22 January 2018

An Idiot's Guide to Starting Motherhood


Since my last post (make sure and read to catch up), I only blimming well went and had a baby, didn't I!? To say that my life has changed in the most monumental way, would be nothing short of an understatement. I don't think you can ever actually prepare yourself for becoming a parent, no matter how many books you read, or how long you have to get ready. Once it happens, it's nothing short of mind blowing how little you really know. That's how I felt anyway. I frequently look at my son and panic that I'll not be able to keep him happy, or even on a more fundamental level, I'll not be able to keep him alive. The amount of times I have panicked every time I have lifted him up, that I will fall and crush him, is nothing short of insane. Every time he pauses breathing, I have to stop from having a nervous breakdown. Even now, he's playing beside me on his playtime mat, and he has the most brutal hiccups, and part of me can't stop thinking that they aren't just hiccups, they are something more insidious. I mean, on a logical level I know they really are just the hiccups, but the emotional part of me is very loud and she demands to be heard. So, I guess we're going with blind panic rather than rational thought. 

Elijah, one day old.

Elijah is now four months old. For four whole months we have been blessed with this adorable bundle of joy and happiness, who loves cuddles more than anything, who adores his dad bopping his cheeks, and who smiles for everyone except the camera just to annoy me. He is a happy, joyful boy, who is loving learning about the world. He loves studying people's faces and using his hands and mouth to discover everything, and watching him learn is my greatest happiness. I always thought people must be exaggerating when they said that having a child creates a love like no other, but the second he was put in my arms, that feeling of love hit like a tidal wave. A terrifying, overwhelming, awesome tidal wave. I had been very apprehensive of how I would feel after giving birth. I have a long history of depression and anxiety, so I was very aware that I would be more likely to suffer from post-natal depression, but thankfully there have been no signs. I keep a close eye on my mood anyway, if the feelings of negativity arise, I deal with them head on because otherwise I would let them overwhelm me. It's very easy to let the negative feelings take root, because there really are no words for just how overwhelming it is to become a parent. One minute, you only have to make sure you keep yourself alive, the next, there's a tiny human being completely reliant on you, and they're screaming and you don't know why, and holy shit this is terrifying. The moment he smiles though, that single moment is enough to make me feel like I can do this. 

Look at that smile!

Having said that, I wouldn't be able to do this alone. I am very lucky to have the most fabulous fiancé, and a wonderful family to help and support me, I can only imagine how scary it must be for those who have to face it alone. In these four short months, there have been a few things that have made this transition slightly easier, so here are my top tips for how to cope with having to look after a tiny person.

1. Look After Yourself.

Seems a bit counter-productive when you're meant to be looking after someone else, and I'm not suggesting that you ignore your child while you pamper yourself and paint your nails. What I mean is, don't let yourself go by the wayside, make sure that you don't just exist with only one purpose. Particularly, I would say, keep a close eye on your mental wellbeing. Postnatal Depression is far more prevalent than society lets on, and it just makes a difficult job even harder. If you are struggling with your thoughts at all, let someone know. 

2. Take Advantage of Any Help.

My fiancé has been beyond fab, and our families have been wonderful and supportive whilst we've adjusted. Beyond that, we've been incredibly lucky with our midwife and health visitor who have been so helpful and informative. Don't be afraid to ask for help the you need it, I know how much we can want to do everything ourselves, but wearing yourself out only makes everything more difficult. If someone offers to cuddle the baby so you can nap, do it. It doesn't mean you can't cope, it just makes it a little easier.

3. Make Use of the Medical Professionals.

Here in the UK, we're incredibly lucky to have the NHS, and the beyond fabulous human beings in work within it. Like I mentioned before, we have been very lucky with our midwives and our health visitor. They have been helpful, supportive and encouraging. They've never made me feel like I'm asking a stupid question, and have been a wealth of information at every point of the journey. If you are lucky enough to have medical professionals you like and trust, make use of them. 

4. Don't Compare Yourself.

It's hard not to compare yourself to others in a social media heavy society. We are lambasted with images of picture perfect mothers with their perfectly presented children, who have absolutely no puke on them. It's a bit hard to take when you're still in your pyjamas at 4pm, with unwashed hair, puke on your t-shirt, and are in the middle of changing your child's explosive poonami situation that has gone all over their vest. The reality is, those images are only a split second, carefully curated image of a life, so there's no point in feeling bad if you don't look like that. As long as you and the baby are happy and healthy, you're doing just fine. 

5. Prepare Yourself.

Look, there's only so much you can prepare yourself, because parenting is the equivalent of throwing yourself in the deep end of the pool with only a pair of armbands to keep you up and no knowledge if how to swim. It's very much a learn on the job situation, but I found that reading books helped me to get in the right mindset, and they gave me an idea of what was going to happen. The three I found particularly helpful were; How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out: Your no-nonsense guide to pregnancy and birth by Clemmie Cooper, The Positive Birth Book: A new approach to pregnancy, birth and the early weeks. by Milli Hill, and The Happy Birth Book: Your trusted A-Z of pregnancy, birth and the early weeks by Beverley Turner. I know that books aren't everyone's cup of tea, but if you are after as much information as possible, they are a fab source for getting yourself ready. I personally wish I'd been more prepared for Breastfeeding. I knew that it would be difficult initially, but no-one mentioned how much it takes out of you for the first four weeks, or that the cluster feeding to establish your supply is so draining. It wouldn't have changed my mind, but it would've made me mentally prepared, at least. Now, I wouldn't have it any other way, and I love feeding him, but it would've saved some tears at the start! And, of course, if books aren't your thing, ask people who know. Friends and family who've had kids are a wealth of information that they'll be only too happy to share, so don't be afraid to ask, there's no such thing as a stupid question. There are always resources online as well, parenting groups on Facebook for support for breastfeeding, mumsnet, etc. A quick search and you'll find a forum for you. 

The best advice I could give, is to not overthink it. Don't allow yourself to work up into blind panic, it'll just make it harder. Yes, childbirth will hurt like a bitch, yes, parenting is the hardest job in the world, but when you see them, you'll know it is worth it. It is so worth it. 

First smile.

Right, I'll leave it there for now, this has taken 60 years to write and I have a crying child looking to sleep and eat at the same time. I will chat to you all later, and I hope this helps someone! Remember, there's always help if you're struggling, never be afraid to ask. You can keep up with our families shenanigans on Instagram, as I am always on there.

Hope you're all well,

Becca xo


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