A letter to a new mum

If a friend has previously holidayed somewhere you’ve booked to go to, you’d fully expect them to give you their thoughts on how to make the best of it – places to go, where to eat and what to avoid.

If they’d worked somewhere that recently hired you, you’d get the lowdown on the place and the people – probably the who to avoid. Basically, if someone has experienced something you’re about to go through, it can be useful to hear their thoughts on it and possibly take some learnings from how they found it. You definitely wouldn’t expect them to say an experience was wonderful if in reality they found it pretty grim at times.

After I had my first baby, there was a distinct feeling of ‘Hang about – a lot of the women I know have done this, and NOONE told me how hard it was’. With hindsight, I was too busy in my pre-baby world to hear it. Frankly, the physical joys of pregnancy are enough to take in (the leaking, constipation, sleeplessness, weird skin, the waddle, swollen all sorts… Hell – my moles even got bigger) and we don’t tend to think much beyond the birth. But I think it’s safe to say that once the baby arrives we all feel at least a teensy bit surprised by the severity of emotions and at times it feels unbearably tough. Everyone’s experience is of course unique, but there are definitely some recurring themes that all the women I know have felt in the early days, whether they want to talk openly about it or not. This isn’t baby advice – I’ve said before that I’m no expert, and there’s so much out there it can be overwhelming. I suppose I’m talking more about self-preservation for new mothers. I had some messages and sensible words from friends and family that picked me up when I was in those first weeks of anxiety. Some surprised me – when a best friend reassured me that she’d found breastfeeding hard, I felt better, and wondered how I had no idea that she’d had any problems. I wasn’t ‘tuned in’ to it I guess.

When a friend had her first baby just as I was coming out of the fog with my second, I felt it was my duty to do as other kind ladies had done for me and let her know that if she was feeling less than fantastic, it was ok.

It might read like I’m a little bossy. Truth be told I can be, but I also know that new mums need telling sometimes – I remember my mother doing it with me when I rang her wailing about how tired I was after trekking around a park all morning. She told me I didn’t have to be out and about, and that it was ok to have days with no plans. I’m grateful she did. And man, I wish I’d spent more time lying about after my first as it’s not something you can do when the second comes along – toddlers tend to only enjoy sitting on the sofa with biscuits for a short while.

Gisele Bundchen Breastfeeding latino.foxnews.com
That picture

We put a huge pressure on ourselves because of what we think we’re supposed to feel and do. ‘But look at Gisele! She was back on the runway within weeks, breastfeeding whilst being prepped to earn a fortune and looking fresh-faced, and I can’t get out of my pyjamas…?’. Although most of us can tell the difference between Celebdom and the real world, if no one has been really honest with you about how they found it, you could be forgiven for thinking more of us are catwalk-ready after a few weeks.  Plus, you know, when you’re sleep-deprived you can’t always see the wood for the trees.

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I found the honesty from some of those who had gone before me reassuring – and was astounded by how many people said it was all dandy only to reveal months later they’d been in a terrible state. So I sent this email to my friend – I’ve toned down the language as she and I are both potty-mouths, but otherwise it’s pretty much as it was sent. It also turns out I’ve been droning on about the sisterhood for a while as this was written before I started this blog. She has since said the email ‘pretty much saved my life’ and that she used to refer back to it when she was struggling. This may be an exaggeration on her part, but if someone has just had a baby and is sitting in the dark at 3am having a cry and thinking that everyone else found it a breeze, this might help:

Hello gorgeous girl,

Firstly, DO NOT worry about replying to this. All the texts/emails/messages/FB posts are a bit overwhelming, especially if you feel you have to respond. It used to stress me out a lot, so just know I won’t be offended if you don’t respond, and nor will anyone else. I just wanted to say I am still thinking of you and hope the first couple of nights went ok. I don’t profess to be an expert by any stretch, but I have done this shit twice in quick succession, and for me there are a few things that I know myself and all my friends that have had kids have found tough/learnt pretty quickly, and the sisterhood has never been more important than when you’ve had babies. I remember getting a couple of texts when I was sitting in hospital in absolute shock (Buster was born at 36 weeks so think you pipped me!) and I had no idea what was going on/what I was supposed to do and Buster wouldn’t feed. I had to hand express for a week before he eventually latched on – who knew it was so hard? Those NCT videos show the kid frickin’ crawling up the mother’s belly FFS. LIARS. But it just takes a bit of time for you both to learn what to do and then you’ll be flopping them out all over the shop. I reckon it took me 6 weeks with Buster to be passed the sore phase and for my body to produce the right amount at the right times.

