A plea to new mothers from a mum who learned the hard way

Mum with baby close up

Hey Mama,

I’m reaching out to you because I wanted to tell you a few things that I wish someone had told me when I first became a mother. Although it was many, many years ago now, I still remember those early days, weeks and months just like they were yesterday. I remember the internal conflict that alternated between me feeling like I had everything under control and then the next minute feeling completely at the mercy of this tiny human I was still getting to know. So here’s a few words of wisdom, from someone who has been through the newborn phase four times now.

Stop watching the clock and tracking sleep

I know how easy it is to get caught up with counting the minutes that your little one sleeps. Now that I am on the other side of it all, I can tell you right now that it doesn’t do you any favours. It’s almost as though we live in a sleep-obsessed world where recording, tracking and timing things has become such an engrained habit. Do yourself and your baby a favour and throw the clock out. Tune out the “shoulds” of what your little one is doing and tune into them, instead.

Quit wasting hours of the day rocking and pacing

When you become a mother for the first time, nothing at all can prepare you for the sleep deprivation that comes. I remember the feeling of desperation as I grasped at chances for sleep like it was oxygen, and I felt like I was consumed with treading water to stay afloat. I would spend literally hours and hours rocking and pacing the hallways with my little one in an attempt to get them to sleep. Looking back now, that time could have been far better spent not trying so hard but surrendering, instead. Mama, trust that your little one will sleep. Trust that sleep will come. Put them in a sling, go for a walk or even just go and sit outside in the sunshine and try again later. Better yet, if your partner isn’t around, have a friend over and ask them to hold your wee one while you take a much-needed shower alone and take your time.

Babies feed off your emotions so if you’re stressed, they won’t settle

When you’re caught up in the blurry haze of newborn life, it’s easy to forget that babies actually feed off their mum’s emotions. If you’re feeling frazzled and exasperated, they’ll be feeling that too. I don’t know what it is but I’m convinced that there is some sort of unspoken baby law that every single time you need them to sleep, they won’t — but any time you’re happy for them to be awake they go to sleep for hours. What is with that?! I’m sure it comes down to the incredible powers that come from the Mama-Baby dyad bond.

Take the fourth trimester into account

Mama, allow yourself time to go slowly after your little one arrives. You both need time to work out your new rhythm and discover your own unique personalities. Familiarise yourself with the ‘fourth trimester’ and surrender to being your little one’s entire universe. There is both so much for you to learn and to discover, and there’s no rush. You will get there, I promise.

I am fairly convinced that when the universe handed you your first baby, you actually received the biggest lesson in ‘surrender’ that you’ll ever experience in your life time as a woman. Nothing on earth can prepare you for the strength, resilience, courage, determination, all-compassing love and devotion that will develop when when you become a mother. We are forever changed.

But that early newborn period can be such a shock to the system, as it jolts you from your preconceived notions of how things will be, into reality. And all your feelings are totally valid, whatever they may be.

My final words of wisdom in this plea to surrender is for you to go about your day, find things that you enjoy to fill in time and trust that somewhere along this process, your baby will sleep. Ask for help whenever you can and take it slowly and gently, one day at a time. You’ll work things out, the two of you — together. All will be well, and you’re doing just beautifully. I promise.

Love, a Mama who learned the hard way.

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