Ask any mum what her immediate reaction was when she was handed her newborn baby for the first time, and she’ll tell you it was a combination of “holy shit”, “how did you fit out of my vagina?” and “what the hell am I supposed to do now?”
We spend so much time preparing for each trimester of pregnancy. We read up on our baby’s development in the womb, Google every weird symptom we experience, and buy every little item we might possibly need (and many we probably don’t need but think they’re too cute to not buy).
We stress about The Big Event: Birth, because that’s the day our life changes right? That’s the day we need to prepare ourselves for… Only we soon realise that it’s not that one single day, but all the following days that we actually need to be preparing for.
Then, once it all starts getting real (I mean really real), we scramble for answers anywhere we can possibly find them; midwives, doctors, family, friends, forums, books, blogs, YouTube clips, you name it. We end up overwhelmed with knowledge and armed with solutions for problems that we didn’t even know we had.
We are instructed on the correct way to swaddle and soothe our babies, how to get them to sleep, how to feed them, and how to encourage their development. We are given cues to look for when they’re hungry, or bored, or doing a poo, or overtired. We are expected to choose a set of rules to follow, to subscribe to an ideology, a singular parenting style.
“Don’t use dummies. Don’t feed to sleep. Which method are you using? Are you baby-led weaning? Breastfeeding or formula?”
Becoming a mum is HARD. There’s an overwhelming number of decisions to make, seemingly all at once. We’re new to this. We have no previous experience to work with, and so we can feel a lot of pressure do things a certain way, to make “proven” solutions work for us. Then when they sometimes don’t work, we’re left feeling like we’ve failed. We’re left thinking if we have the solution right here and it’s not working for us, we must be the problem right? We must be doing something wrong.
Here’s the thing…
You can’t really prepare for all the days after birth. You can’t copy and paste other mums’ or experts’ solutions into your unique challenges and expect them to automatically solve themselves.
So if you’re new to this whole mum thing and you’re feeling lost, confused, and completely out of your depth, take comfort in this:
No one else knows what they’re doing either.
Your friend Sarah, who’s baby is already sleeping through the night? Maybe her baby isn’t crawling yet even though all the other babies at her mother’s group are. There’s probably another mother in that same group who’s baby is refusing the breast, or wants to be held every single minute of every day, or becomes hysterical whenever they leave the house, and I can guarantee that each of these women is asking themselves the same question: am I doing something wrong?
I know. It’s terrifying to realise that although we have this abundance of knowledge, we are still all figuring it out as we go; that we’re building the plane while we’re already flying it.
It’s also comforting to know that everyone else feels the same way, and it’s completely liberating to know that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, that you’re not bound by one set of rules.
You don’t have to put your baby to bed drowsy but awake if you prefer to rock them to sleep. You don’t have to feed your baby organic homemade meals if you don’t have the time or money to do so. You don’t have to fit in 30 minutes of tummy time every day if your baby is screaming the whole time and all it does is stress both of you out.
You get to make decisions for your family based on what works best for you and your baby, because your baby doesn’t know what they’re doing either, but you’re going to figure it out together in your own way, in your own time.
Yes, you’re going to have lots of little #mumfails as you go, but you’re also going to have lots of #mumwins. As inconvenient as it is sometimes, our babies are their own little people, with their own personalities and preferences. They’ll move at their own pace, and while it may feel as though all you can do is try to keep up, don’t forget that you need to move at your own pace too.
Share this article with a new mum who needs to hear this!