I’m writing this in a sleep deprived haze with my 5 week old daughter sleeping on my chest, milk drunk and snoring at 5am (which is pretty much a lie in these days as the little legend slept until 4am, bonus!).
As I mentioned in my last post, I see the blog evolving now to incorporate other aspects and changes in my life that I’m learning to cope with, not just the grief of losing my dad. So here’s this biggest change…motherhood.
I’ve titled this post “nothing prepares you” simply because nothing does (similarly nothing prepares you for coping with the loss of a parent but let’s not digress and save that for another post). We have attended all the antenatal classes, I’ve avidly read books, blogs, articles and spoken to every mother I aspire to parent like. My husband’s father to my 14 year old step son and we’ve both loads of experience of caring for the babies of good friends and family. We thought the only nerve wracking bit was labour and birth-we had this parenting bit nailed….how wrong could we be!?!?
Don’t get me wrong, we knew what we were letting ourselves in for and were fully aware that it would be difficult, tiring-scratch that, exhausting! And that we’d have many challenges that we’d struggle with, but the fact is once our dear daughter arrived and we were discharged from hospital, reality hit.
Nothing does prepare you for this, you have a preconceived idea and all the things you expect to happen do, and then some. It’s just more challenging and exhausting than you thought, we knew it wouldn’t all be plain sailing but when you’re actually in the thick of it, looking after your newborn is a lot more hard work than you anticipated. I can’t really put into words what it is that makes it more difficult that you expect, it’s one of those things that until you experience it, you don’t understand. And really you don’t-you think you do but believe me, you really don’t (and yes you’ll get really annoyed with every non-parent person that tries to make out they get it).
The key thing for me was also how I perceived things and very quickly needed to alter this mindset. I was comparing my daughter and my parenting skills to every other new mum and baby I’d ever come across (thank you social media for helping highlight my perceived inadequacies). I felt every other mum had “got their s**t together” and that their babies were calm, non-crying, sleeping through, feeding well and posing wonderfully for those Instagram snaps! Truth is none were, all were nervous, tired, flustered and battling their own new mum challenges with leaking boobs and projectile poops to handle on top. The truth is we just don’t share these difficult times as openly, we don’t put on Facebook a status that states how you and your hubby were up all night with a cluster feeding baby that screamed the place down, leaked out of their nappy at 2am after their 7th s**t and then weed all over your hand as you wiped them. Truth is, we’re all just trying our best to sooth our crying little ones and learn what each of their little signs and signals are a cue for. Truth is that whilst doing all this as a new mum, your hormones are everywhere and that can compound all these challenges making them feel like you’re climbing Everest. Truth is it’s the same for every new mum and once I opened my mouth to my new mum besties, those friends and family who I can rely on, they filled me with reassurance, advice, support and more importantly stories of their struggles; midnight drives, willy fountain wees and puke stained cardigans included.
Truth is the best preparation I could’ve had was to firstly watch channel 4’s Parenting for Idiots (hilariously truthful, demonstrating that even celebs haven’t got their parenting s**t together) and to listen to the advice of my mum and very dear lifelong friend. Mum turned to me in the first few days and told me to relax, enjoy my daughter and go with my instincts. My friend also said similar, she told me all my baby needed was love and that in loving her my instincts would guide me and everything else would click into place, and they were right. As soon as I stopped worrying and focused on loving her, I started learning (with some trial and error and good old google) over time what her different cries mean and different ways to ease them. So that’s it, nothing prepares you for this, only one thing does, love.
Finally, to end on a positive, nothing also prepares you for how wonderful being a parent feels. Despite how difficult, scary, tiring, frustrating and upsetting I found the first days/weeks, the love and joy you feel as a parent is overwhelming and indescribable, there’s nothing quite like it and nothing prepares you for the beautiful feeling.
P.S. I may have started writing this post with my bundle of joy blissfully sleeping on my chest but have since changed two nappies (the second was filled the minute I’d clipped the last press stud on her baby grow closed). Fed her again, dropping the muslin I needed for burping her and the box of clean breast pads onto the floor in the dark bedroom, rocked her back off to sleep only for my husband’s work alarm to wake her seconds later into a tired not ready to wake up yet screaming fit… like I said nothing prepares you 😂.