On 30th October 2018, 15 days after his due date, our baby boy finally arrived and changed our lives entirely. I was 27, had been with my partner for 8 years and had wanted children all my life. But nothing could have prepared me for those first few weeks and months with a newborn. I feel like I’ve grown up and developed so much in these last 5 months and I couldn’t be happier with my life right now. Here are 10 things that motherhood has taught me so far.
One of the biggest reasons I found the first few weeks so hard was because I realised I was comparing our real and raw experience of bringing a newborn home to what I had seen on social media. Take breastfeeding: my reality was sore nipples, cluster feed sessions that lasted hours at a time and a baby that never really seemed satisfied so was permanently pressed against my boob. Yet my understanding from what I’d seen online was that it would be the most natural, beautiful bonding experience for me and my baby to share. Thankfully, I got myself down to my local breastfeeding support group and found an army of fellow feeders whose realities were similar to mine. This pattern continued though- I would see babies younger than mine propped up next to the ‘I slept through the night for the first time’ card and wonder if my boy would be walking before we got such a photo. Only to speak to the mum a week later and discover it was a one off and the 3am parties are back on. I’ve found it so good to talk to other mums, learn about their baby’s experiences but not to compare: all babies, all mums and all situations are different.
My mum is amazing and I’m ashamed it’s taken me until now to realise it
Like most women out there- as a teenager my mum and I were not the best of friends. I spent many an evening thinking about how I’d ‘do things differently when I’m a mum’. However, when I came home from hospital, (tired, in pain and with a newborn I was scared to break) it was my mum I turned to for the constant advice, support and cuddles. Not only has my mum been there for me and my boy every single day since he arrived; I’ve realised how much she has always been there making the tough decisions, staying strong when she felt at her weakest and remaining positive when raising a very headstrong teenage daughter. I’m only 5 months into motherhood and I’m shattered yet there she is 28 years into it and still so supportive. Thanks Mum for all you’ve done – I love you.
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When women support women amazing things happen
There’s nothing like motherhood to make you appreciate the women in your life. I’ve always had female friends, worked with women and got on with females I’ve met day to day. But there’s something so special about the mum friends you meet. There are women I’ve met at playgroups who I’ve known for less than 5 minutes before we’re exchanging birth stories, current sleeping arrangements and tales of engorged boobs. For me, motherhood knocked me completely – but I’ll be forever grateful to the fellow mums I’ve met along the way who’ve not only helped pick me up but helped me to really feel proud of what I’m doing as a mum.
Before becoming a mum I was a teacher: my whole life revolved around planning lessons, teaching, marking and entering data in an endless cycle. I was constantly trying to mark a set of books quicker so that I could have some of my weekend. Everything was at a fast pace. Ironically I’d even find myself rushing to/from my yoga class twice a week. Becoming a mum, being forced to sit on the sofa for hours at a time to feed my baby really made me slow down. And I’m so grateful for that. Everyone says that babies grow and change so quickly but I think by slowing down and enjoying each phase and each day you really make the most of these ever changing beings. Just stopping to watch him learn about the world around him is such a special thing. They say ‘while we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about’ and I’m truly grateful to my little boy for teaching me there’s more to life than rushing round ticking the next thing off my ever-growing todo list.
Quality time is better than quality gifts
Don’t get me wrong, we received some beautiful gifts that we’ll treasure forever. However, it was the friends and family members that sat and asked questions about motherhood and listened and cared that truly made an impact on us. It’s also made me realise how as my boy grows up it’s the people that spend time with him and are in his life regularly that he’ll have the strongest bonds with rather than feeling they have to spend lots of money on him. It’s even made me re-think returning to work as I feel I’d rather spend time with him in these early years rather than work more and have the disposable income for extra toys… but that decision is for another blog post…
My body is incredible and is more than just a number
Before getting pregnant, my main focus with regards to my body was the number that looked back at me on the scales every Saturday morning or the number of the size of my jeans. I was only really proud of my body when the numbers were going down. Now, 5 months after having my baby I am genuinely the happiest I’ve ever been with my body. It sounds cliche but to know that my body grew a human on the inside and my boobs have not only grown him on the outside but comforted him, reassured him and soothed him makes me beyond proud. I look after my body better know because I’m so grateful to it. I walk every day (the only way my baby naps) and eat less sugar (I was becoming over reliant on it to get through the sleep deprived days) but I don’t feel the need to calorie count like I used to; I’m just so proud of what my body can do that the number on the scales is far less important to me now.
Your circle can become smaller but better
People say you find out who your true friends are when you have a baby. I really disagree with the view that your friends should have to just listen to your pregnancy talk for 9 months then baby talk for the foreseeable with them feeling secondary. Of course being pregnant and having a baby is an overwhelming and life changing experience and it may take priority in your conversations for a little while but it shouldn’t be the only thing you discuss with friends and family if you want them to stick around. It may be that you lose touch with the odd friend or acquaintance because you genuinely haven’t got enough time or maybe they need people around them that can give them more attention than you’re able to right now. It doesn’t mean its forever. But in my view having a small group of special and loyal friends around you and your baby is worth far more than sacrificing time with your baby to maintain a big group of friends.
Appreciate the little things
Motherhood certainly taught me to appreciate the small things. There is no greater feeling to me than that smile I get after a testing day. Day to day with a baby can be challenging so it’s really made me appreciate things I took for granted earlier: when my mum comes over and can keep my baby entertained so I can nip to the loo alone; when my husband gets in from work and takes over parenting duties so I can get a bath and wash my hair; strangers that smile or ask how you are when you’ve finally made it outside. These small things make all the difference and I would have taken them for granted completely before becoming a mum.
Fresh air, good food and water are necessary basics
In the early days, those cluster feeds could last hours and before I knew it it was 4pm and dark outside and my chance of getting out for a walk was out the window. Then when I did get chance to eat I’d grab the quickest thing I could find… and it was generally something sweet. I quickly learned that I needed to prioritise my health for the sake of our time together. I started with water, each morning I’d fill two 1 litre bottles and have one with me all the time. Then my husband stocked up on fruits and vegetables that were easy to snack on. Finally I made sure we got out for at least one walk a day. Often my little one was in a sling or carrier as this was where he was happy. But it worked- I gradually felt more like my old self and my mood certainly improved. It’s easy to neglect yourself when you have a little person that requires your full care and attentions but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is essential when it comes to motherhood.
Love is all you need
Like most new parents, we were lucky enough to buy or be given all the items on our baby wish list. But when we arrived home with our little one we soon realised that all he needed or wanted was us. I was comfier to sleep on than in the fancy Moses basket; being held in the water by my husband felt safer than sitting in the baby bath alone; and it was far easier all round to change him on the sofa than trek upstairs to the nursery and use the fully equipped changing table. But this is another beautiful aspect of motherhood- the realisation that love really is all you need. A cuddle, a smile, a laugh become your most precious and treasured moments.