Hello new mummy, and congratulations.
Perhaps you have bounced straight back from an uncomplicated birth, or you might be feeling a bit like you’ve been hit by a bus. You probably had your ideas about how you wanted the birth to go; but however many books we read, none of us really has any clue what to expect…..either during labour or afterwards.
Everyone talks to you about labour, don’t they. Everyone has an opinion and advice to share. But no-one talks to you about afterwards. Well, they talk to you about changing nappies and sleepless nights and feeding – people love to talk to you about those things. They talk to you about the baby; but no-one talks to you about you.
I’m not sure why that is…..probably because we are worried about frightening mums-to-be. But when we don’t talk about it, well some of the things that happen in those early days are frightening. They frightened me, because I had no idea whether they were normal. No-one had told me about those bits.
You might be thinking that your body doesn’t look like your own any more…..and it probably doesn’t feel like your own either. The first time you attempted to stand up after giving birth your legs probably felt all shaky and wobbly, like they were about to give way. No-one told you that just standing up on your own two feet might be a struggle. No-one told you that, for a little while after having your baby, you might genuinely worry that your legs no longer worked properly.
They told you about the bleeding, though. You read about that; so you got prepared and packed all the things the books told you to pack in your hospital bag.
You just weren’t expecting the bleeding to be quite like this……you weren’t expecting there to be so much of it. So much bleeding when your legs are all wobbly and shaky and you just don’t feel able to deal with it. So you’re searching through your bag for everything you need…that bag you carefully packed before this life and body-changing event happened; but you almost feel like it was a different person who packed that bag.
It feels strange searching through this bag of things that are familiar but also feel like they belong in a previous life.
It is strange, being in this body that doesn’t quite feel like your own.
And now you need the toilet and you even feel frightened about that – no-one told you that going to the loo would be scary. Your legs are still shaky and you’re bleeding and now you’re worrying about what’s going to happen when you sit down on the loo.
You wonder whether your body will ever feel normal again.
But now here we are a few days later, and you think you’re starting to recover – everyone says you’re doing really well. So you go for a walk and then realise you no longer seem to have control of your bladder. And you cry, because you remember being advised to do your pelvic floor exercises, but you never really knew what that actually meant or whether you were doing them properly. You never really understood how much you took your bladder for granted.
And now you’d really like it back.
Your body feels like it belongs to someone else, and your hormones are all over the place and you’re sore and swollen, and you’re not sure what day or time it is AND you’ve just produced a tiny human that you now need to care for. So it’s not surprising that baby blues is an actual thing. There it is on Day 3.
You’ve got everything you wanted but you JUST CAN’T STOP SOBBING.
But in between the crying and the bleeding and the feeling a bit shaky, you’ve got this brand new little human to keep alive. And suddenly you feel unsure about everything. Are you supposed to change the nappy before you feed or after you feed? Should your baby be in a vest and sleepsuit or just a vest? Or just a sleepsuit? In your old life you were a reasonably competent human being, you knew what you were doing; but now you need everything to be validated, confirmed by someone who knows. Where is your manager in all of this?
But there is no-one to give you all the answers…….there are just lots of other people with opinions. And all the opinions are different.
And the feeding, well that’s supposed to just happen, isn’t it? Apparently, the baby will just crawl up your chest and latch on. You’ve bought one of those nice covers to take out with you so you can ‘feed discreetly’ in a cafe. Except no-one told you about the fighting and grappling and struggling that would happen every time your baby needs some milk. No-one told you that you would have midwives clamping your baby’s head onto your breast as you struggle to get the hang of this thing that is so natural but so difficult for many.
And they said it wouldn’t hurt. But it really hurts.
New mum – you probably expect a lot of yourself. You expect your body to work as it did before, despite the fact that you have just produced an actual person and now you are using all your remaining stores of energy to keep him/her alive. Your body will heal, but not straight away. Remember what it has been through.
Don’t judge yourself by how other people are getting on – some things are hard for some and easier for others. That is parenting.
It is easy to forget yourself in all of this; but don’t forget yourself, new mum. Make time in your life for people who make you smile, who ask how you are, and who help to make this an easier job.
People like to tell new mums to ‘enjoy every moment’, but don’t worry if you’re not. Just do your best, and eat some cake. Right now, you don’t need to expect any more of yourself than that.