Any Mum out there will tell you that in the first few weeks of having a baby, everything is a total whirlwind of emotions, hormones, sleeplessness, happiness and busyness…its terrifying and wonderful all at once.
And any Mum out there will also want to give you advice.
Lots of it.
You may or may not want to hear it, it all may be too much at once to take in, or you might be blessedly grateful to have advice and support on tap at such a scary and daunting time.
Either way you will be offered it. Me? On the one hand I was desperate for advice about small things, like how much formula the baby should take, to the best way to bath her, and how warm the bedroom should be etc.
But there was some advice that I didn’t take seriously enough, and looking back (was it really only 6 months ago?), now that I’m less hormonal and have caught up (mostly) on sleep, I really wish I had listened to. So I thought I would share it for anyone reading this who is expecting or even perhaps in the first few weeks of parenthood.
And I say this with the preface ‘take it or leave it…really!’
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Yes, its a simple one, and everyone says it, all the books recommend it, as do the nurses and doctors before you leave the hospital; and you may wonder why I’m even including it here. Well, I didn’t sleep. At all. And it wasn’t because the baby kept me awake, it was because I couldn’t relax. Apart from the fact that I was in slow labour for 3 days before Amelia came along, which left me severely sleep deprived, I then didn’t sleep in the hospital for the 2 days after her birth because I couldn’t relax at all. Then, at home, I didn’t take proper naps when she did because I couldn’t switch off. All new Mums reading this will hear me and understand when I say that I kept checking she was ‘okay’ constantly. I call this NMP; New Mum Paranoia. Natural, but you need to relax and sleep as much as possible in the early weeks – trust me. I was so sleep deprived in the first week that I was seeing flashing lights and getting lightheaded. Not sensible.
2. Ask for help. Don’t try to be a martyr. If the baby needs changed and you have a sore back, or like me, you’re recovering from an emergency c-section and find it difficult to stand at the bed or low table to change the baby; then ask your partner to do it, or if you’re a single Mum, make sure there is someone else around to help during the first while. It’s not shameful and doesn’t mean you can’t cope, looking after a newborn is tiring.
3. This is a continuation of 2. I have major fussy/mild OCD type ‘affliction’ which means I can’t settle in a room if it is untidy. I tried to stay on top of this when Amelia was a few weeks old and it exhausted me. I soon realised that no one but myself expected me to have the ironing all done, or the fridge cleaned out while looking after a newborn at the same time, and I had to stop myself from trying to be Super Woman and just enjoy being with my baby. It’s so much more fun when you realise this.
4. If you’re too tired for visitors, say no. If you’re lucky enough like me to have a strong network of friends and family, be prepared for them to want to call around to visit in the very early weeks, and while its wonderful to see them so interested in the baby, sometimes its tiring to make conversation when you’re not on form or in pain like I was; so if you want to take a nap and let your partner greet them and show the baby off, then there is nothing wrong with that…they will understand. They are there to see the baby, not you…and rightly so 🙂
5. Get as much baby-related ‘stuff’ in advance. Here in NI, and I’m sure elsewhere, there is a superstition that you shouldn’t buy or bring anything for the baby into the house in advance of the birth. Like, it’s tempting fate or something. We didn’t bring anything into the house apart from the cot (which we assembled days before I went into labour) and the pram. And while people generously bought us lots of baby clothes and accessories, there were some really important things we kept putting off, like extra bottles, bottle warmers, changing bag, and even little toys, teethers and rattles, and even a baby monitor (probably the most important thing in my book). We didn’t buy these items beforehand, which resulted in my husband going out to the shops every day to get it all – he was tired and I was fraught because we felt so unprepared and it cost us money that we could have spread over time while I was pregnant. All because of a superstition that I didn’t really believe in anyway!
These are the lessons I’ve learned so far…and I’m sure there will be many more to come. 😉