My greatest surprise and greatest sadness when becoming a parent? That a mothers instinct doesn't always magically appear at birth...
I still vividly recall the haze of those first few weeks after the birth of my first child. It felt like a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from.
I had a traumatic birth experience, add sleep deprivation, breastfeeding and the weight of responsibility I felt, having such a tiny being dependent on me and I was not a happy person.
I can honestly say that all I wanted was to tag out because it was relentless.
Don’t get me wrong I absolutely adore my children but, in hindsight, I can see that in those early weeks as a new Mum I felt so far out of my depth and scared senseless-Becoming a parent was nothing like what I thought it would be… that I was on the edge of a precipice.
I have always been a proactive person, I know what I know but I am also not afraid to ask for help or research to work out how to do something rather than just accepting it is beyond my reach.
Becoming a mother, I can still recall that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach when someone asked you how many wet nappies baby has had in 24hrs or what exact colour and constituency was the last? Or whether they need to be burped, fed, cuddled, rocked?
For the first time I not only didn’t know the answer, I couldn’t ask someone else or didn’t feel like I could (because they equally didn’t know) I couldn’t research it (google is not a friend as a Mum, it just makes the haze thicker) and every baby is so different anyway that all anyone seemed to say was follow your instincts.
I get that now… four years down the track. But that instinct, that intuitive knowledge of what my baby ‘needed’ was not there in those early weeks. Blame hormones, sleep deprivation, whatever… but I don’t believe that ‘instinct’ was there at the beginning. It blossomed and grew to be there but it didn’t magically happen the moment I gave birth.
I think new Mums need to be told this. That you may not take to motherhood like a duck to water, you may feel out of your depth and that’s ok, normal even!
Now reflecting back, with the lovely benefit of hindsight, I can see that despite my relaxed ‘preparation’ of not having a rigid birth plan, knowing that a routine wasn’t realistic, that breastfeeding would be challenging etc. I was most ill prepared for the way I felt towards my baby and that I would have to sit with that feeling of being sooooo out of my depth.
I love kids and have always have an affinity with them and I think this, coupled with the perceived expectation that a mother knows her baby best, set me up for failure in those early weeks or at the very least for a lot of tears and sadness.
I was protective, yes.
I cared for her, yes.
But there were times when others asked me ‘what does she need?’ when I just wanted to scream ‘I don’t know!’
To all new Mums, expectant Mums or Mums that are returning to the newborn stage… be kind to yourself and be realistic.
You don’t need to have all the answers and don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking you will always know from day one, exactly what your baby needs. This instinct will grow and you will learn to listen to it but this may take time, but it will come. And while you wait don’t be afraid to say out loud ‘I don’t know’.
Sometimes uttering those 3x little words can feel like a weight is lifted. As my Mum always says ‘A problem shared is a problem halved!’
Your Hands-On Helper,