The things that nobody told you before you were a Mum rack up pretty quickly over the first few weeks. You speak to friends with kids already and are met with choruses of “Oh yeah that happened to me” and “I remember a time when..” and “It’s just chaos isn’t it?” and you think to yourself “Yes! Why didn’t you tell me this before?!”
My favourite was a friend who said “Don’t you feel like motherhood is just like a secret men’s club?”
I’m now in the same position though with a few close friends who are pregnant and I find myself censoring what I say. I’m a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve – what you see is what you get – and I’ve already realised at times I’ve accidentally gone a little too far when describing something and I see a glimpse of panic on their faces. And I don’t want to alarm them further by saying “And that’s not the half of it – you think that’s bad…” Especially because, as overwhelming as those early days are, in equal measure you can’t do justice to how it is all worth it.
But I do wonder if we need to get a bit more of a balance between what we do and don’t tell expectant mothers?
I’m the type of person who likes to be in control and to prepare (I am fully aware that this will not make my job as a Mum any easier!) and I think a bit more up front honest information would have served me well rather than finding out while the raging hormones took ahold of me (these are superhuman hormones from the worst period you’ve ever had on steroids). I felt prepared for labour and oh yes everyone wants to tell you about that beforehand but I just wasn’t prepared for the first few weeks of Motherhood.
I now know why. When I started this post I intended it to be a few things I’ve now learnt that I wished I had known before but it’s hard to put into words and, on reflection, I don’t think there is anything anyone could have ever said to me to prepare me. And even if they had, I don’t think I would have taken it fully on board because you just can’t imagine it until you’re in the thick of it.
I’ve tried to summarise some of the main things but any Mum reading this will know I’m not doing the job justice.
1. You will cry. A lot. Don’t be alarmed and you’re not crazy even when it feels like it and your husband is looking at you like “What the f**k happened? I only went to make a cuppa!” It will ease and then happen more sporadically but it’s completely normal.
2. You won’t die from the sleep deprivation even though it feels like you will. Forget about life and just sleep when the baby sleeps. It’s a cliche and I know you’ll be worrying about the washing/dusting/cleaning/hoovering but don’t. It’s not important.
3. Accept help. The best things people did for us were coming around and cooking for us and cleaning for us, bringing biscuits and letting us sleep. It makes you so thankful you have those people in your life and helps make you less resentful of the people that just come and wake up the baby. My dear Mum has been summoned back twice more than the original time she was supposed to come and stay and I daresay it won’t be the last as she’s like some kind of baby whisperer (that’s what having four kids does to you).
4. Don’t be afraid to say no to people as well. On some days we had back to back visitors and people arriving late with no consideration of the fact you have a baby to feed was something I began to get really irate with. Make it clear they come at that time or not at all. There will be people who think it is their right to come to see you in the hospital or just turn up on your doorstep because they are related. What got my goat with this was they were people who never bothered with us while I was pregnant and gave us no support but then expected they could be the first to hold the baby. It’s a good job my husband is the Chandler to my Monica – level-headed and calm – and he fended these people off where I just wanted to tell them to piss off.
5. You need to know about the expectations for your baby’s weight loss and gain and what quantities they should be eating at what stage. This is actual useful shit that you of course won’t cover in any antenatal course. Google it and learn about it now. And you will be quizzed regularly about how many wees and poos the baby has had, how heavy the nappies were, colour, consistency etc. I was blindly answering these questions with no clue about why they were important and sometimes unable to answer (seriously I don’t count my poos, why would I count their poos?) – shocking!
6. Breast feeding is some kind of strange primeval science. It’s like doing a degree in biology in the space of days and what I don’t know now about boobs isn’t worth knowing. Ignore the people that say a) it doesn’t hurt, b) it’s natural and c) it’s best. It is not necessarily any of those things. It will be hard. You will want to quit at some point every day. I’m now down to every other day and I’m no longer carrying the Lansinoh cream round like a security blanket (stole that phrase from a friend of mine) which must be progress? I think I’ve got a lot more in me to say about this so we’ll save it for another post rather than hijacking this one…
7. You’ll think you can’t do it. Every day my husband tells me “But you are doing it.” And when it’s sunny and the baby smiles and my husband comes home and the baby is still alive I realise I am doing it. But then the evening colic comes and I sure as hell can’t do it. But you will – even if it takes screaming into a pillow and eating a whole packet of chocolate chip cookies to yourself.
8. The guilt is like nothing you could have imagined. You will feel guilty that you don’t know why the baby is crying. You’ll get angry and then feel guilty all over again for being a shit mum. You might even Google “Is my baby possessed?” and then be made to feel like a demon by the preachy mothers on forums who give people like you (but the ones who’ve dared to post their thoughts online rather than you who just reads existing threads) a ticking off and reckon your baby just needs a cuddle (you’re not an idiot, clearly you’ve tried that!!). From what I can gather this is all just part of the baby’s initiation for you and completely normal.
9. Accept the chaos. I’m bordering on scare mongering now so will just say expect total chaos and anything less will be a bonus.
10. The most important point of all. Despite all of these things, you will love your baby like nothing I can describe. The boob flashing and the bags under your eyes and the projectile vomit suddenly become a distant memory when your baby does something cute or stares right up at you or smiles. Or sometimes even when they just get a really good burp or fart out (my husband keeps asking me why I never say well done to him when he lets wind out). Also it’s an idea to empty your phone of all existing imagery, media and unnecessary apps (i.e. The apps that aren’t Facebook, Whatsapp, What to Expect and the Wonder Weeks) to create a million gigabytes of space for the hundreds of pictures and videos you are going to take every day of your little angel (you will, trust me).