Despite the plethora of books, articles and classes meant to prepare you for motherhood, why are the first weeks such a shock? Here's what I wish I'd known.
1. It hurts like hell. Getting that baby out after nine months of 'eating for two' was never going to be easy, but no-one mentions the after-pain. The first few days leave you reeling like the after effects of an M6 pile up, while your pelvis feels like it's been bludgeoned by a sledge hammer! This pain, on top of the sleepless nights (we're coming to that), is only added to by the grand arrival of the milk! And don't forget the constipation (paired with the stitches and the pelvis....you get the picture).
2. Sleep when baby sleeps - err, not! I was all prepared for a haphazard sleeping pattern, having a winter baby I was even looking forward to it. I'd been reliably informed that my newborn would be sleeping 23 hours a day, all I had to do was curl up too. What I was not prepared for was that many newborns, including mine, only like to sleep in someone's arms. With the NHS emphasising the dangers of co-sleeping, this leaves you in a bit of a quandary.
3. Breast is best. Everyone's heard the breast is best argument but a little bit of realism wouldn't go amiss. I sat with eight other expectant mothers and learnt how pain free breastfeeding would be. In fact, we were assured that if it was painful, something was wrong and could be rectified. Fast forward a few weeks and most of us found it's not so simple. The pain I felt caused me to question my decision to continue exclusively breastfeeding. Blocked ducts, cracked nipples and a dodgy latch exacerbated what, no doubt, all new mums feel. I can't help but think that with more realistic expectations we might have fared better and had more confidence to persevere with the belief that practice makes...well, practice makes improvement, if not perfect.
4. The love is immense. So enough of the negatives, one thing's for sure this baby will become your all and everything. That doesn't mean it will happen straight away. The initial pain and sleepless nights leave very little time to even look at your bundle of joy and feel anything other than a massive urge to fall asleep. But it comes, and when it does it's immense. Enough said.
5. Your instinct will develop. In the first few days you don't have a clue! You try to remember the advice, but you soon realise that your baby isn't quite how they describe in the books/ classes/ blogs (replace as appropriate). Visitors quickly handed my crying baby back, chirping, 'I don't know what to do'; 'neither do I', I silently retorted. But give yourself some time, and space, and your instincts do kick in.
6. Family relationships will improve. This isn't a guarantee, but the arrival of a newborn can help to adjust family dynamics. When your parents see you providing for a helpless baby they appreciate you're no longer the child in the relationship. You may also discover a new found respect for everything your parents have done for you and the love they must feel. And if that doesn't work, a new born is a welcome distraction to any family tension!
7. Throw away the advice. If you're reading this then you are probably aware that for every piece of advice there is a contradictory piece, so, I'm not here to give even more. What I will say is, what's here today is gone tomorrow - the good, the bad and the ugly - so make the most of it. Make the most of the sleepless nights, the sore breasts and the rest because it will soon be done. Just when you feel like you can't cope anymore, it will change, for better and worse, but it will change. Your pelvis will realign, your breasts will calm down, your baby will learn to latch and if you're lucky you might even start to see a routine emerging out of the chaos. What works for you and yours will not necessarily work for others. That may mean ignoring your best friends' advice and telling your mum to back off. Just give it time and trust your instincts - there's plenty of right ways to bring up a baby after all, and very few wrong!