When you’re pregnant, the obsession with reading and listening to everything and anything to do with pregnancy, birth or being a parent starts (believe me). Months pass spending fair amounts of pennies on magazines and hoarding them in cupboards; with every intention of coming back to that article on ‘How To Introduce Healthy Sleeping Habits From Day One’ but that you never have the time to once your won’t-sleep-for-anything “bundle of joy” is here. You soon realise that there is so much information and advice out there that it becomes so overwhelming. What do you listen to? Do you take any of it on board?
The majority of this advice comes from friends and relatives and you know they’re being nice but you can’t help beginning to think, are they genuinely concerned or are they just being overbearing? But no, one year on and I now have more sense than I did back then. They have been through it before. Listen to them. They have had babies themselves and nine times out of ten, successfully brought that child up! They know what they are talking about!
So here are six pieces of advice I wish I had listened to. Now that it is too late to do anything about it where Ivy is concerned. Please learn from my mistakes, I know I will.
- Let people help more. I have pride. Stupid pride that stops me from accepting when I need help. I always feel like if I have to admit it then I am somehow letting myself down. In those early days I would work myself up if I couldn’t breastfeed, eat and mop the kitchen floor all at the same time. I wasn’t Wonder Woman. But who is? Now when I’m having a bad day, I will accept all the help I can get. There’s nothing like a plate full of spaghetti flying across the table and hitting you in the face to snuff that pride right out. I know now that Ivy wouldn’t have loved me any less if I had handed her off to someone else for an hour or two in those early days.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. I know this one is debated about a lot because sometimes it is unrealistic. When the baby is finally asleep, there are so many other things on the never-ending to do list that you then have the opportunity to cross a few things off. But sometimes when you’re at the end of your tether and it’s sleep vs the pile of dishes in the sink, then sleep needs to win out to enable you to keep your sanity (well as much sanity as you can possibly cling on to).
- Don’t worry so much and just enjoy them. I have always been quite a laid back person but I think being a new mum can send anyone over the edge. I became such a worrier. I worried about every little thing that could possibly go wrong. I was the mother who was constantly checking if my baby was breathing (also why I never got any darn sleep). So when I look back now I really wish I had taken a step back just a little and really enjoyed those early days of being a new mum to my gorgeous baby girl.
- Don’t buy loads of baby clothes. We were so very lucky to have a lot of friends and family buy Ivy so many clothes when she was born. So many in fact that I actually didn’t need to buy anything! I bought little outfits and dresses that she just never got the wear out of because believe me, they live in sleepsuits. I’d choose pulling a poo soaked sleepsuit off (that is made for such events) rather than trying to pull a tiny little top over their tiny perfect little heads and smearing poop all over them and you. Also socks. We had so many socks and we never used them, not even once.
- Take care of yourself more. I always forgot to eat and even worse I always forgot to drink water as well. So by taking care of yourself I don’t just mean making sure you have time to yourself in the bath. I actually mean making sure you look after your health and well-being because an exhausted, hungry and thirsty human being can’t give everything they’ve got to a tiny newborn baby. Get your partner or someone to make sure you always have a glass of water nearby or have them on hand to make you a sandwich when you really need it. This goes hand in hand with number 1. Let them help!
- Stick to your no-visitors rule. When Ivy was born and we announced her birth I asked if people wouldn’t mind giving us a few days to settle in as a new family. But then the guilt started to hit me and I felt guilty denying my family and friends the pleasure of Ivy’s addictive newborn smell! Then the visitors started, sometimes 3 visitors a day and it went on for longer than 3-4 weeks. And the whole ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice went out of the window. It all got a bit too much, especially as I was recovering from a cesarean as well (which inevitably got infected, go figure. See this blog post for those lovely details). Now if we have another baby, I will definitely be sticking to this rule. I know now that my family and friends will completely understand. And when the visits do start I also know that they’re there to see the baby so it’s the perfect excuse to escape for a power nap or to get them to help with the pile of dishes!