The reality of a new born baby can be harsh.
I had Florence via c section on the 14th June 2018 at 14.41 and from the outset I need to be 100% clear, I’m totally and completely in-love.
HOWEVER, I wished I had had more warning about what to expect…………
I wish I knew more about the realities of having a baby, so when the day came (and the weeks afterwards) I knew what I was going through was normal.
Sooooooooooooooooo, in the absence of anyone telling you – I’m going to give you some honest feedback based on my experience and the experience of other new mums that I’ve interviewed for this blog.
And if you’re reading this pre-baby:
You Won’t Believe Me
I can guarantee if you’re an expectant parent or thinking of having kids, you will read this and probably think that this won’t apply to you.
I know I would have.
But it will.
Once the baby comes along, you will associate with what I’ve said below and what I’ve written will hopefully make you feel better.
Because that’s the point of this blog post.
I’ve written it to make you feel better.
For some, new parenthood is traumatic and it helps to know that what you’re going through, is normal and that every other parent is probably going through the same.
So, here we go:
1. Post Birth You Won’t Necessarily Feel A Rush of Love
I was fairly lucky with Florence, in that I did feel a rush of love for her immediately, but I also felt v v v strange.
In fact, it was surreal. I knew she had become the most important thing in my life and I knew I loved her, but I felt odd.
I was tired, my body felt broken and after years and years of wanting my baby, she was here and I was overwhelmed.
BUT, many mums I’ve spoken to, have said they didn’t feel anything at first.
To repeat MANY mums told me this.
They simply didn’t feel a rush of love, they didn’t really know how they were feeling
If this is you then don’t fret.
The love does grow.
2. The Reality IS Harsh at First
Pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy, most expectant parents imagine how life is going to be post baby: cuddles, long walks with the pram, sleeping child…….
I need to prepare you now, it WON’T be like you’ve imagined……
Your baby will not settle into his or her pram easily, you won’t feel how you thought you would feel and initially, you may wonder what the hell you’ve done.
These feelings do pass, but just know and be prepared for the reality moment when you will think “Oh fu*k”…..we’ve all felt this.
I think it takes about 3 months (ish) before you feel anywhere near close to reality again.
The first three months are about survival – your baby’s and yours.
3. Sleep Deprivation is Torture
Now I know why sleep deprivation is used for torture.
For most new parents the lack of sleep is the absolute killer and unfortunately, I don’t think there is anything you can do to prepare for it.
Just be aware that the lack of sleep will be brutal, all new parents suffer from it and if you have any chance of surviving, have a pre-agreed “tag team” schedule with your partner that allows you both to have quality sleep.
Getting in as much quality sleep is vital for your sanity.
The sleepless nights are only temporary remember, you will get through it.
Plus, if funds allow it, employ a night nurse. They are worth their weight in gold.
4. Its Relentless
I don’t think we appreciate until we have a baby that it NEVER stops.
I’m not sure how I thought Florence would look after herself once she arrived, but I for one didn’t comprehend the relentlessness of being at the beck and call of her virtually all the time.
It sounds silly as I type this, how did I think she as going to survive? But I honestly didn’t give it much thought.
Unless you’re lucky to have help, this little baby relies on you for absolutely everything and sometimes even going to the toilet on your own can be a challenge.
Just be aware of this and again be comforted by the fact that at first this is a shock but you soon adapt and get used to it.
5. Life Falls Apart: Expect Chaos
Maintaining a normal life becomes virtually impossible during the first few months, you won’t have the time or the capacity to do any of the things you used to be able to do. So just accept that for at least 3 months (ish) life will feel like it’s spiralling out of control.
You won’t be able to shower, get dressed, put make up on, eat, drink, go out, watch programs, chat on the phone etc like you did before because the little person will somehow be able to stop you at the precise moment you plan to do something.
I almost felt disabled. Even doing the smallest of things was a huge task.
Again, not much you can, but just know that it’s normal.
6. Lack of Control & Routine
The biggest learning curve for me BY FAR was not being able to plan my day and my time not being my own.
As my regular readers know, my days were mapped out with the precision of a military exercise and consequently I got “sh*t”done.
Ignoring running a business (that involves child care – you simply can’t do it without help) I found once Florence came along I couldn’t even get a glass of water without it becoming a HUGE effort.
I wished I had been prepared for this.
The lack of control I had over my time was by far my biggest challenge.
Big tip here is: get a cleaner (if you can’t afford one ask a family member to help out), make sure the house stuff is done pre-baby (it’s organised and tidy) and finally get a sling.
My sling was my saviour. It allowed me to get stuff done whilst Florence slept on me.
Oh, and secondly forget about planning your day around your baby’s naps for a long while.
They will not be in any kind of routine that will allow you to plan your day. Accept this and it will save you a lot of frustration and worrying. Babies don’t have an off switch strangely enough and you need to remember that!
