Being mum to a newborn is probably the most mind-blowing thing you’ll ever experience. But it’s also the most brilliant. This is what you need to know…
You’ve carried a baby for nine months and delivered it into the world. Bloody well done! You’re a superhero. After giving birth, I felt strong, elated and destined to be the world’s greatest mother. I was also running on adrenaline and inevitably collapsed into an exhausted, tearful heap by day three. Still, in my most desperate moments, I think back to that feeling of power and joy, and it reminds me how strong I can be.
‘Giving birth is a fantastic achievement,’ says clinical psychologist Dr Abigael San. ‘Mothers often get caught up in the smaller details of parenthood but, no matter how you deliver your baby or whether or not you breastfeed, you’re entitled to feel proud of what you’ve accomplished.’ Here's what else you need to know.
1 You Need Help. In A Good Way
Honestly, I’m not being rude, but even the most capable mother needs help sometimes. Raising a child can be tough, so why do we feel like a failure if we reach out?
‘When I became a mum and visitors offered to bring food or do the washing up, I’d turn them down because I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t cope,’ says Jenny, 31, from London, who’s mum to Beatrice, one. ‘It was only when my own mum told me not to be silly and that she wanted to help that I learnt to ease up on myself. After all, it’s only what I’d do for my friends.’ And ask for help: it’s a sign of strength not weakness.
'Ask for help: it’s a sign of strength not weakness'
2 You Get Used To The Gross Bits
Who knew babies were so messy? While I was pregnant, my mum friends smiled knowingly at my naivety. It’s just a bit of dribble and the odd nappy, isn’t it? I had no idea of the stomach-churning horrors that were to come.
Scraped hardened sick off the shoulders of my favourite top? Done it. Washed congealed purée out of my baby’s nostrils? Yes, I’ve been there. Dug poo out of her belly button at bathtime? Yup, another memory to treasure in my old age.
3 You Know Your Baby Better Than Anyone Else
There are over 270,000 YouTube videos giving advice on raising babies, plus countless TV shows, courses, government recommendations, books – heck, even your neighbour’s friend has an opinion on how you should raise your child. But there is nobody else who knows the sound, smell and needs of your baby.
So, next time you feel less than perfect, ditch your inner critic. ‘You may feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, but your biological instincts are activated from birth,’ says Abigael. ‘You will develop your own maternal strategies.’
4 You’ll Never Leave Home In Less Than 30 Minutes Again
Put the baby in the buggy and walk out the door. It seems simple, doesn’t it? But it never happens like that. There’s the leaky tub of baby food, the booties that fall off or, worst of all, the last-minute nappy change.
And don’t even think about taking time for a shower. The fact is, late might just be your default setting from now on, but does it really matter? Friends and family won’t mind that you never turn up on time, and appointments can be rearranged. You’re doing your best.
'One-to-one time with your baby is more valuable than toys’
5 Your Baby Doesn’t Need The World’s Most Expensive Playmat
You want the best for your little one – the softest babygro, the latest pram – but I’ll let you into a secret: your baby couldn’t care less. Abigael agrees we need to worry less about spending money on our kids.
‘One-to-one time with your baby is more valuable than any toy,’ she says. ‘Babies need contact so they can attune themselves to you, mirror your actions and feel nurtured.’ Yep, just talking to your little one will help her develop a sense of security that will set her up for life.
6 You Will Even Miss The Hard Times
It’s difficult to believe, especially when you’re stressed and sleep-deprived, but there will come a day when you look back on these precious moments – even the broken nights, poo-up-the-back nappy changes and time spent soothing your colicky baby – with heartbreaking fondness. Because this magical period of time will vanish fast.
Then, just as the painful memories of childbirth and nipple shields start to fade, you might find yourself thinking about doing it again. Which is why, a year after having my first baby, I found myself pregnant with baby number two and unpacking my maternity jeans again. Now, where’s that stretchmark oil?
What has being a new mum taught you? Tell us in the comments box below.