I hold my hands up and admit that I was honestly woefully unprepared for first time motherhood.
Giddy with excitement and anticipation, fuelled by rose-tinted anecdotes from other mummies and impervious to any advice that wasn’t 100% positive, I set about pregnancy with a lolloping enthusiasm. I drafted and redrafted my birth plan. I organised. I dreamt.
All I longed for was my baby in my arms, and I KNEW it wasn’t going to be easy, but when faced with the daunting reality of becoming a new mum, it hit me that I actually didn’t have a bloody clue what I was doing and couldn’t believe that I’d been entrusted with the task of nurturing this tiny, vulnerable creature for the next 18 years minimum. Shit. What was I going to do?!
Tears fell, and they fell in buckets. One terrible morning, the day my husband went back to work 2 weeks after Max was born, I genuinely contemplated calling my Health Visitor and asking to put the baby up for adoption because I felt like such a shit mother and completely overwhelmed…
It’s safe to say that these feelings dissipated and things got much, much better as I got to grips with motherhood but bloomin’ heck, it was a huge, monumental shift to the foundations of my life, my mental health, and my self esteem. I’m a strong advocate for the saying ‘honesty is the best policy’, giving parents-to-be biased and white washed advice isn’t as helpful as you may think and doesn’t allow for proper preparation. Hopefully my insight will help struggling new parents to realise that it’s really very normal to feel like a fish out of water, and help parents-to-be to prepare with realistic expectations.
It’s worth every bloody second, guys. Every smile, every giggle, every developmental milestone met, you’ll feel fit to burst with pride and love.
Motherhood Realities I Was Woefully Unprepared For
They’re telling the truth when they tell you ‘enjoy sleep while it lasts’…
My god. I was not prepared for the realities of sleepless nights! Yes, I knew that babies and sleep don’t exactly come hand in hand, but the reality of sleep deprivation was a shock to the system. Falling asleep breastfeeding was probably the moment I realised just how hard this was going to be – luckily baby wasn’t hurt and I woke up within milliseconds – but in all honesty, I very often see new mums asking how to make a newborn sleep. I get it. You’re exhausted and desperate but it is normal. You can’t force a newborn to sleep, sleep training is a huge no go for a tiny little baby who is still getting used to their new world and needs their mummy for comfort during the tender ‘4th trimester‘, and it DOES GET BETTER!
I promise. I mean, I can’t promise your child will be a 12 hour snorer, but the sleep cycle does improve and you will achieve restful sleep again. Your body will also become used to less sleep than before. Keep on trooping.
Birth plan? Ha! What birth plan?
I feel really lucky that some parts of my birth plan were stuck to – delayed cord clamping even with an emergency caesarean, skin to skin and boob as soon as possible, daddy cuts the cord, no episiotomy, no pain relief other than gas and air, full permission and information with each stage, no being forced to birth in one position, ensure baby has Vitamin K in a timely manner etc, BUT for all the things that went right, there’s something that went awry. I didn’t want to be on a monitor constantly, I didn’t want a needle anywhere near my spine, and I certainly did not want a caesarean because it’s major abdominal surgery.
Well, surprise surprise, I was on a monitor for 14 solid hours thanks to preeclampsia. I ended up with a spinal and emergency caesarean as my body and baby weren’t ready. He was born healthily, I (eventually) recovered after a long list of complications, so I am grateful and overjoyed, but disenchanted with the notion of writing up a birth plan in future.
‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ is about as realistic as a chocolate teapot…
Sorry but anyone who says this to a new mum needs a slap, what a ridiculous statement. When are we meant to snatch a moment to eat, piss, take a shower, brush our hair? It is fine to let baby cry for a minute here or there until you’re able to scoop them up into your welcoming comfort but realistically it is very hard to snatch the time for self care during the ‘fourth trimester’ unless your partner or a friend/family member can come and sit with you, which again is hard as people work and have their own families.
When the baby sleeps, quickly grab a shower, a sandwich and brush your hair. Nod off if baby is still snoozing.
Baby Nails Are Like Razor Blades!
Christ almighty, Max didn’t half take some chunks out of himself, even with constant clipping, filing, smoothing, and the use of mittens. He always found a way to scratch at himself (eczema from CMPA made it all the more uncomfortable for him), I had no idea just how badly babies can scratch themselves! In the end I only put him in clothes with built in mittens because he’d always find a way to pull off separate mittens.
‘Losing yourself’ is a very real thing and it can take an unexpectedly long time to regain your sense of self.
My son was 3 in August 2019 and I am now only just becoming interested in doing my hair and makeup again. I’ve only just started wearing heels again! I’m starting to throw away the ripped trackies, holey leggings, stained sports t-shirts and tatty trainers and replace them with nice, fashionable dresses, blouses, jackets and other nice things. I cannot convey just how relieved I am to have rediscovered the feminine, groomed me of old…
It doesn’t always take this long, and some mummies manage to maintain their self image even straight after the birth, but it’s so common to lose all interest for a period of time. Finding a pretty dress and makeup palette and seeing yourself wearing them is like seeing the sunrise after months of perpetual midnight, I swear.
Being overjoyed at the sight of a poo is a real thing.
Consti-feckin-pation. The bane of many a mum’s life, constipation can wreak havoc and make the sight of a freshly laid turd in a nappy as awe inspiring as gazing at one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Maternity leave is no holiday…
I fully expected to pop my baby out and spend a minimum of 9 months going to baby groups and coffee mornings with other mummy friends, with my freshly done hair, nice clean outfit, and a happy baby who WASN’T covered in their own vomit and screaming non-stop.
Oh boy, was I deluded!
