In every parenting book ever the author talks about the moment you as a parent are let go from the hospital and cue, mini panic attack. I was no exception from the feeling they were making a mistake allowing me to take home and care for a tiny human. Surely there was at least a test I should have to take? Or a vetting… like if I were to adopt a dog? No? Sure?
But that moment came a little while after. I stayed in hospital for all of 24 hours. I was shown to my ward at 3am and only shed a little tear after Darren left so as not to make his leaving any more difficult for him. Unfortunately hospital policy meant the dads/partners couldn’t spend the night and he later said leaving us was the hardest thing he has ever had to do. I think next time (next time?!) we’ll spend that bit extra for a private room so he can stay – and we can maybe both get some shut eye.
I got very little sleep that night as the baby next to us screamed for hours, but Jellybean snoozed right through it all. To be fair, she had just gone through birth so I’d say she was pretty knackered.
The next morning, after a full day of nurses popping in and out, help with breastfeeding, a mini photoshoot for Jellybean, a visit from the new Grandmother, calls and texts from family and friends, a Facebook update welcoming the little one and a pretty decent – for hospital food – curry, we were given the all clear and signed off on observation. I was in a ward with two other people and I was glad to leave. So at 10pm, tired and still a bit fragile on my part, we strapped the little one into her car seat and got ready to leave. And all hell broke loose. She opened her mouth and really let us know how well her lungs worked with the cries that came out of her. She had been so subdued all day it was if she was suddenly aware she was no longer in my belly – and perhaps that’s exactly what it was! But Christ, was it the most stressful moment not being able to calm her. Flustered, I floundered about trying to soothe her, hushing her and awkwardly jiggling about, I can only imagine what the midwife who passed must have thought. Thankfully she took pity on us and gave the struggling new parents their first lesson in baby. We were discharged (seriously, after that, they still discharged us) and we headed straight for the car. Time to try out the forever-suggested car trip to soothe her cries a lot earlier than we had anticipated.
It is no exaggeration when I say we live ten minutes from the hospital, but it seemed like the journey length had doubled. We got home, settled her with some calming music and got ready for the first night at home.
Jellybean was placed in the crib at the foot of our bed and snoozed away. It took all of ten minutes for me to throw my pillow to the end of the bed and sleep with my head near her. I have never experienced such an exhilarating exhaustion in my life. I was so tired but couldn’t sleep for fear something would happen to her and I wouldn’t notice.
What if she was hungry? Threw up on herself? Or choked on it? Or miraculously rolled over – and suffocated? But of course every stir, every gurgle, every exhale… I not only heard her, I sat awake all night watching her. Checking she was still breathing. Studying her. In awe of her.
I was that quintessential new mother, equally mesmerised and terrified by her. By what she represented. We were responsible for a tiny human, nobody questioned us or made sure we were fit for this new role. This was it. We became parents. I was a mother. I am a mother. For life.