Something you need to give your partner when it’s the middle of the night and you have a crying baby and no-one else is there to relieve you is support. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, no idea why the baby is crying and no idea if you will make it to the end of the night to see the glorious sunrise, believe in one another. Support one another and the decisions you make in those wee hours. Like mad support – like a good old beige, three clip, cross-your-heart bra. That teeny, tiny, gorgeous bundle of screaming baby will break you otherwise.
When you first have your baby and you’re safe in the hospital, it all seems totally doable. There’s a nurse checking on you every now and then, a doctor to come say some encouraging words and loads of people wanting to visit and bring flowers and tell you all kinds of wonderful things about your life ahead with your beautiful baby. What a wonderful time! Then a few days later you pack everything up and go home, wow. What an exciting thought! Taking your baby across the threshold of your home for the first time, to lay him in his cot, in his nursery you carefully made into a nurturing and comforting environment. Having washed all his little clothes and lovingly folded them, chosen a coming home outfit, and which onesie will be his first pair of pyjamas, which teddy will sleep next to him, and which lullaby you will gently sing to him tonight to send him off to the land of nod. But then he starts to cry. And you think it must be time to feed, so you either sit down comfortably to breastfeed or go to warm up a bottle. All the while your baby getting more and more hungry. Ok quickly now get the bottle in. Nope that’s not working, now the milk is just running all over his chin, all over the cute little onesie you chose and he’s still screaming. Ok let’s try a dummy?! Flip where did we put that gripe water? Your mild panic starts to worsen and the screaming continues and neither you nor your partner can remember when you packed the gripe water, the baby won’t take the dummy or the bottle and the breast milk is not coming our fast enough so it’s not even worth trying when he’s this mad. Ok let’s do some swaddling, rocking and singing. Hmmm, my singing is not loud enough – come sing with me! And so it goes… sometimes all night.
And that’s when the night becomes dark and full of terrors… Barbs and I would actually want to cry when we saw the sun going down because we knew what was coming…
In those hours when you can’t settle your little one, or he has tummy cramps, or has weed all over the changing mat and his pyjamas and the teddy and you, and you can’t remember what time you last ate or if you have managed to drift off into some kind of fitful sleep whilst propped up in the nursery chair with you baby on your chest and drool running down into your cleavage, use your partner. Ask for help. It took two people to make this baby and it will take those two people, and all the effort and patience in the world to raise it. Take turns if you’re bottle feeding. If you’re breastfeeding, Dad’s take some tea and a rusk through to the nursery or do the nappy change and rocking back to sleep after the feed so that Mom can get a head start on getting herself back to sleep. Everyone will be tired. Whether one of you is back at work and the other is home with baby all day or not. The degrees of tired might differ slightly but you will both take strain in those first few weeks when baby feeds every two hours and poos every other. But hang in there. It’s short-lived. Soon you will have a smiley gorgeous little thing who only feeds every four or six hours and lets you sleep in between. Eventually he will be in his own room and you will have your bed back. And when you stop breastfeeding you will get your body back slowly. And you will look at your fat little giggling baby and reminisce about when he was so small that he could curl up on your chest to sleep. You will miss him being so tiny, even if that was only 3 months ago.
Then nights become less dark and the terror slowly disappears. If you support, encourage and love each other. Even when both Mom and baby come crying to you at 3:00am, Mom saying “please take him I can’t do this anymore!” Take the baby, kiss your partner and tell her to go to bed saying “don’t worry love, I’ve got it this time”. Even if you are terrified and overtired yourself.