Just as we don’t see pictures of funerals on Facebook, no one ever puts the ‘dark side’ of life with a newborn on social media. Like, ever.
Now, I’m no newborn baby Grinch! But social news feeds can often paint a picture of blissful life – cue the shots of wrinkly miniature feet and a parent fast asleep in bed with the new baby. NCT classes are certainly useful, as is the pile of baby guide books you’ve accumulated. .But, from my own experience, here are seven cut-to-the-chase things I wish someone had told me about the first few weeks with a new little human…
1. You may not always feel a sudden burst of love
Giving birth is a totally unique experience, and every new mum will feel a range of different emotions. Some people will tell you about this sudden gush of love you are supposed to feel as soon as your baby is placed into your arms – but this is a total blanket statement. For me, my main emotion was one of total shock. Shock mixed with disbelief, numbness and relief that it was all over. The overwhelming love bit came a bit later – so don’t feel like a freak if you don’t feel it straight away.
2. Introducing the fourth trimester!
“But there are only three trimesters!”. I thought so too, but someone once told me about the fourth trimester, and now it makes total sense. Basically, the baby has it pretty rough; they’re all cosy in the womb and then BOOM – they’re out in the real world. Yep, I’d cry too. For them, it’s essentially an extended trimester.
So, keep this fourth trimester in the front of your mind and it’ll help you remember why your baby cries a lot of the time (because they’re missing your lovely womb!) but also how you can help soothe him/her by emulating its environment. From swaddling to white noise, rocking to driving around aimlessly at 3am, there are lots of ways of creating a home from home for your baby.
3. Co-sleeping can be amazing – so don’t feel bad!
I always felt so guilty about letting my newborn sleep in bed with me – it gets a lot of negative press. But as long you do it safely (i.e. you’re not intoxicated), you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Your child is very unlikely to form “bad habits” as a result or have separation anxiety because of it. Plus, it’s a lovely, special thing for both of you. And you’ll know when they’re ready for their own space… trust me, they’re not going to be in bed stealing your duvet when they’re 13!
4. Just say yes!
To any kind of help. I was a bit of a martyr and used to plough on, claiming “I can manage!” whilst muttering under my breath: “Oh God, I wish someone would help”. The fact is – and I’ve realised this as it’s how I now feel about my friends’ newborns – people love looking after little babies. For them, it’s never a chore – they get to give them back at the end of their “shift”. So accept all the help you can get. A neighbour offers to bring you over some homecooked meals? Yes please! A relative wants to take your baby to the park for an hour so you can get some shuteye? Hell yeah! Yes, yes, yes.
5. Just say no!
To any kind of visitor in the first week or so. Obviously immediate family and a couple of close friends could be an exception here, but I made the mistake of letting every man and his dog (literally, someone brought their dog) come and visit. They all mean well and are just massively excited to see the new kid on the block, but you need to make a rule and stick to it or your house will feel like it’s being invaded. Plus, you’ll be mentally juggling so many things – from household chores to financial responsibilities – that you need to learn to prioritise.
Oh, and when you do allow visitors, get a handful of them over at the same time so you kill a few birds with one stone (so harsh, so true!). Oh, and if they offer to make you a cup of tea? See point 4.
6. Don’t feel like a bad parent if you don’t cherish every single moment
So many people will tell you to appreciate every moment. But it’s hard to treasure each and every second when all you’re doing is trying to get through the day and adjusting to life with only one arm in use (who knew I could make spag bol with one hand?!). Of course you’ll cherish that first smile and other milestone moments (you’ll undoubtedly be taking photos every single day!), but don’t feel bad if you’re not stopping to think how lucky you are every other minute.
7. Don’t compare yourselves to other mums
Being a new mum is a downright competitive business. And I’m a competitive person, so having coffee catch-ups with other mums I’d met on my NCT course often left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough at this whole mum malarkey. Their babies were sleeping 8 hours straight while mine was sleeping 3; theirs were feeding every 4 hours while mine was feeding every 2. But don’t get so hung up on the numbers – it all works out in the end and other mums will very rarely tell you that they, too, are struggling and on the brink of a meltdown.
I heard a quote recently that really resonated with me: “The days are long but the years are short”. Seriously, though, how can that first year fly by, but also feel like five years at the same time? If you’re struggling with a newborn, just remember that this time next year you’ll be mum to a little gummy one-year-old who you love being around (most of the time).