Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Candi O’reilly, known as BlueSkyMum on Babyhuddle. Candi is separated and living in Dublin with her three children, but originally from Wales. Her blog, Looking for Blue Sky, is her space to let off steam about all the ad hoc stuff that she finds interesting, as well as the triumphs and troughs of life with one fab teen, one gorgeous girl with cerebral palsy and one amazing boy with Aspergers.
She was weighed and checked and handed to me. At 5lbs 3 oz, she was a little scrap of a thing with a mop of black hair. My baby. Love at first sight. So far, so familiar. But this was 20 years ago and a lot has changed. Following the birth I was wheeled down to the ward that I shared with 11 other women and their babies and, during visiting time, their entire extended families as well…It got very crowded and noisy and the babies were passed around like parcels.
That first night I was so excited that I barely slept, even though the hospital stay was supposed to give ‘Mum’ a rest and sleeping pills were handed out like Smarties, and the babies were whisked off to the nursery at around 9 pm. It was a sea of tiny cots, with my Angel right in the middle, easy to spot as she had a little woolly hat on to keep her warm.
I don’t recall that breastfeeding was ever suggested, and everyone in my ward used the little free bottles of SMA provided by the hospital. September is a busy time in maternity hospitals so I learned most of my baby-care from the other Mums on the ward, and was soon in the ‘change, feed, drop’ routine that was the norm in 1992. Except that I was doing it every three hours as I had such a tiny baby!
We also stayed an extra day in hospital until her weight went back up to 5lbs. She was brought home in a carry cot on the back seat and I will always remember bringing her into the kitchen, sitting down, looking at my then husband and saying:
“What do we do now?”
I had just three baby books for advice, two of them were very serious, but the third suggested that babies could actually be fun. It was written by Paula Yates!
My Mum was in Wales and my mother in law did not offer too much advice, for which I was grateful in ways, but I did need help. The district nurse called a couple of times and checked that I was boiling the bottles correctly and that Angel was gaining weight, and after that I relied on my neighbour, who had reared five of her own, including one of my best friends who lived two doors down the other way.
The current vogue for attachment parenting was unknown; I was given a baby carrier for ‘baby wearing’ which I tried to use, but Angel seemed to be in danger of falling out whenever I bent down, so it was only used occasionally. When I took her out in the pram for the first time I made a friend come with me as I had no idea how to push one…that’s how unused I was to babies.
She slept in a cradle at my bedside, but only until she was ten weeks old. I slept badly as I was always afraid that she would stop breathing, and the snuffly noises she made kept me awake too!
But my main aim in those early weeks was to get her into a routine. Things were very different then: maternity leave was only 14 weeks long, with 4 to be taken before birth, so I wanted her happy and settled before I returned to work. It never occurred to me to stay out longer – my understanding was that she wouldn’t suffer from separation anxiety at 3 months and would bond with her child-minder as well as me. That kind of worked, though I did pay for it a few times.
“I want to go and live with her!” was probably the most hurtful thing ever said to me in an argument..
‘Having it all’ was the phrase du jour in the 1990s, and so my life was planned so that there would be time for my baby, my husband, my career, the house and myself. Angel just came everywherewith me, from baby bouncer to pram to rear facing pushchair to sitting beside me in a car seat in the days before air bags. I could chat and smile with her all day until I went back to work, and I did!
My then husband was involved in her care, but less so than many dads are today. And I was determined not to neglect my relationship with him either. So I was back at the family planning clinic within three weeks, I found a babysitter next door and we even had a night way while she was cared for by granny and granddad at five weeks old… and she kept them up most of the night!
I also found a lovely child-minder who looked after Angel for four years and later looked after my son too, and we still keep in touch and meet up. Even my career flourished. In fact my plans worked pretty well until my second child was born…and that’s when my story took an unexpected turn.
Have my parenting methods messed up Angel? Who knows? I think she is a lovely young woman and our relationship is pretty close. She’s at college now, but living at home and sometimes we still do things together – she may not actually be my baby girl any more, but I’m still her Mam.