The first few weeks following the birth of my first child are a total blur and if I'm honest I don't really remember much about them. Through the heady and lethal concoction of sleepless nights, endless expressing of milk and new mum anxieties, the specifics and details of each individual day have been lost. However, one thing that was not lost amongst the milk hazed chaos was how at certain points during those first intrepid weeks, me and my post baby self could have done with a list of new mum home truths that cut through the inertia of new mum bullshit and instead brought me and my over active worries back down to reality. A reality where I realised that myself like all other mums out there are doing a bloody good job. So for all you new mums, mums to be and mums who have a new born again here is a reminder of why you should not be feeling shit about yourself (be sure to stick it up on your fridge and consciousness):
The no bullshit mum bits of advice I wish someone had told me when I became a mum:
1. The day you give birth is not the best day of your life - Yes, shock, horror and may Mother Nature strike me down for admitting it, but let's be honest here for a moment and ask ourselves what we prefer the thought of: A) A day at a spa pushing your body through the paces of a luxurious massage or B) A day of pushing what feels like an eight legged elephant out of a tiny hole in it? YES, your own tiny bundle of humanness is the best thing ever but what you have to go through to meet them, not so much!
2. There is not always a sudden gush of love - "The moment you see them you will be just overwhelmed by the most amazing gush of love" Hmmm... or the most amazing rush of total and utter shock that you have just pushed a human out of your body, followed by the sudden gush of relief that what you have had to go through to get them here is now over. The experience of bringing a child into the world is so individual and so unique to each woman going through it that the blanket generalisation of how you will feel once you have done it, is just plain inaccurate. Yes some people do feel that sudden gush of love. However, there are also a hell of a lot of additional strong emotions that childbirth conjures up and sometimes reign supreme. Therefore, please do not label yourself a freak of Mother Nature if your initial feelings after having a baby are utter shock and complete numbness and disbelief at what you have just achieved, rather than a gush of the overwhelming love variety.
3. Being a mum is not the most natural thing in the world - As women and as mothers we really need to stop giving any weight to statements making out that we are all predisposed to being a mother and will take to it naturally simply because we are female. We need to get rid of the unrealistic expectation that because we are women we will naturally sail through motherhood and that the crippling responsibility and the overwhelming role of being chief carer will just simply happen without even having to think about it. NO! Being a mum takes a lot of bloody hard work, a bucket load of postpartum sweat and numerous days filled with tears of both the happy and distraught variety.
4. It is not one of the hardest jobs in the world - It is THE hardest job in the world. FACT! Disagree? Well you find me any other form of "legal" employment that expects you to work through the night and wipe your bosses arse, all whilst proclaiming it's the best job in the world! (oh, and did I mention it was unpaid and made you go up 3 dress sizes?!) Therefore, seriously give yourself a break and remember that even though it may feel like you are struggling through each day and that it surely shouldn't be this difficult, that it actually should be as it is THE HARDEST JOB IN THE WHOLE BLOODY WORLD. FACT!
5. No new mum is dressed before Midday - Are you sat there in your puke covered PJs wondering how the hell it got to 3pm already? Don't worry, you are not alone! Thousands of mums are right there with you despite their Facebook status or latest album of beautiful mother and baby pics on Instagram depicting otherwise.
6. Those first few weeks are not the happiest of your life - NO those first few weeks are the most knackering, disorientating, shit scary and overwhelming ones of your life! Don't get me wrong, you are happy to have your very own gorgeous tiny human, however, don't kid yourselves that you are going to bouncing off the walls happy every moment of every day. Being a new mum or a mum to a new addition is exhausting and involves lots of sleepless nights, lots of anxiety fuelled hormones and lots of pressures to get everything just right. Expecting yourself to be 100% happy, 100% of the time is not only unrealistic but down right bloody impossible in light of everything else you are going through in those first weeks. And you know what? It's OK not to be happy all of the time, it's OK not to be filled with joy at the prospect of all the sleepless nights to come and it's OK to not want to change yet another nappy but to instead want to climb back into bed and sleep for a week.
7. Your body doesn't just bounce back - We need to give our poor bodies a break and lower our expectations of them. How on earth can we expect the poor thing after being stretched to the size of a continent to then miraculously snap back into shape and anything of the figure hugging variety? The truth is (no matter how hard it is to accept) getting your post baby body to look like it did before you became a continent, takes time, hard work and a big dose of kindness to ourselves and our confidence.
8. No one is coping - everyone is simply surviving! We've all been there admiring the mum who in our eyes seems to have everything under control. The mum who despite having three children hanging off every limb seems to have it all together and is coping. However, do you ever stop to think that she is looking at you and thinking exactly the same? Or that, that very same mum spent the whole of last night pacing the hallway with a crying newborn and the whole of this morning crying in the car after dropping her kids off at school? Nothing in motherhood is as it seems and we are all at times guilty of saying or looking like everything is fine when all we really want to do is scream a tirade of abuse at the universe, cry uncontrollably and then drown our sorrows in a vat of wine. I am here to lay the myth of the supermum to bed. None of us are "supermums" with it all under control in our picture perfect lives. We are in fact battling through every day and doing the damn best we can, which in turn makes us instead, pretty super!
9. Breastfeeding is bloody hard work - Regardless of your journey with breastfeeding, whether you were unable to do it, didn't want to do it or loved to do it, at some point along the way it will test you to your limits and be hard work. Through even the easiest of relationships with it there will be that day where your baby either decides to take umbrage with one of your boobs leaving you in agony, have difficulty in latching on or just want to be feeding on you all day and God help you if you suggest otherwise. Breastfeeding takes time, effort and dedication to master the craft and that's only if you are lucky enough in the first place to have had all the breastfeeding stars aligned to make it something you are able to do (if you so choose). Therefore, do not beat yourself up if you feel as though everyone else has it nailed and you are the only one struggling as everyone at times finds it hard work.
10. Its OK to have a glass of wine - No one is going to send you to jail or take your baby from you just for letting your hair down and enjoying a glass or two of wine! Yes, you may have had a baby but this does not mean you cannot relax after a hard day at the cold front of motherhood with a cold glass of vino in hand.
11. Motherhood is Monotonous - Out of all the things people LOVE to share with you when it comes to motherhood (wanted or not), no one tells you how mind numbingly boring it can be at times. Yes after you've changed what feels like the millionth nappy, had yet another sleepless night and wiped up the umpteenth puddle of puke you are forgiven for wondering "Is this it? Is this all me and my bored senseless brain are now destined to do?!". Motherhood duties and more importantly the continual repetition of them that stretches out in front of you for what feels like forever, can, on even the most exciting of days, fill you with "scratch my eyes out now" boredom. You know why? Quite simply because the duties are boring, especially when repeated on a continuous loop, regardless of the day, place or mood you're in.Therefore, HUGE note to self....You are not a bad mum just an honest one for admitting that at times motherhood is bloody monotonous!
If this list still hasn't quite done the trick in reminding you that you are not the only one at home, dressed in puke covered PJs, rocking a screaming newborn and doing an awesome job, then this video should do the trick!