of their advice comes with the disclaimer that you are the parent and get to decide because you know your baby best - and you do. This little pēpi relies on you to survive now māmā and you've got this! Right?

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