Well it’s difficult to summarise down to just 14 things, because to be honest I knew diddlysquat about newborn babies, let alone living with one. But here are a few things that I learned once home with our new human (because it turns out they actually let you leave the hospital without any training or anything). So from one new mum to another (or even mums-to-be), have a read and take comfort in the knowledge that the struggle is real and you are not alone…
- They sleep SO much. No, really, it’s a lot.
I’m not ashamed to say I spent the first 3 weeks of motherhood with my iPhone firmly glued in my hand, Googling the first sign of anything I considered remotely peculiar (and that was pretty much everything). Sleep was one of them. “Why is my baby sleeping all. the. time? There MUST be something wrong with her”. Turns out it’s pretty normal: those little things are pretty damn lazy, sleeping up to 20 hours a day (to begin with) and it doesn’t even mean that you’ve broken them, so that’s okay.
- They’re actually pretty sturdy little creatures
The first 2 days of Amélie’s life I was genuinely too afraid to pick her up. I spent a lot of time standing over her, just watching to make sure she was breathing (no you’re mental) and holding her only when someone else had propped her gently in my arms. As it happens, they don’t actually break that easily and it’s no time at all until you’re swinging them round by the leg/ear/neck scuff* like it’s the most natural thing in the world and you’ll wonder what you ever worried about.
*I don’t actually do that or recommend you do either
- They may be small, but boy can they poo
Like a lot. Prepare to be changing 10+ nappies a day. Minimum. Oh, and they just LOVE to pee the exact second you remove the dirty nappy, before you’ve had chance to put the new one on, rendering you wet and confused, sitting in a puddle of your spawn’s urine wondering why NO ONE TELLS YOU THIS STUFF.
- You quickly become okay with being covered in pee, poo, sick, breastmilk etc
Saying hello to parenthood means waving a swift goodbye to basic cleanliness. I’ve been out of the house more times than I care to remember with baby sick in my hair, breast milk leaking through every layer of clothing and flecks of poo in my eyebrow (it happens kids). Top tip – Just wear black. Evvverything blends into black.
- You won’t fit back into ANY of your lovely old wardrobe
Nope, nope, nope. And probably not into your boyfriend’s clothes either. But it’s okay, maternity PJs are totally in right now.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t start out like this
Oh hell no. I take real issue with the statement ‘It’s the most natural thing in the world’. For me, breastfeeding has been the hardest and most demanding part of pregnancy, labour and motherhood combined so far. Turns out, you spend 99.9% of the first week with something attached to your boob, like a little human limpet and it hurts. It really hurts. Far from the ‘natural feeling’ I was expecting. And the worst part is, nobody warns you just how crap it is going to be to begin with. I would quite confidently say I hated every single moment of it up for the first 2, maybe even 3, weeks. But truth be told, once you do get going, it is the most wonderful feeling in the world and worth every second of the toe-curling, wall-punching, nipple-bleeding pain you endure at the beginning. (Just stock up on lanolin, guys – you’ll thank me later).
Feeding problems can arise in all forms and can be really upsetting when it doesn’t work out like you imagined. So if you are unable to or choose not to breastfeed, that’s cool too. Every mum’s feeding experience is completely different – you shouldn’t feel pressure to do something that isn’t right for you and your baby.
- Babies KNOW when you are about to eat. It’s like a gift or something.
Nothing else I can really say on the matter. There’s nothing you can do. They just know. And they will cry.
- Cars are actually magical sleep inducing machines
Cry, cry, cry, SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREEEAMMM… sleep… Works everytime.
- You feel really really sh*t
And that’s okay. I can’t even begin to put into words how horrendous I felt and I’m sure any other mum can empathise. Hormones are out and boy are they in force. Sleep deprivation is totally a real thing and it’s soul-destroying. Mix in the painful physical recovery from childbirth, feeding problems and all the other challenges you face becoming a new parent, and it’s okay and com-fricking-pletely normal to feel slightly freaked out, terrified in fact, about how your life has been upended and wonder whether it would ever be yours again.
It’s a lot harder than anyone can ever warn you about. People around you expect you to be ‘new-mum’ happy and want to invite themselves over, drink tea, laugh about how traumatic the labour was and coo like a crazed pigeon over the new baby. And all you want to do is curl up in a ball with an icepack stuck firmly on your vagina and sob. In fact I think I spent the first 4 days in an utterly miserable perpetuate state of hysterical crying, (I don’t really remember a lot of it to be honest). It’s okay to say no, hell, I did (still do sometimes, a baby is the best excuse to get out of anything).
Those feelings are only temporary. And while it may not feel like it, it WILL pass and you WILL feel 10,000x better (and guess what, you will even have sex again).
- It’s YOUR baby, yes you.
I still find it crazy that we are actually real life parents, in charge of looking after a real life mini-person. Sometimes when Amélie is kicking up a real storm I find myself waiting for a real grown up to swoop in, superhero-style, and sort out the situation, then I remember that it’s us she wants and it’s just heart-fuzzingly amazing.
- You need to look after yourself
You know, the one who’s just come from 10 months of the world watching adoringly over you and your ever-growing belly as you became a glowing embodiment of life. Giving up their seats for you, touching your stomach in amazement, sympathising as you struggle to waddle along and then suddenly, the baby’s born and it’s like you don’t exist. Yes, the baby’s here and “omg she’s so cute! But oh, now she’s crying so here’s your baby back, bye.” It can make you feel pretty crap.
People don’t ask how YOU are any more. Everyone seems to forget that you and your (now saggy) body have just gone through the most agonising transformation it probably ever will. So don’t feel guilty about being selfish – take that afternoon nap and make sure you treat yourself to a bath in peace once in a while.
It’s important to be kind to yourself, as a wise woman once told me (hi mum), you can’t look after someone else until you look after yourself.
- You don’t have to be Supermum
While pregnant I was fairly deluded, imagining my first week of motherhood would include hot-trotting around with my new Bugaboo, dressing up my baby in all those adorable little outfits and just generally being all mumsy doing mumsy stuff. I was wrong.
You don’t need to do anything other than keep your baby fed and safe. Literally that’s IT. You shouldn’t feel pressure to look nice or even be nice. Leave the dirty dishes piled Jenga-style to the ceiling, let your partner change that nappy and, goddammit woman, get out of the kitchen and just order another pizza.
The first couple of weeks of motherhood are empowering, frustrating and fricking terrifying, and if you’re anything at all like me you could find yourself profoundly unprepared and suffocating in a cloud of responsibility. It’s okay not to love every second of it, I mean, having to cope with the unique vocal capacity of a crying newborn, minus sleep can only really equal minor distress at the very least. It’s important to take things slowly, not to be afraid to ask for help, and, as cliché as it sounds, remember: you really can only do the best you can.
- Worrying if you’re doing it right probably means you are.
It’s like how crazy people don’t know they’re actually crazy. Crap parents have way too much on their minds other than RAISING CHILDREN, so if you’re worrying that you’re a rubbish parent, you probably aren’t half bad.
- You will love like you’ve never loved before
Even if it’s not straight away, it will come, and when it does, it’s truly incredible.
I’m starting to realise that motherhood is nothing more than a battle between trying to keep your little cherub(s) safe and happy whilst keeping yourself sane. So while some days you may be tempted to put your baby on your local ‘Buy, Sell & Swap’ Facebook page and only be half joking about it, remember, you are embarking in a new exciting adventure in your life and while things will never be the same again, it’s okay because they will be so much better.