Parenting, there should be some kind of mandatory school for it, because let’s face it when we get our babies handed to us, we’re all captains of the SS Clueless.
Heck, ‘how do I squeeze in my own shower daily?’ is one that they should have covered in my pre-natal classes. It’s scary, and you’re tired, more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, but here are some things I learned during my first six weeks being a new mum, hopefully these help other new mums who are sitting at 3am breastfeeding wishing they knew how to do it all. And don’t worry, you’re doing great!
1. You’re not superwoman but, you’re their superwoman
If you’re sitting in a wasteland of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, toys and are sporting the same pair of PJs 4 days in a row, guess what? It’s okay. You’re supposed to be a hot mess when you first get home with the baby, especially being a new mum. Hell I’m still a hot mess now, a year and a half on. Yes, there’s dishes to do, clothes to wash and mopping to do but any down time you have, you should be resting. I felt guilty about not doing my share around the house but I could never find the time to do it. Here’s the biggest advice I can give you. Stop feeling guilty, take care of yourself, rest when you can because your baby doesn’t know the difference between wash cycles or clean or dirty plates. But he or she will know if you’re not 100%.
2. Poo, pee and vom, get used to them
We’ve done pretty well in our lives in avoiding someone pooing, peeing or vomiting on us throughout our adult lives but that’s all about to change. Learn the term Poonami (a tsunami of poo) because they happen, usually at the least convenient times, like while you’re paying for the groceries, or as you put them into the car. Always, always, always put a tissue on your baby boy’s willy while changing to avoid a steady stream to the face. And well, just get used to the idea that you’ll have spit ups and vomit on you at any given time so always have a change of clothes with you in the car.
3. It’s okay to take time out for you
Remember all the friends and family who offered to babysit anytime? Well it’s time to give them that opportunity. It’s okay to go out for a 30-minute walk alone while your mum or your partner watches the baby. You will feel like a new woman, and yes it’s hard to leave your baby for the first time but your sanity is worth it. If you have someone to watch the bub for a little longer, express some milk and go and get your nails done. I guarantee you, you will come back refreshed and ready to take on anything.
4. Breastfeeding is a b*tch
I know, harsh statement, but it’s definitely not as easy as everyone makes it out to be. Firstly, you have to wait for your milk to come in and then WHAM, they’re huge and heavy plus they hurt if you don’t breastfeed ASAP or express. There’s so much to it that you don’t even think about, like getting your baby to latch on sounds simple but can take ages, if you’re unlucky like me. Getting nipple shields was one of the best suggestions made to me because breastfeeding hurts, breaks and can even make your nipples bleed. With the nipple shield it made that whole experience a whole lot easier. For mum’s who have babies in the NICU or Special Care Nursery, I highly recommend renting a hospital grade breast pump for home, it’s way quicker that the retail ones.
5. Just because they’re midwives and nurses does not mean they have awesome bedside manner
We had an extended stay in the hospital when I had Oli, I stayed for about 5 days and he stayed for three and a half weeks due to being premature. We had some incredible nurses that I am forever grateful for … and there were some that, well, let’s just say I’d be happy to never see again. Sometimes they forget that we’re new to the mum thing and can be snappy, blunt and sometimes even rude. One particular nurse got angry at me for asking how to dress my baby asking if I’d ever dressed a doll before, meanwhile I had a tiny baby hooked up to every kind of cord possible, instead of standing up for myself when she belittled me, I just shied away thinking how dumb I must be to not know this. After two weeks of being scared of them was that standing up for yourself and being assertive changed their attitude towards me. They no longer treated me like a 16-year-old out of ‘Teen Mom’ and showed more respect and compassion. It’s hard when you feel like you don’t know what’s what but it’s their job to help you and your bub, so make it clear if they make you feel uncomfortable.
6. Spending hours just staring
You will without a doubt be spending hours and hours just eyeballing your new baby. And who could blame you, newborns are incredible! Remember to take plenty of photos, they change every single day.
You will without a doubt, get some inconsiderate comments or questions from friends, family or even strangers. For example, my dad asked me if they had taken everything out of my belly because it still looked big the day after I had my son. You will also get the ‘you’re so lucky you’re on maternity leave, you can just do whatever all day’. Please refrain from any violence, it’s hard but please do. The truth is that people suck, not all of them, but some really know how to make you feel like a big bag of crap. The best thing you can do is be honest, ‘Yes, dad they did take everything out, it takes weeks if not months for the belly to go away’, or ‘Yes Claire, it’s great, I get to spend time with my newborn.’ That last one might have been a little passive aggressive but I guess you could also tell her it’s your fourth day without any sleep and have leaky boobs so she better watch it, I’ll leave that one to you.
8. Where does the time go?
You spend the months leading up to your maternity leave coming up with lists of movies, tv shoes and books you’ll read, but never find the time to actually get around to it. You’re no longer living on a 24-hour clock, you’re living the 3-hour newborn cycle, so if you put on the latest episode of OITNB you will most likely fall asleep by the end of it, or you’ll end up forgetting you put it on because you had to go and change a nappy.
9. Your baby is 100% portable
It’s easy to get into a routine in the comforts of your home, where you don’t have to worry about opening up and closing up the pram, where an endless supply of nappies resides and where wearing PJs all day everyday is acceptable. But, taking that first trip out together will firstly scare the crap out of you, then make you feel like you’re invincible when you get home. My first trip was to the local shopping centre and I ended up getting the baby capsule stuck in the pram and having some incredible angelic-like strangers help to get it out. It’s all a learning curve, so as long as you and the baby return home safe and well, give yourself a high-five. Remember, your little one can get cabin fever too, so taking him or her out for a stroll around the neighbourhood, the local shopping centre or café is good for both of you. You don’t have to confine yourself to your home just because you have a newborn.
10. Listen to your motherly instinct
If your baby has been crying nonstop for the past 24 hours and you have that nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach, listen to it. No-one knows your baby like you do, so if you feel like something might be wrong, ask for help. Your local early childhood nurse, GP or Paediatrician are there for these kinds of things. Take bub for a check-up, if just for peace of mind. In case of emergencies, don’t wait call 000 or head to your nearest hospital.
11. Your baby doesn’t need designer jeans
Got milk? Happy baby. Got cuddles? Happy baby. Got nappies? Happy mum. I mean, yes you do need the essentials: nappies, bum cream, a good blanket, a few onesies, a bottle or two and a bassinet, but the brand-new electric swing that vibrates and sings 42 songs in 12 different languages, you can do without. You don’t need much for newborns, a rattle or 2, should do it for toys, you don’t need designer clothes, they’ll just be pooed on. Save the money, and keep it simple.
12. Enjoy every minute
There’s nothing harder you’ll ever do, but there’s also nothing better you’ll ever do either. So enjoy your little one’s gurgles, their gorgeous baby smell, the snuggles, their smiles, everything.
It only happens once and it goes by faster than you think.