You’re told that “you’ll never sleep again”. And you’re warned that “your life will never be the same”.
You may even hear that “your world is about to be flipped upside down” now that you’re expecting a baby.
And it’s all true. Babies suck at sleeping for long periods of time. And they cry a lot. Plus they sh*t heaps, want nothing but boob and require constant attention. And this can be tricky.
But what’s really hard about that first year with your new baby has nothing to do with crying, or pooping or even breastfeeding.
No. Here’s the real reason those first 365 days are so unbelievably hard:
Because, you really don’t know WTF you’re doing.
Yes, there are midwives to ask and forums to read. There’s family to rely on and dial-a-doctors to ring. Oh, and let’s not forget the Facebook groups where strangers share their judgey opinions on what you’re doing wrong.
Shut up sugar-banning Susan, no one asked you anyway.
But, for the most part, it’s pretty unclear if what you’re doing is right. It’s like your first day on the job, but every day. And no supervisor there to give you feedback. After all, your baby can’t really tell you.
All you can really do is trust your instincts, which are so out of whack thanks to the boatload of hormones in your body. So you go through most days questioning every decision you make.
Should I have cuddled her to sleep? Or let her cry it out? Have I just ruined her sleep for life by letting her fall asleep in my arms?
Should I have fed her that piece of avocado? Is she too young for avocado? Is avocado an allergy food? Perhaps I should have made sure it was certified organic?
Did I wait long enough between drinking that wine and feeding bub? Is she drunk right now? Oh sh*tballs. Did I just make my baby drunk?
Just for the record… No, I didn’t ruin her by letting her fall asleep in my arms, No, I didn’t feed her non-organic avocado too early. And no, I didn’t make her drunk.
But sleep-deprived me, and other new mums in a similar situation, don’t realise this when we’re in the heat of the moment. Why?
Because, when you become a new mum, you’re so overcome with emotion that it’s hard to think straight. And sleep. EVER.
Nothing prepares you for the intense love your feel when you have a baby. This love/ fear/ happiness/ joy/ pride pretty much slaps you in the face. Really really hard.
In addition to the overwhelming feelings above, there are the constant emotional struggles that comes from day to day tasks.
There’s frustration when you FINALLY put baby down and she wakes up crying two seconds later. Then the anger when, two hours later, you’re still trying to settle her and she is still not cooperating.
Next is the relief when you finally get her down. And then, the guilt for feeling frustrated and angry in the first place. And let’s not forget the shame for not enjoying every single second with your new baby, because that’s what new mums are expected to do.
So we get mad at ourselves for not being good enough. It’s a never ending battle with our stupid emotions and most days, even if we win at parenting (which we do), we lose the battle within ourselves. And this makes things really freakin’ hard.
Not every day is like this. But we mums have a lot going on in our heads and sometimes it’s hard to just shut off. And sleep.
Then, all of a sudden you blink, and your baby is one.
And you’re left wondering, What in the Actual F? How the hell has it already been a year? And where have I been? Why didn’t I do the things I was planning to do, like stage a weekly adorable themed photo shoot, add cute messages into the baby book and make my own organic baby food?
How is the newborn stage over? Is there a button I can press to redo it, to appreciate it more, to try a different technique, to ensure I did it right?
No. There’s not. There’s no pause, or rewind button. We are really only left with a slew of memories, some good, some bad. And, probably a phone load of photos, some staged, some blurry AF.
But we are also left with a baby who is now a toddler. Who is saying ‘mumma’ and laughing, and walking (or trying to). Whose eyes light up when he sees you and who wants nothing more than to be by your side (or in your arms). Who has grown and learned so much in 12 short months. And who is proof that, while this first year may have gotten the better of you (at times), you did freakin’ awesome. You really did.
Yes, mums, baby’s first year is hard. The annoying cliches are true. But if you can see past the fear that you’re messing up, the crazy emotions that control you and the constant battle against time, then hopefully you can learn to relax.
And maybe, just maybe, get some much-needed sleep.