So, I’m 13 months into being a mama! If I’m honest, the majority of it has been better than what I expected.
Most of my worries were relieved with having my husband at home with us for 10 weeks, yes, you read that right, TEN weeks! (Go Shared Parental Leave!) Don’t get me wrong, I won’t deny the fact that we have had some straight up challenging days, I survived on about 3 hours sleep for the first 6 weeks straight! Having that emotional support from my husband and having the knowledge to know when I flat out need sleep and some ‘me’ time, really, really helped. I never take that for granted. In fact, I don’t take much for granted anymore! Hot shower for 10 minutes? Heaven. Eating with two hands and no indigestion? Again, heaven! All jokes aside, My daughter is such a blessing. I’m so, so grateful. She has taught me so much about myself. I have more determination than ever to really push myself to be the best person I could be. Notice I said person, not mother. I’ve had to really reflect on that over the past few weeks – mother is one of many titles I hold. It can be so easy to get into a thought process that, this is all you are for now and it can almost become a chore and exhausting. I take joy in so many other titles. I’m a wife first and foremost – that was something I had instilled in me even before I got married, that your spouse is first and foremost and then children follow after. I’m also a friend, a daughter, a sister, a mentor, an employee…just to name a few. It really put things into perspective because I reflect on how much Liara depends on me day and night to feed her, cuddle her, play with her, nurture her, indulge her cooing and then the fun part: decipher which cry is which and for what reason! (She has about 5 cries and I‘m still learning the meaning of all!) on top of these demands, things are also required from me in other people in various ways. It can be overwhelming, but I have learned to look at it as an honour to have so much value and worth to lots of people for various reasons and just breathe. I owe it to everyone to be the best person of myself – not just to my daughter, but to my husband, my friends, my family etc. I’ve learned it’s all about perspective. Yes the sleepless nights are rough because as I breastfeed on demand, along with baby led weaning which is tons of fun! There was about a 3 month period where Lia decided to forget how to take to a bottle, I nicknamed her handbag – literally everywhere I went, she came. Wedding dress shopping in Birmingham with my best friend? Handbag, come through! Triple date night with some of hubby’s colleagues? Handbag, what’s good?! Housewarming parties? Handbag, let’s go! Back to work meeting? Handbag, enter the room begging for breast and scream the place down in the midst of serious negotiations! Haha, I am laughing now but man, imagine 3 months of trying to still maintain a social life but literally having the cutest, neediest child adjoined to your hip?! Thank God we made it and I didn’t complain much, because I flashback to when Lia was in NICU and I prayed so hard she’d latch on and not just take the bottle. It’s always been a big dream of mine to breastfeed. The bond and closeness it provides is unmatched, and of course, the nutritional qualities it provides. Her cries can be piercing and quite terrifying at times, but then I think about how even more terrifying it would feel to not even hear your child cry – it’s the only way young babies can communicate their needs to us, and once you get to grips of comforting and responding promptly, the connection you share is unrivalled. So yes, being a first time mum of a strong willed, cute and oh so yummy 13 month old has its challenges, but it’s by far the biggest blessing to mine and my husband’s life thus far! Roll on baby number two! (LOL jk, unless I can skip the whole being pregnant and a baby just appears!)
You may or may not know that I battle with anxiety on a regular basis, something I was diagnosed with in 2015 but has been lying dormant in my life from events from 2007/2008. It’s been a rocky road but I’m getting better and realising my triggers and dealing with it head on. Some days are easier than others, but motherhood has definitely heightened my anxiety which of course is to be expected, for even the most confident, let’s be real now. It’s a whole level of newness and it doesn’t come with a manual. There are countless days where I just want to stay cooped up in bed with my girl all day and deliberately misplace my phone in the house to avoid calls and texts. My health visitor alerted me to look out for signs of “baby blues” as it’s common, and I’d realised that’s what I was experiencing between two-three weeks postpartum. I shed countless amount of tears, sometimes within reason, most times over the smallest thing like starting the washing machine without putting the powder in, forgetting that the cycle could be paused! Haha, I was a wreck.
It was helpful for me to be super honest with myself and reach out to people I trusted to really give me a hand and help calm me down. The biggest lesson I’ve learned by far is that mama’s mental health matters. It’s scary how baby blues/depression/anxiety can creep up on you unexpectedly and you use tiredness or saying such as “it is what it is” as an excuse to suppress it. I was determined to battle it, even if it meant leaving Liara at home for two hours with a loved one to go for a walk and get back to doing “me” things, or treasuring date night again with hubby; these things and more truly helped, and I go into a bit more detail below.
