- Motherhood isn’t an instant feeling for everyone.
I expected to have this instant knowing as soon as I discovered I was pregnant, having been told by a lady I knew from work that this is the case. ‘The moment we are pregnant, that’s it, we are mothers.’ She said. So it was a surprise to me that all I felt was fear, I was 18 and didn’t feel like a woman yet let alone a mother! Sometimes it really is a gradual unfolding and that's OK.
- None of us are experts and none of us are perfect.
I would watch other mothers and think damn they have it down. Until the day I finally attended a mums group. I had been told that I really needed to get out of the house and talk to other mothers, this was a scary concept as I was sure they would all take one look at me and realise that I was an impostor. We all kind of sat in a circle and the mums with various stages of baby, all who seemed much more confident in handling them than me where sharing various ‘failures’ (in their minds at least) and anxieties “I microwaved a bottle of formula” revealed one (she shook it good don’t worry). “I slept with mine in the bed with us, I’m so ashamed he could have died, the safe sleep guidelines…” Then I (and I still don’t know what compelled me to share this) revealed something I was so ashamed of… still am a little bit. “I shouted at my baby to shut up, he wouldn’t stop crying and…I was just so tired” I stopped, mortified that I had just blurted it out, the jig is up I’m revealed as the non-mum… “God, you know I’m so relieved to hear you say that. I shouted at mine a couple of times too.” This lady who was the image of motherhood perfection to me, a muslin cloth draped casually over her shoulder, perfect pink baby being expertly burped. A few of the other mums revealed that they too had reacted in such a way to their babies’ constant ear-piercing screams. One revealed that just a few days before she stood outside her car and smoked a full cigarette while she waited out a tantrum her toddler had been throwing all over the back seat. It turns out that it’s not just young first-time mums who become overwhelmed by the epic transition of motherhood. It’s all of us.
- Trust your instincts, they are usually right.
Someone gave me a book, the worst book I could have cracked open at that time. The contented little baby book! I tried so hard to follow the instructions that had apparently been ‘a lifesaver’ for the well-meaning couple that gifted me this instruction manual (and it is an instruction manual). I tried to let my baby cry it out, despite my instincts telling me that this was just not me, this wasn’t right for us. I would be in tears, well we would be in tears trying to follow the book's advice on scheduling until I realised that schedules and instructions gave me no pleasure or comfort before I became a mother, it just wasn’t in my nature so why would they help me now?! I’m not judging mothers who found this book helpful as we all have our own way. This way simply wasn’t for us. As soon as I started trusting myself, being kind to myself and of course my baby, our life together became so much easier. If your instinct tells you that something isn’t right for you then listen to it. Listen to your heart and trust it!
- Everything is temporary.
When my son was crying in the night and throwing up or going through a transition that took up all my energy and spirit I felt like it would last forever. One day I told my Mum how I wished I could fast forward to when teething was over. She said ‘don’t wish it away as it all goes by so fast’. I didn’t pay much attention to her at the time but boy was she right! My son is 13 now and I can barely remember those baby days that gave me so much stress. I did learn some skills in how to soothe a fussy baby, bring down a temperature, eat one-handed, complete many tasks wearing a baby etc. I do remember watching his adorable little face as he slept, his laugh, the funny little noises he would make… but those times I found so all-consuming and stressful don’t really stand out in the scheme of things. It’s all temporary, changeable and constantly evolving.
- Sometimes it’s OK to accept help and sometimes it’s essential.
So I had been a mother for 3 years. I had it more or less down, I rock this shit! Or so I believed. I fell pregnant with my 2nd son and planned to heal my first birth and have a great experience. Let’s forget about the birth and focus on those important early days. I went into overdrive trying to prove how capable and together I was compared to my 1st experience. I was resistant and defensive to any offer of support and unsurprisingly (from this 9-year distance) exhausted myself. After 2 defiant weeks of keeping on top of new baby life, housework, dinner making and running around after my 3-year old I became ill, a sobbing heap, weak with a virus and exhaustion. “What are you trying to prove?” My husband asked. I realised after a talk with him that actually, my mother in law was desperate to help. She wanted to feed me, support us and care for us the way I love to care for new families. I watched her happily take my washing and bring us shopping laden with lovely treats. After I adjusted to this new way of being I felt great, so cared for and actually grateful. I also felt a little guilty for not accepting her help before. I can’t stress enough ladies SOMETIMES HELP IS ESSENTIAL!
So those are just 5 of the many lessons I have learned so far, I’m sure we all have many many things to add but these are my chosen few for now. To be continued!
Be gentle with yourselves you wonderful Mothers, we have got this, and each other!