For many, the reality isn’t quite as social especially if you struggle with the baby blues and getting to grips with new motherhood. I really, really struggled to even find the time to brush my hair once a week, let alone put myself together and go out to a baby group. The very few times I did go, my son projectile vomited everywhere and I felt completely out of my depth next to the preened, ‘got-my-shit-together’ mummies. It was intimidating, honestly, but as I found my feet and my confidence, it became easier and more fun.
Deciding what to do after maternity leave is a monumentally huge decision.
I took for granted that I’d just put my baby in nursery and head back to work after 9 months of paid maternity leave but oh my goodness, it was NOT so simple!
Firstly; I didn’t feel ready to be back in an office environment surrounded by other people, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind at all. Secondly, I didn’t feel ready to leave my son in child care and basically pay other people to look after him whilst having very little money left after paying fees! I was in such a pickle, it caused me a lot of stress. I’m really fortunate to have been offered the job I do now as Content Editor for Bump, Baby & You in perfect timing as it got me back working without the pressure of a busy office, and helped me to build my confidence back up with more time with Max, and less pressure when it came to nursery fees. Now he has his 30 hour funding, things are even better!
Colic, reflux and CMPA are massive, unexpected joy stealers.
COLIC, REFLUX, CMPA – these may as well be swear words to any parent who has experienced the misery of a screaming baby, clearly in agony.
These three bastards sucked so much of the joy and pleasure out of what should have been a difficult but beautiful time; bonding with my new baby. How was I supposed to bond with a baby who screams in agony most of the day, who projectile vomits every feed, who didn’t seem to get any comfort from anyone?! I felt so guilty and powerless, and I still do… But we got there and now have a fantastic bond.
Being a new mum is synonymous with having ‘overly paranoid’ tattooed on your forehead.
I may as well have had a neon arrow strapped to my head flashing ‘paranoid mum alert’ when I visited my GP due to Max’s CMPA symptoms. The term ‘fobbed off’ is an understatement. It took 6 visits, 6 slots of being patronised and spoken down to, treated like I was talking total shit when I suggested an allergy, and me being reduced to tears, for me to be begrudgingly given a paediatrician appointment.
15 minutes after meeting her… What do you know? I was right all along. All those months of Max suffering were actually avoidable, and all because my GP assumed I was being overly paranoid.
It goes without saying that I took huge satisfaction in the look on his face when he asked how the appointment went many months later. Mummies, you’re allowed to demand a second opinion, and when in doubt, you SHOULD be referred to a paediatrician or dietitian as most GP’s don’t specialise in paediatrics and CMPA babies can actually gain weight…
It’s too easy to take our health for granted, and poor health can have a massive impact on how we cope.
During my pregnancy and after having Max, I ate what I wanted and buried any lifestyle worries in the back of my mind despite having PCOS and Gestational Diabetes therefore being predisposed to insulin resistance and ultimately Type 2 Diabetes.
Guys, I became scarily poorly. Please let this be a cautionary tale! LOOK AFTER YOURSELF AND EAT PROPERLY. I was an undiagnosed T2 for over 18 months after cancelling my post-partum GTT due to a wound infection. 18 months was all it took to damage my kidneys. Luckily, I’ve mostly reversed the damage and put my diabetes into remission through lifestyle change (low carb high fat diet, the opposite of Slimming World funnily enough) and also lost 6 stone from my heaviest weight (whilst eating clotted cream, haha, and yes, my cholesterol has come DOWN eating MORE fat…).
It all came to a head one horrible day after having a McDonalds for my lunch… Once again, I started sweating buckets and feeling like I was about to pass out, but this time, a little voice told me to find my old blood sugar testing kit from my gestational diabetes. When the number 18.4 flashed back at me, I was devestated. It should have been a maximum of 7.8 after eating in a non diabetic, and mine was over double that. It explained why I’d felt so poorly and why my mental health had been so bad, as high blood sugar can cause horrific depression, anxiety and irritability.
It isn’t unheard of for Gestational Diabetes to turn into Type 2, but I didn’t help myself, I didn’t look after myself and took my health for granted. Don’t be like me.
Breastfeeding isn’t as simple as putting baby on and off you go – it’s an art that we’ve lost the knack of and need support in regaining!
I was so naive when it came to breastfeeding. I wanted to breastfeed to natural term, and let Max wean himself at whatever stage he chose, but I set myself up to fail by being laissez faire and not fully researching and preparing. I missed the local group about breastfeeding due to having him early, and didn’t clue myself up so I was SHOCKED when I was introduced to the not-so-joyful stage of cluster feeding, Max falling asleep at the boob constantly, and then Max vomiting and screaming.
Long story short, due to some seriously shit misinformation and poor advice, I started combi feeding early on and by 6 weeks he was fully on formula, which failed to help, and by the time we had a CMPA diagnosis, re-lactation didn’t work.
Ladies, equip yourself, join support groups, talk to breastfeeding mummies – their support is so valuable, and I know next time we’ll get the hang of breastfeeding.
They weren’t joking when they coined the term ‘Mother Bear’… Becoming a mum ignites a burning protective rage from deep within!
I’m not one to cause a scene but holy moly, when it comes to Max I will scream at any stranger in public, and I’m sure many of you will relate! I realised just how on point the phrase ‘Mother Bear’ really is when I felt it rearing up inside me; the roaring, fearsome beast on her hind legs, shielding her cub and putting the fear into anyone who dared cross her path!
I think the time that I truly realised how potent the ‘Mother Bear’ is was the day I took Max to the park and he was very nearly knocked off his feet by teenagers booting a heavy leather football around the tiny play area… I went nuclear, and I am never one to be so bold!
What else would you add to the list? What were you unprepared for? What advice would you give?
Love from Katie. Xx