Liv Gray | Fourth Trimester Series

Liz Gray - Guest Blog Post

My whole life I have dreamed of being a nurse, having a home of my own and becoming a mum. I achieved the nurse dream fairly early, and have been lucky enough to look after everyone else’s babies and children for nearly ten years now. I then saved every dollar and purchased the happiest home, with the added addition of a gorgeous husband and a fairly temperamental but very loveable pup. Finally- I also achieved the Mum dream. I vomited my way through the pregnancy, but never took my eye off the end goal- lazy days at home with my placid baby whilst she smiled at me and we had delightful little chats. Obviously she was going to be placid (never mind that I’m not), and would feed, sleep and play like a dream because I’m a paediatric nurse- so if I can’t do it then who can.

I spent nine months hyper focused on the birth itself. I knew I would be fine with a baby, but struggled with the lack of control and not knowing what to expect during the labour and delivery. If only I knew. Labour was a breeze, the fourth trimester was not.

In June we welcomed our gorgeous girl into the world. The first two weeks I thought we had the world's easiest baby. She slept like a dream, fed like a dream and lay there in our arms and visitors arms like she didn’t have a care in the world- then she woke up and realised she was alive... I now realise that everyone thinks that they have the worlds best baby for the first two weeks, it’s like the universe's way of saying “your boobs are sore, your nipples are on fire and it feels like you just manhandled a watermelon through a pinhole - but hey, you have the worlds best baby”

I was prepared for long nights of feeding, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for long days of her crying every single time her sleepy body was gently placed in the bassinet during the hours of 7am-7pm (thankfully she slept fairly well there at night), I wasn’t prepared for the poo explosions that coated every single layer of clothing, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for a baby that woke up every single time I so much as breathed in her presence after the sleepy two week newborn phase wore off.

As well as long days of feeding, I was completely unprepared for the feeling of panic I felt each time she was awake. My good friend, the internet, had told me that she would need roughly 45 minutes of awake time. Every time she woke up she would feed for 30 minutes, then have a nappy change and a burp. This left about ten minutes to ponder how to fit in the complexities of “Should I do some tummy time, when should she lay on her back, how about side lying? When should she be looking at their toys?!” How can I fit all of this, or even half of this into 45 minutes, only to rush her down for a nap she will likely refuse.

I knew that breastfeeding would be a magical experience if it went well, and thankfully it has- but I sure didn’t expect it to be as frequent as it is, and at times- as relentless. I feel so lucky to be able to breastfeed, but I also would have felt lucky if I needed to bottle feed and I found a bottle brand that she liked, and formula she would take without stomach issues or constipation. Fed truly is best.

Of everything I wasn’t expecting, the influx of visitors was definitely up there as the most surprising. We were so excited to show our girl off to our close family and friends, we sure weren’t expecting to need to show her off to every man and their dog that suddenly wanted to come over because we had just had a baby, least of all people I worked at the supermarket with 15 years ago, and have literally never talked to since! No is a complete sentence is a phrase I had to learn early, and had to remind myself of frequently.

After so many years of paediatric nursing I thought I would be absolutely fine with the basics of parenthood- but I can’t even tell you how many times my husband and I have looked at each other and had absolutely no idea what to do next. ‘What in the fresh hell do we do now?!’ is a phrase that has definitely been uttered more than once (or more than a thousand times). We signed up for antenatal classes (run via Zoom because of Covid) because we wanted to make some parent friends, and I am thankful for that group of friends every single day. We walk together and have coffee together once a week, each week a different baby cries and each week we cement that friendship a little bit more. There have been so many times we have asked each other “is this normal?” Or “who else woke up every hour last night?”

As surprising as I have found so many aspects of the 4th trimester, I couldn’t have loved it more. I’m so proud of our girl, and watching her smile and chat away to us, and to herself in the mirror is the best feeling I have ever experienced. She certainly isn’t placid, but neither am I- so I’m not sure why I expected her to be. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, but maybe with less visitors!

Olivia (usually known as Liv, or more recently, Mum) is a paediatric nurse from Christchurch, sharing snippets of each day at @_house.of.gray_ Proud owner of a cute house, a garden with more weeds than flowers, a houseplant collection that has seen better days, an anxious German Shepherd with a tendency for eating entire grapevines and lemon trees but ignoring his dinner, and a husband who cooks, cleans and gardens like a modern day Cinderella.