First-time mothers are now better informed than ever before. While I was pregnant I read hundreds of articles on labour, getting ready for a baby and what to expect in the first weeks or months. They prepared me well for what was to come. Now Alex is 11 weeks (and thankfully sleeping a bit better), I’ve had a chance to look back on these first weeks and these are the things that have stuck in my memory.
The eye of the beholder
You are secretly delighted that your baby is cute – OK I said it. Every baby is beautiful and that is a fact. But let’s admit it, you’re generally relieved that there’s a good chance most people will think your baby is beautiful too.
You should be allowed to punch anyone who says the following things to you, ‘you aren’t the first person to have a baby’ (no shit Sherlock), ‘my baby slept through the night from the second week’ and my personal favourite ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. Really? Should I also go to the toilet when the baby does, or shower and eat when the baby does? Also, for the first couple of weeks, my baby slept for about 15 minutes at a time and cluster fed for the first two weeks.
Talking to anyone who will listen about the birth, gory details and all. Looking back, I inwardly shudder about how I described my labour, forceps delivery and recovery to pretty much anyone who would listen. I’m not an over-sharer generally but clearly, I wanted everyone to know.
Obsessing over what goes in and comes out of your baby.
I had a pretty difficult start to breastfeeding with Alex and almost gave up a few times. He lost a lot of weight early on and needed extra monitoring. From problems latching and then my milk coming in late and the associated discomfort I nearly gave up as I was convinced I was starving my baby. My midwife described it best, it’s like trying to squeeze hot cement out of a pinhole.
I was constantly noting down how many wet and dirty nappies he was having. Eventually though, we got the hang of it and he put on 11oz per week for the next three weeks. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, your midwife and health visitors should be your first port of call. Their advice is invaluable and they can point you in the direction of other specialists if you need more help.
The clothes dryer will secretly become your favourite possession
It’s no big secret that babies go through a lot of clothing and bedding. Then there’s also your clothing and bedding that they throw up on with alarming frequency. The thought of drying that all on a clothes horse every single day is too terrible.
Don’t be scared to be overwhelmed
During my NCT class, our teacher told us that somewhere around day 3-5 we’d experience a hormone crash that would leave us a mess. She also advised our partners just to shut up, feed us cake and don’t judge. Then right on schedule, on the third day, with no sleep, feeling a lot of pain from my stitches, the baby feeding every five minutes (that’s what it felt like), needing a shower and something to eat – I broke down and bawled my eyes out for a good 45 minutes and felt a quite shell-shocked for a few days afterwards. I didn’t try to hide it, and thankfully my partner was very understanding. For me, it passed but you need to know when to get help. If you think you can’t cope or are overwhelmed, don’t hide it. It doesn’t make you a bad mother, talk to your partner, your friends, other mums and your GP.
You become the hygiene police
No matter if you were a total slob or a prime candidate for Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners before your baby, you’ll find yourself constantly disinfecting or sterilising things, washing your hands more than usual and secretly judging everyone who comes near your baby on how likely they are to pass germs on. God help anyone who sneezes around your baby! Strangely enough, even with this new found germ phobia, you’d be amazed at how much baby vomit you can get on your clothes before you’re prepared to change them.
Baby clothes v real clothes
There are so many little outfits for babies. Jumpers, cardigans, jeans, Halloween costumes. Pretty much anything adults wear in tiny sizes – and I bought them all. The truth is, it’s a nightmare to dress a baby in a vest, socks, shoes, shirt, jumper and pants etc. I kept Alex in a sleepsuit pretty much constantly and only put him in ‘real clothes’ if we knew we were having visitors.
Loungewear is your friend
Secretly, I loved the fact that I could get away with wearing my pyjamas for days at a time. For the first few weeks, night and day blended into one anyway.
Looking to the future
Seeing toddlers at supermarkets and hoping your child will/won’t be like that. The day after we found out we were having a boy, we were sitting in a coffee shop. Next to us was a mam, grandma, and little boy. The boy was adorably polite, colouring in, no bother at all. Outside of the coffee shop (we were in a shopping centre), another small boy was dragging his brother across the floor by his collar and then, when told by their dad to stop, dropped his brother and kicked him in the leg before running off. The rational side of your brain tells you that if we bring up our kids well, they will behave (in general) or it’s just a phase but you can’t help dread that your child might become the anti-Christ and terrorise you and any future siblings.
Stig of the dump
Being both organised and disorganised at the same time. I started nesting pretty early on in my pregnancy, stockpiling everything the baby would need for months after he was born. Buying a chest freezer and batch cooking lots of lovely meals. His clothes were even arranged by sleeve length in his drawers. My life though became a total shambles. My clothes just ended up in piles on the floor, toiletries, makeup, magazines, and paperwork were just shoved into the nearest available drawer – I could never find anything. Thankfully, now I’m getting slightly more sleep, I’m starting to function as an adult again.