MY INTRO TO MOTHERHOOD
Updated: Aug 10, 2018
I got tagged in an Instagram post by my lovely friend Natale (The Floral Anchor) to share how I felt in those first few weeks and months of becoming a mum for the first time. It got me thinking about all those overwhelming emotions, so many that I couldn't just sum them up in one picture.
As soon as you announce you're expecting your first baby, the advice starts rolling in… and it is endless. But for all the advice, and everything people have to say about becoming a mum, there sure are a lot of things they don't say. If you ask any woman about becoming a mum, they can give you a full, blow by blow account of the birth (including all the gory details) but most seem to neglect to tell you just how that is actually the easy part. They forget to mention those few days/ weeks perhaps even months after giving birth, where they struggled to keep their head above water.
Why is that?
Well firstly, I think it takes a really strong person to actually admit that they feel like they are failing every day. And that the fear that we are constantly getting it wrong comes from the massive misconception we are all fed about what it takes to be a parent. Secondly, if we could actually put into works how hard it can actually be to be a parent, I'm not sure we would do it!
There is so much that you don't get told about being a parent, and so much that you don't dare share with other people because you are shit scared that it makes you the worst mum ever.
I have never been an over emotional person, or particularly empathetic. I used to wonder if actually I was a little too hard, or cold, as I watched other people react so much more strongly than I ever did to sad stories or misfortunes. Then I had Frank and everything changed. I have since learned, that having a baby actually (scientifically!) changes your brain. You get a rewire. No one told me that I would react to being a mum in this way… that my brain would actually change… that I would start feeling empathy towards other peoples children. That I would want to keep them safe. That I would be so full of love for such a small little thing that I could hardly contain it.
Those first few weeks of being a mum I was over whelmed to say the least. I had been in labour for 4 days, and then in hospital for a further week, during which Matt had hardly left my side, but now paternity leave was over - he needed to return to work. I was alone. I think it was even worse, because Frank had been in intensive care and was being fed by a tube for a few days, I didn't get that first few days of tiredness, and someone was watching over every breath frank made. I knew he was getting the best care, and I managed to get some rest; get my strength back before I was then thrown full pelt into motherhood.
When we left the hospital, I couldn’t believe they were actually just letting me leave - where was the "test" to make sure I was ready? To make sure I was going to be a good mum?
I have always been quite a confident person, but those first few weeks… I went from someone who had a great job, that I was really good at… Someone who was used to doing well, succeeding, and being assertive and confident in all my decisions. My house was still clean and tidy, I was still cooking (hell, I even found time to BAKE?!) I still got showered, dressed, and made up, every day. But inside, I was second guessing myself constantly, feeling so over whelmed and out of my depth that I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get it right. Why weren't the anti colic bottles/ remedies working, should I have tried harder to breastfeed, would I be better giving my super hungry baby formula, why did it feel like I was doing everything wrong…???
I was heading down a one way street, in the wrong direction, with a blind-fold on, no driving license, and no brake pedal.
I absolutely do not want to scare anyone, put anyone off, or deny that absolutely awe inspiring, mountain moving, imploding love and completion you feel when you hold your baby. But. Motherhood is real, and for everything they do tell you about, you will never be prepared. Those first few stages of being a mum can be really scary, so here are some things that I wish I had known before starting out on my incredible journey.
1 - Breastfeeding is REALLY difficult
You will hear this from many people, don't (like I did) under estimate just how difficult it actually can be. I just assumed people were over exaggerating. I was going to breastfeed, of course I was - it's a natural process, and "breast is best" right? Wrong. As long as your baby is feeding, and you are both happy with the situation, it shouldn't matter HOW they are getting their milk.
I couldn't breast feed. It was utter agony for me, not helped by Frank having a slight tongue tie. (And no, I didn’t want to get it cut - I had JUST got my baby back after a week in intensive care, I wasn't going to put him through anything else that could cause him any more pain)
I spent hours in the hospital with midwives, breast feeding specialists, and nurses… all of whom were very reluctant to offer any help with NOT breastfeeding. "He has a good latch" "you are producing lots of milk" "just keep trying" while all the time it was getting more painful, and more frustrating for me, which ultimately made it less enjoyable for Frank. It got to the stage that I was actually sobbing and crying out in pain as he latched, and continuing to sob as I tried to feed him, feeling so guilty and inadequate that I couldn't perform the single most important job as a mother - providing nourishment for my baby.
Any health professional will keep encouraging you to try and breast feed, and I really struggled to find anyone who was willing to speak against breastfeeding, or discuss other options. I just wanted some help making informed decisions and it was like pulling teeth, which is really unfair on a new mum.
I gave myself such a hard time about not being able to deal with breastfeeding. According to the "experts" I was failing to provide the best start for Frank. So I decided to exclusively pump my breast milk so he was still getting the “best” and I didn’t have to deal with the pain of actually breast feeding. I did this for 8 weeks before having to supplement a couple of feeds with formula as he was such a hungry baby. That 8 weeks was hell. Imagine waking 2/3 times those first few weeks to give your newborn a bottle and not being able to go back to bed for another half an hour / 45 minutes while you pumped your breast milk. Not being able to leave the house for longer than a couple of hours because you had to get home to "pump". I felt like a cow.
