In honour of my sister-in-law becoming a mother for the first time next week (we hope), I thought I would share the lessons I have learned about motherhood over the past two and a half years. I became a mother in 2014; my daughter is such a joy and I cannot imagine life without her. This said, being a mother is very hard work and there are things you only learn once you are in, head over heels. No ante-natal class, book or blog can prepare you for the adventure that is having a child for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I prepared well for our first born, attended the classes, did a lot of reading, listened to advice and made a list of everything, all of which made those first few weeks easier for us. However, some things you cannot prepare for. Here are a few tips or little nuggets of advice I would like to share with anyone who is willing to listen, and I am sure those of you who have been through this can relate as well:
1. Having a C-section is not the easy way out
I am going to be honest, I used to look at women who elected to have a C-section with some judgment and disapproval. Natural birth is called natural for a reason, right? I was determined to have the most natural birth and be super mom from day one, but nature had a different path in mind and I had an unplanned C-Section. It was quite a traumatic experience as I had to undergo anesthetics due to some complications. That was the worse case scenario for me, not being awake when my daughter was born. I cannot describe the pain I felt when I woke up, I was groggy and in so much pain that meeting my daughter for the first time is a blurry memory. Thus C-Section is not the easy way out, healing takes longer and you feel like the hunchback of Notre Dame for the first week when you walk, because standing up straight is a no-go zone.
2. Breast is best, but formula is okay too
I am still a firm believer in breastfeeding even though I was not able to (due to the shock of the unplanned C-section and aesthetics – my milk was gone faster than you could write breast is best). I was very hard on myself those first few weeks, using a breast pump to get a milliliter of milk for my daughter and feeling like a cow being milked for hours just to get a quarter of the milk she needed. I felt like a failure and felt that I was a bad mom for not providing the nutrients that nature intended. I joined a support group that is pro-breast feeding which made me feel even worse and more like a failure every time they encouraged me (with good intentions) to keep trying. I think the breaking point for me was when the one lady sent me a very long text that read “Letter to my mommy” this letter is supposedly from your baby thanking you for not giving up and giving them the best chance at life. After several rounds of medication, I still had nothing. I reached out to a fellow new mother who also struggling and decided to try formula. My baby was hungry and I was an emotional wreck, but after feeding her properly and feeling like a free range cow, I was able to be her mother and focus on bonding with my bundle of joy. I am still pro-breastfeeding and I am going to give it another try when we have another baby, but it will not consume my every waking moment again.
3. It is okay to cry… a lot
The first two weeks of being a new mom were very hard, I cried a lot. I cried about not having the perfect birth, not being able to breastfeed and just being tired. My mom always says that crying cleanses the soul and I believe that as a mom it is okay to cry; cry about being tired, cry when your baby is crying without reason, cry when you are happy to see your baby doing something for the first time or just cry because you can. Let those tears flow and clean your soul. It is okay.
4. Stop comparing your baby to other babies
My one friend and I were pregnant at the same time and our children are only 6 weeks apart. In the beginning, it was hard not to compare her son’s progress with my daughter’s. I felt that my daughter was behind when she did not do something more or less the same time that he did. If this sounds like you; STOP! Babies develop at their own pace, this was the first hard lesson I had to learn, I had to let my daughter be who she was and develop her skills when she felt ready. I have also stopped reading those milestones emails I subscribed to. What a wonderful process it is to see her develop into her own little person with her own personality and likes/ dislikes. Once I stopped worrying about what she should be able to do and say in this phase, I realized and celebrated what she could already do and say and I am still amazed every day with what she comes up with.(Sidenote – some milestones are important and if you are worried that your child may be behind his/her developmental stage – go to the doctor – but don’t sweat the small stuff.)
5. Trust your gut
It sounds very idealistic that once you have your first child your mother instinct will kick in. What like some sort of button will be switched on and you will just know what to do? Yes, exactly! I don’t know anything about the science, but I know that my mother instinct has never let me down. I will be honest, sometimes I was a bit paranoid – but who isn’t? Every time, my daughter was sick as a baby, others (with good intentions) said that she was probably teething, but still, I felt in my gut that something was wrong and 9 out of 10 times when I eventually took her to the doctor she was ill and not just teething. Trust that feeling you have inside.
Before I start losing your attention, come back next week for Part 2…
” Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you”