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Things I Learnt During My First Year of Motherhood: Rantings of a Sleep Deprived Mum

Things I Learnt During My First Year of Motherhood: Rantings of a Sleep Deprived Mum

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Things I Learnt During My First Year of Motherhood: Rantings of a Sleep Deprived Mum

My gorgeous friend of over 20 years Denisse Milton offered her honest thoughts about new motherhood to share with some of her preggy friends recently and we think it’s too brilliant and authentic not to share. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This is. Parenthood to a T.

“I have 4 preggy friends at the moment. I wanted to write some meaningful advice for them, but found that when I started writing some words of wisdom, I couldn’t stop! ”  ❤️

Birth.

It’s just a moment in time. It doesn’t define you as a mother. I think of it like a wedding and marriage. A wedding is only one day. A marriage is hopefully forever.

Love.

You may fall head over heels in love when bub comes out. You may not. I didn’t. Either way, it’s completely normal! Just like falling in love with a partner, some fall in love at first sight, most are a slow burn. Love will come. Don’t be alarmed if at first it feels totally weird to be finally getting to know your familiar little stranger

‘Matrescence’.

Just like you go through adolescence to become an adult, you go through matrescence to transition into motherhood. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process and there will be ups and downs. Totally normal. Highly recommend doing a quick google search – this will explain it much better than I ever can!

Advice.

Everyone will have some. Me, your best friend, the old biddy in the supermarket queue. Everyone will tell you how and what to do. Here’s the thing though. No-one has raised your child before. They may have raised 84 000 children. But they have never raised THIS one. You will spend the most time with your bub and you will come to know them the best out of anyone in the entire universe. YOU are the expert. It’s scary but also awesome. So if something someone is saying doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right.

Most advice will contradict each other. Even during the birth, one midwife will tell you to do one thing, and then the next midwife will walk in and say ”why on earth are you doing that, that’s totally wrong!”. When even the professionals can’t agree on the best direction, it’s very confusing and can cause anxiety. A good trick is to just pick one course of action, give it a burl and if it doesn’t work, move on to plan B. EVERYTHING with Bub will be trial and error. Which sucks because when it’s an error and Bub is crying, it can be exhausting. Just remember that no-one can control this. It’s a process of getting to know each other and finding out who this Bub is and what works for them. Keep trialling, something will work eventually. The 3 of you will work it out together.

People who tell you to ”enjoy every precious minute” are on crack. They are either liars or they have had miraculous unicorn babies. Either way, smile indulgently and then completely ignore them. There will be moments when you can’t believe how absolutely amazing it is to hold this little person you have created. And there will also be moments when you want your old life back and wonder what the hell you’ve done. Quite often, these moments will happen simultaneously. I have cried tears of exhaustion and frustration whilst simultaneously smiling in wonder and adoration. Totally normal.

Take all help offered. And if it’s not offered, ask for it. Loudly!

There’s no such thing as a perfect mother.

Aim for an average 70% awesomeness. Some days will be higher, some will be lower. It all averages out.

It’s totally normal to cry.

Both you and bub! A midwife once told me if Dad comes home and finds Mum in tears 3-4 nights out of 7, that’s totally normal. If it’s more than that, then you may need to think about getting some help.

Fourth trimester.

Bub has been in the dark, listening to your noisy body, fed consistently and kept at a constant temperature. Now, in the outside world, the noises and temperatures are different, they have to wear clothes, they get hungry and everything is bright, and foreign. Your smell, your heartbeat and your touch will soothe them. They are the only ones who know what your heart sounds like from the inside! You can’t spoil Bub by picking them up too much. And you can’t do anything like sleep train until at least 6 months. Google fourth trimester.

Boobs.

They may work, they might not. I was distraught to find out that I’ve been lugging giant double G’s around my whole life and they turned out to be purely ornamental. Breast is NOT best. Despite what the ad campaigns push. FED IS BEST. How you feed your child does not define what kind of mother you are and has zero impact on Bub. They don’t care where the milk comes from or who is supplying it. I was formula fed and I turned out just fine! There is a lot of debate from either side and it’s an emotional minefield. Just remember, whatever works for you and Bub is what’s best for your family. Whichever way you end up going, there will be critics. So if you can’t please everyone, please yourself and your baby. (NB, by 4 months, most of the mums I met were using formula. Everyone is different, but it might be easier to have something in the house, in case you need it, than to have to go out at 3am to buy something.)

Bub’s behaviour and personality aren’t a reflection of you or your parenting.

They are their own little person and will be born with their own little (or big) personality and quirks. The mum whose kid sleeps well isn’t doing anything better or worse or even differently than you. She just has a good sleeper! (Lucky b!tch!). I would’ve saved many many tears had I accepted this early on.

Don’t compare your bub’s milestones to other’s.

One kid may roll earlier than others. Whatever. I’ve yet to meet an adult who didn’t eventually work out how to roll over! Usually, kids work on developing one area and lag behind in another. So the kid that learns to walk early may speak later. Totally normal.

Mum’s groups are a bit like high school.

