A few days before Mika was born, I was grabbing a drink with one of my best friends Pablo and he asked me if I missed doing anything yet. You know, going out till 4AM, being so drunk that you wake up with a broken foot, going out for breakfast, even just waking up late.
My answer then was “No, not yet.” And if he was to ask me that now one month after my baby was born I would say “No, period.”
Thing is, there are some good and bad memories that I ponder on sometimes. I loved living in Vancouver with Pablo, going for coffee in the morning to Elysian and taking the last bus to Pam’s house in Kitsilano. But even if we were all to move back to Vancouver and spend a year there, (without a baby) it would never be exactly how we remember it.
Things change, people change and when you are expecting or have a child, things change faster. Your body and mind adapt, it’s hard work, it’s stressful once in a while, but it beats any experience I’ve ever lived. Coming home to my family is my treat for working hard during the day. It’s never a duty and never a chore. And I look forward to all the memories that will be created with Mika in our lives.
Oh wonderful knowledgable internet how you lead me astray. This happens much too frequently and yet I never seem to learn. As a first time mama there were (and still are) so many questions and so many things unknown. Ultimately these are mostly things that we all need to learn for ourselves. People can tell you a stroller is essential and people can tell you that strollers are a luxury, but until you have a baby for yourself, you won’t really know which applies to you. (Hence I say WAIT until you have said baby before purchasing a stroller).
So whilst I’m not very useful for much right now except as a source of nourishment and fulltime carer for this beautiful wee bird we have produced – I feel compelled to share my 2 cents and cast it into the abyss of the internet. This is speaking from our experience – it’s not gospel. Presenting….
What do I really need for the first month of my newborn baby’s life?
In other words: The No-Bullshit List of Stuff for Baby’s First Month.
- A car seat/capsule. (Get this about 2 weeks before your due date so you are ready. We hired ours for $150 NZD for 6 months from BabyOnTheMove.co.nz)
- Something for baby to sleep in. A bassinet perhaps. We have a Cariboo Gentle Motions Bassinet. We got it secondhand on TradeMe and it’s in great condition. But it’s quite big and will only last about 5 months. Second time round I think I’d opt for something much smaller – maybe a moses basket with a stand.
- Some baby clothes. You don’t need many because people buy you LOTS. See below for more on what clothes to get.
- Diapers/nappies. We plan on using reusable diapers when Mika is a bit bigger (maybe a month old). But when she is so tiny it’s a lot easier to have a box or two of newborn sized disposables. We used Huggies Newborn Diapers and they are quite amazingly easy to use.
- Breast pads (See below under ‘will my boobs leak?’)
- Baby wipes (We bought some unscented ones from the supermarket. But for the first three days we used damp sheets of bamboo liner)
- Change mats (We bought disposable ones. But I also have a reusable one that I keep in my bag for outings).
- Nursing bra(s). Oh wonderful nursing bras. I love mine. I got them for $60 each from Hot Milk Lingerie and they’re hot. I only have two, but because I have such wonderful breast pads (see below) and because I do laundry most days, it’s really all I need.
- Swaddles. Huh? Yeah – this is a big bit of cloth that you can use to wrap baby up mega tight. It is essential, trust me. It keeps them from waking themselves up and helps them sleep for longer. We use old fashioned cloth nappies sometimes, but she’s quickly getting too big for them. Our favourite are the organic cotton wraps from Nature Baby. The stretchier the material the better!
Really nice to haves and but not essential
- Change table (We have a little detachable thing that can fit over Mika’s bassinet. It’s great cause we can move it upstairs during the day and she can kick around on it. Not essential though, just handy. Seriously, babies can be changed on any flat surface so long as you have some kind of change mat under them)
- A disposal unit for dirty disposable diapers. Holy moly this thing is wonderful. Sure, we could take each diaper out to the trash each time we change her but who wants to do that? Not I. This thing can stay in our room and hold about a weeks worth of diapers without smelling AT ALL. Magical. Wonderful. Not essential, but very awesome.
