Firstly congratulations. Secondly if you’ve come here to read another positive insight into life as parent then you may be disappointed, but before you run and hide, hear me out. This letter is to prepare you for the struggles and to assure you that you are not alone, so here goes.
The sleepless nights are tough, in fact they are beyond tough. They test you and often bring you to breaking point. At first you’ll be surviving on adrenaline and the elation that your baby is finally here. Soon the exhaustion kicks in and as the days turn into weeks and for some unfortunate souls months (or even years, just ask my sister!) you find yourself broken. There were times when my baby screamed non stop through the night and I sat on my bed rocking him hysterically crying. There were other times I woke my partner up and said you need to take the baby, I then took myself to the other room screamed myself/cried before going back to my child. You look at this beautiful baby and you are so happy, so many people never get this opportunity you are one of the lucky ones, but equally you are not enjoying this, all the doubts creep in and you are begging your child to sleep so you can too, you love them but on the sixth wake up call in as many hours you briefly don’t like them very much. You are allowed to feel like this, it is not a crime and it does not make you ungrateful for your little miracle. It makes you human. Sleep deprivation is torture. You have the most important job in the world and you are doing it all with a measly hour or so sleep.
Take the help. If you don’t want to be without your baby then speak up and ask for help in other ways. I wish I did this. People offer to come around and watch the baby while you catch up on sleep, I didn’t want this. If you’re anything like me you don’t want your baby anywhere else but by your side. But what you would appreciate is someone hanging up the washing, doing the dishes, whipping the hoover around and cooking dinner. Ask for help. Believe me people don’t offer to do those things they want the good stuff, the baby cuddles, the fun tasks. They don’t want the jobs they are putting off in their own homes, but those are the jobs you need help with so ask. Leave them to clean while you and your baby snooze. And then reward them with a cuddle afterwards if they are still around!
You will have lots of visitors in the early days and then just like that they will all fizzle out. Don’t be afraid of saying no to people coming around after the baby has arrived. My partner and I discussed this prior to our son being born and we decided we wanted to enjoy our time adjusting to a family of three before we were inundated with visitors. Paternity leave is short and Tom wanted to spend time bonding with his baby. Of course this didn’t happen. People were constantly around. A few people even showed up unannounced and just invited themselves in, not ideal when you are mid nap or trying to find your feet with breastfeeding.
I saw lots of other new mums on Instagram being inundated with home cooked meals and snacks delivered to their doors, we didn’t get that. In fact I was the one making cups of tea and coffee for the visitors, hobbling around in pain with my vagina covered in stitches! We did get offers to go to other people’s homes for dinner, Toms mum was amazing and cooked us a few dinners at her house and not to sound ungrateful but it was a lot of effort taking our newborn baby out. We both would have much preferred people dropping food to us so we could stay in ours pjs and have everything our baby needed around us to hand.
Don’t be afraid of speaking out.
Take your time and relax, as much as possible with a newborn. If you want to stay in bed, order take out and get acquainted with your baby then do it! Too many people are in a rush to tell you that you need to get fresh air and get out and about. You don’t need this, you need to sleep when the baby sleeps, find your groove and eat, not go for an hour walk or do the Tesco shop, windows and online shopping were invited for a good reason. So crack the window for some fresh air and take your time, you are in no rush to be anywhere.
Cry. Cry as much or as little as you bloody want. Having a baby is exhausting and you still have those sneaky hormones having a party in your body. It will take time for everything to adjust. You might find yourself crying and you aren’t even sure why, this is normal. You’re a new mum you don’t always need a reason.
Believe me you aren’t the only one struggling. Remember as you’re flicking through Facebook and Insta that people only post what they want you to see. They don’t post themselves covered in poo, sick or the selfie after they’ve been crying for four hours straight. Just because everyone else seems to handle having a baby better than you, doesn’t mean they actually do.
Ask questions and lots of them, no question is stupid. You may have read every baby book going but there will still be things you just have no idea about. That’s ok. We’re all in the same boat. Being a parent is all about learning on the job and picking up tips and tools from those around us. No one expects you to know it all.
You carried your baby then delivered your baby, chances are the baby is going to be firmly in your arms for a while. Be prepared for a lot of people telling you that’s wrong, that you’ll make the baby clingy, that you’re making a rod for your own back and that the baby will get used to it. Ignore each and every comment. If you want to hold your baby then hold him. There were days when my baby wouldn’t stop crying unless he was on my chest, those days were the ones where I didn’t get out of my pyjamas, let alone eat or shower, I just held my baby, my mother in law (sorry if she’s reading this…) laughed in my face and said things like “is he in your arms again”, “he won’t sleep anywhere else if you keep holding him”, fast forward a few months and Arlo sleeps perfectly in his cot and settles himself to sleep. He is also a really happy content baby which I honestly believe is because I cuddled him non stop for the first few weeks (ok few months), it totally might just be luck but I like to think it’s because of those extra cuddles I was mocked for.
We hear it all the time but it is really true, mothers know best. We know our children, we are the ones who are with them 24/7. We get to know what each and every sound means, when your baby is getting tired, when they are under the weather and when they need a cuddle. You will be inundated with advice and opinions, you have three options. 1. Listen to every single bit of advice then panic that you’re not doing it right and that everyone knows more than you – don’t do this. 2. Take all advice with a pinch of salt, some might be useful, the rest probably isn’t. 3. ‘Listen’ to said advice, letting it go in one ear then out the other and find your own way. If you are unsure or want advice ask those you trust, too many people have an opinion when it comes to your baby, just go with the people you would be happy leaving your baby with (eventually!)
You might find that family think they have an automatic claim and right to spend time with your baby. It is an amazing feeling knowing your baby is surrounded by love but make sure it’s on your terms. Like I said above you know your baby best, if someone wants to come around for cuddles but your little one is tired and just about to nod off then don’t be afraid to say no or arrange a later time. It might be the best time for them but you’ll be the one left with an over tired screaming baby once they’ve had their cute cuddle fix.
Lastly enjoy each and every moment, even the shitty ones, because time really does fly. Suddenly your baby is there months old and you have no idea how. Good luck! Motherhood is one big adventure but I promise even though it still has its moments it does get easier.