Wow. I don’t think anyone or anything can prepare you for the reality of motherhood.
All the books you could read, all those parenting magazines, all the online forums, all the chats with other mums before me, still, nothing really prepared me for how hard it really was when baby arrived.
Now everyone’s experiences are different and there is obviously babies out there that are easy or mothers who have transitioned easily into having a new baby, but now after speaking to other mums on how hard it really was, I don’t think it gets discussed enough in the open.
I think about those 6 week antenatal classes that I went to week in and week out. 2 hours every week to prepare you for labour and to be honest, I think labour was easy compared to the aftermath. I really think those classes should focus on getting new mums prepared for the shock of having a baby in your life.
I fell into a false hope that it was going to be semi-hard only. I felt this because I had such an easy pregnancy and whilst other mums complained about this pain and that pain, I had nothing bad to say. I loved being pregnant. I loved every moment and because of that, I felt that having the baby here wasn’t going to be such a hard transition.
Now before I scare any new mums off, I have to say that the reason it was so hard having bub at the time was because she was suffering from reflux and we had no idea at the time.
Basically the first 2 weeks of having baby was a breeze! Now when I say breeze I mean it was easier than what was to come.
In the first 2 weeks, baby would cry, I would change her nappy, breastfeed her and she would fall back asleep on her own. Great! Even though she was feeding every 2-3 hours it didn’t matter because as soon as she went to sleep, I would fall asleep too and catch up on some much-needed sleep.
But what they don’t tell you is the loss of independence when you bring baby home. And its funny because I think its something that you seriously take for granted. Well I sure did.
Below is what I found really hard to adjust to:
1. Having a shower
I couldn’t have a shower until my partner came home from work which meant on most days I was having a shower at 6 or 7pm at night. She was so small that I was so paranoid to leave her unattended so I refused to have a shower unless someone was watching her. This was terrible for me because a shower always helped me get going for the day and obviously I would then get changed into clean clothes but because I couldn’t have a shower, I ended up in my PJs’ all day which kept me in a constant state of tiredness.
That’s another thing no one tells you, how paranoid you get as a new mum! I did not sleep well at all those first few weeks and it wasn’t because of bub, She was sleeping just fine, but my own paranoia. You hear so much about SIDS and what not to do, but then it instills this horror in you that what if even after doing all the right things, there is still a chance that something can happen to your baby while she was sleeping?! So I would stay up listening and checking in on her to make sure she was breathing and ok. That obviously takes a toll on your sleeping.
3. Not being able to leave the house
Now I know there are mothers out there who take their baby out in the first few weeks and don’t even think about it, but my GP and obstetrician both recommended that given that our baby was being born in winter and this year in particular there was a lot of cases of meningococcal, I should keep baby home until she gets her vaccinations. So on top of the paranoia, there was no way I was going to risk my bub getting sick, which meant I was stuck at home all day, everyday, and at first I didn’t mind in the slightest but after it becomes day in and day out, well it starts getting to you in a big way. This goes back to your loss of independence. Before all you did was grab your handbag and keys and you were out the door. Now if I wanted to leave the house, again I had to wait for my partner to be home, and really by that time, all I could do was go to the shops down the road just to have a reason to leave the house and then be back in time for baby’s next feed.
4, Adjusting your life to baby’s needs
I don’t know why I thought baby would come along and she would just slot into OUR lives, but this was not the case at all. We had to change our lives for her. These babies are on a constant routine all day. You basically keep your eye on the clock to know when she will be up next and to be prepared for a feed, change and burp.
Me and my partner miss the little things like having dinner together! It always turns out that baby was awake as we wanted to eat so one of us ate quickly whilst the other fed bub and then once baby was finished feeding than swap and let the other eat while the other took care of bub.
This was also the case when it came to us watching our favourite TV shows or movies. The amount of times we have to press pause as baby cries and we have to attend to her. Well, watching a movie at home is a luxury these days.
Now I know this is an obvious one but unless you have functioned on 2-3 hours sleep day in and day out, then I don’t think you truly know the meaning of exhaustion. Plus as much as people tell you to sleep when baby sleeps, it’s not that easy. First I found it hard to fall back asleep once a crying baby wakes you up and you have to get out of bed to do things. Secondly you need to eat, pay bills, check messages/phone calls/emails, have a shower, wash baby clothes, so you can’t always go back to sleep when you are supposed to! So by the end of the day, you have gone through the day with only 2-3 hours and when that starts happening every day, well that can really take a toll on your emotional and mental state.
6. Having a sick baby
When my little girl was 2 weeks old, she began suffering from reflux but we had no idea at the time. This is when it all went downhill for me. She began crying. All the time. Day and night. Especially after a feed. She would lie there howling and screaming and we had no idea why and it was relentless. No matter what we did to try to calm her down, nothing would work. And because of the crying, she stopped sleeping. Well sleeping as much as she did before and she didn’t fall asleep anymore. It was a horrifying experience and I wish I was stronger in getting her diagnosed, because reflux is one of those things that you can’t exactly get tested for and its the symptoms of the baby that the GP or pediatrician picks up on. What made it worse for me is that I would call those 24 hour parenting hotlines and speak to midwives and every time I would tell them that my baby won’t stop crying I would get this response “its normal for babies to cry”.
As a new mum, this response took a real toll on my self-esteem as a mother. I started thinking to myself “wow I must really suck at being a mother if I can’t handle my baby crying”.
And each day it got worse and worse. The crying was relentless and the non-sleeping got worse which meant I was getting no sleep as well.
I would find myself crying with my baby because I didn’t know how to stop her and I started to doubt myself. I thought “maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. What was I thinking bringing a baby into my life when I can’t even take care of her properly”.
It was horrible and I felt like I was in a sinking hole. It just got worse and worse.
I wasn’t eating properly, I was completely and utterly drained and I felt like crap. Not only that but the misery that I felt stopped me from bonding with my baby. How could I bond with her when all she did was cried! How could I bond with her when I sucked as a mother!
My partner would catch me in the nursery crying with her and would try to help but we were both clueless and thought this crying was normal because of what I was told on the phone (one piece of advice to new mums, if it doesn’t seem normal, persevere in getting your baby checked out. That was a huge mistake on my part that I paid a heavy price for).
It was week 4 before I finally decided to take my baby to the GP.
I was in such a state at that point, that I think I fell into post-natal depression but had no idea at the time. I was in just a miserable state every day and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could think about was how miserable this baby was making me feel.
I had a concept in my head before baby came along, that she was going to bring our little family together, bring so much happiness into our lives, and whilst I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, she was going to be so sweet. But the opposite was in fact happening and it was soul-destroying.
But there is a happy ending to this story! Truly. She is the most precious amazing baby now and that’s because we finally get the right diagnosis and got her on the medication she needed.
But I just want new mums to know that a) yes it isn’t easy and never doubt your abilities and b) things do get easier. I used to hear this all the time but because I was in such a state I couldn’t believe it would get better but it does.
In my next post I will go into details of month 2 with bub and more details around reflux because as I have found out along the way, it’s really common amongst babies.
How was your first month as a new mum? Similar? Different? If you are currently pregnant, how do you envision your life with a new baby?