Below are a few things I’ve learned during the past three months of motherhood. I feel like some of these are not-so obvious and whilst others are, when you’re in the middle of an intense 2am cluster feed you find your mind crowded with all kinds of ridiculous notions of what you should -or shouldn’t- be doing.
- Carpe f*cking Diem – that thing you need to do? Do it. Do it now or spend the next 3 days regretting your mistake.
- Priorities. If you couldn’t prioritise before, you’ll learn damn fast post-partum. Got half an hour whilst the little darling naps? Now’s the time to use that freedom wisely. I categorise things in terms of how much will I regret not having done it later. That, and can I do it one-handed? If I can, it’s a lower priority. This blog post? Mostly typed one-handed on the phone whilst boobing overnight. Prevents me from thinking that casting on another pair of socks to knit is a good idea.
- Learn to let go and embrace the chaos. As an adult, you’re far more of a control freak than you realise and are surprisingly regimented in what you do and when. You don’t realise this until you have a baby. Our lives are ruled by the notion of time and babies are glorious little wildcards that quite frankly, shit on time and its constraints. You wanted to quickly nip to the shops? Oh nonononono. Mama it’s time for a feed and yes I will take my sweet time. Oh, and what do you know? I’ve just decided to explosively fill my nappy and simultaneously spit up on your shirt. You weren’t planning on doing anything for the next hour, were you?
- That noise they make the first time they headbutt you in hunger hard enough to hurt themselves will make your heart break.
- Be comfortable in your own skin. There is no such thing as discreet public breastfeeding at the beginning. Your little boob addict is hungry? They will snort, snuffle and generally rub their face all over your boob except for the nipple. Accept that you’ll likely inadvertently flash people.
- Your little rascal will mistakenly latch onto somewhere that isn’t breast and will give you what looks like a lovebite. It’s inevitable.
- Enjoy the small things. Remember when you were 38 weeks pregnant and immensely proud of the fact you managed to epilate your legs without falling over or putting your back out? That pales into comparison when your little inhabitant is on the outside and you finally manage to have that hot cup of tea or a shower long enough to use a body scrub. Or eat with both hands. Relish those moments of bliss.
- Nothing will rip you from a deep sleep like your little angel filling their nappy with that almost-comical squelch. I say almost comical because it’s hilarious until you have to change it.
- Never wake a sleeping baby. Unless you’ve just heard *that* nappy sound. Then it’s time to brace yourself and poke the lion with a stick.
- They are noisy AF. Whoever said “sleep like a baby” clearly never slept in the same room as one of the little buggers. Sleep time is time to bust out those dance moves, mum.
- Babies are fidgetbums. Mine is a Fidgetbum of the First Order. Fidgets whilst he sleeps, whilst he nurses, during nappy changes… Enjoy the nappy changes before they learn to roll over or discover their hands, by the way. Those are game-changers.
- No matter what you said during pregnancy and how much you try, you will turn into that annoying sickeningly proud parent. “Look! Alfonso has just managed to stick his fist in his mouth for the first time and made himself gag!”. Considering you spend nine months incubating another human being, only for them to emerge looking like a seriously wrinkly, grumpy old man that appears to just scream “BOOB” incessantly for those first few weeks, these tiny developments will never cease to amaze you.
- Trust your gut. You think your Bambino is tired? They probably are. You suspect a growth spurt or teething? Most likely is. You got this; ignore the well-intentioned unsolicited advice from those unqualified and listen to your instinct. Nine times out of ten, mum knows best.
- You can successfully breastfeed. No, they’re not fussing because you can’t produce enough. They’re fussing because they’re telling your body to make more of that magic milk. And no, you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. No you cannot spoil them when they’re this small. But ultimately fed is best and you know what works for you.
- If you breastfeed, you discover that if in doubt, boob is most likely the answer. Aside from a dirty nappy or trapped wind, boob will resolve everything. Pain relief? Boob. Comfort? Boob. Overtired? Boob. Grouchy? Boob. Hungry/thirsty? Boob. You just can’t go wrong.
- Breastfeeding: Thought pregnancy cravings were bad? Wait until The Hunger gets you. 2 minutes after giving birth it hit me like a freight train and I’ve been ravenous ever since. It is possible to have a three course breakfast by 9am and feel hungry at 10:30, by the way. Coconut yoghurt is the bomb.
- Don’t under-estimate clusterfeeding. Get snacks, drinks and the TV remote because you’ll likely be here a while. Ride it out; it won’t always be like this, honestly.
- You will never feel a bond like this and you never expected it to hit you the way it has. Allow yourself to be proud and enjoy those moments where they smile at you with a mouthful of boob, or start babbling at you like you’re having a serious conversation. These moments are priceless and are all too fleeting. You will also never feel so protective of anything or anyone in your life.
- Your body is amazing. Yes, you may feel a bit battered, flabby, sleep-deprived and at times like a human milk machine capable of only watching box sets whilst the boobivore feeds, but when you think about it, this whole process is an absolute marvel and is not to be taken for granted. Yes, those 4am feeds are a pain. As are the 2am ones. And that one at 5 where you usually have a fight over the nappy change. It won’t be like this forever.
- You understand more of what your parents went through raising you, particularly if you’ve got siblings and have just had your first baby. You have all these apps and gadgets and Dr. Google to turn to when you have questions or concerns. They didn’t. Your parents had to do it old school and that’s pretty badass. You don’t have to agree with everything they’ve done, but it should earn your respect, at least. Still won’t make up for that time you weren’t allowed to go to that party, though.
- Share their joy in the little things. Is sticking your tongue out the best thing since sliced bread? Embrace it and enjoy that right now, entertainment is cheap.
- Be vigilant during nappy changes. This is particularly addressed to those with sons. Chances are you too have fallen victim to the Anger Wee when struggling with a very indignant, hungry baby in the small hours. I have lost count the number of times we’ve had an impromptu hair wash at stupid o’clock because I was too bleary-eyed to check where he was pointing, he let loose and it went all over him, in his hair and the changing mat. Impressive.
- Finally, wing it. All mums do, and eventually you will master the art of blagging your way through the challenges your little human sets you to the point where it appears as if you actually have a plan.
On a sober note, a lot of this revolves around baby, and whilst the little soul is unspeakably precious, the most important thing I personally am struggling to make sure I don’t lose sight of is myself, and to jettison that impulse of trying to be super-mum. I wasn’t always a mum and I need down time too. It is so incredibly hard to shake off the expectation of being a natural-born superwoman once your baby has arrived. Your already superwoman by virtue of the fact you’ve decided to raise another human.
Oh, and guilt. You’ll have plenty of things to feel guilty about at a later stage in life, no doubt, so be it safe co-sleeping, or realising they watch TV with you in the evening, save the guilt for another time.
The dishes can wait. Play time with your smiley little Sleep Thief, however…