Just because you all got knocked up at around the same time and live in the same area doesn’t mean that you’ll instantly like each other. It depends on your local set up, but most mums’ groups meet through the early childhood centres that you get nominated into at hospital. They’re supposed to let you attend until Bub is 12 weeks. However, most will kick you out at around the 7/8 week mark. So, hard as it is, try to get out of the house and attend one before this time. They will have a list that will be circulated with everyone’s names and contact details and then one of the mums (usually the one with the miracle unicorn baby who sleeps through the night, has already learnt to walk and recites Shakespeare) will set up a FB group or a Whatsapp to organise get togethers. Try a few different mums’ groups. There’s no rule against this! Hopefully you find a few kindred spirits. If not, don’t despair, there are lots of opportunities to meet at other venues such as playgroups and library rhyme times. But they won’t come to you. You have to put yourself out there. It’s a bizarre situation to try and make friends at a time when you feel totally raw and unlike yourself. But everyone else is in the same boat, so give it a burl.

Loneliness.

It’s bizarre how you can spend an entire day with another tiny human literally ON you and still feel completely isolated. Totally normal. Bub may be cute but they can’t talk and until they learn to smile, they’ll give very little back to you. All take and no give, greedy little buggers! The days when you have no other human contact will seem very long. So try and get out of the house. Speak to other grown ups. Strike up a conversation at the park. It will help. If it feels like it’s outside your comfort zone, that’s because it is! When’s the last time you had to make totally new friends as an adult?! Sharing with other people going through the same thing will make you feel less mental. However, be advised that comparison with other mums and bubs will kill your soul. If you are coming away from mums’ group catch-ups thinking, “why is everyone coping so well whilst I’m a basket case”, then remind yourself of a couple of things. Some will make out like everything is super easy and they’re “loving every precious minute” because this makes them feel better. Stay away from that person! Some (the very very tiny minority) actually do have everything easy. Stay away from that person too! The people who keep it real, celebrate the little wins and commiserate over the others, these are your people. Make these guys your tribe.

Social Media.

Ugh. Beware of the woman whose Facebook pictures show only highly curated, perfect images of sweet, sleeping bub, home cooked organic broth and shout outs to her perfect husband and perfect life. This woman is either lying and cropping out the rest of the picture. Or she’s a psycho. Either way, steer clear.

Your relationship with your husband will change.

Where there was once two of you, there’s now three people in the relationship to consider. Your old Achilles heels, the things that made you annoyed or angry, the things that you argued about, will all still be there, and you’ll add a whole bunch of new ones. Don’t assume that because you have the same values and love each other and love Bub, that you will automatically parent the same way. Yes, when your husband holds your child, you will fall in love with him in a totally new way. But you will also hate him and his useless nipples in a totally new way when you have to be up feeding and he can sleep. Be kind to yourself and to each other. Tread gently. And don’t compete about who has it harder. You both have different roles and they are both going to be challenging in their own right. It’s not easy for you to be a stay at home mother, and it’s not easy for him to go off to work, miss time with both of you and feel like the third wheel. They say that the happiest time in a couple’s life is during pregnancy and the hardest is the first year of their child’s life. This was true for us. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times! You may feel like you’re passing the baton in a relay race and that you’re not connecting. Just remember you’re running the same race and, most importantly, you’re on the same team.

Things will get easier.

Everyone told me this and I kept asking for a date. When?! 6 weeks? 12 weeks? 6 months? There is no magical time line. It creeps up on you like height or like weight. Not noticeable until one day you look back and go “oh yeah, things are a bit easier now!” It will happen.

Everything with Bub is a phase. Whether it’s lovely and easy or a bit of a rough patch, this too shall pass.

A special note to my IVF warriors.

It was a rude shock to me that, after going through all the hardship we went through to finally have Lucas, that he wasn’t an easy baby. I felt like, “I’ve done the hard yards, surely the universe will reward me now!”. And the universe laughed in my face. He had severe reflux. He only slept in 20 minute intervals. Breastfeeding was a nightmare. I got De Quervaines Syndrome in my wrists and couldn’t hold him. I got Post Natal Depression. I felt like my body just continued to fail me and to fail my son. The expectations of IVF mums are that much higher because it has been such a long journey before we even manage to get pregnant. But the universe doesn’t give a $hit. The baby and circumstances you receive are totally pot luck. It’s not fair and I’m still trying to make my peace with it. Just a heads up so that, hopefully, it’s not as rude a shock to you as it was for me.

I am only a text away.

My phone is always on silent, so you can message at any time of the day or night, and I’ll reply when I can. I had loads of friends and lovely strangers offer me support. I love the chance to pay it forward, so please please please ask me questions. Or vent to me. One day, you’ll do the same for your friend who just became a new Mum 😊

One final note. I know this all seems very overwhelming. The long rantings of a crazy woman which are too much to take in! If you come away with one thing, let it be this. Motherhood is simultaneously the best and the hardest thing I have ever done. I am a better Mother than I am anything else in my life – wife, daughter, sister, friend, designer. Every day Lucas makes me, then breaks me, then makes me again. And this new me, this me made up of all these little parts patched back together daily, this is the best me I have ever known.

Welcome to Motherhood! ❤️

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Kirsty Levin
Kirsty Levin

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