A new friend is about to give birth to her first child. As it happens, her due date is close to the Boywonder’s 16th birthday. As he stands almost on the threshold of adulthood, but still very much a child, I’ve come over all nostalgic and teary. Becoming a mum can be tough and the new challenges just keep coming. My friend’s head is probably already spinning with friendly advice but here is some more:
- It might not be the most wonderful experience of your life. That’s OK. Everyone has a birth horror story and you will find that, for the first few years at least, many new mums are just desperate to share theirs. If something doesn’t quite go to plan, find the silver lining: that you will have a lovely baby.
- Some mothers don’t fall in love with their babies from the first second they are born. Having a baby turns your life upside down. Nothing can prepare you for the constant tiredness, the worry that you’re doing something wrong and the incessant demands made on you by the new arrival. This is normal. It is OK. You will become accustomed to it, eventually. How many people fall in love at first sight? It takes time to build a relationship. I went through the motions with the Boywonder until I finally bonded with him when he was 10 months old. I remember that moment with utmost clarity. Now I would do anything for him, and do.
- Breast is best. Of course it is. But if you find that it isn’t working no matter how hard you try and that you’re getting stressed, give yourself a break. Some babies don’t cotton on; some just like the breast in their mouths and don’t suck; sometimes a bad birth will deplete your milk; some of us just aren’t the right shape, no matter how hard we try. By all means ask for help from midwives and health visitors. But for goodness’ sake don’t beat yourself up about it. And don’t let other people bully you if you decide to bottle feed. There are so many pressures on new mums and you can do without this extra one.
- If however, you make a go of breast feeding, NEVER be ashamed of doing it in public. The people who might mutter or give you odd looks are sub-human and don’t deserve your attention. And it is perfectly possible to breastfeed discreetly in a restaurant. Never let yourself be forced into a loo. Grr.
- Later on, do not view food as love. Babies and small children are perfectly capable of controlling their own appetites and intake. They should not be made to clean their plates if they don’t want to. I made this mistake myself and it caused years of mealtime stress. Food is just food. There are other ways of giving love.
- Take time for your relationship with your partner. A new addition to the family adds a totally new dynamic and the partner often feels left out in the cold with all the added responsibility and the guilt of the resentment. Let him do stuff for the baby and don’t feel stressed or criticise if he does something differently. Make him a cup of tea too, once in a while!
- Make sure you try and go out (or stay in) together as a couple at least once month. Try not to spend the whole time talking about the baby! Babysitters aplenty are just a phone call way. 🙂
- Make sure the grandparents are involved. I don’t just mean sitting around holding a sleeping baby. Anyone can do that. If they can’t change a nappy, or put the rain cover on the buggy, it’s about time they learned. Ask them to cook and fill your freezer if they want to help. You will have neither time nor energy to cook in the first few weeks but it is imperative that you keep up your strength.
- Don’t stuff yourself with chocolate, as I did, to try and combat the tiredness: it will be almost impossible to lose the extra weight.
- Feel free to accept or reject any advice you please. This is your baby and you must do what is right for you.
- On a similar note, do not let people make you feel bad for going back to work if that is what you feel is right for you. Let them walk 10 miles in your shoes before they judge you. I have had a very tenuous grip on employment throughout my life and had to go back to work when the Boywonder was three months old. Feeling as I did about new motherhood, I strongly believe that he was better off with our wonderful and capable nanny share. And I was better off working, albeit part time.
- Try to remember that the world divides into those who have children and those who don’t and that your new world will be unimaginable to many of your child-free friends. If they are insensitive, it’s not their fault, but if you can’t change your plans at a moment’s notice anymore, well, that’s just the way it is too.
Remember that it will get better and try and enjoy the experience of being a mum. Time might seem to pass grindingly slowly but you will all too soon be like me, looking back and wondering where the years went and desperately sad at the thought of your beautiful baby about to fly the nest.