Bella Brennan is a Sydney-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience in publishing and digital media. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her two little girls, Edie and Tilly. You can find out more about her here.
When I gave birth to my first daughter in 2019, I had a glorious hospital stay. It was as if we were in our own world where time stood still. I couldn’t tell you what the weather was like or what was happening on the news. I barely looked at my phone. I was too busy staring at my daughter, sniffing her head, and weeping tears of joy.
I liken it to that disorientating feeling of staying overnight in a foreign airport hotel when you’re in transit and have no idea if it’s night or day. Only in this airport hotel, I had a divine new baby and an army of amazing midwives to help me and my partner get to our next destination – learning how the ’eff to be parents.
After five nights in our airport hotel bubble, it was time to go home. But I didn’t want to. Or, at the very least, couldn’t I bring my favourite midwife along to supervise us and make sure we were doing everything correctly?
As I gingerly walked out of the hospital with a living, breathing, brand-new HUMAN in tow, it was perhaps one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I made eye contact with the midwives as if to say, “So, are you guys 100% sure you are going to let us go home without seeing our credentials? Do you want to see my resume or run a police check? I once stole some stickers when I was eight years old. Are you sure I can take this baby home?”
And somehow, they let me leave. I’m a baby, with a baby! Oh wait, I’m not. I’m the grown-up, and I’m officially in charge of keeping another human alive (if I can figure out how to get them in their car seat properly).
We focus so much on the birth that you can often forget to factor in the mental mind-fuckery of actually bringing a baby home from the hospital. It’s a beautiful, bizarre time. So, in case you’re wondering what it’s like, here are six honest thoughts I had during that time.
Sooo… What do I do with you now?!
I can remember when my partner and I first brought our daughter home from the hospital, and we walked in the door to our apartment. Our humble little home looked like a parallel universe. So much had happened since we’d last set foot here – most notably, birthing a new roomie.
We stared at each other and laughed, “So… what should we do with her now?” Having zero clue, we decided to give her a grand tour of her new digs. As she slept peacefully in my arms, I walked through each room and gave her the rundown of the space as if I were a real estate agent trying to pitch her the property. It was absurd but such a precious memory that we still laugh about.
I wish my partner had boobs
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone, regardless of biology, could lactate? It’s a pretty cool superpower and also means the enormous load of feeding a baby can be shared. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll probably have this thought a lot, and your partner will definitely wish it, too.
Feeding around the clock in those early days is exhausting, but you’ll eventually find your groove. I don’t think I changed one nappy in those first few weeks, and I appreciated that my husband got up to keep me company for every night feed. Of course, every family and situation is different, but this is what worked for us.
I have never watched more breakfast TV in my life
Your maternity leave TV diet will be weird and wonderful. I became a breakfast TV fiend and created intense parasocial relationships with the hosts, especially the ABC News Breakfast weather presenter Nate Byrne (shout out to Nate. You mean more to me than you’ll ever know), and his array of snazzy outfits and vests.
No matter how shit the night was, the sun would always rise, signalling a new day, and all my breakfast TV mates (and, of course, Nate and whatever fab outfit he was wearing) would be there to greet me with their fresh, well-rested faces. It was strangely reassuring.
I might just go and check on her one more time to make sure she’s breathing
“Sleep when the baby sleeps” - hahahahaha. Yeah, sure. I could sleep when the baby sleeps. Or could I just stare at her, watch her chest rise and fall, and marvel at the adorable baby dinosaur grunts and snuffles she keeps making? Constantly checking on your baby is par for the course of being a new parent.
They’re so vulnerable when they’re fresh out of the womb and can’t tell us when something is wrong, so it’s totally normal to check on them constantly. So, if you want to check on them again, even though you just did, go for it. I get it.
Constantly checking on them is also a way of mentally processing the fact that YOU MADE A HUMAN, and they are real, and they are here and perfect. In those early days, my husband and I would hover over our baby as she slept, look at her in utter disbelief, and whisper, “She’s our daughter!”
Umm, why didn’t anyone tell me about all the paperwork that comes with having a newborn?
From lodging their birth certificate (fun fact: both my husband and I thought the other person had done it with our first child, when, in fact, neither of us had and it took us weeks to connect the dots) to the overwhelming Centrelink forms for parental pay to the six-week checkups, and don’t forget the blue book, and getting them on a daycare waiting list… Why, oh why, did no one warn us about the admin that comes with having a baby? It’s overwhelming, and the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sleep-deprived is trying to decipher the confusing Centrelink jargon. I still don’t know what a CRN is other than it’s very important.
Why does the outside world suddenly feel too big and dangerous for my baby?
They say that the first drive home from the hospital is one of the scariest moments of becoming a new parent, but for me, it was taking my daughter for her first walk in the pram. Bless me and my husband’s cotton socks, we had the pram clips and muslin assembled at perfect angles to protect her from any UV rays (GOD FORBID SHE GET ANY VITAMIN D!) and had absolutely no idea what we were doing, but off we trotted to try and pound the pavement like two totally chilled parents who do this all the time.
But we were complete frauds, and it was so scary. I was hyper-aware of every noise, every car, every dog, and every bird that could swoop my baby and peck her eyes out. Suddenly, the world looked and sounded completely different. Everything was a threat. Oh, this is just what it feels like to be a parent! Grab a seat and get comfortable, this is your life now.
Of course, like anything, we slowly but surely built our confidence up, and our snail-pace walks around the block became longer and faster, with fewer clips decorating our pram. By the time I had my second baby, I couldn’t even tell you where those pram clips were.
By Bella Brennan