Preconceptions and experiences of a first-time mum

4 Jun

We are very lucky to have an honest, funny and supportive guest post from Steph, a top mummy blogger who has only recently started her blog Sisterhood (and all that) which is dedicated to honesty, laughing (and crying) at the ridiculous things grown up life throws at us, and the idea that we are all in it together and need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.

Sisterhood (and all that) guest post

When you’re pregnant, much of the focus is on the birth. How you’re going to do it, writing a birth plan, might you try a bit of skin on skin. You think about whether you’re going to breastfeed; at the time it feels like a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a bit like choosing between the chicken or fish options of a set menu.

choosing from a set menu

When I had my first baby I felt exhausted, weepy, elated, angry, a bit more weepy and completely out of my depth. I had nephews, I had friends that had babies, and before my baby arrived I figured we were a solid couple of reasonable intelligence so we’d be ok. I wailed ‘why did no one tell me it was this hard’ a number of times in those first weeks.

I did an NCT course before my first baby was born and appreciate that people have lots of preconceptions as well as different experiences of it. I found it useful – I had no idea there were stages of labour, I didn’t know anything about pain relief options. Most importantly, I didn’t have anyone local to me that was having a baby around the same time. After the babies were born, having a group of people that I could turn to and say ‘Er, anyone else feel like their nipples are going to fall off’ or ‘Is it normal when the baby …’ was a good thing. You’re going through it together and learning at the same time. One thing that could be difficult with NCT groups is that, as this is a relatively new bunch of people and previously unknown, you can’t guarantee that people will be honest. New mums feel like they should be coping, which can become a vicious cycle of everyone pretending they are all ok.

are new mums being honest?

Even if you are the last in your group of pre-baby friends to go forth and multiply, when people aren’t in the same phase as you they don’t always relate to how you’re feeling. They might have less empathy as once we’re through those first months, women often look back and say things like ‘oh the baby did sleep a lot, I could have rested more’ or ‘now they’re running about I can’t actually sit down – that newborn phase was blissful’. I know because I’ve felt that now I have two of the blighters crashing around.

There’s a lot of hindsight going on; when I think back, the reality for me was terror that I didn’t know what I was doing and that I was getting it totally wrong, anger at my husband – sometimes just at how he breathed – and exhaustion like I’d never known it. There are definitely challenges further down the line, but two kids in I would still argue that nothing is as terrifying as those first months of your first baby, because it is such an almighty change from your previous life and you’ve NEVER DONE IT BEFORE. Being able to say ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ is most definitely ok, but we often feel like we can’t say it out loud.

I now have a three and a half and a 21 month old. When my eldest was born, it wasn’t until I skim-read a few baby books when we were 6 weeks and I was desperate for some sleep that I realised that at some point babies will have a bedtime, and (bonus!) it’s usually about 7pm. When Buster was four months old and everyone was going on about weaning, I had to google it. I had no idea what the word meant. It’s possible that I was particularly oblivious, but with a few nephews and close friends that had gone before me, I can’t believe I was the worst prepared out there.

baby weaning when to start?

I started a blog in February called Sisterhood (and all that), with the aim of being honest about some of the things that myself and friends have found hard or funny (often the same things once you’re through them) about being growns ups. Through the blog I’ve noticed that there are now post-baby courses available, something I didn’t come across at all when I had my first baby. Nurturing Mums has stood out to me because of the honest and often funny information and links they share, which led me to look at their website. As well as practical information on The Big Two (feeding and sleeping), they cover how mum feels and also relationships. The impact having a baby had on us as a couple was overwhelming, and isn’t something I had even an inkling of before we had babies. Probably most important though is that on the course would be women that live locally, that are going through the same thing as you, but guided by course leaders that have had babies themselves, so lots of reassurance that feeling this bizarre cocktail of highs and lows is normal. Personally, I found hearing other people’s fears and anxieties really helpful as it meant I wasn’t alone.

The information that a course like Nurturing Mums provides – after the baby is born – makes so much sense to me. There is no point trawling books and classes for beyond the birth details before the baby is born as it just doesn’t go in until it’s real. Like thinking everyone before you breezed through the newborn bit, but you possibly just overlooked their exhaustion when you were busy skipping about having brunch and lazy lie ins. The problem is, once the baby is born it can feel like there isn’t time for reading books, and if you’re exhausted it can also feel overwhelming.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on babies and I definitely wouldn’t give anyone advice on bringing them up. I do know this: having babies is scary and awesome and exhausting and ridiculous, and it is hard. If you’re in those first weeks and thinking everyone else is finding it easy, I promise you they’re not. I don’t know one person that hasn’t struggled with something about it, even if they looked at the time like it was all going swimmingly. Taking some time and guidance from people that have done it and will provide you with an environment to ask questions without feeling daft WHILST eat biscuits sounds like a good idea to me.

nurturing mums postnatal east finchley

What do you think? Was your experience as a new mum similar to Steph’s? 

Steph has been overwhelmed by the positive response since she started her blog, and is very chuffed to be in the final six of the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging awards 2014. The winner will be announced later in June. We wish Steph the best of luck!

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