My letter to the first time mum

Hello there, first time mum!

I bet you didn’t get much sleep last night. I bet you’re worried and anxious whether you’re doing it right and whether it’s supposed to feel like this. When I had my first child I felt like I was hit by a train, and a lot of other mums felt the same way. If you haven’t met many already you will eventually find out that your feelings are normal, and it’s ok to feel like a complete failure and question your existence in the first few months, or even years, please believe me. You probably need reassurance right now, I have found mine retrospectively after talking to a lot of women who felt the same way. So I want to give you this reassurance now instead of you finding it later, I also want you to know you are not failing and you are doing an amazing job. Please remember nothing can prepare you for having a child, even if you read all the textbooks. You don’t go into parenting refreshed and full of energy, because being pregnant is difficult in itself, even if you were lucky to have an “easy pregnancy” and you avoided all the complications, it didn’t do your back any good, or legs, or feet, or head. Being pregnant was straining for your body, even if you loved it. The last few weeks of pregnancy cause women to have broken sleep when they need it the most before they go into hours and hours of labour. Even if you had the easiest most straightforward birth that only lasted a few hours it was still hard work and in the words of hypnobirthing “sensational”. Basically it was painful, wasn’t it? After exhausting labour, giving birth whichever way you ended up doing it you pretty much immediately had to look after a completely vulnerable tiny human being that depends on you 100% 24/7. If you had birth which caused you physical or, and very often an emotional scarring, you still had to look after your newborn and function as a mother immediately. Yes, bend down unable to walk after surgery or having stitches down there you still couldn’t just go recover and rest for 2 weeks and then take onto the responsibility of parenting. Was it like that? We are all in the same boat here. A lot of us have never or very rarely even seen or held a newborn, let alone looked after them before we had our first child. Which way do we hold it? Which way do we feed it? Which way do we dress it? What is this black thing coming out of its bottom? As a society we no longer grow up in communities where we see women giving birth, newborns, babies, women breastfeeding, other women coming to support us. We are isolated and completely inexperienced in this respect, and then bang crash here’s your baby. Did you come home and had to figure it all out? It is difficult isn’t it? I wish we had more support in this learning curve. I know, it does get easier, hang in there, but it is hard and you are not alone feeling this way. Has anyone explained parenting to you? I bet you didn’t expect your newborn to be attached to your breast 24/7? No, they aren’t using you as a dummy, dummy is used instead of a breast, they are establishing breastfeeding. It can take a long time and requires a lot of patience and support, support from people coming and feeding a new mum, doing her washing up, holding her baby so she can shower, showing her how to change nappy, how to hold her baby, how to latch her baby, telling her how well she is doing and bringing her presents. I imagine you didn’t get that kind of support. It’s amazing if you can breastfeed and give it your best try. It’s very rewarding. If it doesn’t work please don’t feel like it’s your fault, I am 100% sure if you had the right support you could have done it. I didn’t breastfeed pass 2 weeks with my first, because I had zero support. I was alone with my newborn all day and crying. Please don’t be hard on yourself, bottle feeding is also good. You can formula feed, feed expressed breast milk off a bottle or you can give breast and a bottle, it’s called combination feeding. It’s all fine, it’s all good. Don’t get yourself all worked up and feeling guilty about whatever is your choice of feeding or how circumstances unfold that make that choice for you. I have fed my second for 5 months and my first for 2 weeks, they are both healthy and happy, and noisy and as cheeky as each other. Being up all night whatever way you feed your baby is very hard isn’t it? Sterilising bottles and mixing formula in the middle of a night is very hard, if breastfeeding works it’s easier as you won’t have to wait for boiled water to cool down while your baby is screaming their head off. Also your baby might want to be with you 24/7. It’s called a 4th trimester, it’s tottaly normal and completely exhausting. I bet you didn’t expect 24/7 to be really 24/7. When I was pregnant with my first I thought I would be feeding my son every couple of hours, putting him back in his cot and looking at him while reading a book, having a shower between the feeds and getting at least 2-3 hour sleep chunks at night in one go. I certainly didn’t expect him to be attached to my nipple 24/7 and screaming murder as soon as attempted to put him down to go wee every now and then. He wanted holding all time, and I mean ALL the time. I ended up co-sleeping, it’s also ok, just check the safety guidelines. Don’t feel bad about doing it, also if your baby is happy to sleep alone, don’t feel bad about it either. Nobody prepared me and you for the fact that sometimes you can go days without showering, that going to toilet can be a problem not only because you can’t put your baby down if they are screaming but also quite literally. Does anyone remember their first poo after giving birth? Scarry wasn’t it? All of these things are completely unexpected, exhausting and overwhelming when you are also trying to look like you’re managing and having an emotional rollercoaster due to hormones, recovering from birth, perhaps dealing with stitches and scars, and having very very little sleep. It is such a big transition from being able to do most things, and being a person in your own right before baby to suddenly your life being dictated by someone so tiny, having completely unpredictable schedule, not being able to complete tasks as expected or in one go, sometimes it takes me 5 attempts to peel one carrot and my kids are 4 and 18 months now. The most draining part of this is that it feels like there is no end to it. Of course there is, but when you’re in the middle of it it feels like they will never sleep for longer stretches, your body will never recover from birth, you will never be able to peel a damn carrot in one go. I still can’t. Being mentally unprepared for all of this makes it so much harder when objectively it should be easier with one rather than a few, but a lot of mums find subsequent children easier because of their realistic expectations and their bodies knowing how to function on very little sleep, a lot of adrenaline and skills they gained with their first. It used to take me 10 minutes to change a poopy nappy with Askar, no wonder I didn’t have time to do anything else. What I want to say is: it’s ok to feel so tired, stressed and having an emotional rollercoaster. A few days after having Askar I seriously regretted having him, because I was beyond imaginable tired. Do I feel ashamed that I felt this way? Yes, I do, but also I know it’s no wonder I felt that way. So here’s my letter to you, first time mum, I know how tired, lost, overwhelmed you are, feeling like you’re failing and not managing, and I know it feels like it’s never going to get easier, but it does and you are doing amazingly well and you should be very proud of yourself. Just remember to take photos of your baby and yourself so a few years down the line you can look back and think “I can’t remember any of it” and “gosh how did I survive”, and perhaps decide “I’ll have another one”.

Love,

Altynay

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