Whilst there may well be a wealth of books, blogs, online articles and well-meaning advice from friends & family on what to expect as a new Mum, the reality is that once baby arrives and you take 24/7 responsibility for another human being, it can all feel so overwhelmingly nerve-wracking & new that no amount of outside guidance can reassure you that a) You WILL sleep again, b) There will be days where you just wish you could have a day off from being a Mum… and that’s ok! And c) You’re doing just fine!! But all that said, given the chance, these are the things I’d go back and tell my pre-baby self…
You don’t need to be Superwoman!
When Maya first arrived I remember feeling this sense of obligation to prove I could still keep on top of all the household chores, prepare a semi-decent tea for my other half each evening, keep myself showered, dressed & made-up and look after a tiny human. I even remember the immense feeling of embarrassment when the Health Visitor made a surprise home appearance when Maya was only 3 days old and I was slumped on the sofa in my dressing gown, the living room carpet having not seen the vacuum cleaner for well over a week.
Right, you really need to let go of any house-proud guilt! All your baby cares about is knowing you’re there for them, feeling loved, being kept clean and being fed!! And as someone wise once said to me (probably my mum), you’ll never look back with fond memories of all that housework you did… though memories of time spent with your little one are the ones which will stick with you, so make the most of those precious (and gone all too fast) times.
And don’t be afraid of asking for help. Ask your other half/mum/dad/sister to whip round with the vacuum from time to time (dropping hints, in my experience, doesn’t always cut it… you need to just ask outright!) Generally, people are only too happy to help out so make the most of it!
Make sure you eat & drink (water, preferably… though the odd G&T or glass of prosecco can certainly help at times!!)
Ok, so you’re not only having to eat to sustain yourself now, but to help a whole new person grow too! Regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you need to keep your strength up to cope with the physical, mental and emotional demands of being a mum.
It may feel tempting to try and keep your energy up with caffeinated drinks and sugary snacks (all of which in moderation are ok!) but you really need to get foods in which will help nourish you and offer a sustainable energy source. Try and have a balance of slow-release carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats with each meal eg. a breakfast of wholemeal toast with eggs and a little spinach, lunch of a salmon salad with avocado or a tea of stir-fry veggies with chicken/tofu and a drizzle of olive oil. Snacks such as oatcakes with hummus or an apple with a few nuts are great little energy boosters too… and there’s certainly room for that odd slice of cake or handful of biscuits!! And if it feels like you just can’t find time to make yourself lunch some days (I’ve been there), then try and throw something together the night before when other half may be around to look after baby so you can grab and go the next day. Salads and soups were my pre-made lunch staples for the first few months.
Keeping well hydrated is also crucial for keeping your physical and mental self healthy, and a glass of water can really help give your brain a quick refresh when you’re feeling groggy and sleep-deprive (we’re about 70% water after all!). I have a 1ltr glass bottle which I try to refill at least 3 times a day to ensure I am getting plenty of ‘good’ fluids in. Adding a few slices of lemon, lime, orange or some fresh mint to the water can add a bit of flavour if plain water isn’t really your thing.
You are perfect. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
Your body, pregnancy, birth and baby will be completely unique to you, so there is absolutely no sense in comparing yourself to anyone else! Yeah, you may see those social media stories of mums who just ‘pinged’ back to their pre-baby body within a week of giving birth… or Facebook images of new mums posing with their little ones, sporting perfectly styled hair, flawless make-up and babysick-free shoulders, but so what?!
You have just created a new human being!!... And that in itself is just remarkably amazing! Focus on that, focus on the deliciousness of your baby, focus on this new depth of love in you for another human that you never thought possible, focus on the power of your body and the wondrous transformation it has undergone to create this new life. That is really all that matters, and whilst you will have those perfect days where you manage to shower, do your hair & make-up and avoid being thrown-up on for an entire day… those days will quite likely be a rarity, so don’t let them be the benchmark for being an amazing Mum!
Find a group of lovely like-minded Mummies to hang out with
Being a new Mum can certainly feel quite isolating at times, especially after those frequent visits from well-wishing friends & family in the first few weeks after baby’s arrival have tapered off. But having a group of lovely mums to share the highs & lows of parenting with can be a godsend in keeping you sane and reminding you that we’re all going through the same stuff… the good, the bad & the ugly!!
Signing up to local mum & baby classes such as mum & baby yoga, baby sensory classes or PramFit is a perfect way to hook up with other gorgeous mummies who will provide some much needed adult conversation, laughter and a perfect excuse to enjoy frequent café visits for coffee & cake!
Try and find the joy in all of it… Even the really challenging bits!
You will get those nights where your darling daughter/son is crying for you, for the 10th+ time since they first went to bed, and it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with frustration for your staggeringly broken sleep. But I started reminding myself that I am the only person in the world that can comfort my daughter in that moment… I am the only person in the world she wants to be with when she wakes at 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am and on & on... And whilst startlingly sleep-deprived, that actually makes me feel pretty special.
And all too soon she will be a toddler, so intent on tearing around and exploring the world that she won’t want to sit and cuddle as much. So I’m going to make the most of all these little unavoidable opportunities to hold her close, knowing that one day she will (fingers crossed) finally start to sleep through!!
Find time for you
Whether it’s a half-hour soak in the bath or a day out shopping without baby, it’s really important to create those opportunities to have a bit of ‘you’ time. Of course you love your little darling beyond words, but having those moments of time-out when other half or grandma can entertain baby for a few hours can really help recharge your batteries, setting you up ready to read The Hungry Caterpillar and sing Mary had a Little Lamb for the gazillionth time with renewed vigour & enthusiasm!!