- Baby carrier. We have two. We have a Baby Bjorn Carrier and a Nature Baby Sling. At first she was a little small for the Baby Bjorn which is why we purchased the sling – but now I love the sling so much that I tend to use the sling and Ivan uses the Baby Bjorn. Both are so wonderful for getting her to sleep and having our hands free to do whatever!
- Pacifier/dummy. We bought one when she was about 2 weeks old. She doesn’t really like it – but sometimes she takes it and it soothes her and it’s bliss.
- A stroller/pram. We were kindly lent one from Ivan’s boss at work, but for the first month or so we wouldn’t even consider getting the thing out. If I’m with Ivan he can carry her in the baby capsule or in our Baby Bjorn carrier. If I’m on my own I put her in my sling. She’s so little and easy to carry, why not?
- Breast feeding chair. I bought a Sally Chair from TradeMe for $70. It’s comfy, sure, but breastfeeding is pretty comfy anywhere (in my experience). I love feeding her in bed – I just prop up some pillows behind my head and she sucks away quite contently. During the day I lean back on the couch and it’s just as easy. If you’re wondering whether or not to buy that chair – hold off.
- Baby monitor. Huh? Sorry, these things are the epitome of strange. We haven’t seen the need for one yet and I’ll let you know if we ever do. I wonder how our ancestors survived without them? BTW – Mika sleeps in our room with her bassinet within reach from our bed.
- Breast pumps. I have a lot of milk. They actually call it an ‘oversupply’ of breast milk. Sounds like a nice problem to have, but poor Mika gets drowned in the stuff and has some sore tummy issues as a result. I wondered if I should pump the milk into bottles and feed her that way instead. Do you KNOW how expensive breast pumps are? My midwife laughs at them and explains that I will get more full and more sore if I express my milk. I’m happy to take her advice here and save us the cost. Sure it’d be nice for Ivan to get up in the night and feed her from a bottle, but realistically my boobs will still swell up and I’ll wake up every 3 hours anyway expecting to feed her. Suck it up man, you already did 9 months, what’s another 9 months or so of being everything she needs?
- Diaper Bag. In the first month all she needs if we go out is a couple diapers, a change mat and some wipes. I also keep a spare change of clothes for her and me in the car, just in case. This does not require a mega expensive designer diaper bag!! I’m sure that as Mika grows, so will her potential needs for a daily outing – but until that day comes we will save our pennys. But I’m not gonna lie – both Ivan and I have been eyeing up some awesome bags to meet this not-too-far-in-the-future need.
And here are a few questions that I kinda wish I’d had a solid answer to prior to Mika’s arrival. But inevitably it will be different for everyone. Anyway – here’s my experience:
How many clothes do I need for my newborn baby?
NOT MANY. I was so worried that we would need at least 3 outfits per day (as many a google search informed me) due to messy poos and spews. But Mika doesn’t spew and her poos are well-contained. As a must-have list for us this includes:
- 3 singlets / tank tops
- 2 pairs of pants
- 4 body suits (a couple short sleeved, a couple long sleeved)
- A ‘sleep sack’
- A full body suit (long arms and long legs)
- 2 pairs of socks
- A couple pairs of mittens (we only used these for about 5 days though)
- A very woolly hat
- A not so woolly hat
Get everything pretty damn small. Mika was only 6 pounds 14 and now 3 weeks on she is about 8.5 pounds and she still fits the smallest newborn size clothing. People will bring you clothes. It is inevitable. And they will also most likely bring clothes that your baby will fit in about 3-6 months. So the only clothes you need to buy are the really small ones for the first couple months. Trust me! (And if I’m wrong and your baby is gigantic then you can send a family member/partner/friend to grab something in a size bigger).
Will my boobs leak?
Mine did. Oh wait – leak? No…they didn’t leak. They POURED. And I had bought these stupid awful natural organic cotton breast pads that honestly did nothing but stick to my sore nipples and let milk pass through THREE LAYERS and pour down my chest. Worst $30 spent ever. (Well… that’s a bit hasty, but I have no time to rack my brain for a $30 spent worse).
