In the last few weeks there have been babies babies everywhere in my world. It’s so lovely to see and hear of all the scrumptious new bubbas arriving, and to fall in love with some new little people who will be such a big part of our lives.
But talking to the new Mums and Dads, whilst congratulating them on their new arrival and telling them how amazing they are doing, I get a real fat dose of empathy for how hard those early days of being a new Mum was. It’s a huge reminder of how tough those times were, and it brings about some memories of a place that wasn’t always easy.
There are of course so many cliche phrases that spring to mind. ‘Nothing prepares you for it’ being the most cringe, but in all honesty, nothing prepares you for it, does it?
We had awaited our first baby for a long time. We wanted it so badly. We were prepared, we were excited, we were ready.
But after a dramatic arrival lasting days of induction and a tricky delivery, what I really could have done with was a good few nights sleep and some TLC. Instead, severely anaemic and exhausted, we left hospital with a 36 hour old baby and it hit us like a tonne of bricks.
Sleep deprivation for one isn’t something we had ever experienced. I was incredibly tired and confused about on demand breast feeding and intervals between feeds (more specifically too aware of them). The result was a screaming baby who probably just needed more feeding, and two exhausted parents who couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t sleep having been fed just two hours ago.
I desperately wanted to combination feed, but could find no advice available from health visitors or the internet. I still believe it would have suited me better than exclusive breastfeeding, but I soldiered on, being commended by medical staff and family but stressed and tired, and putting everything down to ‘it hard being a new mum’.
I found the process of becoming a Mum almost a physical transition – like it was a different person who came home from the hospital with our baby. Shell shocked, worried, intensely focused on that baby and what it needed. Everything else just seemed to have fallen away from around me, and I barely considered that life was going on outside of our small unit. It took me a long time to reconnect with normal life, and it literally felt like I was emerging from a haze.
We desperately wanted to share our baby with all our friends and family who were as excited to meet her as we were. It was with a whole heart we welcomed visitor upon visitor during her first days, and unexpected guests in the gaps we had ring fenced to rest. I think we got through a record number of tea bags during the babies first two weeks, and as Dad Muddling Through returned to work after three weeks off, we were all craving a little normality and routine, if a little daunted as to how it would pan out.
Ironically, the calmer life that we craved after the initial excitement was also not without challenges. I often felt lonely at home alone and would walk to the shop, to the bakery, or to the health visitor with a list of questions that had been playing on my mind all week. It was sitting there in that waiting room I made my first connections with other new mums, who would end up being such a huge part of my motherhood experience – and remain so to this day, six years later.
I was nervous about feeding in public, or in front of male guests, but felt under pressure to have it all under control, and to not disappear upstairs to feed when people had made an effort to come to see us.
When the baby cried, especially if she was hungry, it made me feel so stressed and anxious. As people asked what was wrong with her I’d feel prickly and tearful, as though I should know why, when I didn’t. Looking back, I’d tell the new Mum desperate to do the right thing for her baby to not put so much pressure on herself. That stress around feeding and ‘knowing it all’ took away a lot of what could have been a much happier time for me.
Normally a confident person, becoming a Mum knocked me sideways in terms of self belief. I was constantly looking for answers from all the places I could seek advice; books, family, friends, health visitors. I guess it’s an overwhelming and a little debilitating having someone so dependent on you for its survival, and something that you have never cared so much for.
I worried about feeding (a LOT). When and how to feed, to wind, to introduce a bottle. Sterilising, dummies, temperature, sleep patterns, routine, weaning, returning to work, childcare…the list was endless. Thank god for the internet. In fact, the amount I relied on hitting google and reading others experience was the very reason I started this blog.
Six years on and I’m a different person. Not that anxious new Mum. Not even the other pre-baby person who wanted it all so badly, who believed she could be the same person just with a baby in tow. I’m a new person altogether, one who has, through the last decade of life experiences, found her happy place. She knows her priorities and has confidence to make decisions about her family, and what she wants from life.
I realise this post puts a negative stance on my early days as a new Mother. It wasn’t all bad, I can assure you that. The smiles and the reward of feeding a growing baby, that ever increasing bond and the joy I found in being a Mum was never in question. I guess I either hadn’t really heard anyone talking about how hard it all was before, or perhaps I just hadn’t tuned in, so it all came as a bit of a shock.
My point is that if you are a new Mum reading this, I understand. It can floor you in a way you would never have predicted. You may think that life will never be the same again as you crawl through each day in a fog of tiredness and emotions, forsaking all those things you used to enjoy before this baby came along as they take every ounce of your time and energy. But it won’t always be this way. One day you’ll look back and celebrate what you went through to grow that baby into a cheeky, happy little person. One that brings so much sunshine into your life (which for the record has multiple dimensions other than just Mummy) as they tell you about their day, the things they love, and what makes them happy. You will be one of those things by the way, and you don’t realise it always, but you already are.
Keep going, you are doing an amazing job.