Can you believe that Master P is now 6 1/2 months old? Seriously, how'd that happen? He has grown so much (stupid comment really as that is what babies do!), and we really are amazed at the rate of development in the little guy.
I've been thinking about my much neglected blog, my neglected kitchen, and my neglected crafting of late which has really inspired me to try to make some time to start making and doing things again, and clearly writing blog posts! I had so many visions about writing posts about motherhood, our experiences, weaning recipes and how to make cute baby items before Master P arrived. What a fool was I to imagine that I would have (spare) time on my hands!
So, I am taking some time to reflect on our journey over the past 6 months. And boy, what a journey it has been.
I remember saying to Mr P prior to the immanent arrival that I felt ready as a women and as a wife to enter motherhood and stay at home for the first year of our child's life. I was ready to be the good mother, the good wife and look after the two special people in my life. I clearly had too many visions of "the good life". No matter how many classes you attend, books and websites you read, conversations that you have with other mums and mums-to-be, nothing, and I mean nothing can actually prepare you for the real thing. Mr P and I had spent the past 12 years together in ignorant bliss, selfishly doing what we wanted when we wanted. Oh, how that has changed!
Whilst I was pregnant we'd have conversations with other parents-to-be on how we were all going to raise our babies and what we were and weren't going to do.
- We were adamant that we weren't going to use dummies. That lasted 8 weeks after a very fretful night with an inconsolable and over stimulated baby; 6 months in, and he doesn't use them anymore. At the time, it was a god-send and served a purpose.
- I was adamant that I wanted to breastfeed as long as possible. However, both baby and I had various difficulties and in the end we ended up having to bottle feed after a very long and stressful 8 weeks. I was guilt ridden and still feel pangs of guilt now, but at least I now have a happy and healthy baby.
- We were going to set a routine from the early days... that went out the window within the first few weeks and after we let this "idea" go, Master P set his own routine and you can gauge your watch by him. We had to relax and go with the flow. The only structure that we installed is bath and bedtime which works for everyone.
As first time parents, "naive" and "steep learning curve" come to mind!
But when it comes to it, and I am talking childbirth here...as a women you don't really have time to adjust once you have given birth. There is your baby: get on with it. Ok, where's the manual? Oh, there isn't one? Shit! And just as you and your body is recovering from childbirth (which does need and take time to heal both mentally and physically) you somehow hope that the maternal switch has automatically been switched to the 'on' position.
You envisage that life carries on in its own merry way with the addition of your perfect bundle. Then the worries and insecurities set in... am I feeding my baby correctly; is the latch ok; is the baby getting enough milk; what do I do if the baby cries when I'm out; what do I do if the baby does a massive poo which leaks everywhere whilst I am out; what if I get criticised for bottle feeding; what if I get criticised for breastfeeding in public (I've seen it happen - sob); why won't my baby sleep; why is my baby sleeping all the time; should I swaddle or not; will I ever get my body back; will we ever have sex again?... the list goes on.
It took me 6 weeks to be able to leave the house on my own. It didn't help that I had been poorly after the arrival. I had previously thought that I would be swanning down the road with my newborn in the pram within the first week, soaking up the late summer sun. How wrong was I? I was sent into a blind panic the first time I had to go out with just me and the little one. My security net of Mr P wasn't there to hold my hand. I only had to walk 1/4 mile up the road to the doctors surgery! Now, I don't think twice about going out and can do the fastest turn around with the carseat/nappy bag prep going!
However, I really don't think I would have remained as sane as I have if I hadn't had made such good friends with my girls from the antenatal yoga class and NCT class, and literally forcing myself out of the house post-baby to go to playgroup and eventually mums fitness classes. It is only by attending these classes, baring souls and sharing experiences with other new mums that has actually allowed us to feel 'normal' and also what are babies are doing is 'normal'!
Though there is something strange about being pregnant and becoming a mum. As soon as we found out that I was expecting, I suddenly started noticing lots of pregnant women.... I thought the whole world was pregnant with me! And as soon as you become a mum, you suddenly start noticing more and more buggies, babies, toddlers and pregnant women.....and sometimes you just feel like you are another statistic and another bedraggled mum pushing a pram. At the end of the day, you are the most important person in your baby's life and you are doing a great job!
Now that we are at the end of the first 6 months, some mums that I know have returned back to work (weeps) and the rest of us are gearing up to go back in the forthcoming months. I have 5 1/2 months before I return to work and it is the furthest thing from my mind at the moment. As much as I love my job, I actually long to stay at home for the first 2-3 years to look after our son...but reality hits, like the bills, the mortgage, the reducing Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) each month. I sometimes wonder if the government has got it wrong and that they should encourage and support mothers who want to stay home for those first precious and important years where we nurture and develop our babies into little people rather than hand them over into childcare. But then on the other hand, I know many who are itching to get back to work. The whole SMP / Return to Work scenario is a can of worms in itself and not a debate I have the energy for at the moment.
But no matter what parenthood throws at you, you work through the ups and downs. It is hard, yet very rewarding and even to this day we still marvel over the little boy that we 'made with love' asleep in his cot each night. I still can't believe that I am a mother; that Mr P is a father and that we are a family.
You quickly learn and distinguish between the different cries that your baby makes. You relish those precious moments when they are snuggled up on your chest, fast asleep. You get better and faster at changing nappies. You become the queen of multi-tasking and manage to function on less sleep than you had when you were at university!
So, my top ten tips for new mums would be:
1. People say, "when baby sleeps, mum sleeps". Seriously. DO IT! And don't nap on the sofa watching trash TV. Going to sleep in the bed is much better for you.
2. Let other people help you with chores and cooking. Stop being so damn house proud!
3. Find out where your local playgroups are and go. You may need to attend a few before you find the right one that is for you, but being around other new mums and support workers is invaluable to keeping you sane.
4. Ensure that you communicate how you are feeling with your partner if you are struggling. Raising a child is a joint responsibility.
5. If you are experiencing problems with breastfeeding, seek advice from the wealth of breastfeeding support that is out there.
6. Eat healthily and drink plenty of water. You need to look after yourself. Try not to get hung up about your body image. You've just been through childbirth - give yourself a break! You look fab!
7. If you are struggling with a crying baby, take a break. Pass them to someone else if you can or if you are alone, put them somewhere safe like their cot and take 5-10minutes. It's ok to cry, you aren't a failure. Scream into a pillow if you need to let off steam; grab a cup of tea and sit quietly in the garden; do some deep and relaxing breathing. Call a friend and talk.
8. Add some structure to your week and try to make sure that you do one thing a day, even if it is just going out for a walk. Being home alone with a baby all day is exhausting.
9. Take time out for yourself. Have your hair cut, go for a coffee, get a pedicure. And don't feel guilty for taking time out. It's hard work being a mum.
10. Never be afraid to ask for help.
So, what lies in the next 6 months ahead of us? We're just getting into weening and teething and moving and grabbing and babbling! Just when you get used to it, it all changes.... watch this space!
Would I do it again? Hell yeah... let me just get over the first one!!!!