So on remembering something I overheard about wool breast pads that do amazing things for nipples, I sent Ivan off on ‘Mission: FIND BETTER BREAST PADS’. He came back with these. Yup, Lanowool breast pads DO feel a million times better than cotton ones. They kept my boobs feeling kinda cool and they never stuck to my nipples. But my boobs still leaked through 3 layers of them. Not cool. And at $20 for two pads it wasn’t overly cheap either. By now, I was feeling as though I would be doomed to stay within the confines of my home for the duration of baby’s breastfeeding life (1 year?!).
Again, Ivan came to the rescue with a quick google search and a trip to the supermarket. He came home with these. Disposable breast pads are WORTH IT. $13 for 24 pads and my boob milk hasn’t leaked onto my clothing yet. It actually kinda turns the milk into gel and stops it going any further – genius.
So $70 later and many a soaked bra and t-shirt, I offer this advice: Buy disposable breast pads.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
To begin with – yup. It felt like the wee thing had razerblades for a tongue and was carving some serious damage on my poor unsuspecting nipples. They had no idea it was gonna feel this bad. And now it bothers me that I no longer feel this pain because my nipples must be SO damn numb. NIPPLES OF STEEL. So yep, the pain subsided after about 3-4 days of feeding.
And now breastfeeding feels like relief. When I don’t feed, my boobs swell up like inflatable rocks and they throb and cry ’empty meeeeee’ and when Mika latches on with such determination and fury (she actually makes gobbling sounds as she lunges for the nipple) I can relax and breathe and my boob says ‘thank you Mika that feels SO much better’. (Yeah, sleep deprivation leads to talking boobs).
That is all for now.
One week ago today I was dropping Tess off at the airport, about to head out for dinner with Ivan and later heading into Birthcare to give birth to our beautiful daughter.
So much can happen in a week!
First-time motherhood is… beautiful. I’m still marvelling at the wonders of the human body (I know I’ve said this a lot… but seriously it is incredible). There have been so many questions from friends and family about how we are doing, how I’m feeling, how Ivan’s feeling, how it is being home now etc etc and so I thought I’d do a little summary (my brain is still a little mushy.)
- We got home from Birthcare on Sunday and Mika has been adjusting to her new surroundings. She mainly just eats and sleeps and poops – but she also has some very alert and calm ‘awake’ time where she stares into my eyes and my heart melts and I wonder what she is taking in and what she sees and hears.
- Breastfeeding has been pretty easy I suppose. She has no problems figuring out what to do – although sometimes she has this look of sheer horror as my gigantic boob looms near her face. I seem to have a ridiculously abundant supply of milk and she can only manage about 5 minutes of gulping (seriously, you can hear her swallowing from the other side of the room) before she tears herself away and pants wildly for about a minute, does a huge burp and then lunges for some more. It’s hilarious.
- I’m feeling pretty OK. Obviously there are certain aches and pains associated with pushing out a baby – so I’m not planning any serious exercise soon – but today Ivan and I left Mika with her grandpa for 15 minutes and went for a walk to get an ice-cream. It was the first time I’ve been outside in a week! And a hunched-back old lady probably in her 70s or 80s overtook us at the crosswalk… but I’m cool with that. Really… All in good time.
- Mika has gained 200 grams in SIX DAYS! Ruth came to weigh her today and said that it was a pretty impressive weight gain. Oh Mika girl, you need to take it easy with the boob. (She takes after her daddy).
- Changing diapers is really no big deal at all. Even really smelly ones.
- I sleep in 2 hour blocks and get roughly 5-7 hours a night if I’m lucky. I let Ivan sleep a solid 6-8 hours in one go and then he wakes up early to help change her before he heads to work. It’s not so bad.
- We could watch her all day. She has LONG legs, long black hair, big blue eyes, a teeny tiny nose and little rose bud lips. She loves to kick her legs out now that she has more room compared to in the womb.
- The most common nickname that she gets now is ‘bug’ because she looks so adorable when she is all wrapped up in her swaddle and squirming to try to get free. Middle name perhaps?
It’s so surreal that 6 days ago she was still in my belly and now she is out in this world. Gah, I just can’t really believe it! And time will just keep moving forward… yikes.
