First time Mum...Part 1
So I wanted to share with you my experience of becoming a Mum for the first time because boy was it a quick fire lesson in so many things…hopefully you can take something from it in one way or another. I can’t tell you how many times I have written and re-written this blog, editing it for fear of unintentionally causing offence and/or for not giving you a 100% accurate reflection of my experience as a result. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I did that and if it offends you then, well, you’re in for a shocker when the real thing comes along. I’m generally as honest as they come/probably borderline offensive at times. I’m that friend who tells you my opinion whether you want to hear it or not, sorry! By no means is this meant to be a negative story, I mean there are rubbish bits but in the grand scheme of things they last 2 minutes and are seriously worth it…except for the initial 5 wake ups a night, when you might have second thoughts, but anyway…here it is:
A no frills account of my own experience…
When I was pregnant with Tommy I was desperate to know all the details, from giving birth to what it was really like to be a new Mum, warts and all. I’m that type of person who isn’t put off by any level of detail, the more the better for me. And I’m hoping if you’re reading this you’re the same! So in the moments whilst I lay there feeling the ‘ring of fire’ of Tommy’s head being born (which I obviously knew about as I had sought out all such details…and that’s one seriously big bonce!), waiting for the next contraction for the final push - I expected to feel this overwhelming new love and total immersion into the bliss of newborn joy forever. Now don’t get me wrong, I love and adore Tommy (and Rex obviously, although he has some moments believe me). I held him, and sobbed my eyes out because he was a boy…happy tears, I was desperate for a boy…I can’t explain why I just was - I was absolutely exhilarated with the whole experience and my newborn son. He was born close to 8pm after a quick 2 hour labour and was an absolute dream. I breast fed him, it felt very easy and natural, he slept 99% of the time and I thought what’s all this about, he’s no bother. How foolish I was…they all sleep in hospital I now realise…conning you into a false sense of security before BOOM, you get home and they start to show you what it’s all about.
Firstly, I was in some pain, ok a lot of pain and needed lots of stitches. I sort of only realised how much pain in hindsight, I know that sounds odd, but you just crack on because there’s no option to get off the ride and you have no idea what is a lot and what is not. I remember texting my friend who had recently had her baby a few weeks before saying ‘can you stand up for more than 10 minutes?’…because I couldn’t, it was just too painful. Rest assured all my bits are back to normal now so don’t let this scare the living daylights out of you and don’t whatever you do, like me, stand over a mirror for a look…please don’t do it!
Now, in all my asking around for birth stories and the gruesome details beforehand, what no one had told me was this…the first few weeks, or even longer, are pretty rubbish. They could be really rubbish in actual fact, shockingly so. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows as you may have been led to believe. It’s solid graft that requires skills you don’t even know you have as you will never have needed to call on them before.
It’s tiresome, excruciatingly so a lot of the time. It’s painful, mostly because you’re exhausted and also because no doubt you’re still in some physical pain. You are pushed to the edge…and I mean hanging off a cliff face edge at times. It is a complete unknown, generates self doubt and at times put the fear of god into you! Not to mention the strain it puts on your relationship as you try to keep your cool, all the time thinking what the hell has just happened to me. It’s so many new things your head feels like it might explode…and like me you may look at your partner one day and say “what have we done”! Your emotions have a mind of their own and for most of the time you don’t know if you’re coming or going.
We had 2 weeks as a family unit and then like millions of others I was thrust into doing it all solo for the best part of each day. My days went nowhere, and I wondered how I managed to fit everything I did before into a normal day. I never understood this before having Tommy and wondered what all the fuss was about. I’d hear other Mum’s say it and think I’ll have this down don’t worry. I’m an organised, hard working woman who rarely feels over faced by anything. I’m far from perfect but when it comes to emotional strength and holding it together I’ve usually got it in the bag. But what I realised was…my baby didn’t give a toss about any of this…if he wanted to be a pain in the arse he would be and there were no skills I had to stop it or stop myself from feeling the strain of it all.
