With three out of three recent arrivals in my circle of friends being less than straightforward, it’s lead me to think about my own birthing and newborn experience. While CJ’s birth was pretty easy, the weeks that followed were extremely hard, in a way that it can be hard to comprehend if you haven’t been there yourself – and even hard to comprehend if you are there for the first time. Coincidentally, the NZBlogger prompt this week is Sage – so here’s my hopefully sage advice from someone who has been there before to the mum who wonders what the hell she’s done:
It’s not like you imagined it, I know and I’m sorry. I’m not going to tell you that everyone finds it this hard either, because the reality is that some mums and babies just hit the ground running. Don’t let anyone tell you – even yourself – that this means you aren’t a natural mother. It’s just taking you a little longer to adjust – whether it’s from zero to one, one to two, or four to five kids. And that’s okay.
There have been obstacles in your road. Your health or his health or her health or your husband’s mental health. Things didn’t go the way that you planned. Ask for help. It doesn’t make you a bad mum. It doesn’t serve anyone for you to battle on trying to trick everyone into thinking that you have it all sorted – let people do what they can to help. There will never be another time where people are more willing to be your village, as much as you’ll wish someone would step in when your toddler throws a tantrum in the supermarket.
Get out of the house! I know that it’s hard, she’s crying, you’re crying and you never know what is happening next. Ask your mum friends about a family-friendly cafe and then go with them to get that monster-sized coffee and a big lump of cake. Go out with your baby. Go out without your baby – no one should judge you if you need an hour to just get your head to rights and if you’re leaving your baby with food (of breast milk or formula variety) and supervision (of partner or friend or grandparent variety) then it’s none of their damn business anyway. Do something that makes you feel human again whether it’s swinging on a swing, or reading a book or going late night shopping.
Feed your baby however works for you. Know that no matter what you do, people will judge you. If breast-feeding feels like the one thing you can do right for your baby, keep doing it. If it makes you want to cringe every feed-time, if you want to run screaming from the house, stop doing it. Breast milk does have great benefits but it certainly doesn’t work for everyone and it’s okay to accept defeat. It doesn’t make you less of a woman.
Know that “this too shall pass” – the good and the bad. The screaming, hungry, lip-tied newborn will turn into a sassy toddler that refuses to lie down in bed and will scream as you take him home from the park. Your fantastic sleeper turns into a gorgeous boy who says Yes like Sean Connery and who gives the best cuddles. Then those phases pass too. It feels like the longest time when you’re in it but the saying becomes even more true – The days are long but the years are short. You stop counting in weeks and start counting in months, then years. This hard part fails into the distance, even if you’re still dealing with repercussions of earlier issues. It does get better.
You have this. Whether you’re covered in baby vomit or decided that having lunch was more important than having a shower. You have this. Whether you had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner or decided to have take-aways for the third time (or fifth time) this week. You have this. I know you don’t feel like it, but you do.