Regardless of your journey with breastfeeding, whether you were unable to do it, didn't want to do it, or loved to do it; at some point along the way it will test you to your limits and be hard work. Do not beat yourself up if you feel as though everyone else has it nailed and you are the only one struggling, everyone at times finds it hard work.
2 - Those first few weeks are not just the happiest of your life
They are also the most tiring, scary, overwhelming, and disorientating ones. You will be over the moon at the gorgeous, tiny little human that you have made, but don't kid yourself that you are going to be bouncing off the walls, ridiculously happy, every minute of every day.
There will be some point in those weeks, that you will be convinced that you have ruined your life. Obviously, you have not, and that feeling definitely passes quite quickly. But before that, you will hit a brick wall. There will be moments of weakness and delirium, where you have only had a few hours sleep, and you can't figure out how to settle your baby that you wonder what on earth made you think that becoming a parent was a good idea, or that you would actually be any good at it. Then you will instantly hate yourself for even thinking it, because the truth is, you would never trade your precious little person for anything in the whole world.
There will be times when you are so tired, so frustrated, and so out of patience that you will need to simply walk away. Just walk away, take 5 minutes, and compose yourself.
3 - The guilt
I covered this off briefly in my insta- post. For me, this is the part that really got to me the most.
You expect that your life will change, but you will not expect how much it affects you.
You know long leisurely lunches, midweek drinks with the girls, lazy Sunday morning are a thing of the past, but you don't anticipate how that is going to make you feel.
Trying to do something for you becomes a military operation that takes over your life, and your days are no longer simply split into work and free time. They are now ran by a schedule of feeding, napping, housework, etc and everything just rolls into one. Your "to do" list just keeps on growing, you never actually cross many things off, and what you do, normally comes at the cost of something else. It is exhausting.
You will (most likely) at some point, feel like you want your old life back, and wonder if you were ready to become a mum… and then hate yourself for even thinking it. That you must be a terrible person for not being blissfully happy.
Mum guilt is like quicksand, and it’s easy to get stuck in it. You will feel it for anything from not breastfeeding long enough (or at all), or going back to work. No matter what decisions you make or why, that quicksand will creep up on you.
I felt a huge amount of guilt wrestling with my new life while grieving for my old. I went from a comfortable, easy life where I was in complete control, to a whole new life which I was totally unprepared for (despite my best efforts!) You might not experience this, but I know a lot do… and if you fall into the same camp as me, rest assured, it is completely natural. You are not doing a bad job, or being ungrateful, or an unfit mum (as I thought at the time) you are simply in transition and allowing yourself to come to terms and move on to your new life.
4 - It can be really, really, bone achingly lonely
I have the best support network a girl could ask for but even with my wonderful friends and family, I have had moments where I have felt so, so lonely that I could just cry. Your days can seem never ending, and by default, you can lose touch with the outside world. You can feel like you are just waiting for your husband/ partner/ ANYONE to get home, just so you're not alone any more. It can be incredibly tough.
5 - Time changes
I read somewhere once "days are long, years are short" and this couldn’t be more true once you become a mum! You wait and wait till Daddy comes home (see point 4!) so you have someone to help with the workload, you become dependant on starbucks takeaways, and walks to pass the time and keep your mini person entertained/ sleeping etc. The day can drag.
Yet despite this, all of a sudden your baby isn't a baby anymore. When did my newborn turn into a proper little boy?
How is it that it seems like only yesterday I was bringing him home with me, giving him his first bath or letting him sleep snuggled up on me, where he fit perfectly into the crook of my neck. And now he is sitting, crawling, jabbering, eating proper food, and learning something new every single day. That early fog of those first few weeks seem like a lifetime ago.
6 - It is the hardest job in the world
Not ONE of the hardest… THE hardest. I genuinely thought my maternity leave was going to be a free break from work. Yes. I thought I was getting a BREAK.
Yes, you may no longer "go to work." No, you don't have a 9-5 any more… you have a "from when you wake up, to when you go to bed" job. What other job would you be expected to work all day, every day, and wipe your bosses arse, for zero pay?
So remember -
All new mums will struggle with something, at some point. Have you ever been there, admiring a mum who seems to have it all under control…? Have you ever thought that she could be looking at you and thinking exactly the same? That very same super mum, could have spent all night trying to soothe a colicky baby, and spent the morning crying into her coffee. Nothing is as it seems… and every one of us is guilty of saying "I'm fine" when we are definitely not.
You will have bad days, but oh boy will you have good ones. And the good ones will by far outweigh the bad. On the bad days, when you feel so far out of your league that you just want to cry, your beautiful baby will look at you and giggle… and you will melt in that all consuming, overwhelming love, that you only get from being a mama.
It goes oh so quickly. See point 5… these moments will pass, the days and nights may seem long, but all of a sudden, you will blink, and your newborn baby, isn't a baby anymore. He will be sitting, eating, talking, crawling, walking, before you can even say "sleep deprivation" so make sure you make the most of those early moments. Take every single snuggle, hug, nap that you can. The cleaning and the laundry can probably wait, you will never get that time back with your tiny baby, and what I wouldn't give somedays to have Frank snuggle up into my neck for naptime.
For all that I have said, you still won't be prepared for what your journey will be like. I can share my story, and others will share theirs… but your way will be different, your life is different… your baby will behave/ react/ eat/ sleep etc differently to every other baby on the planet. Because they are their own, new, unique tiny little human.
And finally -
Give yourself a break. We've all been there… you're not alone!