Chatty mums, bum slapping and hogging a green and yellow tractor – my experience of my first ever mums and tots group

Today I brought Sonny to a mums and tots group at a local church. It’s a rite of passage for a new mum. For me, it was a bit like the first day of school. I joined the procession of buggies into the church hall and, not knowing anyone, sat alone like the new girl. I busied myself with my baby, lifting up toys, (he was taken with a green and yellow tractor), and was soon approached by a friendly woman, who welcomed me to the group. Conversation flowed as I bounced my baby on my lap. When her toddler commanded her attention, another smiling woman introduced herself and we were soon exchanging stories on our respective career paths. Ninety minutes flew by.

Admittedly, the group did more for me than my 14-week-old son who bobbed his head, taking in the bright colours of the toys and the squeals, laughter and chatter of the young children. While every moment is precious, I’m looking forward to when he can interact with other babies and play on the toys. I did, however, plop his bottom on a tractor and placed his tiny fingers around the steering wheel. We were approached by a gorgeous toddler who reached out to signal that he wanted a go. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with playground politics so I quickly lifted Sonny off as the child commandeered it. I didn’t think much of it until the same youngster approached a second time to take the above mentioned green and yellow tractor. This time, I didn’t give up the toy. My son’s fingers were tightly clasped to the plastic toy and I too added my grip. The child gave me a steely stare but I held on, softly saying “no”. The little one gave up, running into the arms of his carer. I looked up, wondering if anyone had witnessed the stand off. Nobody had. I felt a little bad for a second, only to be overwhelmed with feelings of protectiveness towards my baby. What will he do if a kid does this to him when he goes to nursery? Will he allow the toy to be taken from him or will he hold his own? I hope the latter.

Before leaving, I brought Sonny to the baby changing room next to a row of toilets. As I bent over to get things from the bottom of the buggy, I felt small hands on my bottom. I stood up in surprise and saw it was a little boy. I giggled and quickly text my husband about the comedic incident. The last time that happened was many, many years ago in a crowded bar – and it wasn’t by a kid. It was entirely innocent of course but it certainly made me muse about my own little one and the kind of thing’s he’ll get up to when he’s on his feet.

I’m glad I went. It was good to meet other mums and it’s good to immerse yourself in the world of little people. Oh, you also get tea and cake, which is always good in my book.

What three months of motherhood have taught me.

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.