7. Breast Feeding is HARD
The pressure you will receive to breast feed is overwhelming, in fact I think there is a bullying attitude towards breast feeding from most the of the health care professionals. Be prepared for that. Plus be prepared for the fact that breast feeding doesn’t come as naturally as you think. It can be a struggle for many new mums and it’s also hard work once mastered because you are obviously constantly on call.
I didn’t breast feed. I couldn’t at first (another long story) and then it became so stressful trying for both Florence and I, so I called it quits. I expressed milk for the first three weeks (equally knackering) and then I gave up. It was stressing me out too much.
Selfish of me? Absolutely not. Too much importance is placed on breast feeding. Yes of course breast feeding is best for the baby BUT if it’s remotely stressful for the baby or mum (or even worse both) then stop.
A calm feeding regime is far more advantageous for baby than breast milk over bottled milk. Plus, the fact that did you know baby milk formula is the most regulated food product in the world?
When I was upset over using formula I contacted well-known baby nutritionist and chef, Alice Fotheringham for advice and she said:
“To take that pressure off yourself if you decide or need to choose baby formula to feed your baby. Formula is under incredibly strict guidelines and contains nothing nasty- it’s all stuff babies need – and no it’s not breastmilk, and doesn’t contain some of the ingredients that are unique to breastmilk, but it’s a seriously good alternative if breastfeeding doesn’t work or you choose to use formula. You’ve got to not feel guilty about this- plenty of us were bought up on formula, myself included, for whatever reason, and we are absolutely fine. What is important is to arm yourself with the tools and knowledge on how to formula feed, using independent sources, not just what is written up by the manufacturers, as it is important to be responsive to your baby when bottle feeding. The NCT has some good information on this.”
8. Lonely and Isolated
I didn’t have this, I need to say that, so it doesn’t happen to everyone BUT most new mothers have said to me that it was the isolation and loneliness that they found the hardest.
Once partners go back to work and your left with just you and your baby it can be incredibly lonely. Your hormones are still all over the place, your knackered from the birth and then your suddenly left on your own to cope. All around you people carryon with their lives as normal, yet your life has changed totally and most new mothers will wish at some point that they wish they could go back to how it was.
If you think there is any chance that you are going to feel lonely and find it hard to cope then plan in advance to have people (family, friends or professional help) to help you. Then take baby steps and try to cope on your own. Could be an hour at first and then gradually increase.
It does become easier.
9. Day 3 Break Down
I was warned day 3 hits you like a ton of bricks and for me it was exactly on day 3. You may be lucky and miss this breakdown, but I understand most women go through it.
Luckily, I had been warned and realised what was going on when it was happening. For me I went into melt down when I had two sets of visitors (midwife team and my sister) turn up and I wasn’t dressed. I felt out of control and v v emotional.
Both these visits triggered the reality of the fact I had had a baby and I didn’t feel ready.
My tears were coming out sideways.
The next day I was fine.
10. It Takes One Hour to Leave the House
I remember the first time I went out with Florence.
She was 6 days old and we walked to meet my mum at Newbury station. It was a BIG shock when, near the time that I had to meet my mum, I realised all the things I had to do to get out of the house:
- Get myself ready
- Go to the loo
- Tidy up
- Change baby
- Feed baby
- Wind baby
- Keep her upright for 30 mins because of her bad reflux (to be fair not all babies have this)
- Pack her nappy bag
- Prepare a bottle
- Sterilise spare bottles to take with me
- Put pram up
Now all this sounds easy, it’s not when you’ve got a screaming baby.
Once all the above was achieved (by this time I had managed to message my mum and say I was going to be late), I then put Florence into the pram for the first time.
First of all, I couldn’t get the pram out of the door.
Secondly, she wouldn’t stop screaming.
Thirdly I realised half way down the road, I had forgotten essentials of wallet and mobile phone.
I had to turn back (baby still screaming) and go back into the house and retrieve.
By the time I met my mum (she decided to come and walk to my house in my absence) both Florence and I were a wreck….
I was all for abandoning trip and going home, but my mum persuaded me to back home to “re-group” and then try again once Florence was calmer.
My advice to all you parents to be is to make sure you prepare well in advance and take baby steps. Perhaps the first outing in the pram is a walk around the block. The second outing is a walk to town etc.
Also practise putting your pram up and down and using it (and the car seat) pre-baby!
11. You Won’t Want to Leave the House
With the above in mind, I know many first-time parents who won’t leave the house because the thought of it is overwhelming. This is a dangerous path to go down (although really easy), particularly if you’re the mum left on your own day in and day out. It’s a sure-fire way to become lonely, isolated and resentful of your baby.
So, again it’s a case of baby steps, being prepared and being honest. If you’re scared to leave the house, take baby steps I outlined above and ask for help. If you’re on your own, tell one of your friends or your family that your nervous to the leave the house and would they help you?
The best way to tackle anything like this is baby steps.
Plus, I need to stress, it gets easier. A lot easier. I don’t even blink an eyelid now when I need to leave the house.
