Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Dark Days

The Dark Days.
I wasn’t prepared for the hormonal car crash that occurs after giving birth. It’s as if all the PMS that I had missed out on during my pregnancy took steroids and attacked me all at once. I couldn’t stop crying every time the babies cried and being in hospital didn’t help as I got NO sleep. Once at home I struggled to make any decisions; it was all just overwhelming and I felt totally out of control. We just got through that first night and the next day I got the advice of my sister and mum on loads of things I hadn’t even considered before bringing the babies home: should their cots go near the window of near the radiator? Should they wear hats to sleep in? When can I give them dummies? How often should we change their nappies? Do we use cream? How many blankets do they need? Compared to the safe cocoon of the hospital our house seemed cold and unfriendly. Everything I needed was in a box, wrapped in millions of layers of plastic and I couldn’t find any clothes that fit the babies or myself. My careful pre-natal plans were unravelling.
The nights were tough. 3 hours between feeds is not really enough time to get any decent sleep as each feed was taking an hour at first and by the time they were settled it was virtually time to do it all again. There are no words to describe the frustration you feel when the baby that was screaming its head off takes two sucks of milk and falls asleep. I remember on one particularly dark occasion telling my startled husband that I wanted to throw our baby daughter out of the window. Your mind is just not your own and you feel like a slave to these beings that you don’t remember ever wanting in the first place. Of course when the sun comes up, you have a cup of tea, get dressed and everything seems a lot brighter. You realise that you’re not going mental, you are sleep-deprived and post-natal – quite a combo. I found that getting out of the house every day, no matter what kind of night I’d had, made all the difference. Sometimes it took two hours to go out for an hour, but it was still worth it for my mental health. Just do it: go to the supermarket, walk around the block, make unnecessary trips to the post office. It will make you feel better, I promise.
 There is a myth that new mums do not have time to have a shower or get dressed and spend their days in milk-stained dressing gowns with bits of toast in their hair. Admittedly there were days when the showering and dressing bit didn’t happen until the afternoon, but I always managed it. I would make sure the babies were clean, fed and relatively happy in their cots, bouncy chairs or on our bed and I would take myself off for a shower. At first I took the monitor with me (because I felt that I should), but then I realised that hearing the babies was stressing me out and I wasn’t actually going to get out of the shower and go to them if they cried. I told myself that they were safe, fed and warm and just concentrated on getting myself into a state where I felt like I could deal with the day. For me wearing proper clothes (rather than sweats) and putting on some make-up was absolutely key to my state of mind. It made me feel like me and I felt ready to deal with what the day threw at me. It also meant that I wasn’t ashamed to answer the door to the postman (you will get sent loads of presents!).
There are still dark days, mainly related to a lack of sleep, and I still sometimes have to force myself to get out of the house. The easiest thing in the world is to stay in where you have all your stuff to hand, but I know that breathing in some fresh air and seeing real people lightens my mood and gives me a sense of achievement. Making friends with fellow twin mums also helped a lot as only a new mum knows what you are going through. More than anything taking your babies out into the real world elicits a wealth of compliments from total strangers and when you are really starting to resent your child who is preventing you from doing everything you used to do, people saying how cute they are will make you stop and feel the love again.

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