Anyways, I had a couple of texts from people saying ‘hang in there’ and ‘this is a bit shit but it’ll get better’ and it did make me feel better as until that point I’d for some reason not noticed the exhausted look in a new mum’s eyes as they say ‘being a mummy is wonderful’ (really? even the cracked nipples/leaking fanny/blancmange belly? Let’s not mention the childbirth bit – it does pretty much return to normal btw…) and clearly not heard them mention being a bit tired…And then you do it and you’ve never felt emotion like it – high or low. So anyway, this is what I wish I’d known, which really isn’t supposed to be patronising, but once I’d been through it, just seeing a new mum reduces me to tears as I can vividly remember being tired and confused and just wanting someone to tell me it’d all be ok. Which it was as I wouldn’t have done it again otherwise.

Pull the drawbridge up. This time is all about you and Pete*, especially whilst he is off work. If you have visitors, make sure they are ones that will bring food and leave after 30 minutes and try not to pack too many in to a day. I found I felt ok when people were there and I wanted to show off the baby, and then they’d leave and I’d sit on the stairs sobbing with exhaustion. It took us about 6 weeks to work that one out, so hopefully you’ll get there before your first couple of months are a blur of feeling you need to look presentable/hold it together and then screaming at Pete when they’ve left. Once we’d worked it out Doug became my ‘protector’, so he booted people out after 45 mins and kept visitors at bay generally in his own unique way (rudely – he wasn’t good at subtle). Protector and feeder. They were good times. I actually got fatter after having Buster as yammed so much food and needed cake for energy. NEEDED it. Which brings me to…

I wore maternity jeans or pyjamas for at least 6 weeks with Buster. I PROMISE your body will return. It’ll be a slightly different version, but seriously, you are young and fit and it’ll happen and for now it isn’t important. It is amazing how your tummy contracts and each day it goes down, so it will happen. And those people that mention they were in their pre-maternity jeans after 2 weeks? Dicks. 

EAT AND REST – if you are breastfeeding, or if you’re not actually, you are going to need energy. I’ve watched a lot of friends struggle with the feeding and then say ‘oh, i haven’t eaten today’ – basically it’s fuel and you’re producing food to FEED another being, so it makes sense that you need to eat. It is amazing how much food and rest impact your milk. Again, this took me weeks of charging about and feeling knackered and wondering why the baby was crying with hunger and needing feeding all the time. I know everyone says ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ blah blah blah, but I actually did that with Mabel and it is rather nice having daytime naps and not divving about cleaning/catching up on emails etc. She’s 9 months and I still have them when Buster is in nursery – I love waking up all sweaty and a bit drool-y.

Just be kind to yourself. You have your man and you have your baby and everyone else can and will wait. This is a brand new thing you’ve never done so of course you can’t always know what to do, but having some peace and quiet and your man beside you is all you need and you’ll work all the rest out. 

I PROMISE it all gets easier. And hey, it may be that you’re flying and not finding it hard at all and if so this email has nothing to do with underestimating you and everything to do with my own experience of finding this motherhood shit HARD. So sending so much love and sisterhood vibes your way darling girl. Anything I can help with, I’m only an email/phone call away.

Your Stephie xx 

*Name has been changed to protect the sleep deprived. 

Images: kristenbrockmeyer.blogspot.com; latino.foxnews.com

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22 thoughts on “A letter to a new mum

  1. TD says:

    A friend has only recently sent me a link to your blog and I wanted to tell you how bloody brilliant it is! Have a 6 month old boy and still feel like I’m massively winging this Motherhood thing… I’m the third in my group to have a baby and often wonder why on earth no one told me how overwhelming, tough and tear inducing motherhood could be! I remember my first months, being up at ridiculous o’clock with what felt like the world’s hungriest baby on my boob writing emails to my NCT group asking if anyone else was struggling with the lack of sleep, confusion and that feeling of dreading night times for fear of not being able to get the baby to stop crying and sleep for longer than 1h at a time and luckily I had a bunch of honest women at the other end of the ‘line’, who all shared their ups and downs and made me feel less like a disorientated looney. Sisterhood and honesty are, in my opinion, the most valuable things a new mum could hope to have. I’m so glad and grateful women and mums like you are out there, flying the flag of motherhood reality – with all its glorious moments and sagging bits! X

    • Steph says:

      Thank you so much – this has made me feel ace on a weary friday!! You’ve done the toughest slog (in my opinion!) – I’m not saying it’s always easy, but those first months with your first are such a shock!
      To Sisterhood and honesty – thank you again x

  2. LucyLou says:

    Thanks for your brilliant blog. So timely for me – first baby is 4 months old. I’m sitting here at 3am reading your posts, bawling, while baby sleeps on me (very definitely not sleeping in cot tonight), hubby snoring next to me, wondering if I’ll ever sleep again, and if I might get some sort of life back one day! It’s such a relief to know I’m not alone.

