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First Time Mother | “I didn’t feel super Maternal”

“My midwife made it just in time and told me that I was good to push and everything went by so quickly and within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital, I gave birth to Theo and I was just in shock at everything that just happened.”

Your family

I have been a mum to Theo, my son for 8 months now. Theo also has 3 fur baby siblings, our dogs. My husband and I have been together for about 8 years now and married for almost 2 years. I’m Chinese and he is Vietnamese, we have both been in New Zealand since we were children.

Journey to conceiving and pregnancy – I didn’t feel super maternal.

All of my life, I didn’t feel super maternal so having a baby wasn’t a life goal of mine.

I could tell my husband really wanted to be a father so I thought, if it happens then it was meant to be but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself to conceive. The pregnancy came before my 30th birthday. It was a surprise, but also planned. I stopped taking my oral contraceptive pills a couple of months after our wedding. I thought it would take at least 6 months for my cycles to regulate but it only took about 2 months before I became pregnant. We didn’t expect it to happen so quickly so it was a surprise when the pregnancy test was positive.

How was your pregnancy?

One of the first things I did was create an Instagram account (@tryingtomumnz) when I found out I was pregnant because it was somewhat taboo to tell people about your pregnancy in the early stages. I found that somewhat isolating, so Instagram became a great outlet for my emotions and ultimately became my pregnancy diary. I love referring back to the beginning from time to time to see how far I’ve come. It was also an awesome way to document all of the small things that I might forget as time passes.

My pregnancy journey was quite smooth sailing. I didn’t have any morning sickness in the early stages, the only weird symptom I had was nosebleeds. For the most part, I enjoyed being pregnant, I found it amazing to watch my body change in order to grow another human. I loved going to scans and watching my little bean grow.

Did you find out the gender of your child?

We found out about the gender at one of the regular scans so I could start doing some baby shopping. However, the Covid pandemic got worse towards the end stage of my pregnancy and I had to attend all of my scans alone which made me feel quite lonely. Theo’s abdomen size was measuring small towards the end stages which meant more lonely and stressful visits to the sonographer.

I also started trying to eat 500 extra calories per day due to this which made me gain a lot more weight than previously planned quickly towards the end stages of my pregnancy. The end was definitely harder for me, Theo sat super low which gave me a lot of pain as he grew bigger and I had quite awful acid reflux that I ended up sleeping sitting up some nights.

Birth story

I didn’t have a set birth plan, I was open to everything.

On the morning of week 38, I woke up with cramps. I didn’t even think they were contractions until maybe 2 hours into it. I text my midwife to let her know that I was in early labour and she told me to monitor the contractions and that we will go to the hospital when the contractions were over 1 minute long and less than 4 minutes apart.

So I just went on with my day with the contractions getting more intense each time and tried to breathe through them while using a contraction timing app to track each contraction. By about 2pm, I was in bed, moaning and groaning and telling my husband there is no way I can have this baby without an epidural because I can’t even handle these early labour contractions.

I refused to go to the hospital because my contractions were never less than 4 minutes apart, but gave in when I couldn’t get up from all fours. I crawled to the car and we went to the emergency room so I could hopefully get some epidural. I was put onto a wheelchair and wheeled up to the birthing unit in Auckland hospital. The hospital midwife checked my dilation and she told me I was fully dilated already! I was just confused.

My midwife made it just in time and told me that I was good to push and everything went by so quickly and within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital, I gave birth to Theo and I was just in shock at everything that just happened. I had second degree tearing because everything happened so quickly and got stitched up and next thing I know, we were on our way to birthcare.

The first week was really hard, I was in pain and the stitches felt uncomfortable. Theo didn’t latch properly and it only took a few breastfeeding sessions for my nipples to be damaged. Every time he tried to feed, my uterus would start to contract which got worse when my milk came in and I was super engorged as well. I just remember everything hurting. I cried almost daily, from pain and an overall sense of helplessness because I didn’t really know how to be a mother.

How was the first week?

We moved into my family home just before I gave birth and stayed until Theo was about 6 weeks old. It was amazing to have my own mother helping me through the beginning first few weeks of my motherhood. I feel very lucky that I had a lot of support from my friends who are also mothers who would chat to me when I was down and come outside my house with hot chocolate and good sushi. I enjoyed our newborn bubble and only let some of our close friends and family come for a visit.

Your little ones

How did you choose your children’s names and do they have a meaning to you?

Theo Wolffe Truong

I always liked Theo as a name, it works for both a boy or a girl. We wanted to pick something our parents/family could easily pronounce as well. Wolffe is actually a character from Star Wars who leads a team that was called a wolfpack. This felt fitting as we had so many dogs and Theo will eventually become their leader in a way. We are both geeks so it was a bit of fun while still being subtle.

Tell us about the first few weeks with your baby

I struggled A LOT during the fourth trimester, both physically and emotionally. I had a major milk oversupply which led to blocked ducts and mastitis a few times. My nipples were constantly trying to heal and engorgement was super uncomfortable as well. Breastfeeding did not come easily or naturally at first, I thought about giving up many times. My emotions were all over the place because of my hormones and I cried over the smallest things. I often felt quite lonely during the early hours of the morning when I was feeding the baby.

Sleep deprivation was rough, initially we tried very hard to have Theo sleep in a bassinet but it just would not work at all. We ended up bedsharing which I didn’t realise was such a taboo topic to talk about. I once told a plunket nurse that I was bedsharing and she just freaked out. We tried many different things to have him sleep independently but in the end, only cosleeping and contact napping worked for us. We held him for all of his day naps and bed-shared at night. I really wish they would advocate safe bed-sharing by providing some education around it rather than making mothers feel bad for doing it.

We didn’t really have a routine and I often found myself thinking “how will I ever go out again?”

I started enjoying it a lot more when I relaxed my expectations and just followed Theo’s lead on everything. I gave him everything he needed from me and just trusted my own instincts.

What were your must-have items, and what others were a waste of time/overrated?

Must haves were

  • A good stretchy wrap carrier – I had the Boba Serenity Wrap
  • Haakaa pump or something similar for unclogging blocked ducts
  • Nice, soft and absorbent breast pads – I’m still using the Confitex breast pads
  • Nipple creams and hydrogel breast pads
  • A good merino blanket

I personally did not buy a lot of items that I thought were a waste – Theo didn’t like to be swaddled so I didn’t use the swaddles as much.

Is your parenting different to how you thought it would be?

I feel like my parenting is how I thought it would be now that I have gotten a bit better at everything. Initially I was a lot more intense than I thought I would be. I am a lot more relaxed now.

How does your typical day look?

I am still a stay at home mum at the moment, and will return to work fulltime in a few months. We have been staying at home a lot more than I would like due to the pandemic initially and now the weather. I do try to take Theo out for a walk on sunny days and sometimes to free baby activities when we both feel up for it.

Relationship

How has having children affected your relationship?

It was quite hard initially for me to find time for my husband during the early few weeks because I was so exhausted and drained all of the time. I’m very lucky that he is a hands-on dad and will help out whenever I’m stressed out and need a break. I love how happy Theo is when his dad plays with him, he gets the best giggles. 

Tips & advice

What would your top parenting tips be for a new parent?

  • Trust your instincts
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Talk about your feelings
  • Find time to look after yourself as well
  • It’s true when they say it gets better!

If this has helped you, would you consider sharing your story to help others too? Please submit your details through this form. Whether your story is about trying to conceive, pregnancy, surrogacy, loss or parenthood, we would love to hear from you.

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