My last post talked about how quickly the last twelve months have flown by and how my tiny baby is now making his presence felt in the world as a little boy. It got me thinking about all of the things I’ve learned as a new mother and then I wondered, now that hindsight is so sharp and clear, what would I do differently and especially what would I do the same way, if I knew what I knew now?
Here’s what I’d do differently:
- Believe in myself more and trust that I know what’s best for my baby, for me and for my family. This probably seems so obvious but I can’t tell you how much energy I wasted doubting and questioning myself when really over time I discovered that I probably had most of the answers myself all along.
- I would never open even the first page of any baby training book, especially ones that refer to my parenting style as “accidental parenting” when I now know in my heart of hearts that what others call “accidental parenting” is me loving and nurturing my child. These books made me feel like a bad mother and I’m not, I just do it differently to them.
- No matter what advice was given to me, delivered in the gentlest or harshest manner, I would critically analyse it to check that it was the right fit for me and my baby and only go with it if my gut said yes. I know that sounds very clinical but I do remember unquestioningly following advice from people who I trusted when it didn’t feel right and it wasn’t.
- I would feckin sleep when the baby slept! Seriously, I cannot believe I didn’t do this more often. What I was doing, I couldn’t tell you but I was wrecked. Every mother had shared that sage-like advice with me when I was pregnant and I nodded along and said “ho ho, sure I love my sleep, of course I’ll be sleeping when the baby sleeps” and yet I didn’t. I will never get that sleep back and let me tell you, boy do I miss it now.
- I would not worry about getting up and getting dressed in the morning. I would definitely spend more time just hanging out in bed with the baby napping and feeding and then starting the day at our leisure.
- I would have learned to breastfeed lying on my side much much earlier than I did. What a life and sleep saver that would be.
- I would spend seriously less time trying to get the baby to take naps during the day in his cot. So much energy and tears went into this. I should have just put him in the bed beside me, fed him to sleep and then the two of us napped together. (Is there a sleep theme here? ;))
- I would be much more relaxed about weaning. It took a few months for Baby S to really get into the solids and I worried terribly about him not eating enough, often enough, but to be honest I think this was mostly from external pressure from others who were letting me know they thought he should be doing more, sooner, faster…He was fine!
- If the public health nurse arrived unannounced at my front door when everyone was sleeping and we weren’t really prepared for visitors, I would be confident enough in myself to ask her to come again at another time rather than heading upstairs to wake the baby and brush my hair.
- I would cut down on the number of visitors in the first few weeks. We had great plans to do this but then the baby arrived and we were just so excited. We wanted to share him and our joy with everyone. It was too much really, I remember collapsing in floods of tears on day 10 when two different sets of family members arrived unannounced when I thought we finally had an evening to ourselves.
- I would ask my husband to be much firmer about family visiting. Either they should arrive, bring food and stay for a short time, maybe 40 mins, and then leave or, if they’re going to stay longer, they should do the dishes, put a wash on, fold some clothes…ANYTHING except sit on the couch for hours drinking tea and shooting the breeze while chaos ensued all around us. Another little extra to add to this one is evening visiting. I’d make sure people were gone before 8 at the latest. A couple of times I had to ask family members to leave so we could go to bed. I know they just wanted to be around the new baby and wanted to help but unfortunately I think people want to help with the wrong things, not the things you actually need.
- I would try mum and baby cinema. I never got around to this and I believe it’s brilliant.
- I would join my local La Leche League group at the start rather than at the end of my maternity leave. I would also ignore everyone who told me that they were militant and to be avoided. I now know the La Leche League probably know more about breastfeeding than everyone else put together.
- I would get someone to help me with the housework. It’s all well and good telling myself I should just relax about it because it wasn’t going to get done anyway but it was always there, niggling away.
- I would try not to worry so much. But sure listen! That’s impossible, I know. Anyway, you don’t get a do over!
Here’s what I would do the same:
- I would eat rings around myself.
- I would go to my local breastfeeding support group as soon as possible. There is nothing – and I mean nothing – like the support of other new mums with babies at exactly the same stage as you.
- I would do a baby massage course, especially one that has tea and chats at the end of it.
- I would take up all and any invitations to get out and about.
- I would use a co-sleeper. It was the best.
- I would go to a post-natal Pilates class, especially one where my baby could come too. It was great to be able to get a bit of exercise in while he kicked along beside me.
- I would take post-natal vitamins. For me, it gave me confidence that I was getting properly nourished and it was one less thing to have to worry about on top of everything else.
- I would continue using my gentlebirth tracks after the baby arrived. They gave me headspace and helped me relax enough to fall asleep when I really needed the rest.
- I would enjoy a glass of wine.
- I would not giving a flying f about breastfeeding my son in public.
- I would nurse my son to sleep at night.
It was such a special, amazing time and yet fraught with uncertainty and worry. You’re so vulnerable in those first few months, it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. But wow what a life-changing pleasure!
Is there anything you’d definitely do or not do again?