In the days before becoming a mother, I couldn’t see past LABOUR. How to do it, where to do it, when to do it… (My post for the New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop)
Pre-natal workshops, yoga classes, conversations - were all about the birth, not life after labour.
My first child was overdue, so I had 11 extra days to think about the ins and outs (mostly, the ‘outs’...) of birth. Which was lucky, because other than thinking about labour, I was working, as much as possible. Thank goodness my son knew I needed that extra time and slowed me up a bit.
Looking back, it surprises me that I spent such little time thinking about what life would be like after labour. Neither the physical effects nor the huge emotional impact of becoming a mother. I think I just assumed that something magical inside me would click and I would know what to do, and life after labour would simply fall perfectly into place.
Well, it didn’t.
The physical effects were a shock. No one had warned me about the leftover folds of tummy, the incessant bleeding, the pain of breastfeeding (cracked nipples, and a contracting clenching uterus), the possibility that my body could ‘fail’ to provide enough milk, and oh my goodness, the pain of going to the loo. (Actually, one very good friend did tell me about that, so I had the necessary Lactulose on hand, thank goodness…).
I quickly bonded with fellow new mamas by sharing our best tips on weeing in the bath (get out quickly afterwards for starters…), the benefits of airing nipples slathered thickly in Lanisoh, and the virtues of lavender, witch hazel and other delicious smelling concoctions to soothe our bits.
And when you’ve discussed your private parts in detail, you’re pretty much friends for life. Although I didn’t realise it then, it was actually a period of intense friendship-cementing….
But I didn’t see that, because I was struggling to make sense of how I felt, and who I was. The sleeplessness and sense of constant failure (set against the demeaning misconception that all should be easy...), left me feeling very very lost.
That much-anticipated labour had been long and difficult. After ‘failing’ to dilate at the appropriate speed, everything suddenly sped up on the bumpy ambulance ride to the busy hospital. I had been sick, and unable to eat or drink, leaving me completely dehydrated (the one advantage of this was that I couldn’t actually have the drugs I was at this point demanding... an 'earth mother' silver lining) And soon after they'd got me attached to a drip, the labour went a bit haywire.
Luckily for me, and my son, everything turned out fine. But I do wonder if perhaps that particular experience of labour affected the release of oxytocin – the incredible drug your body creates to bond you with your child. Because although I remember feeling relief and surprise and amazement, I don’t remember the rush of love that people talk about.
I remember ripping open my nightgown to hold my child skin to skin, the most delicious cup of tea and dry toast I’ve ever had in my life, being unceremoniously stitched up, having a very messy bath, and looking down at my huge stomach, feeling embarrassed that people might not know I’d actually had my baby.
And most of all, I remember looking over at my tiny new son in his gigantic car seat as we drove back from the hospital and wondering “whose baby is that?”
There were beautiful gifts, and visitors, and much love - especially from my husband and my mum (both of whom had been there at the birth), but also from the rest of my family. The midwives were wonderful. My stitches healed well. I was as supported as anyone could be.
And yet I still found these first few weeks, the first few months in fact, really difficult. Breastfeeding was a struggle, and my son fell off the dreaded weight chart. At first, I didn’t want to go out of the house, and I didn’t want any visitors. I didn't want to see anyone because I couldn't see myself.
The first time I went out, I carried my baby in the sling - partly because I was still trying to do the perfect mother thing, but also partly because I wanted to go back to that feeling of carrying a baby within the old me.
I struggled with the shift from competent worker, defined by my exciting career – to ‘failing’ mother, with no clue how to do anything. And worse, an inability to do all the earth-mother things I’d unthinkingly assumed would just come naturally.
I was hard on myself, and my body was hard on me.
Slowly, I adjusted.
It took a little while for the sense of fear and overwhelming responsibility to become love. But it did.
And I even started to work out what I was doing. To trust in my instincts.
It was a very difficult transition. But maybe that’s how it has to be. Motherhood is such a huge unfathomable miracle, such a gigantic physical and emotional transition, that you can’t prepare for it. You just have to do it.
I just wish I could have been kinder to myself.
I wish I had let the house be a mess, cared much less what visitors thought (because they were too busy delighting in this incredible new baby than judging me), worried less about generic weight statistics in a little red book, and avoided setting myself ridiculous perfectionist tasks like making home-made thank you cards.
I wish I had believed that it was truly OK to snatch any spare moments for sleep instead.
Most of all, I wish I had known what I know now – that I’m not perfect, but I am the perfect mother for my child, flaws and all.
New mama mantra
When you look back at yourself in those early days, what are the words you would have liked to have heard? What can you tell yourself now? Share a photo from that time, and decorate it with those words, whatever way you like.
You can see two of my New Mama Mantra attempts above and below...
The New Mama Welcome Pack - blog hop
I'm thrilled to be a part of this brilliant project as it’s exactly what I wish I had had in those early days – support and inspiration from over 60 amazing women (including me!) to face the realities of motherhood, delivered over those first 3 challenging wonderful months.
If you know a new mama, please do think about getting this amazing pack for her for a gift (and if you buy a pack using this link, we get a contribution to support Story of Mum too. Thank you!).
The New Mama Welcome Pack - win a pack!
You can win one of two fabulous New Mama Welcome Packs with us this month! Just join our next #somum Make Date on twitter on Wednesday 9 April from 8.30 - 10pm GMT (find world times here) or by upload your New Mama Mantra to our gallery. Find out more here.
The New Mama Welcome Pack - visit the rest of the blog hop
Follow the links to discover more unmissable advice, stories and essential tips. And if you’re a new mama who wants to rock motherhood without guilt, overwhelm or losing yourself, check out the New Mama Welcome Pack here.
New Mama Welcome Pack / Lotte Lane / Dreaming Aloud / Birthing in Conscious Choice / Natalie Garay / Knecht Ruprecht / Lise Meijer / Naomi Goodlet / A Lifestyle By Design / Story of Mum / Like a Bird / Holistic Mama / Birth Geek / Joyful Parenting / Stroller Packing / My Healthy Beginning / Mums and More / Kate Beddow - Growing Spirits / Ellen Nightingale / Stacie Whitney / Maternity Leavers / Photography for Busy Parents / Close Enough To Kiss / Atelier Susana Tavares / Offbeat Family / Katie m. Berggren ~ Painting Motherhood / Winship Wellness Blog / Liberate From Weight / Jessica Cary / Raising Playful Tots / Peaceful Mothering / Play Activities / Lauren Nenna / The Adventure Mama / Be Wise Be Healthy / Doula in Your Pocket / Making Mom Strong / Adrienn Csoknyay / Joyful Parents / Simple Solutions for Photos / Lynne Newman / Mumpreneur Mentor / A Walk in the Clouds / Parenting on the Fence / MiaMily