Whether you are a new mum or adding to your brood, the prospect of being responsible for all the needs of another human being, can be incredibly overwhelming. While pregnant, you are concerned about meeting the needs of your growing baby, how labour is going to pan out, and trying to prepare yourself for the life-changing moment when you bring your son or daughter into this world. I found that I received a lot of advice about pregnancy and labour, what kind of nappies to buy, what to pack in my hospital bag and heard constant references to how I would ‘never sleep again’ and while advice on practical things like that can be helpful; two years and two children later, I wish that people had given me advice on the more important things and told me a little more about what to expect and how to cope with it all.
Here’s a list of things you may be feeling as a new mum, and ways to cope with the roller coaster of emotions. When you feel:
- Tired: If you have family or friends nearby who have offered to babysit or help you to clean or will cook for you – accept it. Don’t try to be a martyr. Use that time to rest and recuperate or even just to shower and maybe take a walk by yourself – whatever you need to do to catch your breath and feel a little like you again.
- Overwhelmed: There are days where it can seem like there isn’t a start or end. Days that begin with feeding, changing, rocking a baby to sleep and repeat. Add to that laundry, cooking, cleaning, self-care and anything else that you need to get done and it is enough to overwhelm anyone. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that what needs to get done, will get done and anything that doesn’t – there’s always tomorrow. If your baby is on some sort of a schedule, try and wake up about half an hour before they do. Just having 30 minutes to yourself, to wash up, throw some clothes on, do your hair, pray or meditate and have breakfast to yourself gives you a better start to the day and you will often find that the rest of the day pans out much better when you’ve had a good start.
- Confused: A lot of first time mums, and mums who have done it all before, can feel confused about various things from what dirty diapers should look like to how many feeds baby should be having to wondering why their belly button is red or what they should do for circumcision aftercare or how much tummy time they should introduce – the list is endless. No question is a stupid question. Knowledge is power, and the more you have, the better equipped you are to care for your child. Join baby forums online, learn from other mums who have babies the same age as yours and may be going through similar challenges. Speak to your health visitor or health care professional about any concerns you have, try not to Google symptoms that can lead to you being even more scared and confused. Your baby will go through several developmental phases and I found a resource called ‘The Wonder Weeks’ to be incredibly helpful in determining periods where I could expect my children to be crankier and clingier than usual, and I was able to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for them. This is available in app form too – so is handy to have on your phone. For breastfeeding, KellyMom.com has a wealth of information that is incredibly useful throughout your breastfeeding journey, but especially in the very beginning when you are trying to get baby to latch and establish a milk supply.
- Scared: A lot of mums are terrified at the prospect of having to care for someone so little, especially with several reports of cot deaths and deaths caused by suffocation with plastic packaging or from unsecured furniture falling on top of children. Worrying is part of motherhood and is completely normal – it’s good to be aware of potential dangers inside and outside your home that your child can be exposed to and how to minimise the risk of something happening. As long as that does not turn into a debilitating kind of worry where you are unable to function properly, you are doing just fine. If it makes you feel better, sign up to take a First Aid course or download an app onto your phone that covers first aid for babies and children. I have a useful one by the British Red Cross and will frequently read it and learn from it while I’m nursing.
- Unattractive: Pregnancy takes a toll on our bodies – there’s no question about it. It takes 40 weeks for us to grow full term babies within our bodies and for all those hormonal, skin and other bodily changes to take place, so give your body that much time at the very least, to recover postpartum. When you look down at that soft belly and those stretch marks, instead of being disgusted, be grateful you were chosen to carry your children and proud that you did it and did it well. I feel like it makes all the difference when I take about 10 minutes to just get dressed and pop on some makeup – even if it’s just some CC cream and lipgloss. It bodes well for me to not be running around the house looking like a zombie all day.
- Guilty: I cannot remember a day in the past two years where I have not gone to bed feeling guilty that I did not do more, whether that is for the kids or my husband. It can be incredibly exhausting to always have to worry that you didn’t cuddle more, or that they had way too much screen time that day, or that you and your husband weren’t even able to have a conversation that wasn’t about the kids, but you are doing your best. For your family – that is more than enough. You don’t have to be perfect – because no one is, but to your children, you are amazing.
The sleepless nights will end and will lead to weeks and months of ‘firsts’ and while the challenges may be different as they grow, the roller coaster ride of feelings, special moments and experiences will continue for as long as you are a mum. Remember that you are good enough, you are doing enough and you are mum enough.