  3. WONDERTHRIFT says:

    Ah, yes, all so perfectly put! I would always warn a new mum about the possible baby blues- I’m the least depressive person in the world but even I felt so overwhelmed in those first weeks that I dreaded nighttime as if I were contemplating spending the night in a Dungeon of Dooooom.
    Well done on the Bibs! X

  4. Claire says:

    Hi Steph
    I love your blog, I just had to leave a comment. Will share with all my sydney mummy friends. Just had no 2 and for some reason thought it wouldn’t be so tough! Everything you write is so, so, so true!
    Thanks!
    Claire

    • Steph says:

      Thanks Claire – it’s always lovely to get comments and thank you for sharing the post. Congratulations! I found the beginning bit with two was all about logistics? Logistics and survival! Hope it all gets easier quickly, and that you’re being kind to yourself xx

  5. Jess Paterson says:

    Fab post, though made me a bit teary as I recall my early days with no. 1. Oh my lord it is so hard. I went baby early in our group – the first in fact – so had no one to tell me all this. Took me until my second baby to work out I should just sit in the house and not go to the park at 8am (which I did, many times!). Now with my third I go out on my terms only. Oh yeah, and to take the beggars to school gahh. Great post hon and good luck in the #BIBs2014 xx

  6. Jennifer says:

    A great post, and some wonderful advice. I remember a friend reprimanding me after she had her first baby and saying that I’d never told her how hard it was. The thing is that I had told her how I’d struggled before she was even pregnant, and she had been with me while I walked up and down trying to get my screaming baby to sleep in the pushchair, but I think she’d blocked it all out, or else she didn’t want to hear it! I’ve always tried to be quite honest about how difficult I found everything with my first baby, it’s such a shock and it takes a long time to get used to how much things have changed.

  7. Merlinda (@pixiedusk) says:

    I wish I have read this before hehe. Im far from friends and relatives when I am starting out as a mother and its quite hard. I am still having a hard time with parenting but I am use to being alone now. How sad I know but I get by. But I bet things will be awesomer if I have friends and relatives around me =) #MBPW

  8. Dawn says:

    Impeccable timing. I’ve got a beautiful 4 day old baby girl and this has already helped me. Thanks Steph xxx

    • Steph says:

      Oh my god Dawn – congratulations!! A baby girl! So pleased if it’s helped – Be. Kind. To. Yourself. Huge love to you and your little family x

  9. Clare says:

    Steph, reading every one of your blogs makes me well up with tears. Everything you write feels like you’ve got into my head and disclosed my deepest darkest feelings!! You’ve got an amazing talent! xx

  10. brummymummyof2 says:

    As per all true. Being a Mum is aces. Being a Mum is also bloody hard. Oh and you got back in your jeans six weeks after? This is a marvel! 16 months and counting. Ha ha ha x

    • Steph says:

      No no no – I wore maternity clothes or PJs for 6 weeks, then I invested in some larger jeans for a while! x

  11. Hannah says:

    This is so very true, maybe they could give it out in the hospital instead of the millions of leaflets about everything you don’t want/need to know. The first time around I was all about visitors, cleaning and skinny jean! BIG mistake should have slept, watched crappy TV and worn PJ’s day and night as much to my horror after number 2 this was not always possible. Love reading your blogs they make me feel ‘normal’ xxx

  12. Julie says:

    Being due literally any minute now, I am going to take all of this advice on board and do it. Although I’m not a new mum, I still think a lot of it rings true second time round.

    Great blog again Steph x

    • Steph says:

      It DEFINITELY does – hopefully second time at least we have learnt from before and know to hole up at every opportunity! Thinking of you x

  13. Susie says:

    Ah Stephie, you are brilliant. You sent me a text 3 days after I had, had Ava and it reduced me to tears because it was the first time somebody totally got how I was feeling and I REALLY needed that. Fab blog xxx

  14. Alicia says:

    Now I so wish I had been given those words when it was my first time. I guess I did in dribs and drabs from friends and they were very reassuring but I can totally see how this could of been a lifeline. To have a letter/email etc to be able to read at ur choosing as and when needed would of been fab, I shall be sure to share with any new mums I come across. Will also add one key bit of advice someone gave me and it always stuck as I was really quite shocked… Other mums lie. Another fab blog that dares to share the things we think we shouldn’t share but we so should. Thank u x

  15. Nicola Johnston says:

    I am literally going to print this out and keep it in my purse – what a wonderful and honest letter! I bet you’re friend was so grateful for this.

    In due in 6 weeks and keep mentioning in my blog that I am slightly… Scratch that, so nervous about the reality of being a new mum! But advice like this makes me feel so much better, so thank you for sharing 🙂 xx

  16. Holly says:

    I so wish I hadn’t tried to be the perfect hostess in those early days, rushing around making sure all my visitors had cups of tea, slices of cake, etc while simultaneously trying to keep the kitchen clean, take another to play group, walk the oldest to school etc. Why do we insist on trying to prove we are superwoman? And as far as the blancmange tummy is concerned, if only someone had told me that I should have packed maternity gear in my hospital bag. Ed rocked up to the hospital with a pair of skinny jeans and what amounted to a crop top for me to go home in! My brother took one look at me and asked if I had another baby tucked up there. I literally burst into tears on the spot! Let’s be kinder to ourselves and make sure we share our honest experiences!