1) Make sure you procreate with a supportive partner. This will make a massive difference to your experience of motherhood and how hard you find it. I am very lucky because my amazing fiance is not only emotionally supportive, but is also very practical. He has taken on the majority of the housework since Rosa was born, in addition to his full-time job. He cooks dinner at least 50% of the time and facilitates me spending a lot of my time feeding the baby, holding the baby and generally putting her needs first. If I contrast this with some of my friends’ partners’ approaches, they have had to not only look after the baby, but also the house and all cooking. They have been absolutely exhausted and have found being a mum to be really hard. Anyone with a small baby will tell you that looking after them is a full-time job and then some. Having a partner who is happy to support you in your mothering is a huge bonus.
2) You know you feel like you’re crap at being a Mum? Don’t worry. So does everyone else. Being a mother does make you incredibly vulnerable and can create a lack of self-confidence. Going through pregnancy and birth often feels like a step back in decades for independent, educated and normally confident women. You are frequently patronised, belittled, treated in a disrespectful manner or otherwise made to feel like a sub-standard mum in your dealings with doctors, health visitors, family members and the general public. You think you’ve just nailed x, be it sleeping through the night, getting the baby to nap in the day or somesuch and then something changes and you’re back to square one again. It’s all normal. You’re doing the best that you can. That woman at your baby yoga class with the amazing post-natal figure, perfectly manicured nails, no dark roots and a healthy glow – SHE’S GOT A NANNY! So chill out and feel good about yourself and all the hard work you’re putting in to raise your baby successfully.
3) Re-usable nappies are great. I have a big problem with the landfill waste created by mainstream disposables and feel a bit weird about the funky chemicals in them being next to my little girl’s skin. We do use the odd Nature Baby disposable nappy (no plastic in ’em), mainly if we’re out and about . But I have been really impressed by modern cloth nappies and they are no bother to wash either. The ones we use are shaped and have velcro fastenings. There’s no soaking and the (dry) nappy bucket has never been stinky. All in all, they are better for the environment, not much work at all, have saved us a fortune and Rosa has never yet had nappy rash. Result!
4) Breastfeeding is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But also the most worthwhile. I know I’ve written about this before, so I shan’t bore you with loads of details. When Rosa left the Special Care Baby Unit, she was having the boob, then a small bottle of expressed breast milk, then a small amount of formula at each feed. This is MADNESS. We were using nipple shields and it was still painful with them. I phased out the crazy expressing after every feed and we changed to breastfeeding all day and night bar one evening formula feed. This enabled my poor boobs to have a break for a few hours and is the reason why we have managed to reach 6 months of breastfeeding. Yes, it still hurts me and we’re still using the nipple shields, but she has had well over 80% breast milk goodness each day and I have no plans to stop breastfeeding any time soon. I can’t imagine not having had that special bonding experience with Rosa, even though at times it has had me in tears and other times I have silently seethed as she feeds really badly in the middle of the night and I just wish she’d get it. The feeds when it’s ok or even good make it all worthwhile though.
5) Trust your baby and your instincts. Following on from my previous post “Slow Weight Gain And The Evil Red Book” it has taken me some months to have confidence in my gut instinct as a mum. However, I am now at the point where I am happy that Rosa is fine and that I would know if there was anything wrong with her. She “told” us 3 weeks ago that she was ready to start baby-led weaning (this is AMAZING btw, I’ll be blogging about that a lot), by helping herself to something off my plate when she was sat on my lap. Shewas 3 weeks shy of 6 months old, the recommended age, but it was the right time for her. Since then she has had the exact same amount of milk feeds as before, complemented by some proper food at dinner time. She eats at the table with us and has so far explored avocado, banana, pear, steamed carrot and broccoli, tomato, cheese, chilli con carne, rice,spinach, roasted sweet potato, roasted butternut squash, mashed potato, boiled potato and jacket potato, home-made pizza, steak, pork, chicken and veal(English rose veal, if you’re wondering), houmous, celery, peppers and yogurt. Incredible stuff. Anyway, the point of this is that all babies are individuals and no-one knows your baby better than you. So if your baby does something that differs from the guidelines, but is alert, developmentally on track and happy and you feel that they’re fine – they probably are. And if you’re wondering, I haven’t had Rosa weighed for 6 weeks now. I don’t need to know what the numbers say. She is looking great.
6) Being a mum is so much fun! I was very focussed on how difficult being a parent would be. I was terrified about the sleep deprivation, the drudgery of the extra housework and not having any time to yourself. Actually, with a supportive partner and a very chilled little girl, it’s been surprisingly do-able. I do sometimes get pretty tired, but if I nap with Rosa some of the time, I can keep things on an even keel. The extra housework isn’t too bad currently, again with help from my other half. In the evenings, I do have time for myself, if I want it. There may not be as much time as before and certainly a shower in the evening feels like a luxury after the rushed daytime ones when I have to sing and keep popping my head out pulling funny faces at my daughter! Rosa and I laugh so much together. Her ready and face-splitting smiles melt my heart and I never realised just how much joy she would bring to our lives.