My therapy was to plough on and exhaust myself even more making sure the house was clean, the washing was done, there was dinner on the table and I looked presentable (most of the time anyway). Now I realise this isn’t for everyone and not always possible, but for me this kept me sane, the alternative of lying in bed and living in a messy house would not have been good for my own mental health but what is crucial in my learning and the observation of all of my friends who have had babies is that each woman is very different and each journey also differs greatly. You just do what suits you and your household and everything turns out fine in the end. For me this was the path I took - my husband is out of the house 13 hours a day and we had 2 dogs to care for too…for me downing all tools would have sent me over the edge, but that’s just me.
Breastfeeding and the murky waters that surrounds talking about it…well this is my take on it. I felt this was a HUGE contribution to the pressure I felt as a new mum and watched so many of my friends experience the same. Now will honestly say I am pro breast feeding but with a huge DISCLAIMER…only if it works for YOU and your BABY, not one or the other, BOTH. I had an absolute meltdown on about day 11 whilst breastfeeding and screamed at my husband to go out to buy some formula. I cried my eyes out giving Tommy his first bottle, the guilt was overwhelming…I felt that guilt for the next few days but life was so much easier after that, and there was definitely no looking back. Now some of you might have certain opinions on my approach, and that’s ok, but what’s important is it was the right decision for me and my baby that time round. With Rex things were much easier and I fed him myself for 3 months. This quote was something I posted on our stories a few weeks ago. It resonated greatly with me and I think with so many other women (although most won’t feel free to admit it at the time)…“I can’t believe it’s 2018 and we’re still discussing breast vs. formula like it matters at the end of the day. Just feed your kid and get on with your day. They all grow up to eat Haribo and McDonalds anyway. Yes, even your kid, kale blending Cynthia in the pilates pants” (Caroline Hirons).
The MOST important thing I realised after this experience was to do things my way and my way only and trust my instincts. I feel like I am forever saying this but I see so many new Mum’s still seeking an instruction manual for their baby and then scratching their heads when things don’t go ‘to plan’. Just RELAX and work it all out yourself, no one has the answers for what is right for you (although they have opinions in abundance). From breastfeeding, to how long they should stay in your bedroom with you, to weaning to a million other blah blah blahs…it’s exhausting quite frankly!
It’s OK to say things are rubbish, to say you didn’t bond with your baby straight away and they generally just pissed you off. I mean they come into your lives, they’re cute and smell amazing but they’re generally a nuisance for long periods of time each day. They test you on every level and the whole time you’re left wondering ‘is it meant to be like this? Because this is awful!’ I totally felt this way - I spent my days going between absolute exhaustion, trying to get house things done keeping things as normal as possible and being bored out of my brain. And when I say bored, not bored because I had nothing to do, of course not, but bored because, well there isn’t much fun to be had in a newborn baby, let’s have it right.
I believe becoming a New Mum should be made to be as positive an experience as you and the people around you can make it…as you find out very quickly most things are out of your control…but I believe so many of the negatives are created by us due to external pressures and the desire to create a perfect experience. Let me tell you, this doesn’t exist…so switch off from all the Instagram pictures of newborn bliss you see and all the films you’ve watched because it’s not like this 24 hours a day, don’t be fooled. There are moments of absolute joy of course but for the best part it’s dirty, it’s overwhelming and it’s terrifying at times.
Two things are important to remember…Firstly - time is a great healer and secondly - its tough-tit, you have to get on with it.
But one thing I have come to realise from both my experiences is this…there is no book you can read that will tell you what to do so do not seek one out. There is no right or wrong way, there is no point worrying or googling the life out of things at 2am - what you need to do is make the decisions that are good for you and your baby and remain as calm as you can whilst doing so. Yes I know, much easier said than done, but try your best to drown out the negatives and relax your mind. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do anything that doesn’t suit you or your baby…there’s no medal for any of it and certainly no prize to be won. There is just your sanity and possibly a smoother path to be followed. Take the route you find the easiest, the one that makes you most happy, and it will definitely reap the most rewards. Try and enjoy what you can and embrace the changes.
I am no expert, but then what Mum is…we’re all just living our own experience and learning what we can, and that can vary greatly from one family to the next…it’s essentially a lottery but with a much slower burn than all 6 numbers coming in at once…but they come in eventually! I’m 2 kids in and definitely don’t plan to stop there. I’ve always wanted a big family and not put off yet…believe me it gets easier. Second time round with Rex was a whole different ball game, and significantly more simple and much easier. But came with other personal hurdles I had to overcome…Part 2 coming soon...