Here’s a snapshot of some moments I want to hold onto. Mika from day 3 to day 6.
This is post number 100 on our blog. Fancy that!
Our beautiful baby girl was born at 12:04am yesterday morning (March 23, 2011). She weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces and she was 49cm long. Her name (so far) is Mika Elena Cruz. We plan on adding another middle name too…
So it’s been a long time now with hardly any rest and so I don’t feel overly coherent but I wanted to get this down as quickly as I could while it is all so fresh in my mind. I am marvelling at the wonders of the human body, giving thanks to mine on a regular basis for all that is has done in the last 10 months and especially in the last 30 hours. I also find myself thanking the universe for ensuring things unravelled as they have and for the infinite sequence of events that has led us to this moment. This moment right now as I sit on my bed with Mika resting beautifully next to me. Nothing in the world matters more right now.
Here is my (possibly incoherent rambling) story of Mika’s birth.
Ivan and I had just discovered the culinary delights and european ambience of Elliot Stables. I was half way through my meal when I felt an intense tightening in my abdomen. I momentarily closed my eyes to wait for it to pass. This was first time I had ever experienced a pain like this that actually required my full attention so I was a little excited that perhaps this was a real contraction. We continued eating and I soon experienced another one of about the same intensity. I pulled out the ipod so Ivan could time them for me. After about 20 more minutes or so he pointed out that they were consistent almost to the second, lasting 30 seconds and about 2-3 minutes apart.
The drive home was bearable and we called Ruth our midwife when we got back – just to double check how intense these contractions were meant to get (both of us had forgotten the ‘rule of when to call’). She asked how long I’d been having them for, we said maybe an hour and she almost laughed when she explained I could still be in labour for another 20 hours or so and suggested we try to relax – have a bath, watch a movie, get some sleep. Secretly I couldn’t imagine this pain getting too much worse, but I told her I’d try to relax and call her when they got worse.
Ivan put on the Big Bang Theory in the living room and we moved upstairs together to watch it. I can’t remember any of the episode – my contractions quickly became about 1 – 1:30minutes long with about the same time between them. I was scared. I was scared because I had no benchmark to know if this was bad or if I was just weak and not dealing with it very well. To my surprise I found it easiest to sing through the contractions at this point – but I soon changed my mind as I worked on ways to make them more bearable. I discovered that silence, focus and complete relaxation of my mind through each contraction actually helped to ease the pain. As soon as I spoke or tensed up or got startled, I could feel the pain intensify. It felt a little unfair – to deal with the pain I had to go into the pain and really accept it and that’s when it would subside – which felt unfair because the immediate reaction is to want to cry out or tense up, which proved very counterproductive to dealing with the pain.
It was hard to get this focus and relaxation at home. Not because it was my home (I would love to have a home birth) but because we had plans to get to the birthing centre and I was just so unsure when we should go. I didn’t feel safe. My mum was trying to convince Ivan that we needed to go soon or I wouldn’t be able to get in the car and Ivan was trying to explain to Ruth over the phone that I was really in quite a lot of pain despite only having been in any pain for about 2 hours. Eventually she asked Ivan if I felt any desire to push to which I exhaled with desperation ‘yes yes I need to go poo!’ I heard Ivan say “ok, we’ll meet you there.” and hang up the phone. He turned to me and my mum and said ‘we’re leaving now, she’ll meet us there in 15.’
Mum suggested we get our ‘hospital’ bag and that she’d drive so Ivan could sit with me. Ivan explained we didn’t have a bag ready. What kind of prepared parents don’t have a bag ready at 41 weeks pregnant?? Unprepared ones. Ivan and I had decided the less prepared we were the more likely she’d be to arrive. (Murphy’s Law and all that, right?)
So Ivan did a sweep of our room grabbing a bunch of important looking stuff and Mum called out to Dad that we’d meet him at Birth Care in a little while.
The car ride was OK. I was a little tense but knowing we were on our way helped me to stay calm. We’re only a 4 minute drive from Birth Care but I swear the one light Mum had to stop at lasted for about 20 minutes.
