No matter how well prepared you think you are, chances are new parenthood hit you like a tonne of bricks.
It took me a year or so to come out the other side, having spent some time in NICU, got to know tiredness like a BFF, struggled to keep a relationship on the right side of shouty-ville, found out what colic was, put colic on my list of all-time least favourite things, and finally found respite in a baby who LIKES sleeping.
I also started &Breathe , running postnatal retreats for new mums. And through all of that, I wondered how the hell I was supposed to make things a little bit better for all involved.
Parenthood is a shock, your identity changes as a new mum and you learn a lot, bloody fast. Here are some things that helped me get through it.
GET A GOAL
Apart from trying to keep your baby alive. And I’m not talking about slimming back down your lovely baby tummy either.
This is about little and often with something to work towards medium term too. So try to have one night a week where you manage to eat together as a couple or you cook rather than turning to the takeaway menu, or you manage to have a 15 minute conversation rather than the passing grunt or squabble.
Longer term, think about putting a date in the diary for a trip away (either as a family or a couple) and work towards it, it’s an achievement and a reward!
To your friends, to the bag-eyed fellow mum in the coffee shop, to online groups, to your other half! Chances are, they know exactly how you feel, especially if they’re going through it too.
And there are so many groups out there now that are more than just singing nursery rhymes in drafty church halls (although, believe me, that has a special place in my heart too!) Not one near you? Create your own!
Even if it’s only getting some posh tea and cakes round someone’s house – at least you can enjoy them together and not have to worry about baby sicking up just as the waiter’s pouring a cup out.
I know, I know, there no time for me time. But believe me there’s just no substitute for just switching off, even if it’s just for a few hours in between feeds. Especially tricky at the beginning when you’re breastfeeding, but if you can express or your baby takes a bottle, try to get a bit longer than that too.
The longer you have away, the more you can think about you and your old interests, rather than whether the baby needs another vest on.
DO IT YOUR WAY
I know there’s a bucket load of advice, sites, and ‘wise words’ from family members, but remember that you’re you, and you’re baby is going to thrive whether you dress them in 100% organic cotton or the occasional bit of hand-me-down synthetic fabric. Be strong. Know that by having confidence in yourself, you’re building your own identity as a mum as well as your own idea of YOU.
Appreciate the fact that you are a mum now, and embrace all the positives that it brings. You might not have time for Pushkin any more (if you did before, I salute you) or stomping through quite as many shops/art galleries/wildernesses as your pre-baby self, but maybe that’s ok.
Once you’ve got into the swing of parenting, you’ll carve out the time to fit in some of that again, but maybe it’s alright if you now spend more time doing mum & baby pilates than hot yoga, or waving your hands in the air at baby music classes than in a superclub.
After all, think of all the other great things that little person brings you too.
Remember: Old Self + Mamahood = YOU.