Early Motherhood – The End of the Paternity Leave
The first part is here.
The next few weeks were very stressful and confusing for me.
I have already posted about how the ex hated my midwife, and I was therefore keen to have her discharge us from hospital care. S was still jaundiced, and I was terrified they would take her back into hospital; I knew if they did this, I wouldn’t be admitted with her, and would have to be separated from her. That first visit, the midwife did another heel-prick test on S for her jaundice levels and weighed her. She had lost a bit of weight and I nearly cried. She told me the best thing to do was to feed, feed, feed, and to prop up the head end of her Moses basket to avoid any vomiting. I was also supposed to express milk into a cup or syringe, and top her up after feeding. This was the most depressing thing, as I didn’t have a pump and had to do it by hand; it took ages and hurt, and was often wasted as S turned her head away at the wrong moment. Premature and jaundiced babies are often too tired to suck enough to feed as much as they need to get rid of the jaundice and put on weight. S slept most of the time, and I was still waking her every 3 hours to feed.
That first day, the ex busied himself unpacking what was left of the boxes in my flat, and putting things where he thought they should belong. He went out to get teabags, and came back with a microwave. He’d forgotten the teabags, so he went back out and came back with a vacuum cleaner, broom, dustpan and brush and mop and some random food: bread, jam, cheese. He wanted to provide for us. I avoid eating bread because it makes me ill. I already had a dustpan and brush. I don’t even drink tea. When I took the mop out of its box, it was broken. When I pointed it out to him he shouted at me: “I can’t do anything f***ing right can I, nothing’s good enough!” All I’d meant was that perhaps he’d like to take it back to the shop and exchange it. At one point he told me he might not be able to get a sitter to be able to see me over the weekend, and gave me £20, sending me to the shops to buy some food for myself. I left S sleeping in her bouncy chair, and him organising things in a cupboard, and wandered into town. It was nice to be out in the air, but I felt like I was missing a limb without S. It also crossed my mind more than once that I might return home and find that the ex had taken her away. I half expected the house to be empty when I returned, but it wasn’t so I sat on the sofa with S and fed her early.
Because of the damp upstairs, the council had brought over a dehumidifier the size of a cooker. It was in the bedroom, wired up to some special box because it was too powerful to run off the mains. The man who brought it showed the ex how to work it, but he never showed me. This meant I couldn’t switch it off, and the noise and heat it generated were too much to sleep with. For the next week, S and I slept downstairs, me on the sofa and her in the Moses basket next to me. I was still setting my alarm for every 3 hours, and would wake up, switch the TV on and feed her, then settle her back into the basket, switch the TV off and go to sleep.
Several times, I then woke up half an hour later in a panic – I couldn’t remember putting S in her basket, had I fallen asleep holding her? Where was she? Oh God, you’ve suffocated the baby, where is she, where is she… oh wait, she’s in the basket next to you. I would also regularly wake up in a panic, convinced I’d slept through an alarm and S had gone more than 3 hours without a feed. I was exhausted and it was driving me mad. All I could think about was making sure she was fed on time so that her jaundice went, and she put on weight, and nobody would take her away from me.
The following day the ex was unable to visit. My mother came round instead, with a friend. They brought gifts for S, clothes that would fit her which was good. I forget what we talked about. When they left, the friend gave me a hug and told me I’d done really well and S was beautiful. I didn’t know how to respond to that; I wanted to shout at her, no I haven’t done well! Look what I did, I went into labour early and now my baby is tiny and orange and they’re going to take her away because I’m doing it all wrong!! I knew it was all my fault, that something I had done over the Easter weekend had resulted in my going into labour 5 weeks early. Throughout my pregnancy the ex had told me so many times that other women had been pregnant with his child and ended up having abortions, they’d murdered his babies, and that if anything happened to this baby he would never forgive me.
The midwife visited a couple more times, and then discharged us. I was so relieved at this; no more tension with the ex thinking I was telling the midwife bad things about him. More importantly, if the midwife had discharged us then I thought she must think I was doing an ok job, and wouldn’t take my baby away. I was petrified those first few weeks that I would be somehow “found out” and they would take S back to the hospital, where she would be safe away from me.
The pushchair I had bought was quite large and cumbersome. I found that I wasn’t comfortable bumping it up and down the stairs with my tiny baby in it. This meant that I could only go out of the house when accompanied by the ex. If he didn’t visit, or came round and didn’t fancy going out, I was stuck in the house. I wanted to buy a sling, but had no money until pay day. A dear friend must have realised I was going a bit mad being stuck in the house, and posted me a sling she had not been able to get on with for her baby. The minute it arrived, I read the instructions as to how to tie it, put it on, and put S in it. That day was like a transformation in me. I didn’t just wear the sling to go out; I wore it all the time, happy that I could now keep S close to me. The ex insisted S would not be warm enough in the sling, and bought a snowsuit which she had to wear whenever we went out.
The week after we came out of hospital, we went to the council offices to register S’s birth. As was standard, S was wrapped in 3 or 4 blankets inside of the pram, with a rain cover over the top because of the weather. How she never overheated during those first few weeks, I will never know. She must have been boiling. When we arrived at the office, we had to leave the pram outside and go into a waiting room. The ex carried S. He held her in the waiting room, and refused to let me near her. When we went into the office to register her, he held her. At the time I felt strange, not being allowed to hold my child. Looking back at it, I notice that I was not allowed to hold my child until I had signed the register, put his name on the birth certificate, and answered the registrar three times that yes, I was sure I wanted her to have his surname and him to be on the birth certificate. I couldn’t figure out why she kept asking me, and telling me that it was my choice, and mine alone. I held S briefly while he signed the register, but then I had to give her back. We were given copies of the birth certificate, and we left.
I was glad when S was back in the pushchair, because I was allowed to push that. I did it wrong, of course, and was constantly told I was being stupid about waiting to cross the road and not bumping up and down kirbs. His favourite trick was to suddenly take off down a steep kirb and cross the road diagonally, then turn around to smirk at me trying to get across the road and keep up with him without getting run over. He also regularly tutted at me for being too slow and cautious. On the days we took her out in the sling, again he stormed off ahead of us, and I had to try and keep up without having S bump about too much in the sling.
None of this turned out to matter though; within a week the ex had stormed out, and a few days after that he finished with me. I was soon to become a single mother.
I laughed and cried at the same time reading this sentence:<br /><br />"I wanted to shout at her, no I haven't done well! Look what I did, I went into labour early and now my baby is tiny and orange and they're going to take her away because I'm doing it all wrong!!"<br /><br />Bless you, something about the 'now my baby is tiny and orange' really tickled me and made