We’re planning on having more children, (stop asking when -_-) and when we get the opportunity to do it all over again, I’m armed with my support system and processes I need to do to remain sane and strong. It’s by no means easy, but it’s necessary. I had to learn that I had certain over-expectations from people based on how I’d treat them if they were in my shoes and I had to dial it in and acknowledge people are their own people – the patterns of behaviour expected from them are things I have within my support network consisting of many people already. I learned to rejoice and be grateful for the pool of resources at my disposal at the drop of a hat! I just started to appreciate people for who they are, not who I wanted them to be, because that’s unfair and leads to nothing but disappointment.
If I could offer up any advice to a new mama, or to anyone who has a new mama in their life, have read of my top 5 tips below!
During my baby shower my auntie gave advice to sleep when baby sleeps! I remember thinking ooh that sounds easy enough, but when it came down to it, I found it difficult to wind down and relax once Lia finished her feed. If you read my previous post about my pregnancy, you will know I spent a substantial amount of time in hospital which meant my home was about 8 weeks behind being baby ready! So, I was obsessed of having a squeaky clean house and the fridge being stocked up, particularly with drinks because hot dang! breastfeeding is thirsty work! Also, I just didn’t want people to have an image of a scatty and unkept new mama and feared I’d be grossly judged. It was this huge insecurity I had, how people will just take one look at me and think I’m not coping and give their unsolicited advice about how I should be doing things (also, I have those silly mum forums to blame, everyone had drama on there and I started to believe I did too because I absorbed all of that negativity!) Lo and behold, about two weeks in, I gave in – I let the laundry basket topple over, dishes overflow and learned the beauty of freezing food to enjoy days on end without having to even worry about cooking and of course best feeling ever – enjoyed peaceful periods of sleep. It was the best feeling ever! Bonus: hubby helped out with the dishes and the laundry without me even asking! #Teamwork
- Accept help
A bunch of people offered a helping hand with cooking, cleaning or just holding Liara for me to have some “me” time. I recall feeling embarrassed or defeated if I actually took them up on that offer – as a new mum I put so much unrealistic expectations on myself to have it all together 100% of the time. Looking back, I’m glad my mama stayed with us for a total of two weeks to cook, clean and just be fabulous company! It was refreshing to have that bonding time rest assured that Lia was in more than capable hands. I also gathered a new found respect for my mum because I know how much she sacrificed for all of us and how much she’s willing to do it all over again for her grandchildren. It’s so beautiful seeing it! So yes, whether a relative or friend offers the ounce bit of help, take them up on it and do not feel embarrassed or ashamed!
- Don’t be afraid to say “not now” to eager visitors
I touched on it briefly above, but the first week coming back from the hospital was by far the most emotionally taxing for me. I recall feeling overly tired and overly frustrated at the constant stream of phone calls, FaceTime attempts every. Single. Day. I kept saying to myself “she’s just a baby. I’m not the only person to have given birth, why can’t people relax?!” I also laughed every time my phone rang at unsocial hours as if people didn’t understand that I’m if not breastfeeding, I’m sleeping or cleaning and probably not having much energy to want to do anything else. It was annoying and so stressful. I’d suffered from a huge episode of anxiety over hospital and I just wanted to be in my own space again, in my home with my mini family after 6 whole weeks and just hibernate and adjust. I felt like I had so much to catch up on – housework, sleep, adjusting to a new life, the list goes on but I felt having so many people over constantly or having to stop to answer the phone was bringing those tasks to a halt but more so becoming a huge disruption to Liara’s routine. I recall breaking down one Sunday during a time we had visitors and just let out this beastly scream. I genuinely thought I was at my wits end. I just didn’t want to see anyone if I’m completely honest. I wanted my home to consist of three people – me, Daras and Liara. I didn’t care at all if it was selfish, mentally and emotionally I just wasn’t ready. It was as if every day I had to save face and entertain visitors, and then there were a few eager ones who would come multiple times a week at really unsocial hours simply to get their newborn baby fix. All I wanted to do was curl into a ball and cry for hours. I know emotions run so wild post-partum and I was a huge wreck. I said to hubby fair and square I don’t want any visitors for an entire week, I’m exhausted and Lia needs to get used to sleeping without being held like a doll 24/7. On top of that, she developed a viral infection which didn’t help. Being a new mum is hard work and nothing really prepares you for it. It’s a unique journey too. The phrase “he who feels it, knows it” is so real here. Having the support of my husband was everything and I couldn’t have survived the first couple of weeks without his help. Some mini pointers when visiting a newborn:
a) Check in with the mama first before rushing to the baby. A simple “hey, how are you doing?” with a hug, goes a long, long way. Try it! Ask if you can pick him/her up, never assume that it is your right to have cuddles! I have let out countless amount of sighs when I’m just settling Liara after nursing and then an eager visitor rushes in to swoop her out of my hands without asking, only for her to have a meltdown and become, fussy, irritable and no fun! Respect routines that are in place and to put it nicely, don’t be difficult if mama doesn’t let you hold him/her yet! It’s not about you!
