You’re in the trenches and you deserve all the love and flapjack/chocolate buttons you can handle. Today I got sent a lovely little message from a friend who has recently become a mum and it reminded me of how bleedin hard it is at that stage. Don’t get me wrong, its hard at every stage (Sorry) but its a baptism of fire at the beginning-and your body is wrecked and your mind seems just out of your grasp floating away on a haze of lack of sleep, painkillers (if you need them) and tea and your emotions…well they are off the charts!
So this one is for all you soldiers doing the night long shifts-here’s a few top tips that I found helpful;
- You are the best person to parent your child. We all doubt ourselves, google everything, stress about the random comments strangers make…but ultimately you are the mum/dad-they are your child, if you love them, feed them, give them safety and security-its a pretty good start. You got this…I have never met a new parent that doesn’t need a bit of a confidence boost-even the ones that come across all together are probably shitting themselves (on a practical note we will come to the bowel movements later)
- Survival is more than good enough right now. Down the line you can worry about thriving, having all your stuff sorted-but right now survival is the name of the game and sometimes that means counting down the hours in the night until the sun rises, it may mean drinking all the coffee and eating anything and everything that is sweet in your kitchen by 8am, and other times it means not getting dressed (even if that means going out in your PJs-I advise a fair few pairs of nice, but ideally elasticated pyjamas)
- Watch things that will make you laugh easily. Man alive there is enough crying in this season, aim for things that make you laugh and smile. Easy watching is essential-maybe even something you have seen before, we watched back episodes of Modern Family and Park and Rec-quick funny shows that we basically knew already what was happening and we laughed a lot. Don’t watch anything serious (and sadly for a lot of us that includes the news…it can just be too much at the start), or tragic or any film. It took us 6 hours to watch Selma, and I had to have subtitles on and pause it a lot.
- It is common to be in pain for a while afterwards but if symptoms persist then make sure you get medical help, even if it feels embarrassing! Going to the loo can be painful, and sometimes too easy almost unconsciously wetting yourself…Sex can hurt like hell when you finally get around to it. A c-section scar can be sore for a long time and breastfeeding can kill like a mother. I mean seriously…I think I had a fairly easy ride with it, but something always on your nipple, let alone hand expressing and the joys of blocked ducts!!! (BTW the comb solution…don’t do it!) If these things persists for weeks/months…you should get help. It may be common but it doesn’t mean its right or needs to continue. And you know talking about this stuff is embarrassing but for most of you, if not all- then you’ve probably had Drs look up your vagina already, some of us lucky ones had a whole staff team go there. In the scheme of things get things checked out.
- If your breastfeeding, you are probably going to flash people a few times. Just to be clear, not just randomly flash passers by but when you are feeding. But who cares…seriously its not like you’re rubbing your boobs in their face, you are feeding a baby. It is awkward but that’s mainly society’s issue not yours.Obviously there are ways to be discreet but we have all had a time when your baby pulls your top down and exposes you, even if you don’t breastfeed…its just their way of removing any remaining dignity. I think its only truly awkward if you squirt someone in the eye with your breast milk-awkward but impressive.
- Equally if you choose to, or need to bottle feed be ok with it. You are doing the thing that works best for baby and you. I appreciate this is a sensitive subject but I think its most important for mums to know they are loved and supported.
- Dance at the start of the day. Obviously at the start that will be more like a side sway but put on some good music and feel lifted.
- If you are really low, get someone to come in clean and wash your bedding. Clean bedding that doesn’t smell of puke or milk is a winner.
- Ask for help. Mums tend to carry shitloads of stuff with them, but sometimes we forget something crucial or run out of wipes when we are faced with most epic nappy situation. If you spot another mum ask for help…I reckon 99.9% they would be willing to do anything for you. And if they are anything like me they don’t empty their bag very often and have clothing ranging from 0-18 months, muslins, first aid kit, saline spray, sun cream and snacks galore. Also get your partner involved, let both parents parent. I realise that it isn’t always that easy and there are many barriers that can be in the way. But if one of them is you not letting go, thats probably something to work on.
- You will make mistakes, try not to dwell on them. You can only learn from them and move on. I learnt that babies can roll from very early on, so maybe the sofa isn’t the best place for them.
- In every room have food, water, muslins and nappies. We found it useful!
- Do what makes you comfortable. Wear comfortable clothing, take baths if it helps, use products that make you feel better, have people around you who you trust and can be honest with.
- Equally its ok to protect yourself. If you have relationships that are unhealthy or make you feel crap then maybe think and chat with your partner about how you can limit the damage. Maybe it is making sure you are both there for visits and your partner is clear on your behalf about space and expectations. Or maybe its that friend on fb or insta who appears so sorted that it makes you feel like a failure, maybe block or unfollow them foe a while? It is important that you feel as secure as you can be. I also started following really honest hilarious accounts of life post baby, and joined a few similar ilk groups.
- Talk to you partner and laugh with them!!! This is super helpful, whether its about love island or your babe’s recent inappropriate farts or old man face. Just keep chatting and being silly-chat about sex whether you are having it or not. Just FYI when they mentioned it was all ok to go ahead at my 8 weeks check up I hadn’t even thought of getting busy again but we had laughed about it, mainly in a silly teenage way but it made the subject approachable which helps a lot.
- Whatsapp/Message friends...if they are mum friends they will be up at all the crazy hours you are too, if its mates without kids still keep chatting to them even if its just to laugh at a meme or to send an SOS for coffee/Nesqick/Wine.
- Go for walks. This was probably the most helpful to my mental health. Getting out, even if its just down your street, around the corner or to the local park and back. Being isolated can sometimes cause us to lose perspective and feed our negative thoughts. If you are just doing short walks you can go home if all hell breaks lose and sometimes it does, but if you can get a greggs or a coffee before it does-BONUS.
- Choose to believe people are thinking positive things about you, and choose to believe positive things about others. Whether you are a new mum or anyone really, this is something we should all do.
- Try not to panic buy. The amount of wasted money and items that we buy that we don’t need or use is unbelievable…ask around if people have stuff, and if in doubt wait…online shopping means if you need it you can usually get it next day anyway. There is a massive con telling parents they NEED a lot of crud they really don’t. I was sucked in way more than I wish I was…and that cash could have been spent on essentials like coffee or Netflix subscriptions
- Finally, its ok to wing it…I am pretty sure all of us are!