Tuesday 25 July 2017

Yvonne Hogan - Along came baby

Dressing for breastfeeding is hard, as Yvonne discovers in Dundrum...

The first two weeks with the baby have been quite a steep learning curve. It took me quite a few days to realise that she wasn't going to fit into my schedule. I would have to fit into hers. And dear God, hungry newborn babies are uncompromising. When they want food, they want it straight away.

They don't care whether or not you are wearing something conducive to breastfeeding with an audience; they aren't bothered by the mortified husband; the old man staring or the group of teenage boys giggling and watching in part fascination, part horror as you struggle to maintain some sort of modesty.

Oh no. "That's your problem," they scream. "I am going to eat now!"

So, in our first week together out in the big bad world, I have had to lob out a boob and feed her on the Luas, in a café, and sitting on a concrete step in the car park of Dundrum Town Centre (my husband forgot where we parked the car and had to walk every floor until he found it, which took almost an hour - it isn't just mammies who get baby brain, you know).

And dressing for breastfeeding is hard. Much harder than maternity dressing. Whatever you wear has to button down the front or the side, and you can only wear separates --or you end up exposing a lot more than a bit of breast. On one unplanned public feeding occasion, I was wearing a jumper dress. It wasn't pretty.

I didn't want to buy any clothes until I had lost the baby weight -- 9kg for those who are interested -- but I think I will have to, and soon.

Anyway, in hindsight, this unscheduled public feeding hasn't been such a bad thing. There is nothing like a screaming baby and the staring eyes of strangers to make you forget about the pain of a piranha-like baby latching on to a sore nipple.

I reckon our baptisms of fire pushed us forward at least a week in terms of getting comfortable with breast-feeding.

Two weeks in, we are now old pros and can do it pretty much any time, any place.

Now that I have accepted that my day is no longer divided into hours and minutes, but feeds and nappy changes, I must say I am quite enjoying this slow-moving, baby-centred universe.

We get up at about 9am, have breakfast -- she goes first, of course -- then I have a shower, get dressed and do some housework while she sleeps. Then, she has another feed and sits in her swing while I potter.

We go for a walk, weather permitting, then a feed, then we play or go for a coffee if we don't have a visitor, then a feed, nappy change, then I stare at her for a couple of hours, then a feed, a nappy change, and, before we know it, it is bedtime.

We sleep generally in one to three-hour stints punctuated by feeds -- I am ashamed to say that I still don't wake when she cries, my husband has to rouse me from my slumber -- and the next day we do it all again. It's a good life.

And the support from the State for new babies is amazing. In our 10 days at home, we have had three visits from Lou, our public health nurse.

She looks after Ava while I shower, weighs her and checks that she is doing okay, answers any questions and stays for a coffee and a chat.

It's not all fun and games, however. The feeding can sometimes hurt like hell and there are times when I feel like a dairy cow and find it relentless. I am still afraid to bathe her in case I drop her or she drowns.

I dread the first night we have to spend alone in case I don't wake up to feed her, and I frequently worry that there might be something wrong with her.

The other day, for example, I was holding her and got a fright when the doorbell rang and let a yelp out of me. She didn't even flinch. "Oh God, what if she's deaf?" I said to my husband. I spent the rest of the day standing behind her barking "ba" into her ear like the nun from that 1980s ad. She did not like that.

Maybe it is the baby brain, which isn't a myth -- I brushed my teeth with hand cream just this morning -- but I really can't remember what life was like before I had Ava. I can't imagine being without her.

I can't stop looking at her as she changes, quite literally in front of my eyes.

Every morning she looks different, she does something new and I don't want to miss a second of it. I plan to spend the foreseeable future watching her grow.

So it's goodbye and Happy New Year from me and my little pal.

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