- You will be tired.
You think you know how it goes… sleep deprived new parents wander the house like zombies, grabbing 30 second showers and gulping coffee in a haze of fatigue.
“I don’t sleep well anyway” I heard from the mums-to-be say at the antenatal class, “I work nights”, “I’m always tired”.
How naïve we were.
Nothing can really prepare you for the delirium that comes with being a new parent. Dosing off nursing a baby at 3am or crawling downstairs to get another bottle. Swearing silently (or not so silently) at your sleeping partner. Sobbing into your pillow as you hear the angel stirring seconds after you put them back down. The joy of getting a lie in as your baby falls back to sleep again, waking up at midday with a pang of guilt. Wondering where the day went when you start the process again 10 hours later. Not to mention the night sweats, the leaking, the hair loss, the smells, the bodily fluids, the nappies. Wee everywhere. Night times can easily become something you dread.
Luckily, you do get used to the waking nights, they get easier, the feeds get shorter, further apart (hopefully!), they settle quicker. And yes, some people have it easy and some have it hard. Sometimes it goes in waves and sometimes it seems like it’s never going to get better. And then just as you get a solid 5 hours they are back to their old tricks.
I think if I’d really believed how tired I would be in the first two weeks, I would have been better prepared, and it would have been easier… but probably not! The thing we always fail to factor in, pre-child, is that you will be recovering from one of the most mind-boggling things your body has ever done. So, here’s me telling you. YOU WILL BE TIRED.
- Feeding is hard
Newborn babies eat, sleep, wee, repeat. Feeding in the early days every 2 hours or on demand and when your baby is feeding for a long time, doesn’t equate to much time in between.
On top of this, if you are breast feeding, your poor nipples are not used to it, your baby doesn’t know what they are doing and neither do you.
Many mamas suffer abscesses, blocked ducts, engorgement, sore nipples, poor latch, and even mastitis. This is normally worse at the beginning. Expressing your milk to give yourself a break. Having to wear breast pads to any social engagement.
Bottle feeding can be hard too, even if you have the magic prep machine, crawling downstairs to prep bottles, in the middle of the night and constant washing up, sterilising.
The weirdest thing I found about feeding is how emotional it can be. This strange, beautiful bonding moment with your baby is often marred by ugly thoughts. Self-inflicted, yet societally imposed. No one is judging you apart from you. Do whatever you want or can, and be at peace with that decision. People on both sides of the coin beat themselves up about the same thing and sometimes all you want is someone to tell you whatever you do is ok.
- Hello baby blues.
Disclaimer – I did not suffer postnatal depression and you should always seek help if your feelings don’t get any better.
However, the baby blues are real, they hit at different angles, some people don’t get them at all, but most do.
You are tired and recovering, filled with hormones, maybe you had a traumatic birth, you are in uncharted territory, life has changed. There’s a weird guilt over decisions you made, for going back on things you had decided pre-birth. For feeling like you weren’t completely prepared.
Mixed with all the emotions and hormones involved in becoming a new mother or parent, is the imagined expectations of other people. Unfortunately, our social media led world fuels a competitive, “I must smash this and look good doing it” ideal. The parenting world is well and truly infected by this.
The main things I realised after some time was that people are too busy worrying about themselves to care that much and if they are judging you, it’s normally because they are worried about something they are doing (or not doing) themselves
I think a lot of these negative feelings come from thinking we are failing or feeling guilty over our decisions or actions…
But all babies are different, really! Some sleep through from early on, some don’t sleep through until they are 2 years old! And if you have a success its hard not to sound smug when you are talking to someone who wakes every 2 hours in the night.
Don’t avoid talking to people about the issues. Make parent friends and take their humble brags with a pinch of salt, ask them for advice and open up and 9 times out of 10, they will then open up to you, and nothing feels better than knowing everyone else is suffering too.
- Time flies
I can’t count the number of times I said, “I can’t believe he’s here now”, “I can’t believe it was 3 months ago”. I think I will always say things like this.
It’s important to take time to just stare at them and remember, take lots of photos, keep a journal. Get your partner and family to take photos of you as well, so you get to be in them!
In a more practical aspect, my baby was one of the youngest in the antenatal class. A month younger than the oldest. Often the moms of the older babies would update the group about their successes, they all seemed to be pros, they had active social lives, attending baby classes when I hadn’t made it further than the park.
One day one of the pros opened up about how her baby wouldn’t sleep until 5am and cried all evening long and another said how long it had taken to establish breastfeeding, she spoke about how it had been painful and long and tiring. How you can go from failing at it one day, to acing it the next and back again. I had to remind myself that I was only a couple of weeks in! I realised that I was simply impatient. In baby world, things move at a different pace, a week can make a huge different in their development.
Go at your own timeline!
- Hi Me, Bye Me.
You know your life will change right? Of course, you do, how could it not. How much it changes, depends on your support network, your partner and how much you want to take on.
It’s a huge shift to go from the free life of a childless adult to being chained to a baby. Some of my mama friends described feeling like a 1950’s housewife, honestly sometimes it did feel like that. Sometimes it felt worse. My non-mother persona would squeal at the prospect at a day spent watching Netflix, no work, no people to deal with. But all I could think is how much time I’d wasted on the sofa, how many things there were to do. Who even am I anymore?
The truth is, I am a different person, and it’s ok. I like this new person. I have new friends. I like having a new purpose. But if you cherished what you had before it can be so hard to adjust and get the right balance. It’s so important to keep the things that are important to you in your life if you can, whatever that is. Carve out time to keep fit, or go for a drink with your friend, or read a book, whatever that thing is you enjoy doing. Take time for yourself. Have a bath, do your make up, put the laundry on, do the things that keep you sane. Self-care is so important!
You may have closed a chapter of your life, but you have opened a new one with lots of new adventures. Every now and then when you are exhausted or sad, or bored or fed up, Just look at your new life, soak it all in, the good, the bad and the beautiful and take a deep breath, because you really are smashing it!