I’m nine months into this crazy journey called motherhood and recently I’ve been reflecting on those first few weeks – what would I do differently with the advantage of hindsight?
With that in mind, I’ve put together my top ten things I would tell the new-mummy me. I swear I read every blog on mummy advice when I was pregnant and it helped me feel a bit more prepared for the massive life change that was about to happen – even though it’s true that nothing can really prepare you for becoming a parent!
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to the beginning?
1. Take photos during labour
My other half doesn’t believe me when I say it, but I wish wish wish we had taken some photos of me in labour. I’m not talking close up shots of the business end, don’t get me wrong, but a few pictures to remember when your life changed forever would be nice. Of course labour is tough and painful, but I also found it incredibly emotional and amazing in its own way. Even now, my memories of it are fading and it makes me sad to think that I don’t have anything to keep those memories alive. So even if at the time you think a photo of you chomping down on the gas and air is the last thing you want, take the picture. If you really hate it afterwards, you can always bury it in the loft!
2. Don’t feel guilty for doing nothing
In those early weeks when Little A slept for most of the day, I wish I had spent more time laying on the sofa, drinking tea and watching box sets. Instead, I felt guilty just sitting around, especially when I thought of my other half out at work (missing out on time with his daughter – oh the guilt, THE GUILT!!). I also felt like I should be taking her to baby groups straight away, when to be honest she really only started enjoying them once she could sit up. If I had one of those newborn days again I would take a lot of naps, watch a lot of TV and have no regrets at all!
3. Get out of the house
This almost goes against everything I just wrote in number 2, but if laying on the sofa staring at the same four walls starts feeling a bit claustrophobic, you have to force yourself out of the house. I was so scared of taking Little A out on my own and that stopped me going out for about six weeks, which was a huge mistake and made me incredibly depressed. Even if you only go for a walk down the road, get out and get some fresh air.
4. Don’t rush the routine
If you read my post on the baby blues, you’ll know that one of the things that caused me to find the first few weeks hard was becoming obsessed with getting Little A into a routine. Whilst it paid off in the end (she slept through from 9 weeks, hallelujah!) I probably didn’t need to be so regimented about it at the beginning. Next time, although I’d still go down the routine route, I’d take it a lot slower and focus on enjoying those newborn days.
5. Trust your instincts
When I used to hear people say “You know your own baby – you know when something isn’t right” I would think “How? How can you know, when they can’t communicate with you?” Turns out, your intuition is pretty amazing. Take this example. From a few weeks old Little A had a white coating on her tongue which everyone told me was just milk. I was sure it was thrush but decided that everyone else must know better because, what did I know as a new mum? After a few weeks I took her to the doctor for something else and while I was there just mentioned that the white coating wasn’t really shifting. He took one look at it and confirmed it was thrush. I was SO angry at myself that I didn’t trust my instincts and felt so guilty that I had left it for so long before getting it checked. You will absolutely know when something isn’t right, ignore everyone else and go with your gut.
6. Give in to all the cliches
The newborn shoot. Hand and foot moulds. The milestone cards. Seasonal fancy dress. Do all of them. We didn’t do them because we said we just weren’t those sort of people, but turns out, I think I am one of those people and I regret not doing them now. Who cares if they are cliches, you’ll never wish you hadn’t dressed your baby up as the Easter bunny and taken a thousand photos.
7. Don’t waste money on new toys
Toys are such a transient thing with babies. One minute they love them, next they’re not interested. For the first few months, everything I bought was brand new but recently I’ve discovered the wonderful world of charity shops, where you can buy almost brand new toys for a couple of quid. Babies don’t care where you bought something or if its brand new out of the box – all they care is that its super colourful. And lights up. And is musical. (Anyone else have the Jumperoo music going round their head ALL DAY?!).
8. No one is looking at your boobs
I’m not sure if there’s anyone who wouldn’t feel a bit self conscious whipping a boob out to feed their baby in public for the first time, but if I’ve learnt anything it’s that no one is looking at your boob. No one. Most people probably don’t even know you’re doing it. Nowadays, I don’t even notice if I’m sat with a boob out for everyone to see – sometimes I have to be prompted by my other half to put them away! I wish I had been more confident as I think it would have helped me get out of the house earlier (see number 3) which in turn would have helped in limiting the baby blues.
9. Persevere with the sling
A very specific one, but I think life would have been a lot easier if I had given the baby sling more of a chance early on. You never realise what a privilege it is to have two hands free until you have a baby!! I couldn’t get on with the wrap type sling – I was always worried Little A would fall out of the bottom (which she never would have done!) so gave up on it pretty quickly. Next time I’m going to persevere with it, as they allow you to get on with normal tasks like making lunch or tidying up – tasks which are impossible when you are stuck carrying a baby round in your arms all day.
10. Don’t feel bad if you do everything you said you wouldn’t
We won’t bring the baby into our bed. She won’t watch television. We’re not having plastic toys. I’ll never run out of patience… Almost every single thing I said I wouldn’t do when I was pregnant, I have done and done them a thousand times. At first I felt like a huge hypocrite and a bit embarrassed at how adamant I had been about my parenting style. Now, I do what I have to do to survive! My advice would be to not be too strict or hard on yourself if it’s ultimately making you or the baby miserable – a little bit of CBeebeies won’t rot your baby’s brain and a couple of nights sleeping in your bed won’t mean they are still there when they’re twelve. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world and you have to cut yourself some slack sometimes.