My daughter turned 6 months two days ago. 6 months of her. My life feels almost unrecognizable now. Everything is new – for the both of us. I felt this was a good time to reflect on the days following her birth – a precious time of my life that was equally chaotic as it was sacred – imprinted into the fabric of my soul forever more.
The first two weeks of life with Reya were like a dream. My memories of those days, my first fumbling steps into motherhood are surrounded by a sleepless blur. It was one of the most surreal and most magical periods of my life.
One week before giving birth to Reya, we had moved into a new home. Our first home. Life was full, to say the least. Our friends and family all pulled together to help us move and make our house ready for a newborn. We did the best we could with our limited time and MY limited energy (lol), but we still had garbage bags stuck to our windows as temporary blinds so – things were far from complete, but it was enough.
We only had the absolute bare essentials to welcome her; a car seat, a stroller, a bassinet, a breast pump, 2 preemie onesies, 1 newborn onesie, a few muslin blankets. Preparing for her before her arrival, felt like too big of a task for my heart to take. I couldn’t bare the thought of having to quietly put everything away, if we were to lose another daughter. It perhaps sounds grim but I just couldn’t be sure that she would live until the moment the doctor placed her into my arms.
And because we had very little things for her, in the first few weeks, evenings were filled with my husband running to the shops after work, to buy all the other things we quickly discovered we also needed.
We tried to be as minimal as possible, as we knew from the beginning we didn’t want to hoard tonns of “stuff.” I’m glad we approached preparing for a baby in this way, because we ended up having only what we truly needed and that was more than enough. Reya has worn all of her clothes many times, and none has gone to waste. It has made each of her sweet little onesies so much more valuable and cherished to me.
You can read more fully about her birth here. We had mentally prepared ourselves for at least a 2 week NICU stay after her birth – since she arrived a month early. It took us by great surprise when we were discharged 2 days after my C-section. Reya weighed a few grams over the cut off mark for the NICU, and she was doing well without any medical assistance, so we were free to go home. We couldn’t believe it! But how excited we were to bring our baby home.
My mom holding Reya.
Once we brought her home, I don’t think I slept for about 2 or 3 days. I had to feed her every 2 hours, including during the night, so sleep was a distant option. The two hour countdown to the next feed began at the beginning of a feed too – which made the whole process even more relentless. The process would begin with me attempting to breastfeed her to which she would scream in absolute outrage. We would wrestle around for about ten minutes before we both were exhausted, and I would give up and go and try to warm up some pre-pumped breastmilk. She would take almost 40 minutes to finish her milk, and then a frantic diaper change (which she hated and would scream through the whole thing), followed by pumping, and cleaning her bottles and all my pumping paraphernalia – after all of that was done, we were left with maybe just 30 minutes before we were due to do it all over again!
The first month was a month of learning. The days and nights started blurring and melting into one another. There was no difference between 3pm in the afternoon and 3am in the morning – we were always running through the same feeding-changing-pumping-cuddling-sleeping cycles. “Is this real? Is she real?” I would keep asking myself. Do I really get to keep her? Will I ever get to sleep again? Did I eat today? What day is it? If you are awake all the time, when does one day end and the next day begin?
We were running on adrenaline. I was drawn to her cry. I sprung into action. There were days when we were absolutely exhausted, and I would try to sleep every time Reya slept. And because I wouldn’t spend her nap times preparing for her next awake time, everything was a frantic rush when she would wake, with a screaming baby attached to me. Everything remained undone. To-do lists piling up. Everything backwards. But she is warm and fed and loved. And maybe thats enough.
Reya was just 4lbs70z/2.06kg. I have never held a baby so tiny. It’s difficult to describe just how small she was when she was born. It’s even difficult for me to imagine it anymore. But I do remember realizing that her entire forearm was just as long and as wide as my thumb.
There were days when I felt hopeless. There were days when I felt like I was doing everything wrong. She was frustrated and I was frustrated, but then I realized that with every day that passes, we are just learning each other. I’m new to this, and she is too. We just have to figure it out together. With each day that passes, my daughter introduces me to herself. And with each day that passes, my daughter introduces me to myself.
In these moments of hopelessness, I would look into my daughters eyes I knew I was made for this. I knew we had been together before, for lifetimes. I knew I was made to be a mother, to be her mother, to be my Mia’s mother. I knew I had exactly what it takes.
Honestly, there aren’t many things, if any at all, in my life that I feel this sure about.
But this I know for sure.
Reya was a little jaundiced when she was born, and was not breastfeeding well, so for the first 3 weeks we were at the hospital almost every day to get her blood checked, and to stop by at the breastfeeding clinic for some help from the lactation consultants. The jaundice slowly cleared up as she started to learn how to feed better. Once we crossed her due date, it was like she suddenly matured and picked up how to do it. That was a relief. It took us 4 weeks to learn how to breastfeed. 6 weeks to do it comfortably.
My husband and I would meet bleary eyed in middle of the hallway at 3am in the morning. He, carrying a screaming baby, me rushing to warm up some milk for her. Our relationship changed. It wasn’t about just us anymore. There were moments I missed the ease of our life before Reya – the things we would do together, the cuddles and intimacy, the effortless, the spontaneity of our life together. Now – everything had to be planned and thought out. It once took me 2 hours to leave the house with Reya, because it was all so new. Packing the diaper bag was a huge mental task for me – what exactly does she need?! And since breastfeeding was a work in progress, we had to make sure we had packed all her feeding paraphenelia. It all felt very complicated. Once the bag was packed, then I had to get myself and her ready. As soon as she was ready, she would poop, or puke, or enough time would have passed that she would be hungry again, and we would have to start the process again. It was C H A O S.
I am somebody who likes to leave the house with just my phone and purse, and sometimes not even that. Now I have to pack an entire backpack of items, a stroller, a baby carrier, and not to forget – my baby. It was a steep learning curve. But months later, I can tell you now – it does get easier. Now we have several systems in place to make our life more streamlined, and getting out of the house is not a daunting process. We can do it in record times now! And since we have figured out breastfeeding, it has made our life so much more convenient. No more packing bottles, and ice packs, and hot water, and nipples and bottlenecks etc.
One month old.
As time went on, we started to fit into our new life. We love together, we discover together, we learn together, we grow together.
It was, and still is, a truly humbling experience, to be so closely entwined in a new human beings introduction to the world. I am reminded of it every single day.
Love at first sight.
Oh, how wonderful and intense and healing and sweet and scary it has been – life with my rainbow baby.
Here’s the little bug now:
Thank you friends,
for following along on this journey.