New parents on the things they wish they had known
Advice from new parents, part 2: ‘We both got Fitbits, for the sleep patterns,’ says one
Christina Hillan and Ruairí
Christina Hillan, 33, social worker
“I had an easy pregnancy and initially the birth was effortless. I researched hypno birthing, which helps you feel less pain because when you are completely relaxed your body works naturally to birth. The first 12 hours at home I used breathing to recentre myself and was calm arriving at hospital with the nurses saying it was textbook. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t. I went from 2cm dilated to 10cm in one hour. By the time the forceps arrived the zen had vanished. I don’t really remember the birth now. The joy of holding your beautiful baby helps block it out. Though [my partner] Damian swears he remembers every second.
“For the first few months you are working on adrenaline, and just keep going, surviving on hardly any sleep. At the start, when Damian got home from work, I would dash to bed at 7pm. Now, I wait up as I want to spend time with him. Ruairí will be six months in a few weeks, and while mostly breastfed, Damian gives him a bottle at 6pm now which means a longer stretch of sleep.
“My mum passed away last year and I have been quite proud and independent not wanting help, outside of Damian who has been amazing, as I would have liked her to be the one to be there for me when I am in my dressing gown at 2pm. She was a single parent and I get my independence and determination from her. There is help if I need it and once baby gets a little older I will take it up.
“I was on the fence before I had Ruairí on feeding but now am pro-breastfeeding, though I was lucky I had no big issues. It can be a good way to meet people through a breastfeeding group, though there are so many baby-related classes.
“I think most women are going back to work now and want to make the most of their maternity leave so will sign up to a bunch of them. The insurance companies refund some and they can be overpriced. One baby massage class, which everyone knows is just a way to meet other mums, costs €125 for four sessions. Always check what your local resource centre has to offer.
“I think there is a need for some routine and it’s nice for women to have a network. Going from college to career you are not used to the free time.
“At times, I’m amazed this is really me singing ‘say hello to the sun’ in baby sensory class or going to bed at 9pm. You discover a whole new side to your identity. The first few months are a blur and, like my labour, I only remember the good bits.
“Having a baby is hard work with some anxiety and trips to the doctor looking for reassurance are unavoidable. It’s also wonderful and you will be completely bowled over with love, though you won’t sleep well for ages. All the cliches people tell you turn out to be true.”
Damian, 35, social worker
“Parenthood has been a positive experience, though the first three weeks were insane. I could not tell you what happened. There is that initial shock of being clueless and it takes adjustment to feel comfortable that you know what you are doing. Your perception of the world changes and you start looking to go to places with nappy changing facilities. You find yourself up early on weekend mornings meeting friends in parks with the old socialising on hold.
“When your baby starts smiling, that’s a lovely feeling, and you start enjoying yourself. It’s getting easier each week, with some blips.
“We both got Fitbits, not for exercise, but for the breakdown of sleep patterns, and one night Christina got just six minutes of deep sleep when you need 1½ hours. Christina is breastfeeding and taking the brunt but I do a bottle now in the evening. I enjoy it, although sometimes it’s tricky and we will be passing the baby back and forth.
“At the start when Christina was up feeding I would also get up and wander around the house tidying up. Madness. Then I moved into the spare room to get some sleep but that was even worse as I had one ear open and found myself up checking the baby.
“You read beforehand that babies sleep 18 hours a day. I’m still waiting! For the first few months I would take Ruairí out in the pram a few times a day as he would sleep then. If I was to give advice I would say don’t believe the books or listen to advice – you’ll find your own way through trial and error – and buy babygros with zips and more bibs than you’d ever expect.”
Part 1: ‘Our relationship is not so insta-friendly’