Sunday 10 August 2014

The twelve things new mothers need to know.

no pain relief, childbirth, things all mothers need to know, birth certificate, mother diaries, parenting, motherhood
If you're pregnant or a new mother you will probably find that you are bombarded with advice about how to be a parent. I listened to a lot of stupid things I shouldn't have and put way too much pressure on myself as a new parent. Looking back I wish I had listened to these things instead:

1. Your birthing experience will not go on your resume.
Whatever your birth is like, whether you deliver your baby in two hours or thirty six, whether you have no drugs or an epidural, it DOES NOT MATTER. Please don't put pressure on yourself to have a particular birth – preferences are great but ideals are not. However your delivery goes you deserve a medal just for bringing a little person into the world.

2. Trust your own instincts.
The love you feel for your little one will be overwhelming. You'll be bombarded with advice about what is best for your child but don't allow it to consume you – only you will really know what is best for your baby so trust yourself and don't feel guilty about saying "thanks, but no thanks" to any advice that isn't helpful. Take others' comments with a pinch of salt and trust your own instincts.

3. Take all the help you can get.
If a friend offers to cook you a meal, look after your baby to give you a break or clean your house then two little words are in order: "yes, please." Grab all the help you can get because you would be crazy to think that you can do it all on your own (unless you have super hero powers). You don't get any medals for seeing how little sleep you can live off or for cleaning your house one handed whilst feeding a baby. You are human. You will need help.

4. Be kind to yourself.
It seems ridiculous when you're a new mother that you should ever prioritise yourself over your baby, but it's really not. A happy mother is a happy baby – I honestly believe that. Make sure you put yourself first every so often. If your baby naps and you have a choice between hoovering up and grabbing some sleep too, take the sleep! Life always feels much better after a nap. And if you haven't started the day with a well needed coffee then put your baby down for two minutes. Babies don't have to be held all the time and, believe it or not, they can wait a few minutes longer for food. Get a baby bouncer so you can do things like get a sandwich or have a shower whilst supervising them. Choose the things that make life easier for you and don't beat yourself up.

5. Be real.
You will have days where you feel like you can't cope, days when you want to chuck your baby out of the window and days when you feel like you're the on top of the world. Learn to be a little more rational and try to take your emotions with a pinch of salt because they may well be all over the place. If you can't face seeing people right now that's okay, just know that after a nap, some food or on a day where your baby isn't crying all day you may well feel like a different person. However, being a mother can be really tough so it's important that if your feelings get too overwhelming that you are honest with people. Motherhood is often idealised and makes new parents feel less able to talk about any negative emotions associated with having a baby. It's important to always be real with yourself and others so you can get help where it's needed.

6. What feels like forever will feel like five minutes in a few years.
You'll feel like you're the only mother up for hours in the night or that you'll be physically feeding them forever. Although it will seem impossible to get your head around right now, there will come a time when you will have a full night's sleep again, your child will feed themselves and you can leave them in front of a whole Disney film while you read the paper. Try to gain perspective and enjoy the cuddles and smiles, knowing that the dirty diapers and sleepless nights will also be over before you know it.

7. It doesn't matter how you feed your baby (within reason!).
It is no one else's business how you choose feed your baby and both breast milk and formula are healthy methods of feeding. Whatever choice you make do it because it is genuinely the best for your family and your sanity.

8. Everyone is different.
Every woman will have a completely different birth experience and will also choose completely different parenting methods. Every baby will be completely different and respond to different parenting techniques in different ways. Just because one piece of advice worked for one baby it doesn't mean it will work for yours. Take the advice that benefits you and leave the rest. Please don't take on board other people's judgements of your parenting, but likewise have grace for others who choose to do things differently to you.

9. Have a sense of humour.
Laugh. Laugh at discovering you have sick all over your back when you're walking down the street or that you accidentally flashed your boob to the mailman mid-feed. If you can laugh at the downs you will never have laughed so much in your life. Take yourself a little less seriously and you'll have a lot more fun because of it.

10. Give your body time.
Your body has gone through a massive trauma by delivering a baby into the world, give yourself time to heal. So many mothers agonise over how their body has changed or are too keen to get into the fitness regime and lose the baby weight. Concentrate on getting used to life with a baby first - respect your body for what it's been through and try not to speak negatively about it. You will be able to lose the baby weight but these things take time and commitment.

11. Think of crying as baby talk.
Babies cry. A lot. Some babies cry more than others. If you have a baby that cries a lot this has no reflection on your parenting skills, it just means they will probably grow up to know more of what they want in life and be a good communicator. Babies cry in the most awkward of situations (like when you're driving!) so try to keep your cool. If you can't work out why your baby is crying after you've checked for the obvious (hunger, tiredness, signs of illness etc.) then it's okay to leave them for a few minutes whilst you grab yourself that well-earned coffee.

12. Don't forget who you are.
Please, please, promise me that after a year of parenting you will not have filed away your favourite past-times or ambitions. You are still the same person you were before you had a child – sure, it may be harder to do the things you did before but you can still bring elements of them into your life. Don't become so consumed in diapers that you forget what you're about. You will do your chid a favour by letting them know that, although you love them more than anything, your world does not solely revolve around them.

If you're a mother, what advice would you have given yourself as a new parent?

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