Almost without exception, this is one of the first things a mum says to me at the postnatal 1:1s I do…”No one told me it would be this hard”..
So why is it so hard? Did our parents find it so hard? Yes, probably, but I do equally think it is getting harder, for many reasons and I will try and explain here.
Setting expectations in birth and the early postnatal days is hard. I don’t think anyone prepares you for birth, many of us plan, dream and work hard to achieve our “normal” birth, but more and more mums (due to a number of factors) are finding themselves much more “managed” in labour. We are at our most vulnerable during labour, and we do what we believe is best for our baby. This can sometimes mean our wishes and hopes fall off course, leading some mums to feel like they have “failed” at birth. This was one of my main reasons for becoming an antenatal teacher, and for opening Mummas! No woman should feel like she has failed at birth, it is very rare that the body just fails, there are usually good and valid reasons for things going off course, but in the haze of emotion and exhaustion following birth it can be hard to see and justify those.
Breastfeeding Support & Expectation:
Again something we presume, expect, will be natural and easy! It really isn’t for many mums, it is very unusual for a mum not to be able to breastfeed, but it is very usual for mum to stop, due to believing she can’t. This is usually down to lack of support, undiagnosed tongue ties are getting more and more common (another blog that will come shortly). It is a total disgrace that as a nation we place so much importance on something, yet give so little support.
We need to encourage mums to get as much help in the early days with breastfeeding, seeking the help of a properly qualified lactation consultant. Not putting too much pressure on themselves, if you find you just sit in your jarmies for the first few weeks with a newborn attached to your boob, that is normal!! You will never get that time back, if you have another baby you will have a toddler/child to run around after, school/nursery runs, clubs, potty training, all of which are not conducive to being sat on the sofa! Get box sets, films, stock up on food and bed down, give visitors clear guidelines, they can visit, but on mums terms!
We also need to empower mums that if THEY have chosen to formula feed for whatever reason, It is THEIR decision, babies need food and a happy mum!
Sleep & Routine:
Coming from someone who is a bit fanatical about sleep and routine! Please please please don’t think about either in those first few weeks/months… look towards 3-6 months, as by this point you may begin to feel like you know what you are doing! At this point you may begin to see some routine coming, some sooner some later, but it will come! Babies are tiny humans with tiny human personalities, all of which are totally different, no two of us are the same, it takes time to learn who your little human is.
I truly believe you can’t form bad habits in the first few weeks, if you find you have developed what you perceive to be a “bad habit” at 3-6m plus, they are usually pretty easily solved!
Relax and DON’T try so hard:
I think as women nowadays, we are used to working hard, achieving our goals, succeeding in work and pushing ourselves, we are thrown from a world in which we are in control, to a world where a little person is perceived to be in control, and they nor we feel like we have any idea what to do, and that can be terrifying!
A very wise midwife once said to me, the harder you work with a new baby, the harder you make it for yourself. You can’t work hard with a newborn, you will end up stressing yourself out and exhausting yourself even more, a newborn can’t be taught! Go with it..
Everybody else knows best!
I think from the moment we get pregnant we believe that everyone knows better than us, terminology used:
I am “allowed” to use the birth pool
They will “give” me a sweep at 41wks
I “have” to be monitored during labour
Nothing happens in labour, birth or with your baby without your consent. When our babies arrive we are bombarded with feeding advice, weight charts, advice from parents/grandparents –
“wow, my baby never fed for that long”
“you are making a rod for your own back by feeding her to sleep”
“Of course she wont lie in her moses basket, you have been holding her all day”
Of course we have to listen to health professionals, but we can also question. So many mums are told their baby has lost too much weight, or not gained enough weight, but rarely is mum asked how she feels the baby is. Is the baby feeding ok? Is it painful? Is baby having wet nappies? Is baby sleeping? When not sleeping is baby alert? So often, babies, as grownups, don’t follow set patterns, as mums we know best, we should be consulted and we should make final decisions!
As a mum YOU know best, you WILL have instincts for what your baby needs, but these can get clouded and lost with the excess of external information! Breathe, step back and trust your insincts.
Social Media & The Media
There is a whole wider issue here, but the explosion of social media, and interest in motherhood I believe, is having a negative impact.
To the sleep deprived, exhausted, hormonal mum, the influx of friends on social media, all coping better, all having babies that sleep, all enjoying motherhood is horrendous. Reading the hugely contradictory articles on whether breast is in fact best, whether if they have a baby that cries it will become a sociopath, if they have to go back to work and put their child in a nursery it will be infinitely more intelligent than if they stay at home with them, then reading another article the following week about the attachment issues nursery educated children!
We have way too much information now, too much information and too little support!
So what can we do? Talk to other mums, I pretty much guarantee if you put it out there, how hard you are finding it, others will respond!! The perception we have of others often really doesn’t match reality.
Remember it is almost always a phase, the newborn phase will pass, you will look back and wish you had your squidgy baby curled on your chest. You will get to sleep again, you are amazing and you are doing an amazing job. Don’t judge yourself on others, and don’t judge others, no one can comment on your life until they have walked in your shoes, as you can’t on others.