When I first became a Mum, all those hazy 9 weeks ago, I realised that there were a few things about having a newborn that no one ever prepared you for. Both practical and emotional things that make you do a mental double take. Here’s my list of those Newborn What-Nows?! that you won’t find in any newborn know-how books…
1. Your baby hates you
That’s not true. But it feels that way. All that stuff about talking to your baby in the womb so they recognise your voice and giving them soft toys with your smell on them to comfort them… they haven’t got the foggiest who you are and really don’t care, especially in that first couple of weeks, they hate this alien world and everything in it. Including you.
2. You’ll have your boobs out. All. The. Time.
You can buy that nice nightie for labour and more lovely pyjamas for those blissful first days curled up on the couch with your newborn. But the reality is all of your dignity and any sense of style goes out the window at that first contraction, and you’re actually a tired and dirty mess camped out in the bedroom for those first few days. Having a baby is a very raw experience, and your bits and pieces being on show is absolutely the last thing on your mind.
If you’re breastfeeding, this continues indefinitely. During my overnight stay in hospital everyone got a good eyeful of my boobs, from the Midwife to the cleaner and everyone in between. And I didn’t even care, just like I still don’t care nine weeks on, although I’ve had enough rest now to at least dress myself and not have them permanently hanging out of a badly buttoned up nightie.
3. What’s his name again?
If, like us, you don’t know if you’re having a girl or a boy, and you’ve not been calling the bump by a name, don’t expect the baby’s chosen name to start rolling off the tongue straight away.
I regularly referred to Max as ‘her’ or ‘it’ for a while, feeling awful and correcting myself immediately obviously. Or there would be a clear pause mid-sentence while I tried to remember what we’d named him. He was also known as Lucas or Jake for a while, still is sometimes, as my nephew and my friend’s baby names came out more naturally than my own sons due to having a few weeks more practice.
But it’s ok, I got a Christmas gift to help me remember…
4. You may have a baby physically attached to you for the next 18 years.
Again, you won’t, this is an exaggeration. However do be aware that you can buy all the moses baskets, bouncers and sleep pods that you like, if baby doesn’t want to sleep in it, baby won’t sleep in it. They only want to sleep on you. And remember, if they’re asleep on you, you’re not sleeping at all.
We had a hand-me-down moses basket for Max, while my friends who were expecting at a similar time to me were investing in Sleepyheads and Chicco Next To Me cribs. ‘We don’t need that’, I said. ‘Let’s save money and use the moses basket’, I said.
After three nights of newborn Max refusing to go near the moses basket and only falling asleep on our chests all day and night (hence shift work through the night to stay awake with him), I’d changed my mind. I remember saying something like ‘I don’t care how much it costs, buy the f*cking Sleepyhead’.
Best money we ever spent.
Max now sleeps in a Sleepyhead in a Next To me crib and has done since the first day we put him in it. Look at him now, he loves it…
If we hadn’t taken the plunge I could honestly see my 50 year old husband, awake at 2am with a 20 year old Max face planting his chest in our bed.
5. Baby cries all sound the same
I fully expected to spend those first two blissful weeks of new motherhood cosied up at home with my new baby and my husband, learning the difference between every cry and, as his Mum, instantly knowing that the high pitch scream means he’s hungry and the grunts mean that he needs a fart.
After all, that’s what I’d been led to believe would happen by everything I’d read and every Mother I’d ever seen who instinctively knew what was wrong with their child and instantly fixed it.
All of Max’s cries sound the same. High pitched and loud. The grunts would have you think I’m sleeping next to a fully grown pig, and while it sounds like he’s trying to push out a mammoth poo it’s actually a bottle or a boob in his mouth which stopped that noise. One time anyway, the next time it was something different.
Every cry signals the start of a frantic dash to work out what is wrong; is he hungry, is he dirty, is he tired, does he have wind (every older family member’s favourite, ‘ooh he’s got wind’). None of the above, so we resort to dummy in gob and mindless pacing and bouncing until he tires himself out and nods off.
6. Your instinct may not just ‘kick in’
To all those people who told me that instinct would take over and ‘I’d just know what to do’… you were wrong. I don’t know if it’s just my Mother’s instinct which malfunctioned but even now, I have no idea what I’m doing and it’s a mental challenge to work my way through every bit of this new job until it becomes second nature.
So if this happens to you, don’t panic, just because you don’t automatically know what to do doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be a Mum. I love Max with every inch of me and I know I’m going to be the best mum to him, even if I have to put some brain cells behind it.
7. You become less precious about personal hygiene
Because you have to. Because getting a shower becomes one of life’s little victories.
When you don’t have children it’s hard to imagine why it’s so difficult for new parents to get their shit together and leave the house before midday. But the struggle is real, I’m telling you.
Yesterday I was showered, dressed and out of the house with a fed, dressed and sleeping baby at 10.15am to meet a friend. I happy danced down the street, I was winning that day.
It totally depends on what time the baby wakes up, when they feed, how long they take to feed, whether they will be put down for 5 minutes to at least allow you time to have a wee and stick the steriliser on. All of this in your sleep deprived state, time flies and before you know it Loose Women is starting and the day is almost over.
Getting shit done when you have a newborn is tough, so don’t judge us, we’re just about surviving here.