12. You Won’t Want Visitors
Pre-baby you will be tempted to make lots and lots of diary dates and coffee morning with friends and relatives.
DO NOT MAKE ANY PLANS for the first two weeks at least.
Trust me, for your first baby, it’s highly likely that for at least the first two weeks life takes on a surreal, almost zombie like existence and you won’t want to see people.
13. One-Handed Life
You can’t prepare for this (I don’t think) but be aware that post baby, if you’re on your own with the baby, you will need to do things one handed.
Literally everything. Going to the loo is interesting…..
Not really much more to say on this, just so you are aware!
14. Batch Cook in Advance
Once baby arrives, the simple things such as preparing a meal can become impossible.
So, to ensure that you don’t end up binging on rubbish, batch book prior to babba’s arrival and freeze.
Also, have finger food in the fridge for breakfast and lunch because if you’re left on your own with the baby, particularly in the early days, it can be hard to prepare anything.
Also, consider on-line shopping….
15. Dropping Things
I’ve never dropped so many things in my entire life or gathered so many bruises. When you’re juggling a crying baby and your tired it’s a recipe for clumsiness……Not much more to say on this except that try not to get too frustrated and it happens to us all!
16. Social Life Depreciation
It’s likely you won’t have one for at least 3 months.
Prepare your friends in advance (those who haven’t had babies) that if you go off the radar for a while it’s not because you don’t want to go out, it’s simply the fact that you either can’t go out (breast feeding your baby) or you won’t want too because your too knackered!
17. Do Not Compare You or Your Baby to Others
At some point you will have that “ah ha” moment when you understand what other mums have been saying for 100’s of years before you – “I feel guilty because……”
The key here is not to compare your mothering style or your baby’s behaviour to others. DO NOT DO IT.
It’s a slippery and potentially dangerous game that you are never going to win.
There are always going to be mothers that appear to be coping better than you do (not necessarily reality behind closed doors) and there are always going to be baby’s that are more advanced that yours. ACCEPT IT, don’t fight it and life will be a whole lot easier.
18. Body Aches
Omg this is a killer!
My body felt broken…. I hate to tell you this but be prepared.
First thing in the morning when I got out of bed, I could hardly move.
Now remember I am slightly older than the average mum (41) so I’m sure that this has had some affect on me BUT from discussing with other younger mums it appears to be the same.
Advice on this: see a chiropractor or osteopath asap. Plus, as soon as you can, start gentle strength building exercises. I decided to wait at least 3 months to start gentle exercises – yoga and 6 months to start more hardcore stuff, simply because I listened to my body and it was knackered!
But what you can do as soon as practically after having your baby is take a good multi vitamin, iron supplement (spa tone is fab), eat fresh foods and walk as much as you can.
Plus, the most important piece of advice is to try and rest when you can. Proactively ensure you ask for help with your baby enabling you to get some sleep and rest!
19. You Won’t Sleep when the Baby Sleeps
“Sleep when your baby sleeps.”
OMG why does everyone think they need to tell you this?! Be prepared that everyone will tell you this and you will want to scream “I f**king know but I fu**ing can’t because……”
I would have loved to have slept when Florence did! I knew I needed the sleep BUT I couldn’t. It was either that I wasn’t tired or needed to get something done and consequently couldn’t.
You do need to take responsibility for getting some sleep however otherwise everything will fall apart!
So, work with your nearest and dearest to come up with a sleep plan so you don’t go insane.
20. Invasion of Privacy
I was not prepared for this at all.
People stopping me in the street, normally when Florence was screaming and I’m stressed, to poke their heads into her pram and put their dirty hands all over Florence’s face.
I remember one man went to grab Florence in excitement (no malice meant I understand that) and kissed her…
WHY DO THEY DO THIS?!
Firstly, and on a hygiene note, I always keep in mind what Immunologist, Dr Jenna Macciochi told me and that was “let Florence get dirty to build up her immune system.”
Secondly, I learnt to count to 10, these moments pass within seconds so don’t get worked up over it. Absolutely no point.
Although to be honest I still struggle with people wanting to coo over my baby when its clearly not a good time. It’s kinda of obvious, if I’m dealing with a screaming baby then it’s probably not the time to come over for a chat.
Now the GOOD NEWS!
After about 12 weeks (ish) life starts to return to your NEW normal.
The shock you felt at the beginning goes and everything suddenly becomes manageable, it really does.
I remember thinking at one point my life would never be the same, how was I even going to get out of the house???
But life does return to normal.
It’s strange how (for me) one day I realised how life was suddenly back to normal and I was managing to do it all and enjoying it.
As I type this Florence is in her sling sleeping and shortly she will wake up and I will receive the biggest gift EVER…. My gorgeous daughters smile.
I will leave you with the best words of wisdom I was given in my early days with Florence:
“Take each day as it comes. One day will be a day from hell and literally the very next day will feel like the best in the world. It’s a roller coaster. Just accept this.”
I hope this has helped you.
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