To my friend the new mum, 12 things I want to tell you
A couple of my friends are having babies, which is lovely in the way it always is when your friends have babies (Look, it’s a new baby! All of the new baby excitement and loveliness! That new baby smell!).
But it also means there’s none of the mind-melding brain-fog of ecstatic sleeplessness overlayed by the irrational fear that a bird is going to fly in through the window and take the baby hostage*, along with the never-ending ride on the hair-raising postnatal emotional rollercoaster, with happy joy followed with the deep panic that you have no idea what you’re doing and are going to break them and why am I crying again?!. For you, at least.
This is me as a new mum (brain fogged up to the max with all the windows shut. Also looking and feeling tired, but blissfully happy, clueless, terrified, happy, clueless about what I’m feeling again. And look, tiny baby!).
Thinking about people having new babies and looking back on the early days of new motherhood is funny as my – youngest – baby is growing up at such a rapid rate that I’m pretty sure she has her driving test next week, so there’s a lot of distance between us and that time.
So I’ve not been the panicked new mum for quite some time, but in light of my friends having babies, I’ve been thinking about advice you need and advice you’d give your friends about the early baby days.
(In theory! No-one wants unwanted parenting advice – especially as you spend a lot of time in that duel state of rejecting any unwanted parenting advice and, oh wait, desperately Googling everything).
So what advice would you give your best friends about the early baby days? Here’s twelve thoughts that stick out from me:
No-one knows what they’re doing. Especially not at first. Or much later on, to be fair. With the benefit of all the hindsight it is easy to look back and see how I was clueless about many things to do with babies. But it wasn’t just me and it’s not just you. Everyone’s winging it. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.
Day three is THE WORST. It does get better, though. It all gets better.
It’s OK to feel however you feel about childbirth, However it was and however that is. I had two vaguely similar births (here and here). But after the first I felt shellshocked and after the second I felt like a superhero. It helps to talk about it, mainly over wine with your NCT friends for years and years after.
Be your own worst critic. You will be, anyway. The media is full of all the divisive motherhood debates on which you must pick a side and be desperately offended by and judgemental of anyone else who does the opposite thing, be it breast vs bottle, co-sleeping vs cot, stay at home vs not. But in reality, most mums don’t care about the things other mums do (if they are anything like me they are more worried about getting away with yesterday’s jeans again, how many packs of emergency baby wipes will fit in the nice small bag or why you accidentally bought the ‘tropical’ dry shampoo and your hair vaguely smells like a pina colada). But you will judge yourself more harshly on all of these choices than almost anyone else will. So make sure you make ones you are happy with.
But celebrate your good acts, too. Even if on some days the only thing to celebrate is getting dressed. it will still seem like a mum milestone.
Ignore all the people who tell you to ignore the housework. *You* ignore it – but get someone else to do it.
You probably won’t drop the baby. Or break them by changing them. Even though, you know, it feels like it. Front fastening babygros are key here.
From now on you’re never alone. Relish those single loo trips while all the visitors are around to hold the baby. But despite this it can get pretty lonely as some days you don’t speak to any grown-ups all day apart from the ASOS delivery man, who in return will tell you his entire life story every single time you see him. Babies are brilliant but don’t really have the best bedside chat until they get older (and then they never stop talking which is still brilliant but a special kind of exhausting and brilliant).
Go outside. Even if it takes forever to leave the house, fresh air makes everything better.
It’s OK to be a less-than-perfect mum. And I bet you are doing a much better job than you think.
Most of parenting can be summed up by this question ‘Is it just me?’ About everything, from breastfeeding struggles to the nightsweats to teething to baby sleep to baby brain. And the good news is the answer is ‘it’s not just you.’ About everything. Honestly.
You don’t have to do up every popper on the babygro. Especially not in the middle of the night. Or when you’re home alone. Who will ever know? They won’t fall out. Alternatively, get the ones with zips.
* This might have just been me