I did my best to prepare for the arrival of my baby. I went to antenatal classes, joined web forums, registered with various mailing lists which promised free products I never used. I also bought a book or two. I was fairly relaxed and excited about the birth, but I didn't really think too much beyond that.
If people asked me "will you breastfeed?" I would reply "hopefully", but I wasn't sure if I would be able to so I had a few cartons of formula in the nursery just in case. We would take each day with our baby one day at a time.
Then the day came that I went into labour. Everything was pretty uncomplicated and we spent a couple of nights in hospital with midwives on hand and me being told what I could and couldn't do (I wasn't allowed to carry my baby to the toilet with me for instance). Finally after checking we could safely strap baby into her car seat we were released. We were on our own.
After the short drive home we sat together in our front room. What now? Suddenly we had responsibility for this tiny little bundle which 48 hours before was safely protected in my tummy. Now she was in a car seat on the floor in front of us. We worried if she was too hot or too cold. Was she hungry? Was she sleeping enough or too much? Was her skin too yellow? Was the umbilical cord infected? It looked pretty red. Should we be holding her or be putting her in the Moses basket?
All these thoughts and more flew through our minds in the first 5 minutes.
I honestly don't remember too much about those first few weeks, but I remember one prevailing thought "this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life". I have done some difficult things in my life, I have challenged myself and been challenged by others, but that little person pushed me harder than anything I had ever experienced. Her total dependency on me while I was trying to recover from birth was relentless. Especially in that first week when she only wanted to sleep on me. She needed me and I needed her. When she cried it caused me physical pain. Yes other people could probably have comforted her, but her crying in someone else's arms was so much harder for me than if I held her. We had many visitors in those first few weeks. They all wanted to coo and cuddle her, but a few minutes without my baby left me aching to touch her. I wanted to snatch her back.
I was exhausted, but did I sleep when they baby slept? No. I would just stare at her. My beautiful, precious girl. I could spend hours looking at her. My reason for existing had suddenly changed, I was here to look after her. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. In pain and petrified, but so in love. So happy. So proud.
In those early days with my first child I wish someone had told me:
You aren't meant to know everything.
Seek advice but only follow what sounds right for you.
Don't expect to do anything in those first few weeks other than care for your baby.
You should focus on looking after the baby, everyone else should be looking after you, the house etc.
Remember your body has been through a lot and you need time to heal.
If you don't bond instantly with the baby, don't worry it will come.
When you look back both the good and bad days will have passed so quickly and you will miss them.
The newborn days will be hard, but amazing.