As of 8.25am this morning, our little Max is exactly 12 weeks old. It’s hard for me to get my head around it as I can remember his dramatic entrance like it was yesterday, and the changes in our little baby in 12 short weeks are just as dramatic.
Twelve weeks is the magic number that all of my Mum friends quoted as ‘when it gets easier’ as I was in the deepest darkest depths of newborn hell. I’m not sure exactly what’s supposed to change but truth is, it’s already easier and it gets a little easier every day in some ways and a little harder every day in other ways. That’s life from now on I think!
Life has turned upside down and it’s been a crash course in this new role of motherhood, so in honour of this milestone date, here’s a few words to myself on 12 things I’ve learnt so far about being Mum (and this is just the tip of the iceberg)…
1. Life becomes a list of priorities
IF baby naps and you have the good fortune of the occasional nap taking place somewhere other than on your chest, you need to make the most of it. You could have 45 minutes hands free, you could have 5 minutes, so you’ve got to prioritise your to-do list and claim each one as a little victory as you tick it off. So choose wisely, is it more important to wash the dishes or take a shower? Because you might not be able to do both. Or you could go into a zombie-like state while watching the Kardashians and tell your husband that the baby hasn’t napped all day.
I’ve never done that. Honest.
2. We can survive on cold coffee and no sleep. Just.
Pregnancy is nine months of worrying mostly about how you will ever function on less than 8 hours sleep, and telling anyone who’ll listen that this is indeed your biggest fear.
Well you just do. You have no other choice, although it’s clear why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture and the exhaustion can really cause hallucinations. My first night home with Max I asked my husband in a panic where the rest of the baby was. I have no idea why or how I thought we’d split our baby up and shared him with my Dad to look after, but I did, because exhaustion said so.
But hey, I’m still here, Max is alive and well, and it turns out our minds and bodies are more resiliant and impressive than we give them credit for. And cold coffee is still coffee, so drink it, feel the buzz and get on with it.
3. You love your husband more than ever.
He’s adorable with the baby, he changes nappies, winds like a ninja and when he offers to do a mid-week night feed you remember why you married him.
4. You hate your husband more than ever.
He sleeps through every noise in the night (suspiciously well), he yawns non-stop despite a glorious 8 hour sleep, he has a new air of smugness since he clocked that going to work is actually a break and he seems to think I’ve done this before, judging by the amount of questions he asks me. Read a book for God’s sake, or at least Google it yourself instead of expecting me to do it.
5. You fall straight to bottom of the list.
That list of priorities I mentioned? Basically anything that benefits you and you alone is automatically right at the bottom of that list. But you don’t mind, you choose to put yourself last because actually, having painted nails and freshly washed hair isn’t all that important. I naively thought this wouldn’t happen and I’d be able to juggle it all and not let go of that little luxury of personal hygiene, but the reality is that I’d do anything for Max and that takes up approximately 95% of my time. It’s a full time job this Mum lark.
6. Our bodies are amazing…
Fast, slow, pushed, lifted, drugged up or meds-free… giving birth (and the periods before and after) is f@*king tough. It’s difficult to believe it’s a ‘natural’ process and that we haven’t evolved to make it easier on our bodies and the baby.
But it’s a stark reminder that the human body can do some amazing things and recover to an incredible extent. I think we’re so much more fragile mentally than physically, and for me Max’s birth and my personal experience and recovery is testament to that.
So Mums-to-be, don’t be scared, your body knows what it’s doing even if you don’t .
7. …But they’re not unbreakable.
As I found when Max was 10 weeks old and I put my back out in quite a bad way. I’ve suffered with back issues for my entire adult life and knew pretty early on after having Max that it wasn’t going to last long. But I ignorantly carried on as normal, lifting, bending, ignoring my appalling posture and zero core strength while bouncing Max for hours on end.
Basically I didn’t take enough care of myself and I broke. And those two weeks of not being able to lift Max or even be on my own with him were hell. I would have done anything to do a night feed at that point.
Now I’m on the mend but, with Mummy duties back in full swing, I’m not looking after it as much as I know I should. But it made me realise how strong yet fragile our bodies and minds are. So look after yourselves Mamas, because we’re no good to anyone when we’re not in good working order!
Whether it’s practical or emotional, no matter how trivial it may seem, if you’re struggling with something, don’t be a hero, tell someone and ask for help.
I’m proud to say I’ve done this since having Max, and as a pretty independent girl it’s been difficult at times but it’s saved my sanity and – excuse the dramatics – Max’s life.
I asked a Doctor to look at something I was concerned about, something so small I was worried about looking like a paranoid parent. But that request for help resulted in a four night hospital stay to pump my 10 day old son full of antibiotics to clear up an infection which was potentially life threatening to such a small baby.
One morning I was just so exhausted I had to ask my Mother In Law to come over for an hour so I could get some sleep. That hour made all the difference.
I’ve spent hours on WhatsApp asking my fellow night feeding mums 101 questions.
The list is endless but if you don’t ask you don’t get, and it turns out that being a Mummy doesn’t have to be a one woman job!
9. Your social circle will change and that’s ok.
In the best and worst ways, I’ve found this out for myself.
Friends I haven’t been close to in years, friends who I thought were work acquaintances, friends who are Mums and friends who aren’t… it’s been amazing to build relationships with these people, who are willing and happy to help and support, and who are genuinely interested in my son and our well being. My social circle has become so much tighter and stronger since having Max, and I have warm and fuzzy feelings about all of those people who are in it.
On the flip side, there are a couple of friends who I thought were closer to me than anyone, who have changed our relationship after showing little to no interest in Max, from the moment I fell pregnant to this very day. It’s really sad but hey, I come as a package now, so if you care about me you have to care about my son.
10. Judging people is a fools game.
We all have opinions on how people live their lives and in particular how people parent, but be cool and keep it to yourself. Because that opinion will bite you on the arse when you’re shoving a dummy in the baby’s mouth or dragging them into your bed at 3am after yet another night of no sleep.
Also, it’s just not nice. So show your support by keeping positive or keeping schtum, we’re all just doing what we gotta do!
11. Slow down.
Because time speeds up once your baby is growing in front of your eyes, so you learn to slow down and make the most of every minute. If that means all you do in an entire day is sit on the couch and feed the baby, then that’s what you do, enjoy it.
Gone are the days of getting up and out and cramming a million things into a super-productive day, so take it easy, prioritise and let baby set the pace.
Accept it and embrace it. Your home will change, your body will change and your relationships will change. But your house will become a home, your body will bear the war wounds of your proudest achievement and your network will become stronger and more precious.
You will forever worry, from the noises he makes in his sleep, to the colour of his poo, to the girls he eventually dates (not happening, Max), to his whereabouts on a Saturday night.
Life has changed and there’s no going back. But then again, why would I want to?!