Nurturing Mum of the Month – March

18 Mar

Meet Karen and Johanna! Karen was part of our January New Year’s babies course in East Finchley…she made a whole new group of friends who keep in touch and meet up often since their course ended.  Read about Karen’s experience as a new mum in London without family nearby….

1. Did all go to plan with the birth?

Not exactly. I had written a detailed account of my labour in response to this question but, taking advice from my very wise husband Mark, I decided to shorten it.

I had discovered yoga during my pregnancy and felt positive about the upcoming birth. While I still think it was right to be as relaxed as possible, on the day, I did not manage to tap into my new yoga zen.

We had hoped for a water birth but, because there was some doubt about whether my waters had been leaking, a water birth would have posed a risk of infection. As for labour, in summary, contractions came on very quickly and they were strong while dilation was poor. I had a lot more pain relief than I had hoped (although we were always open to it), and I now wish I had just had it all sooner rather than suffering for many agonising hours.

The team at The Royal Free were great! We had a lovely midwife called Aida from the Birth Centre who was calm and encouraging despite my total lack of composure. The care during our stay on the ward afterwards was excellent too.

new baby london

2. Had you found out what you were having?

No. However, from pretty early on, Mark referred to the baby as “he” and by the end of the pregnancy we had convinced ourselves that we were having a little boy – after all, the shape of my bump was the shape of a boy, right?

When Johanna was born, Mark was asked to announce the sex and exclaimed: “It’s a boy!” before being told by the midwife to take another look. I was a bit confused as to which it was at the time, and I must say that, having convinced ourselves we were having a boy, the little girl in our arms didn’t really feel like she was “ours” for some time. Next time I would definitely be more careful not to convince myself I was having one or the other.

3. Did you have the baby blues from day 3?

There were some tears when Mark left us at the hospital that first night but they were due to exhaustion and the fact that I was left to my own devices with a tiny baby and without a clue.

I don’t specifically remember having the 3 day blues, but looking back I think I was too traumatised by the birth to remember much of the first week of Johanna’s life. She was suddenly taken ill at 7 days old and we were back at The Royal Free overnight – it was during that night that I suddenly snapped out of my post-labour fog. I have felt guilty and upset ever since about “wasting” those precious first days with our baby focusing on my own experience.

When I came to our first Nurturing Mums meeting I even shed a tear about this, which is not like me. Everyone was so supportive and pointed out that I would have been exhausted and full of drugs, and that I had so many years of focusing on Johanna left ahead of me. I am certainly not wasting another moment, and I enjoy every smile and cuddle, even at 3am.

cute baby north london

4. Do you have family nearby?

My family live in Germany, and my parents do not travel by plane (nor, indeed, do they trust many other methods of transport). They did come over to meet Johanna during that first week, saying goodbye to us when we were back in hospital which was heartbreaking. We took Johanna to Berlin at Christmas, and I am in Berlin right now on another visit. We also Skype with my parents when we get a moment.

Luckily, I get on really well with Mark’s parents as well. They absolutely adore Johanna (their first grandchild), but they also always ask about how I am. They have always been very supportive of us and continue to be so now that we have Johanna. They have not once imposed an opinion or passed judgment on how we do things with her. Unfortunately, they still live an hour and a half away, so it is not a case of them popping over and watching Johanna for an hour while I do something else. We definitely want to move closer to them before we even think about having another baby.

5. What are you finding toughest?

Never having a break. I breastfeed Johanna and she refuses to take the  bottle, so I have done every feed since she was born 5 months ago. I shouldn’t complain as she is a reasonable sleeper (for a while she was great and only woke once a night, but she has regressed to waking 2 to 3 times a night), but the broken nights add up to exhaustion after a few months. Mark is very supportive (he makes breakfast every day, amongst other things, which is lovely), but he works very long hours and is often not home until 10pm or later. So the days really are long, and waiting up to have dinner with him has added to my general tiredness.

Of course, Johanna and I spend our long days doing lots of fun things from music classes to baby swimming (our favourite), and we have made many new friends, including some wonderful mums and little people on the NCT and Nurturing Mums courses. A few of the mums have offered to take Johanna off me for an hour or two, so I can sleep or do something else which (although I haven’t taken anyone up on it while Johanna relies on me to feed her) has been very much appreciated.

6. What are you finding most rewarding?

Once I got over my fear of being really bad at it, I have found the whole parenting experience incredible. Everyone says that you will be a different person once you have a child, and that you might lose your “self”. It is certainly true that I am a different person – I am so much less stressed and much happier than I was before. I have really embraced the time Johanna and I get to spend outdoors (instead of rushing between the tube, an air conditioned space, the tube and bed).

It is so inspiring to see how excited Johanna is about everything. She takes in the world with eyes the size of saucers. I used to be this excited about life once, and now I am learning to be again. It has been such a joy to show her all the new things that grow in spring. I never knew that crocuses come out on slightly different days depending on their colour…

Johanna and I walk to most places which has been a lovely way to explore North London. It has also helped me lose the baby weight. I have always loved being active and have developed quite an interest in post natal exercise and the different techniques. It is something new I have discovered for “me” (not just the baby) which I might explore further.

enjoying being a new mum

7. Favourite thing about your baby?

Johanna is a very happy baby most of the time, and when she smiles she lights up the room and the whole world around her. She smiles with her mouth, her eyes and her whole little body. It is like unwrapping your personal package of joy every time a smile comes on. I often wonder whether she is just laughing about her over-enthusiastic Mama…

8. One thing you wish someone had told you before having your baby?

I wish someone had told me to go to the loo in peace and just sit there for a bit. I used to rush to the loo at the office when no one would have died had I taken a minute. Now there is either screaming from the other room (because you always do your jobs around the house while the baby sleeps and only remember that you need the loo when they wake up) or you have an audience which you have to entertain while doing the business.

The other thing I wish I had been told is to take it REALLY easy and allow your body to recover slowly. Do not expect to take a 10 minute walk the day you come home from hospital or a 30 minute walk 3 days later. I thought my stitches might break or that I would need to be carried home more than once in the first few weeks.

baby playing on playmat


Many thanks to Karen for being our March Nurturing Mum of the month!! Please send us email if you’d like to hear more about our courses.


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