b) Hygiene is a huge thing for me, even more so when you have a newborn with a weakened immune system. Liara was a 35 weeker so I was on it! No dirty hands and definitely no kisses. So wash your hands and don’t frown when asked to! Ask how you can be helpful rather than “do you need any help?” as most times, we’ll just say “no, thanks!” whereas if you’re direct and intentional about your willingness to help, it makes such a huge difference! I have to shout out my mum and Suganiya as when they both came to visit, they just picked up the broom and started sweeping, no questions asked. Suganiya even wanted to do my laundry! It actually brought me to tears because it made me realise that these people also cared about me and my wellbeing and as much as they love Liara, they also didn’t forget about my needs. It was super refreshing. Last but definitely not least…
c) bring some snacks/food. These things do not seem like rocket science, but you’d be surprised at how some if not all of these things are overlooked.
- To have some me time daily – even if it’s literally 30 minutes.
My favourite “me” time is showering. A luxury I definitely took for granted pre-baby! I’m literally closed off from everything and everyone! I can catch my breath, freshen up, pray, meditate and just feel like me again. It really helps me refocus and gives me the much needed energy to meet the needs of little precious girl. My other mum friends speak about going for a 20 minute run, baking cakes, binge watching a favourite box series or in fact a good old sleep to feel sub-human again! It’s important to still indulge in your hobbies and interests what you did pre-baby, to keep your mental health at bay.
- Make marriage time a priority
During courtship, Daras and I attended pre-marital counselling and one of the leaders mentioned how when children come down the line, marriage time should still be a priority. I remember thinking “what, with 4 hours sleep and the possibility of not even having time to eat let alone have a whole date, how is this possible?!” Then I remembered well before I became a mum, I’m a wife and as hard as it’ll be, I need to remember children will grow up, leave home and begin their own family one day, but I’ll always have my husband. So, the importance to cultivate a good thriving marriage at all times is so crucial. I hear countless stories of how married parents neglected so much of their marriage and just poured their love and attention to their children, only to have their children grow up to the age where they are fully functioning independent adults and eventually move out, to only have years of in-built isolation and loneliness to one another, causing a marital breakdown and divorce or them just co-existing because they’ve come this far. I was determined to not let that be my legacy for what my children view of a loving marriage, we have to be intentional and disciplined. When Liara was a month old, we left her with my mum to grab brunch and it was the best feeling! It was only for all of 90 minutes but it was refreshing to reconnect and converse about everything and anything! It reminded me of our good old date nights and how they shouldn’t be forgotten about. Our goal is to try and have date nights once a month – be it dinner, lunch or just a walk.
I hope this list was helpful! I’ve also linked some books and self care activities and ideas that have helped me beat postnatal baby blues and enabling Liara to have the best start possible.
- Open up a junior ISA account.
This was mandatory for Daras and I. We can’t wait until Lia is 18 and she finds out how much we’ve been putting away for her each month for 18 years. We shopped around and found Halifax offer the best interest rates. Check it out here!
- Have a picnic in the park
We’re quite fortunate to be around numerous parks and green open spaces and it gives us the opportunity to explore a new environment, take advantage of the warm weather (after quarantine is over) and keep active!
- Parent and baby cinema screenings are a thing
They run term-time only and contrary to popular belief, show absolutely everything that’s currently released from comedy to thrillers and not just U rated films. Check one out local to you and enjoy catching up on the latest movies while cradling your little one (hopefully they’ll sleep through it like Lia did)
- Get a massage/pedicure/facial
I am yet to do this as I was gifted one for my birthday last year! However, it’s a must! I genuinely think it should be prescribed when you’re discharged from the hospital! Book one through here, or better yet – next time someone asks if you need anything, here’s your answer!
- Read parenting books to keep clued up
Cheers to always learning, evolving and developing. Here’s a list of ones I’m reading so far: