It's been a steep but fascinating learning curve over the last 11 weeks. From recovering from a C section, to seeing far more of 4am than I ever have, to learning that basic hygiene or peeing is now a luxury, to a Friday night dash to A&E with little man being treated for potential meningitis, I've learned so much and picked up a few hacks along the way. If you are an organisational nerd like I am you will almost get a sick kind of satisfation out of the challenge that is parenthood at times.
Everyone's parenting experience will be different, but here's a few of things that both Lee and I have learnt so far....
The 3rd day tears are no myth. The hormones will hit you like a train - but sometimes it makes you feel a bit better to have a big old cry. In my case it was really needed once the autopilot and adrenalin from Jack’s birth wore off and they do say that crying is actually good for you as the stress hormones are released when you do, so savour it as theraputic and have a good old blub. Regardless of how easy or hard your labour turns out to be, your body has still been through something enormous and life changing, and it can be a shock to the system.
Boots reusable breast pads are LIFE. Without them my nipples would be in a constant state of pain from being post-pump sore and grazing against my bra. (Even reading that back is toe-curling). Thank GOD for Lansinoh nipple cream.
How monstrous boobs full of milk can be (think Rose Byrne in Bad Neighbours, the horror). At the peak of my milk production, if I didn't pump overnight, mine were monstrous - akin to a terrifying Hollywood-style boob job, and as hard as rocks. Don't get me started on the leaking either - another reason to have the breast pads at the ready!
Having an Amazon Prime account is your saviour- next day delivery of everything from bottles, to dummies, to breast pumps to this week's purchase of a "Nasal Aspirator" (basically something to suck snot out of your baby's nose, oh yes, dignity is truly dead).
Owning a tumble dryer is a serious advantage, especially with winter babies. You will not believe the volume of washing you will do on a daily basis until you are suffocating under a mountain of it.
Breast feeding/expressing is dehydrating AF - I actually thought I was growing scales for the first few weeks and my hands have never been dryer from all the washing of bottles and breast pumps - Palmer's Cocoa Butter hand cream is a must, but even that hasn't saved my hands - my iphone currently doesn't recognise my fingerprints properly, they are so dry!
Those of you with long hair, tie it back when feeding unless you want vomit in it - another one of life's cruel lessons I learnt the hard way.
Your life is no longer in your control. When you leave the house get yourself ready first because if you don’t, your little person will shit then vomit just as you want to leave (or projectile poo across the living room as Jack did the other day). Accept that this will happen and that people will understand if you’re late and if you turn up with vomit in your hair. This little monster dictates.
Being covered in bodily fluids is the new vogue. You will get vomited on then forget and put the same top on the next day and only realise when you are out - the pitfalls of not enough sleep. (Little people also always seem to know when something has been freshly dry cleaned). Last week I looked down at my leg to find poo on my pyjamas - I still have absolutely no idea how it got there. FML.
Eating or doing basic things together (certainly in the early days at least) is a struggle. In fact, finding the time to eat at all can be tough, but make sure you do, you'll need all the energy you can get, especially if you aren't sleeping and are breast feeding/pumping.
Nothing you do now will be uninterrupted - even going to the toilet alone is no longer sacred. There is nothing weirder than your son looking you dead in the eye as you poo-leave your pride at the door, people.
No matter how much you feel like you need a break from these little imps, you will always miss them when you are apart. Lee and I have been lucky enough to have a couple of date nights already, and lovely as they have been, by the end we are always itching to get home to our little man.
Time passes so quickly (even during night feeds). I still don't quite now how I got through the newborn stage, and everyone says it to you, but you do, and you will. Your inner monologue and thoughts in general may run far slower than before, but the fog does lift, and you don't feel so sluggish and broken forever, I promise.
Sleeping when the baby sleeps is frankly ridiculous advice - when else do you get anything else done?! I understand the sentiment behind this at night but any other time I just found it impossible - Jack always seemed to wake up just as I tried to nap.
Being organised is key. Having the nappy bag stocked at all times with spare clothes, a feed (if relevant), bibs, muslins, wipes nappies, dummies, hand gel etc etc means you can fling it over your shoulder at any point and get out of the door more quickly. I've also found always having a few changes of clothes by the changing station really helps, as well as strategic bibs and muslins scattered around the house at all times. Tiny things like that take moments to set up but keep you sane and mean you are always prepared.
