One of my lifelong friends just had her first baby and I’ve been happily along for so much of the ride. From the early days of uneasiness (and nausea) to the moment she knew it was “time” — and everything in between, her pregnancy was a joy to witness.
But now that her sweet baby boy is earth-side and parenting has hit hard, there are so many moments that I’m filled with this odd mix of empathy, pain, and nostalgia. Witnessing her joys and struggles as a new mother has brought forth memories of my own early days of parenting, and been a sobering reminder of how hard those first few months can truly be.
Yes, there is a little bundle of love-squish in your arms and that baby is your new normal, and a sweet one at that. But along with parenting a newborn (and later, any child) come pitfalls both unexpected and feared. I am by no means perfect, but try to provide my friend with a listening ear, a confidence boost, and the soundest, easiest-to-follow advice I can muster.
But being a new mum is hard. And during a decent half of our chats, I’m left wondering where my more seasoned at parenting friends were when I was going through it? I will always look back on the newborn days with my first daughter with a lens of absolute bliss and beauty: despite the sore nipples and crippling fatigue, I had time to treasure her and I truly did.
And yet, there were so many questions that floated above my head in a misty cloud no one seemed to notice but me. None of my friends were having babies yet and I felt, despite the constant presence of my infant, alone.
There are no regrets except that I wish I had slowed it on down and trusted myself more. There is also the knowledge that if I could go back, I would tell that new mum me the same things I’m telling my friend today. And hopefully, she’d listen:
1 – Leave any Facebook mum’s group where the conversation makes you feel small or brings you anxiety. (And ditto any in-real-life mom’s groups that do the same. You don’t need that negativity in your life, and you have way too much sh*t to do to waste your time that way.
2 – It is never a bad idea to call your paediatrician with a question. You aren’t burdening them, you’re learning. (On Baby #2, you’ll do this much less, I promise!). Don’t let anyone — even your spouse — make you feel ridiculous for being cautious. You’re entitled.
3 – “Sleep when they sleep” is kind of annoying advice to give to a new mother. Sleep when you can, skip the makeup, and love on that baby. Wash the dishes when they sleep, or stand up alone in your kitchen eating chocolate ice cream directly from the carton for all I care. The pressure to find time to sleep, and to ignore the chores and actual relaxing I wanted to do as the mum of a newborn, was stifling! I wish I could tell that version of me that sleep was coming soon, and in the meantime there was no shame in spending my baby’s naps doing other things I wanted and needed to do.
4 – Not every plan works for every baby (or every mum). Sally down the street might be letting her little one cry it out, or co-sleeping, or eating her placenta in little capsules to up her mood. There’s always some new plan, but your baby is your baby, and your motherhood is yours too. And it’s okay to not taking every piece of advice you hear. Listen to your instincts, consult experts you trust, and ignore the constant run of info from everyone else you know.
5- When you can, get out of the house. Preferably, without the baby. Sometimes the four walls start to close in on you. The crying, the lack of sleep, the inability to remember who you used to be… it can be crushing. Nip out for a manicure or just a walk. Take every opportunity you can to sneak in a break, however brief. There is absolutely no shame in needing one.
6 – Breastfeeding is great, but it doesn’t define you. I loved breastfeeding, and wanted to continue, but I’d be lying if I said that societal pressure didn’t have anything to do with the panic attacks I had on the few occasions when I needed to supplement. Looking back, I wish I had given myself more grace on this issue. And honestly, I wish mums gave each other more grace on it, too.
7 – They do not need a handwritten thank-you note. A text is fine. A call next month is fine, too. If they gave the gift for the right reasons, they shouldn’t care about a thank-you. You have your hands (overly) full right now, and can worry about trivial societal norms later.
8 – Leggings are pants. And maternity maxi dresses are life. And you don’t owe anyone a god damn thing so wear what you want and remember you earned that right. But feel free to spend some of that hard-earned cash on “in between” jeans and other things that will make you feel good, right now, because you deserve it.
9 – Drink some wine. Don’t apologise. It drove me absolutely batty when a family friend widened her eyes and exclaimed, “Aren’t you breastfeeding??” when I had a few sips of wine at a party with my sleeping infant in my arms. Here’s the thing: you know your body, you have lactation consultants and paediatricians to discuss these issues with, and you’re capable of reading the latest research. You don’t need to worry about whatever uninformed, judgmental people think about your choices. (That applies to more than just wine, by the way!)
10 – This too shall pass. And when it does (don’t shoot me for saying this!) you’ll miss it. So take it as easy as you can, get as many pictures as possible, and soak it in. But if this was one of those days when all you did was get through it, then you’re already doing a great job. And see also: This too shall pass.