Being a first time mum is hard work. We didn’t know much about babies when we had Madeleine, so our transition into parenthood was a bit bumpy! We didn’t give much thought into what would happen after I gave birth. Now that we’ve been through it all, I have a better idea of what’s really needed and what I don’t need! Here’s what I wish I had known:
1. Bin the birth plan, have a post-partum plan: A birth plan did not work with us. It is so hard to predict what’s going to happen. When I realized I overestimated my abilities to handle my contractions, the birth plan that took us four weeks to perfect, flew out the window. Most of the time, things don’t go to plan. Birth is such a small part of motherhood, for most of us, it’s often only one day, what really matters is what happens after birth. Having a post-partum plan, makes the transition into parenthood easier to control and changes can be discussed to suit both of you as new parents.
2. Not every mother is able to breastfeed. Breastfeeding doesn’t just happen, it is a skill learnt by both mother and baby. It is painful, and sometimes you’ll want to give up (like I did, read about it here), give it your best shot and if it doesn’t work, we are so lucky that in our time period, we have formula available. Fed is best, as long as your baby is healthy and growing, that is what matters.
3. Becoming parents will affect your relationship. It will take a while for you to heal (unless you are super lucky like some), so intimacy may not happen for a long while. Things will be stressful to begin with until you both find your ‘groove’ as new parents. Dates will be different and rare. Text messages will be short and to the point. As long as you support each other through parenthood and accept that your relationship will be different, then it’ll be ok.
4. Day 5 (five days after birth) is stressful – this was the day my milk came through. I found this day particularly hard because my daughter didn’t latch on as my breasts were so full of milk. I recall being a complete mess. The nurses did tell me that this day could be the worst before things started to look up. So we said no to visitors on this day!
5. Trust your own instincts. There will be plenty of advice given by many people surrounding you. Some will be helpful and some will annoy you. Do what you think is best for your baby.
6. Budget and plan your finances – In Australia, we are incredibly lucky to be provided with paid maternity leave of up to 16 weeks, so we had to work out our finances for the next 8 months. You won’t be going back to work straight after you give birth, so make sure you budget your savings and plan how expenses and bills will be covered during your leave. It took me 6 weeks before I was “completely healed”.
7. Enjoy maternity leave – if you are lucky enough to be able to have time off work, enjoy motherhood. Don’t make big plans like reorganizing your wardrobe, or repainting the house. Being a mum can be hard and keeps you busy (especially in the early days), so you don’t want any added stress to your workload.
8. Let go of the mum guilt – this was a hard one for me. It took me 9 months before I was comfortable leaving the baby to go out. But always remember a happy mum means a happy baby (and a happy husband). It’s important to take time out for yourself so that you can recharge your battery!
9. Don’t compare your baby’s sleep with other babies. Don’t listen to the mums that brag about their baby sleeping through the night. Every baby is different and they go through different milestones at different times. Madeleine use to sleep through the night but went back to waking up several times due to teething. Their sleeping patterns vary so much that it’s impossible to compare it to another baby and just because they sleep through the night, it doesn’t mean it’ll last! It is normal for them to wake up during the night.
10. Post-partum depression does happen. If you haven’t read about my experience with settling into motherhood, you can read about it here. This can happen to anyone, it is important to be aware and know the signs.
11. You don’t need everything. Because it’s your first baby, you’ll want to buy everything on the market. You won’t need it all, it’s important to budget and spend wisely only buying essential items. Read reviews before buying to consider what’s necessary.
12. CIO (crying it out) is not the only method of sleep training. Although many books I’ve read, swear by the CIO method, this did not work with Madeleine. We tried this at 7 months and we ended up with a baby that vomited from crying for an hour straight and a very stressed out mum! We tried the Ferber method, and going back in after a certain time, seemed to “tease” her even more which resulted in more crying. So we tried the “pick up and put down” method which was a more gentle technique and this worked! The most important thing is to consider all options. One might work for one baby but won’t work for another!