The poddle pod - this little mattress (much like the Sleepyhead but a cheaper version) is a wonder for settling little babies making them feel cuddled, and therefore easier to put down while you frantically run around trying to make use of five minutes here or there to get things done.
Dummies - some people are super anti the use of dummies for various reasons. I never was and stocked up in advance of Jack's arrival just in case. If it means a few minutes peace, I don't personally see what the problem is. We have found the MAM glow in the dark dummies to be the best (great for when you are fumbling around for them at 4am) and have found that around 9/10 dummies in constant circulation are needed, along with the little clips on a string so they don't constantly end up on the floor.
It is amazing how many things I can now do with just one hand (behave) or a baby over my shoulder - your ability to adapt and multi-task on a whole new level is incredible.
It is also incredible how little sleep you can survive on - admittedly I think we have rather a good sleeper in Jack, but the human body is super adaptable, and I have had some nights recently where I have barely slept more than an hour and felt surpisingly ok the next day - God knows how.
We have learnt more than ever, the true meaning of what it is to be a team - trying to do everything together when you have a child simply does not work. You have to tag team it and take turns to let the other one sleep or you will kill eachother/crumple into a tearful heap on the floor.
You can never have too many muslins or (if you are bottle feeding,) bibs. You will never, ever have enough. They seem to just disappear despite the fact you had a drawer full only a matter of hours ago, especially if you have a bit of a pukey baby like we do. The bigger the muslins are the better - more surface area to protect from vomit - a lesson we learnt the hard way after having to strip off our entire sofa and wash it, only for it to be instantly covered in vomit again. Sigh.
You can also never have enough nappies, cotton wool balls, wet wipes (Huggies wipes are currently on offer at £1 a pack pretty much everywhere and Pampers premium nappies are also super cheap in Tesco right now), washing powder or washing up liquid. Always bulk buy just in case you can't get out of the house!
The Pumping bra - a life-changing feat of genius engineering - you would not believe the happiness having my hands free while pumping gave me.
You might spend that first few weeks feeling like you are totally winging it but we all feel that way, and it is surprising how quickly you begin to trust your instincts and have confidence in knowing your child. There will always people who will try to tell you how to parent (the stranger who tried to tell me how to hold my son last week particularly riled me) but they do not know your child like you do, so have faith in that. I just ignore or politely tell them he is fine whilst bubbling with rage internally.
Your perspective on life really does change. Now that I am recovering from the trauma of my experiences, I am feeling like a boss for having got through childbirth and have a huge respect for the NHS and those who work within it. There are some truly incredible and talented people - midwives and paediatric doctors/nurses are a special breed of incredible people all their own) and it can leave you pondering your own life and career path, but I'm not sure I could hack working in the medical profession in reality!
Take all the help you can - do not feel too proud or under pressure to be able to do it all - they say it takes a village to raise a child for bloody good reason and I definitely would not be in the happy, confident position I am if I hadn't been so well supported by family and friends during the early days.
Be less afraid to say no - if it isn't a convenient time, or someone has overstayed their welcome and you need to go to bed, tell them. You have to put yourself and your little one first now and people will understand.
Accepting that not every day will be full of wins is important. This is something Lee still has to remind me of. Some days will literally be you in your pjs, covered in vomit, feeling vile and going from one feed and nappy change to another. Try to remember that this doesn’t mean you have achieved nothing, you’re keeping another human being alive, that’s massive.
Breast feeding pressure is real. Although the RCM have officially revised their attitudes to it it’s still there. Find what works for you. I mainly pump breast milk and bottle feed Jack that way. There is always more than one option, and just because it isn't necessarily the way everyone else goes, it doesn't make it wrong. Stand your ground and do what works for you, because if you aren’t happy your baby won’t be, so be kind to yourself.
Nothing can ever prepare you for the amazing feeling you get when your little person begins to interact - the smiles and the chatting are incredible - the power these little people have over us is immense and they change so fast, so savour it all. 💙
I have no doubt that the next few months, the next few years, the next few decades even, will bring me countless lessons, both about my abilities as a parent, and as a woman. My experiences so far have linked in so well with the reasons I set up this blog - as a means of sharing my insecurities about stepping outside of my comfort zone in a bid to help and inspire others to do the same. Has motherhood been a step outside of my comfort zone? You bet your arse it has. But it has been my very favourite one so far, and I think it might just be my greatest accomplishment yet.