I still need to pinch myself when I gaze at the tiny human dribbling, gurgling and robustly kicking his chubby legs close to me. I didn’t decide to start a family until my late thirties, so I’d worried that I’d left it too late. Although I’m certainly an older mother or ‘geriatric’ – an outdated term in the medical world – I don’t regret waiting until I felt ready.
I don’t regret waiting to start a family until I felt ready.
If you’re a new mum, an experienced one or a mummy-to-be. Here are some personal observations that I hope may help and/or amuse you.
Fed is best
Although I’d thought about how I’d feed my baby, I didn’t make a concrete decision. I’d consulted family, friends and colleagues to help me but as my tiny son was placed on my bare chest after a 12-hour labour, I still hadn’t decided. When the headmistress-style midwife who was (rightly) tough with me during the latter stages of labour (why aren’t you pushing Davina?!), asked me my decision, I’d expected to feel pressured to breastfeed but I didn’t. Still, I held my little boy close, hoping that nature would take its course. It didn’t. I don’t feel any guilt like many women do for not breastfeeding. I do feel judged though. At every medical appointment, I’m asked, ‘Do you feed him yourself?’. There’s a pause and I smile, saying ‘he’s bottle fed’. Then comes the nanosecond of judgement flickering across their face. My rebuke should be ‘well, he’s hardly feeding himself at 13 weeks!’ That said, I really admire women who do breastfeed and I imagine it to be a wonderful bonding experience. While some may think bottle feeding is an easy option, there’s no joy in constantly sterilising bottles and constantly changing formula and testing different bottles because your baby is suffering from painful wind.
So long Sandman!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that new mums are sleep-deprived. My dear mum told me to get as much rest as possible before the little one arrived. Sadly, you can’t bank sleep and very soon you are coping on a few hours a night, if that. In the very early days, I was feeding my baby every hour and a half. In that first week, my zombie-like husband and I sleepwalked through feeds, nappy changing and bathing, communicating like Neanderthals. When my other half went back to work, I was petrified, wondering how I’d keep a small human being alive, especially when my track record with houseplants is so bad!
The good news is that you do cope. Maternal instincts kick in and somehow you just know what to do. Sleep deprivation is all consuming and debilitating. You are told that “it won’t last forever,” and of course, it doesn’t but it’s good to keep that in mind when you’re glassy-eyed in the wee, small hours. Then there’s the crying, the kind that is akin to a pneumatic drill, cracking your china-like, exhausted body. It’s horrible, but it’s because it’s the only way your baby can communicate and most often it’s because he or she needs food, changing, or they’re too hot, too cold or bored. Don’t take it personally! I have, and have on occasion joined in, but it’s better to troubleshoot while taking big, deep breaths. If you still can’t get to the crux of the issue yourself, get help. Don’t worry about being a paranoid first mum.
Another reality is that you’ll most likely start to resent your husband or partner, who’s cosy and comatose in bed while you do the early morning feeds, and the cat, who takes the opportunity to use me as a human water bottle as I sink into the sofa with my screaming bundle. When I eventually put down baby after he ravenously downs 6oz of milk in 15 minutes, I find it really difficult to get back to sleep. I freak if I can’t hear his breathing so I’m hovering over his Moses basket, with my hand on his chest, feeling it gently rising and falling. I wonder how my man manages to shut off to the world, while I fret and obsess, occasionally stirring him to tell him I can’t get our son settled, only for him to mumble and roll over. To be fair, he is a really great husband and a loving father. It makes my heart swell to see him holding our son close to his chest, or when I watch him chatting to him, not knowing that I’m watching. I do count my blessings, honest…
As for housework – don’t be silly! You might struggle with this if you’re ‘cleaning mad’ like the amazing Mrs Hinch or like me, clean when you can’t bear the mess anymore. You’ll wonder how you’ll ever manage being a mum, running a house and just generally dealing with day-to-day life. For the first six weeks, do the absolute minimum, like laundry, an inevitable task to keep up with a rapidly growing baby who likes to vomit over his new outfit, just as you’re about to leave the house. There are some days when just getting a shower and getting dressed is an achievement. Forget about makeup and getting your nails done. It’s rather liberating to go without makeup, I’ve found. There was a day when leaving the house without foundation would fill me with dread. Go easy on yourself, ask for help, and get out and meet a friend for a coffee. Don’t spend weeks indoors, fresh air will do you both the world of good.
Motherhood is completely life-changing and you’re constantly learning and evolving. It can be hard, but it’s really rewarding and there’s no feeling in the world as good when your beautiful baby smiles at you. It’s pure joy. I love being a mum.
Baby, one more time…
- Don’t expect to know everything, motherhood is a massive learning curve.
- Be kind to yourself, you’re doing an amazing job.
- Always, always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, speak your health visitor and/or GP.