Congratulations and welcome to the New Mama Club (NMC)! And let us send our commiserations to either your lower abdominal muscles or baby bearing lady parts (so sorry for the trauma).
Admittance to the NMC only really requires one key membership criteria; a baby. Got one of those? You’re set.
What you may be wondering, is how you’re actually supposed to survive with said small infant? You’re woefully under qualified for the job at hand. Nobody thought to check your baby rearing licence before releasing you from hospital.
What you need is a survival guide. And lucky you for, we’ve got just the thing.
How to Survive New Motherhood in 5 Easy Steps
Surrender to the fact that you know (less) than nothing
Bringing a new baby home will make you realise that you actually have no clue about anything to do with parenting. Spent hours reading up on birth? Yeah us too. How about ‘Surviving life with a newborn’? Didn’t crack that one open? Don’t worry, you’re amongst friends here. Admitting you have no idea is the first step towards acceptance. Remember, 99.8 per cent of first time parents are clueless. Here at the NMC, we’re big fans of ‘fake it, till you make it’, paired with ‘do the essentials and don’t worry about the washing’. Trust us, the first weeks are purely survival mode. Do what you need to do to get through. If that means apple danishes for breakfast every morning and the entire six seasons of ‘Suits’, go with it. We don’t judge.
View your body as a work of baby bearing art
That is, take an objective and fairly disinterested stance towards the inevitable changes as there’s a strong possibility you may cry otherwise. We all handle birth differently, but what is generally universal is what we term ‘the softness’ and ‘the leaking’. The softness comes from a rapidly deflating belly that isn’t quite sure where it’s supposed to sit, now it’s no longer a 24/7 baby cave. Even if you were working out like a Ninja Warrior during pregnancy, there will still be an amount of stretch that needs to find its way home. Ditto ‘the leaking’. Regardless of your birth experience, there will be bodily fluids escaping into the inflatable raft stuck to your undies (we mean your maternity pad) and lots of boob leakage that occurs once your milk comes in. Basically, you’re a soft, leaky baby bearing vessel. But it is temporary. Stick your inflatable raft to your knickers with pride, stuff your nursing bra full of the softest breast pads you can lay your hands on and stand strong in the face of fluids and soft flesh.
Successfully negotiate sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation and newborn babies go hand and in hand and there’s really not much you can do about it. Yes, you may feel like screaming into vacant space ‘JUST LET ME SLEEEEEP’ and that may help you feel better momentarily. Longer term though we suggest rolling with it and trying to achieve some sort of zen attitude towards the inevitability of what you’re facing, Knowing that what you’re experiencing is totally normal and WILL in fact pass, gives you back the power. Pair that with going to bed when the baby does, giving not a care as to sleeping whenever and wherever you fancy (couch, parents’ couch, friends’ couch, soft chair in cafe) and enthusiastically cultivating a caffeine habit will also help.
This one is not just for poonami time (though feel free to delegate that job out to anyone willing). Delegate EVERYTHING possible. Heck, if someone could strap on a pair of breasts and nurse baby every 2-3 hours, we’d take that offer. Sadly, that kind of technology doesn’t yet exist (damn you science) but pretty much everything else can and should be shared out. Honestly, it can be hard to accept or even ask for help. It goes against our primal need to do it all and hashtag our photos with #supermum and #mumlife. But in the early days, it’s essential. Accept offers of cooked dinners (or form a close relationship with Menulog), let friends who pop by chuck on a load of washing or run the vac over the floor. Have literally no shame about sitting on the couch, feeding baby and allowing other people to ply you with baked good and hot cups of tea. You will return the favour one day so enjoy your opportunity to bask in goodwill and baby excitement.
Connect (in real life as well as online)
Online Mother’s Groups and forums are an absolute godsend in the early days of new motherhood. Where else can you chat cracked nipples and bottle sterilising methods at 2am? Thing is, they’re interactions through a screen and as reassuring as they can be, they need to be balanced out with IRL interaction. Making new ‘mummy friends’ can be terrifying. You may want to flee (waddle?) back into the safe confines of your home at the thought of an organised Mother’s Group or a coffee date with a friend of a friend, but it is worth persisting. Not only will it get you out of the house in reasonably clean clothes and give you access to hot coffee, it will also allow you to very visibly experience other people’s mum life, warts and all, something that isn’t always conveyed online.
So there you have it. How to survive new motherhood in five (not always easy but oh so worth it) steps. The most important thing to remember? ‘This too shall pass.’ Be gentle with yourself. You’ve just done something amazing and life has changed forever. Once again, welcome to the NMC. We really think you’re going to like it here.
Need some more first-time mum advice? Read our article about how to survive the first week at home with baby.