You’ve just had a baby.
You are exhausted, bleeding, weeping and feeling like your fanjo may never be the same again
In your arms lies a small, pink and delicious babe that makes your heart burst with an indescribable mixture of love and utter terror.
You’ve just had a baby.
A small human being has emerged from your body and is now entirely dependent on your for its every demand need. The piles, indigestion and other undesirable pregnancy symptoms are soon going to seem like a walk in the park compared to the regime this small human will impose on you. You’ve entered the fourth trimester – a vast unknown.
But it’s ok. You will be ok. And Mama, it’s OK….
To say no to visitors
It’s understandable that people want to come and see you, your new baby, and lavish you with gifts. However, it’s pretty exhausting being a hostess, regaling your birth story multiple times. Or almost having to apologise for taking your baby out of their arms so you can feed them, never mind hearing unwanted feeding advice no matter what method you choose.
So if you don’t want to be utterly besieged, and would rather see visitors at your own pace, don’t be afraid to speak up. Post on Facebook that you are home and resting and will invite visitors round when you are ready. If you wouldn’t let them see you in your pyjamas, then they aren’t close enough to be in your post birth bubble. If you know a particular visitor will expect to be waited on then they can come round never when things are on an even keel. Let visitors know that you can’t wait to see them , but if they do visit they have to bring food/do a chore/stay for an hour then go. You will feel mean, and some people will think you are mean, BUT, your postnatal recovery and bonding time with your baby is far more important than the feelings of your neighbour from 4 doors down.
To ask for help
It isn’t a sign of weakness. It isn’t a sign that you can’t cope. It isn’t a sign that you aren’t cut out to be a mum. If you started a new job, and didn’t know what to do, you would ask a colleague for help wouldn’t you? Or if you were lost and needed directions, you’d ask a friendly looking face to point you the right way. So why are we all so scared to ask for help when we are learning to take care of our babies? If you need, need, NEED to go to bed for an hour because you saw every hour on the clock the night before, say so. If your washing/clean washing/ironing piles are threatening to take over every flat surface in your home, rope in your mum/sister/whoever to do it (then send them my way to do mine too please). People will always say ‘what can I do to help?’ – give them a job, and then sit on the sofa with a cup of tea (get them to make it) with your feet up. Make sure they get you a biscuit too…
To ignore advice
Yes, I know I’ve just said to ask for help, but you will soon realise that some of the advice you will get is dubious at best. Some will be so utterly and hilariously wrong that you will struggle to keep a straight face. At worst, some will be downright stupid and potentially dangerous. If it feels wrong, it is wrong, even if your best friend did it and her little one is ‘fine’. Undoubtedly someone will trot out the dreaded ‘you’re making a rod for your own back’ line, but so what if you are? Show me a still breastfeeding 18 year old who can’t sleep anywhere but in mums arms. You can’t. Exactly my point. Meet your babies needs when they need you too and they will reward you by being independent and confident children.
To not feel that rush of love
Everyone will tell you that the love you will feel for your child is undescribable, overwhelming, and will make your heart burst from the inside out. But it doesn’t always happen instantaneously at the moment of birth. You’ve laboured for hours, you’re knackered, then some midwife drops a wet, squirmy little piglet on your chest and….well, sometimes there’s no feeling other than relief that you don’t have to suffer another damn contraction. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re not normal, or you don’t love your child. Sing to your baby, wear them in a sling, dance with them and hold them to your chest so your hearts beat together, and slowly, slowly, it will come.
To let your standards slip
Now of course some level of personal and household hygiene has to be kept now you have a small person in your home. But, that small person really isn’t going to care if you haven’t hoovered today or you’ve opted for dry shampoo for the third morning running. Nor does it matter just how large your washing pile is. Babies don’t keep, but housework certainly does. If you’re breastfeeding, your other half might feel like he can’t help much. But tell him his mission is to keep you fed, watered and not let the house fall down round while you get through this first couple of weeks. You’ll find he’s far more proficient with the dishwasher than he’s previously let on!
To feel like you don’t know what you’re doing
Honestly? None of us do. We’re all just faking it till we make it. I have two children, and I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time. Mums are always, always learning and you don’t need to know everything straight away (who actually knows everything anyway?). Baby steps – take it week, day, hour at a time. You don’t have to move mountains, or achieve anything beyond taking care of yourself and your baby.
To sleep when the baby sleeps
You’ll hear it a million times. And in reality, you’ll be thinking ‘how on earth can I sleep when the baby does when there’s so much to do?’ But try. Really, really try. Cosleep for naps, Give baby to your partner, send them out for a walk, and go to bed. Resting, and giving your body a chance to restore itself, will make you feel so much more able to deal with everything that’s going on.
And not just little tears, Proper, big, gulpy sobbing tears. Possibly numerous times in a day. You have so many hormones and emotions inside you, it’s practically impossible to keep them in. Obviously if you are getting to the 6 to 8 week mark and you are still weepy, sad and unable to get a handle on it, then speak to your health visitor or gp. Postnatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of and it affects so many mums. Holding your hand up and saying I need help is such a brave thing to do – please don’t be frightened to reach out.
What would your advice be to new mums to get them through the first few weeks?
*This post also appears on the Huffington Post