Dear First Time Mum,
FTM (can I call you that?), I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while. It’s exciting, isn’t it? Watching your body change for the first time and wondering who it is that’s residing under your ribs.
At first, it’s difficult to imagine that it’s an actual person. You won’t believe that until he or she finally comes out.
Labour isn’t that bad. Really, it’s not. It’s 24 hours of awfulness followed by complete amnesia.
The second you hold that baby, you won’t remember what a contraction felt like. Within 24 hours, you won’t remember life before that baby, either. Nature is clever like that. Your life will cataclysmically change. It will never be the same again. You will never be the same again. And you know what? You will love the new you.
Becoming a mother gives you a confidence that’s primal. You start to speak your mind more and mind your manners less. Anyone threatens my cub, and this Tiger is going to have their eyes out. You’ll be the same. From the second you see their beautiful scrunched up little face, you know that you would die for them. Your heart will break every time they cry and you will feel like it is going to burst because there is just so much love.
And it’s not just for your baby, that love. You will fall in love with your partner all over again when you see him with your baby.You will see a tenderness there that you’d never noticed before. You’ll watch him cradle that tiny baby in his big hands and you will melt.
That doesn’t mean you’ll want to resume any of that physical stuff. No Siree, not with all those stitches. If you’re lucky, he’s the supportive type. If so, that’s a godsend.
Little things will become treasured memories. Sitting around the table having a Sunday roast, just you and your little family. Your little tribe. Just you and them against the world. A walk in the park where watching your firstborn discover the joy of jumping in a muddy puddle, or a pile of leaves will make you want to take a photo of that memory and put it somewhere safe. You see the world differently when you look at it through their brand new eyes.
You will feel fear like you’ve never felt it before. Fear of the changing world around us and suddenly every situation is dangerous. You want to wrap that baby up in cotton wool and never expose him to badness that is around the corner. And it’s not just him. Suddenly, you’ll worry about your own mortality and how you can’t possibly ever die when he/she will always need their mum. You’ll worry about your partner’s mortality because you can’t possibly do this on your own. The what ifs become massive and they will keep you awake at night.
On the subject of being awake at night, FTM, you will never sleep again. The moment your baby takes a deep breath, you’ll be wide awake. He stirs, you’re ready. He cries, you’re there. He turns over in his sleep, you’re out of the bed to check he’s alright. Your partner will sleep through this, blissfully unaware. And do you know what? You’ll cope. You’ll adjust to broken and poor quality sleep and you’ll be just as efficient as you were before.
You’ll second guess yourself all the time, FTM, and I really don’t want you to do that. It took having my third baby before I completely trusted my instincts. I’d do what the health visitor said because they must be right – they’d got a clipboard and name badge. Not this time. This time I’m enjoying my baby and I’m doing it my way. For the first 16 weeks, I cuddled her to sleep for every nap and at night. “You’re making a rod for your own back,” they said. Did I? At 18-weeks she happily self-settles and only wakes once to feed during the night. Don’t listen to them, FTM. Do what you think is right.
The advice will be endless.
Your mum will want you to do it her way. She’s probably the one you can trust the most. After all, she did a pretty good job on you, right? But between her, your friends, the professionals and the thousands of parenting books you’ve bought because YOU JUST WANT TO GET IT RIGHT, your ears will start to bleed with all the well meaning by contradictory snippets of wisdom. Close your eyes, FTM, and breathe. You are you. And you are all that baby needs.
I was given one piece of advice that was invaluable when I had Big and that was to enjoy her. I thought it was a strange thing to say, but now I totally get it. Take your time, FTM. Gaze at your baby, cuddle him tight and don’t let life get in the way. He is your life, and you are his.
Enjoy that baby.
Mum of four X
P.S. First Time Mum, I forgot to tell you about the Guilt. No one warns you about the Guilt. The Guilt is always lurking; a bit like the smell of the bad nappy of a just-weaned six-month-old that you changed a while ago but somehow still lingers in your nostrils. You will feel guilty about everything: Too much TV, using ready-made food, needing a wee when they’re crying… The Guilt is powerful and omnipresent. With experience, you’ll learn to ignore it and your rational brain will take over. You’re doing the best you can and honestly, truly, that is good enough.
When you become a second and even a third-time mum, the Guilt resurfaces. How could you do that to your first born? Of course, this is helped by said first born giving you the cold shoulder. Don’t worry, Rational You will come back. Probably shortly after your day three day of irrational and uncontrollable crying. This doesn’t just happen after having a baby: A friend of mine adopted a cat and cried for a week.
I forgot to tell you that there will be moments that in your pre-mum life that would have given you a tummy upset from all the cringing. These will be water off a duck’s back. Bottom explosions (theirs, not yours. Yours are still embarrassing), public meltdowns (two out of three of mine treated me to simultaneous tantrums at pick up today. Number three joined in when we got home) and inappropriate questions (Mummy, why is that man wearing a skirt?) will abound and it’ll just wash over you.
You’ll find yourself discussing your post-birth bits with near strangers without a shred of embarrassment. It’s refreshing.
But did I mention the love? There is just so much love.