Motherhood is a minefield. Information, facts, opinions, hearsay; it’s all muddled together into one big ‘This is How You Should Do It’ guide. Rufus is now 12 and a half weeks (HOW?), so I thought I’d give you a bit of insight into all the things I’ve learned (so far) since becoming a new mum.
1) You are asked so many questions. And you’ll be asked them several times over, sometimes by the same person. All well meaning, of course, and no disrespect to anyone who asks them, but some of my faves include:
- “Is he good?” – who actually answers this question with ‘no, my baby is awful’? Even if your baby does scream all night and day, wants milk then won’t take it and sticks his middle finger up at you in his sleep, I’m relatively confident you probably still think he’s the absolute shit.
- “How’s he sleeping?” – Honestly, there’s no good answer to this. Either he’s sleeping well and you look like a smug bitch while avoiding the inevitable jinx you’re creating, or you stare, bleary eyed, trying to comprehend why someone is reminding you you’ve been awake since the dawn of time. Besides which, when you ask this when he’s one day old, I have no idea how he’s sleeping, because he’s slept like… once.
- “Are you feeding him?” – OH SHIT. Was I meant to? Let me check the manual. Obviously by this, they mean ‘are you breastfeeding?’ I take issue with this because aside from medical professionals, there really isn’t much need for anyone to know whether you’re breastfeeding, expressing, formula feeding or a mixture of all three… You should be able to tell people on your own terms.
2) Everyone will talk about the overwhelming love for your baby the second you see them. But it’s OK if you don’t get that. Sometimes it’s more like “you’re pretty cute, let’s go home”. You’ve got plenty of time to get to the overwhelming, kill for them part.
3) Breastfeeding is god damn hard. It’s the kind of thing that you assume you can do. Every woman can, right? As long as you have boobs, you can and should breastfeed. And it doesn’t matter how lassaiz-faire you feel before you give birth, you will beat yourself up sixteen times a day for not doing it right. No matter how many people hold your boob, help you express, analyse your latch and write notes about nipples, sometimes, it’s OK to make a decision that goes against the grain. It’s also OK to push on through if it’s what feels right for you. But whatever decision you make, make the right one for you. It’s not just about what the right thing is for your baby – it’s equally important that you make the right choice for you, and your baby will be happy when you are happy. The mum-guilt is strong, but you’ll get past that, if it’s the right choice.
4) You will obsessively Google everything at least once a day. It doesn’t matter what it is, your search history will become VERY questionable indeed. From the different shapes a baby’s toenails could be, to the internet hole that is the benefits of baby massage… Suddenly, you’ll look up and you will have spent 2 hours looking into the size, shape and consistency of poop. Oops. Oh and also, Mumsnet. It’s awful, but also great.
5) And while we’re on the subject of poo… Sniffing another human being’s bottom is a regular part of your day. You could take the whole shebang off and take a look, but trust me, in Rufus’ short life he has already managed to give convincing impressions several times, only for an anticlimactic shart at best. It’s much easier to abandon all your dignity and just take a whiff.
6) And while we’re still on the subject of poo… Formula fed baby poo smells like something you recognise. You will spend weeks trying to figure it out, only for it to suddenly hit you. Your baby’s dirty nappy smells like Cool Original Doritos. I’ve had some seriously mixed emotions about this so far, but haven’t yet tried to eat any Doritos, so cannot confirm whether it’s enough to ruin them for me yet.
7) You will never, ever, ever complain about period hormones again. Because they will never be anything compared to Day 4 hormones. Your milk’s coming in, you’re tired, you’re sore and you’re experiencing a gargantuan emotional breakdown because your dog came home from the groomers looking slightly different than before. #truestory
8) Survival of the fittest is real. Adapt or die. OK, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but seriously, if you don’t work out how to hold a crying baby while attaching a lid to a bottle, rearranging the pillows on the sofa and turning on Netflix, then you won’t make it through the day. But honestly? It must be some inbuilt thing, like cracking a glow stick, because suddenly, you can just do it. Never burped a baby before? Wing it. Not sure how to tighten the car seat straps? Lol, no problem, just pull all the straps until it works. Not sure what attire is appropriate for the weird British spring/summer weather? Change him eight thousand times, it’s all cool.
9) The day you discover babywearing, it will change your life. Suddenly you have your hands back on your baby’s fussiest days and it’s GLORIOUS. Suddenly, you can wash up the bottles while listening to a podcast and your baby will, probably, fall asleep. I had a C-Section, so I wasn’t allowed to try it until I was fully healed, and when that day came, my God, did I embrace it.
10) Everyone will have an opinion. Sometimes it helps. Mostly it doesn’t. The only opinion that matters is your own. It’s super hard to remember that, at times. But the only one who knows your baby, your life and your situation is you. Trust your instincts, mama.
11) You won’t be number one for a long, long, long time. Get used to people asking about the baby first, arranging to see the baby rather than you and taking selfies with the baby, not you. Also get used to not minding, because you can understand why – your baby is the cutest baby in the world. That’s why your camera roll is full of pictures of him too, right?
12) You gain a new found respect for your own parents. Parenting is HARD, and they’ve been doing it for your whole life.
13) Your body is kind of weird now. It’s kind of what you remember, but also, kind of not. Like you’ve been used to Pocahontas, but now it’s all a bit Avatar. That kind of alternate version of yourself. And while some of it might bother you, it’s not in the same way it used to – because you have a new appreciation for just how incredible the female body is. You grew a baby.
14) Tuesday, you will have your shit together. But come Wednesday… No two days are the same. Just when you think you’ve cracked this whole parenting thing, you’ll be crying in Aldi car park because you’ve forgotten your trolley pound and can’t remember how to put up your pram and you’ve mistimed your trip with the baby’s feeding schedule and please, please, PLEASE DON’T WAKE UP.
15) You’ll realise your pre-pregnancy excitement re. Parent and Child Parking was slightly premature. The spaces are usually approximately 857 miles from the entrance to the shop and there’s usually always someone who’s parked off centre, making the side bays virtually useless. But you’ll still use them, because you grew a baby god damnit.
16) Babies look like they’ve stopped breathing a lot of the time. Little swines. It’s been 12 and a half weeks, and I still have to poke him about 6 times a nap just to be on the safe side. As if you weren’t already an emotional mess.
17) Immunisation cries are horrendous. Like, you hear about mum’s crying when their babies get injected, but holy heck there’s nothing quite like this cry. A friend of mine described it best when she said it’s ‘a cry full of betrayal’. And even though it’s completely not her fault, you can’t help but hate the nurse a little bit.
18) You spend approximately 83% of your day talking to your baby (or sniffing them… or both at the same time) About 12% of it talking to yourself (or your dog), and the rest talking to actual, real life, living, breathing adults. And you’re fine with that. Because, officially, talking to your baby is good for their development and strengthens your bond. But, unofficially, you do it because your baby sort of becomes your best friend. And even though they can’t tell you yet, you’re definitely their’s too.
19) Being a Mum is really hard. Like, really fucking hard. But you’ll surprise yourself and make yourself proud every single day. And that’s pretty cool.