We will never get these first precious weeks back again. Time slips away fast amongst the chaos of the early newborn days. Blink, and you’ll miss them.
The washing machine on an endless cycle. Wash, dry, wear, soil, remove, repeat. Still the piles of stained clothing grow uncontrollably. Sitting under a baby is a full-time job with not enough bathroom breaks. Working so hard at establishing breastfeeding with a partner that latches awkwardly. Who refuses to detach without causing as much damage as possible. Compresses and salve smeared on bruised nipples. Hours of painful cluster feeding with a hangry, impatient and uncooperative baby. The milk finally flows in abundance. Too much abundance. Cabbage leaves and pads stuffed down damp tops to try and stem the flow to a manageable level. The baby snorts mouthfuls of milk everywhere in protest. Simultaneously filling yet another fresh nappy with a staccato parp parp parp… squelch.
Hitting pause at any opportunity for a rare moment of calmness. Deep breaths. The delicious newborn cuddles and snuggles. Memorising things as they are right now, before incremental small changes take what is Now away forever. Red berry bruises disappear and the cone-shaped head morphs into more normal proportions. Downy hair receding. Limbs growing longer, stronger. Babygro shrinking. Watching the newly-minted big brother admire with great pride this complacent little being who gazes back in awe. Eyes focusing. Wondering. Learning fast. Soon jerky arms enthusiastically react to a familiar face looming above. Cries of need turn more often into amicable grunts and conversational yelps.
Breakfast merges into lunch merges into dinner, merges into bedtime. Now stacks of dirty dishes add to the mess waiting for attention. Washing, drying, folding, storing. Cooking, cleaning, sweeping. Eating food that is always cold. Dividing our attention between two children and a carousel of people who want their chance to hold the baby. Composing text messages piecemeal between urgent demands from one or both children before finally managing to hit send several hours later. Nappies, wailing, feeding, nappies, feeding, puking, changing. Half-drunk cups of tea discarded about the house. Mounds of soiled nappies in every room.
What do you mean he’s already a month old?
The endless sleep deprivation. One hour seems much like the last. Only the numbers change slightly. 4 feeds, 1 pee, 3 farty poops, 20 minutes walking around the room comforting, 5 minutes sleep… regaled the remainder of the time by a screaming baby. That treasured hour, maybe two, of relaxation between child’s bedtime and our bedtime is no more. Swallowed up by endlessly comforting, feeding, winding, rocking, holding, until sleep finally overtakes this stubborn baby.
Sitting in a dimly lit room. The house silent bar the baby monitor relaying lullabies that soothe a sleeping boy upstairs. Down here a little warm body snuggled up on my chest, fiercely determined that he will not be laid down alone. Glued to the only familiar constant that bridges the chasm between Before and Now. Craving warmth and the steady thud of a heart nearby. Soft little grunts as his chest rises and falls at its own speedier pace. Legs curled up in frog position. Sleeping, mouth gaping wide, with the utter content of a baby that feels safe and secure. Knocked out in a milky coma.
I stroke the silky soft hair, dip my head and breathe in the indescribable scent of newborn baby. All too aware this time that the days fly past with appointments, obligations and general survival. Until suddenly you realise that the newborn days are long past. Every first with this baby also brings a last. This time I try to savour the special moments in amongst the insanity of sleep deprivation, constant feeding and inevitable poonamis from one, and epic tantrums from another. It’s not easy to pause and see the bigger picture with two children on the go.
Blue eyes crack open and peer up up through delicate lashes. Searching. Finding. Then gradually closing once more. I watch that serious pudgy little face at peace. Hands curled under chin at seemingly uncomfortable angles. Lips flop open. Sighs of relief all round. The adults relax briefly before reluctantly searching for sleep ourselves. The lull between the storms. Another day survived. Another night yet to contend with.
The loneliest hours of the night pass in a blur. The division between asleep and awake is flimsy. Warm wet patches on yet another baby gro. Food being expelled from both ends. Straining, squirming. A little face all scrunched up in discomfort turning rapidly to anger at the world. Stumble to the changing table. Newborn wails shatter the night while we wrestle uncooperative limbs that are surprisingly strong. Open up a nappy to see what delights await within. Hastily clean and attempt to appease the offended party. Then reposition the now kicking, squalling baby until his jaws open wide and he fiercely latches. An angry clamp that makes you wince as he sucks, sucks, and slowly, slowly relaxes his body. Fists unclench, tense shoulders loosen. Silence descends once more apart from gulps and small snuffly puffs of breath.
Legs dangle freely. Hands lose their grip. Jaw relaxes. All motion stops for seconds at a time. A small tug and the little contented sucks eventually come to an end. A satisfied sigh. He reluctantly detaches. Head lolls back. Replete. Complete. Now the delicate dance to slowly maneuver him down to bed once more without waking the beast and starting the whole process over again. Slowly, carefully returning to sleep. Hoping that the gap before one or both child awakes once more will be longer, but resigned to sleeping in blocks of maybe two hours at a time.