Life with a newborn was probably the most difficult experience I’ve ever faced and hopefully the most difficult one I ever will. For a first time mum there are so many new things that you just have to learn along the way. It doesn’t matter how much advice people give you or how many books you read, nothing can prepare you for the experience of it all.
So here is what I wish I could have told myself circa June 2015:
Right now you are probably tired, bloated, uncomfortable with heartburn and with a heart burning to meet your little one. You’ve come through morning sickness, weight gain, hormonal acne, mood swings – all of the wonderful pregnancy symptoms you could possibly have gotten and you are almost at the end of the road…and now you can’t wait for it to end.
The little clothes are folded and washed, the change table is stocked and the nursery is decorated. You’ve been to the birth classes, you’ve read the books and you follow about a million mummy blogs so, even though you tell people you’ve got no idea, secretly you think you’ve got this. I’m so sorry to tell you, but you don’t.
What is about to happen is not only totally out of your control, it’s also going to be so hard that you are going to want to give up. Like climbing Everest only no matter how hard it gets, you can’t turn back.
Giving birth is going to overwhelm you. It’s not going to be anything like you think its going to be and the pain well…it’s all words until it happens. Really it’s like being in a car crash. So traumatic your brain will block it. I can only assume that this is necessary to ensure the continuation of the human race. You will grieve over your experience. This is OK. People will tell you the only thing that matters is a healthy baby. This isn’t true. That is the MOST important thing but it is not the only thing that matters. You matter too. Birth is traumatic. You are allowed to grieve.
Life with a newborn is going to overwhelm you. This is ok. It happens to everyone. You are not the only person who has no idea what they are doing and who simply cannot cope with a crying baby that won’t settle at 3am after no sleep while recovering from a C-section. Pass the baby to someone else and go to bed. Please try not to feel guilty. You are surviving, you are keeping this precious bundle alive and you are doing a great job!
Your marriage is going to take a sideline. You two will be tired but full of love at the same time and the overwhelming feelings are going to burst out in all kinds of frustrations. This is also ok. One day you will have a little extra time and you will get a chance to remember each other again. For now though, things have changed. You aren’t just a couple anymore, you are parents. This is a whole new ball game. Get the hang of this first and the rest will fall into place.
Breast feeding is not just hard, it’s awful. It hurts, it often feels like it’s not working and it is all the time around the clock. Your smartphone will be your saviour. Definitely get Netflix. Buckle down and don’t worry about leaving the house. Just do what you gotta do because when it works, it really works.
You will get post-natal depression. You will cry every day for months. Read the brochure and do everything it says. See a counsellor, join a support group, go for walks and take the medication. Eventually something will work, the darkness will clear and the sun will come out.
It takes a village. You can’t do it on your own and you don’t have to. Plan for help and accept it when it’s offered.
You will desperately ask other parents, ‘Does this get easier?’ Only to be told with a knowing smile that, ‘It just gets different.’ This is a LIE! They have forgotten what it was like. It absolutely gets easier and what’s more it gets fun. So much fun that you’ll look forward to having another. That’s when you know you’ve come through the fog.
Lots of love and understanding
From the other side.
Photo credit: GFP Studios