When you are pregnant, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, every Tammy, Darcy and Harriet is going to pass on their ‘pearls of wisdom’, however unwanted they may be.
I get it NOW. You’ve gone through this life changing experience and you just want to share your knowledge, learnings and experiences with that one person in your sights right in that moment, that one with the round belly who is glowing, either from the beauty of pregnancy or the sweat of it!
Personally, I was completely and utterly ignorant and terrified. I didn’t know anything! I was oblivious. I was an ostrich burying my head in the sand until I was about 35 weeks and then I realised I needed to actually do stuff, and then the panic set in. Call it what you want, but it did not feel like ‘nesting’ to me!
What I don’t talk about often is that I am actually a step-mom too. My step-daughter is 13 and lives with her mom. It’s a strained relationship between us ‘adult’s’ but I’m not going to dwell on that. In the early days of our relationship, my future-husband would often say to me, “You don’t know, you’re not a parent.” To which I would respond angrily and defensively, “Just because I’m not a mom, doesn’t mean I don’t know! I do know!”
But in truth, I didn’t. How wrong I was (mostly). I say ‘mostly’ because there are some fundamentally built-in issues that are entirely personal and no child or relationship can change that, but being a ‘step-mom’ and being a ‘mom’ are different, at least they were for me, and a lot of that is because of instinct and awareness.
With that in mind, the following points are my advice to new-moms:
- Listen to the advice from strangers with an open mind, it hurts no one to hear it. One day you will have a burning desire to share how you came out the other side scathed but alive. Hear it, process it and then decide whether to discard it or treasure it. Either way, it takes nothing to be polite and listen to your aunt / cousin / mother’s friend / great great granny in-law who doesn’t get your name right … just be polite and figure out what you want to do and then do that! Top Tip: If you think it’s only 9 months of unwanted advice, you are sadly mistaken, it never ends! No matter what stage of parenting you are at, someone else older/wiser/more experienced will ALWAYS have advice for you, whatever the situation!
- Fed is best! Do not get hung up on what the books or great aunties have to say about growth spurts: “breast is best”, baby-led weaning”, “inverted nipples” … there will always be someone you’re not pleasing, but that little person you are responsible for is the only one you have to answer to … what do they want? Whatever it is, do it! If you listen to everything everyone tells you, you will drive yourself crazy and your child will starve and cry until you literally go insane! If your child is hungry, F.E.E.D I.T! Breast 24 hours a day, or breast with a formula top up, formula only, cereal 24/7, or mashed up butternut! Whatever it takes! Just feed your child so that it can stop crying and go to sleep!
- Sleep … here we go! If you baby falls asleep whilst sucking on your breast, so what! If your baby falls asleep on your chest, so what! If you baby needs to be pushed around the block 45 times at 9pm, push! If you have to remortgage your house to fuel up your car to drive 120kms every 5 hours so your child can sleep … well you might need to reconsider, but if you can afford it, DO IT! Whatever it takes, do it! You can deal with the consequences later after you’ve got more than 6 consecutive hours of sleep … my eldest is 6 and I’m still alive! You will actually survive the sleep deprivation!
- DO NOT BUY EVERYTHING THE BOOKS & ADVERTS TELL YOU TO! You don’t need half that stuff. You do not need a bottle steriliser until your child is actually using a bottle! You do not need a dummy/pacifier steriliser … boiling water will do! You do not need the highest end of the market bouncy chair because your child will grow out of it in less than 6 months, and then what? There is also a time and place to buy the stuff you do need. Just wait, give it time. In the first few months of having a baby all it really needs it you, food, 14 changes of clothing, nappies, warmth and love! Most mom’s don’t put their newborn down for very long anyway so do you really need the state of the art designer nursery before he/she is born? No!
- No matter how prepared or unprepared you are, that baby come eventually. You may be only 35 weeks (or earlier), you may be 42 weeks and counting! Whether you have a cot or not, a baby bag or not, a push chair or not, that baby will still come, and you will never really be prepared despite your best efforts.
- Never say never! I said all the cliche’s: “My child will never have a dummy.”; “My child will never speak to me like that.”; “I will breast feed exclusively for 1 year.” – I don’t care who you are, your background, your support … most of those declarations you make before you’re a mom will be proved untrue!
Motherhood, in whichever way it comes to you, will always have a way of bringing you down to earth with a huge thud, whilst simultaneously raising you up higher than you ever imagined. – Me.
To sum up … my advice to new moms would be “You’ve got this.” For those of us who struggle through the dark days, weeks and months of PND, ask for help! By simply asking for help, you are stepping up to be the parent your child needs.
Believe it or not, this is the serious version of this topic on my blog. If you want the light-hearted, slightly sarcastic version check it out here: Skills Required To Parent