Congratulations on the upcoming event.
I’m sure you are feeling a whole slew of emotions at this time in your life and I’m sure you’ve had every one of your friends, family members and random weirdos off the street give you their two cents about what’s about to happen. I am sure you’ve had a million and one questions and comments about how you will birth, how you will raise your baby and how you will handle the stress. And I’ve sure you’ve heard a million and one horror stories about reflux, emergency caesareans and co-sleeping concerns.
But I’m here to let you in on a little secret.
Don’t believe it.
Sure, the stories may be true but they are just stories. They happened to someone else. Not you. The beauty of having a new baby is that you get to write your own story based on how you want it to go, not on what others tell you. And while you cannot control some chapters, you can make the best out of what you have.
Who am I you ask? I’m just a mum. I have two average kids, an average husband and an average dog. I don’t have a qualification in physiology or nursing. I have never been to sleep school or parenting classes. I only made it through one anti natal class before bailing. But I have my honesty. And I have my humility. And I have my head half screwed on straight today. So I thought I would share a few facts for the first few weeks with bub that will hopefully simplify things a little.
This is what they do. And sometimes it’s because they hurt inside or are afraid but mostly it’s because they are either hungry or tired. So be on the lookout for hunger signs (because she’s not going to yell at you to make her a sandwich at this stage. That comes later) which include opening the mouth, turning her head, sucking hands and the obvious, crying. New babies need to be fed 8 to 12 times a day, if not more. New babies also need around 16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period...and usually will need to go back to sleep after 45 minutes to 1.5 hours of being awake.
And, remember, all babies will have unsettled times during the day where they will just cry. And you will have to hold them, rock them, wear them or just be there.
Breastfeeding Can Bloody Hurt:
It may not hurt for everyone. But for some women, it will. But it does get better. And if it’s not getting better, then ask for help from a child health nurse or lactation consultant. And, remember, if you cannot breastfeed or choose not to, then don’t. Bottle feeding is just as rewarding, challenging and amazing, regardless of what the annoying posters on the hospital walls tell you. Do what works for you, not what society expects. Breastfeed – good. Bottlefeed- good.
Just don’t give the baby wine.
Your Partner is Not the Enemy:
This is the one thing you always need to remember, every single day, especially on the really bad days. You’ve had a hard day. But your partner most likely has too. Yes, he hasn’t been dealing with spit up and screaming, but he is probably just as tired and annoyed with clients, employees, etc. And he is probably just as stressed about keeping on top of everything. So rather than play the “who has had the hardest day” or “I wish we could trade roles” cards, just accept that, yep, we both had shitty days. And go from there.
Smile and Nod:
“You shouldn’t co-sleep.”
“You shouldn’t bottle feed.”
“You shouldn’t use that type of nappy.”
Smile. Nod. Walk away. Everyone will want to tell you what you are doing right and wrong. It’s almost like a game to them – can you get a rise out of the sleep deprived mum? I don’t know what it is about friends and family members but they all seem to be experts on new babies, even the ones that haven’t had a baby in the household for thirty odd years or the friends who don’t even have kids.
Don’t give in to their desire to start an argument. Smile. Nod. Game over. You win.
Housework and Exercise Should Get the Boot:
Just don’t even think about them. You really don’t need to during the first couple of weeks/months. You have the rest of your life to mop the floors (and trust me, you will spend countless hours mopping up playdoh, half eaten food and juice from the floors) and pound the pavement or sweat your ass off in step class. So stop with the “I should do the washing” or “I should look into creche at my gym.”
And, Finally, Make Sure You Give Yourself Time to Soak It All in
Just five minutes. At the end of each day. Let your mind wander, your body relax and your baby snuggle up close. Because they grow up so quickly. And these moments are so amazing but we often don’t remember them when the other not-so-great moments are still so raw in our minds.
So sit down in a dark quiet room, baby in your arms. Look at her. Touch her fingers. Kiss her face. Smell her skin. She is yours. You did this. And you are so amazing for it. And don’t ever forget that.
Because she never will.