At the Birth Care entrance I rang the little intercom thing and demanded ‘can i come up please?’ I was a little frustrated at the whole locked door thing. She asked who I was and all I needed to say was ‘Pamela’ and she let me through to level 1. On level 1 we were greeted by a lady holding doors open for me who also said ‘ruth is on her way, come with me I’m preparing your room.’
I had to sit for a moment for a contraction and I felt a warm liquid between my legs soak through my pants. As soon as I entered the birthing room I whipped them off and noticed I was covered in blood. I looked up at the lady “is this normal?” i demanded. She confirmed that it was. I paced the room between contractions and sat on the end of the bed quietly during them. The birthing pool was filling up fast and it looked amazing, but the lady said I needed to wait for Ruth before I got in. She also mentioned that my labour was progressing quite quickly based on the time between contractions. I didn’t really care what she thought I just wanted Ruth to arrive. Ruth arrived and asked me to lie down so she could check how far along I was. This meant lying on my back which was the last thing I felt like doing but she promised it would be quick. The possibility that she’d tell me I was only 1cm dilated or something popped into my head and I was about to contest the whole ‘checking me’ thing for fear that it would disappoint me when she quickly exclaimed ‘Oh, there’s the head – you’re having this baby in the next couple hours’. Sweet jesus. I was so relieved and that relief turned quickly into an overwhelming desire to push. I asked Ruth if I could push and she casually said ‘sure, if you feel like it’. So I gave in to the feeling for the next few contractions. Then I got a little flustered with my positioning. How could I feel best and push? Ruth put the back of the bed up to a 90 degree angle and suggested I kneel on the bed with my arms draped over the head part. This is how I stayed for the rest of labour.
Before long Ruth said she could see the head. I don’t have a very detailed account of this part but I know I pushed for about an hour. I know that it hurt like crazy but hearing that the head was visible helped me to focus. I felt her entire journey. During every contraction I managed about 3 of the most intense pushes of my life. The more it hurt, the more I knew I was achieving so I pushed with everything I had. I could feel her traveling down as I pushed. But between each contraction I could feel her head slide back inside me. It was so tiring – Ivan told me (afterwards) that I had looked like a boxer because I was sweating like crazy with a wet towel around my neck. My mum was amazing too. Ivan and her had a little towel-cooling system where Ivan would pass her a towel and she’d cool it with cold water and then he’d place it on my back and neck and then repeat.
Suddenly Ruth told me I’d be having this baby before midnight. I glanced at the clock near my head. It was 11:45pm. Nothing could stop this child being born. A few more contractions and the most intense burning pain in my life (it felt like my pee-hole was being torn) and I felt a rush of liquid and sudden relief as the head popped out and then crying! So much crying! She sounded like a little duck and was making gurgling crying sounds. I wanted to keep pushing but Ruth told me sternly to keep still and not push. It felt like eternity before the next contraction and I felt Ruth slowly guiding her legs out. “Pam, reach down and see what you have here.” Ruth passed her through my legs into my arms and I pulled her up to my chest, “we have a baby girl!” and she was perfect. The most beautiful head of black hair. The perfect shaped head. Little wide-open eyes and pouty little perfect lips. The most beautifully designed creation. A little bit of me and a little bit of Ivan.
And I needed no stitches and I again marvelled at the ability of the human body. I was helped to the shower and Ruth brought me toast and hot chocolate.
And then my Dad came in and she met her Grandpa for the first time. My heart ached. And then she was cleaned and dressed and Ivan held her and my heart ached.
And now we are a little family. Pamela, Ivan and Mika. And I have never, ever felt so grateful for life.
(Sorry about the title).
Whilst I think ultrasounds are a little creepy (just wait for it to come out, no?) we just got another scan to check the growth and fluid and all and we managed to catch a clear shot of baby having a good yawn. Can’t be too much fun in there.. time to come out I say! But yes, all things are well. Fluid and growth and everything seems fine. It must just be kinda cosy.
<!– Update by Ivan –!>
I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw the little baby yawning… It looked plain beautiful..