Anyone who has the privilege of being a new Mum knows that it can be magical, intoxicating, and life-changing. It can also be exhausting, worrying and just boring. Today I’m sharing a letter to a new Mum, with some things I wish that I’d known in those first few days.
Dear New Mum,
If there’s one thing you’re not short of now, it’s advice.
Everywhere you look, there’s a relative, or book, or Internet forum telling you what to do.
Well, my advice is this – feel what you feel.
You might feel fulfilled and overwhelmed by a rush of love for your new baby. Hurrah! But if that’s not you, that’s okay, too. Sometimes it takes our hearts a little time to catch up after the shock of delivering this brand new person.
We’re all learning as we go, and today I’m sharing some of the things I learned (mostly the hard way) as a new Mum.
My abiding memory of my first few weeks with Flea was feeling sleep deprived, and in pain – I was recovering from a major physical ordeal. There were hormones running riot, and a thousand new things to learn.
I felt like I needed to do everything. And be overjoyed about it. After all, Flea was such a wanted baby.
I wish I’d given myself permission to feel exhausted, or overwhelmed. Rather than pretending I didn’t feel those things, and instead telling myself I needed to entertain guests and (madness!) clean the bathroom. I wish I’d known how many other parents were feeling worried, or bored, even frustrated, sometimes.
When Flea was about three weeks old, I had just had enough. My c-section scar was infected, and the medication I took made Flea cry every time I fed her. And I was feeding her ALL the time.
One night it was around 4am, and I was digging my fingernails into my thigh, trying not to fall asleep mid-feed.
“I hate this,” I sobbed. “I wish we’d never had a baby.”
It was how I felt, in that moment. I felt like I was being held hostage by a tiny tyrant who was slowly sucking the life force right out of me. If I thought I could get away with it, I’d happily have thrown the baby at my husband, and run away.
My husband was – honestly – horrified.
This scenario wasn’t covered in any of the warm and happy baby books he read. But my Mum gave me the advice that I’m now giving you. It’s okay to feel whatever you feel.
If you feel bored, frustrated or tired or overwhelmed – that’s totally okay. Lots of us feel that way, more often than you think.
You might not feel a rush of overwhelming love right away. It’s okay. I felt that way too, and I still ended up with happy, healthy, loved daughter.
Please don’t try to hide the difficult moments, or give yourself a hard time for having them. But if they don’t pass after a few days, you need to share those feelings, and ask for help.
Allowing yourself to feel negative emotions doesn’t make you a bad Mum (or Dad). I think actually it makes it easier for you to process them – and move past them. Talking about how I felt meant I could see that this was just how I felt in that moment – tired, emotional, exhausted, afraid. It was a natural reaction to the situation new Mums find ourselves in, very often.
I promise that as hard as those first 12 weeks are, there are more than enough magical moments to make up for it.
There will be the first time you get out of the house with the baby, and a pushchair, and manage to meet a friend for cake and coffee. It might not sound much but it’s brilliant, trust me.
Then there’s the first time you introduce your parents to your new baby and see they are going to love her almost more than you do.
One of my highlights of the first year was taking Flea out for Sunday lunch at our favourite country pub. We took the dog, and sat under the shade of a tree in the orchard outside the pub.
Baby Flea munched happily on a pot of baby rice, the sunlight dappled on her skin, and I thought my heart might burst with love. It was one of those moments I realised I wouldn’t have missed having her, not for anything. And a little bit, “Oh! I actually do really love her.” And my heart filled with joy and I thought, “Oh, there is that. That’s what they’re talking about.”
The thing about parenting is that it’s a journey. As your baby grows, you grow into the parent they need. It might not be textbook (in our case it’s definitely not) but I promise, you’ll find a way that works for you.