Newborns don’t arrive with an instruction manual, unfortunately! So much of learning how to care for them is about being thrown in the deep end and just figuring it out on the job. Of course maternal instincts come into play, but it’s also about having to get over our new mum jitters about caring for someone so delicate and fragile.
Here are some of the unnerving things new mothers have to face that initiate us into motherhood.
1. The first time you go to cut your newborn’s fingernails
The moment you first hold up those baby fingernail clippers and your teeny-tiny little one’s hands, is also the moment you instinctively put her fingers in your mouth and gently gnaw her fingernails down. Nail clippers are just scary and the thought of nipping your precious little one’s digits will give any new mum the jitters. Nowadays, I can cut by boys’ nails with them sitting on my lap without skipping a beat.
2. The first time you bathe your slippery baby
Where’s the ‘Slippery when wet!’ warning sticker that comes with the baby bath? Newborns are so delicate and the first time you dip him in water, you’ll wish you were an octopus. There just aren’t enough arms to hold him securely while gently stroking his pink slippery little body with a muslin cloth. Then, the first time you go to wash his fuzzy hair brings on another round of fear – “What if I get shampoo in his eyes?!”
3. Changing your newborn’s nappy with an umbilical cord
Why don’t newborn nappies come with a little hole to accommodate that icky umbilical cord stump that’s yet to fall off? I remember being full of angst as I tried to carefully fold down my itty-bitty baby’s nappy so as not to bump his drying black belly button off.
4. The first drive with your precious cargo
For most dads this is the drive home from the hospital, but for mums the first time when we get behind the wheel with our newborn strapped into the car capsule is some time later. I remember it took until my husband had to return to work before I mustered up the courage to drive my baby to my parents’ house for a visit. Even then, I think I checked I’d buckled him in correctly at least 10 times before we pulled out of the driveway.
5. Breastfeeding in public for the first time
Kudos to the mum who can just whip out her nipple, sans covering and breastfeed her baby in public without even noticing if someone is sitting next to her, but I wasn’t one of them – at first. I remember fumbling with wraps and trying to be ‘discreet’ about doing the most natural thing on earth the first few times I breastfed in public. Fast forward a few months and I was feeding my baby on the go without a concern for where or who I was with. I also discovered breastfeeding singlets which I could wear under a loose-fitting top as I never mastered feeding with a wrap.
6. Cleaning your newborn’s eyes of discharge
When I first spotted gunk in my newborn’s eyes and retrieved the special ‘eye wipes’ I’d bought in preparation for this very moment, I remember having the shakes as I wiped centimetres from the discharge out of fear I’d blind my baby for life! These days if my boys have sleep in their eyes, it’s a simple, “I’m just cleaning your face – there you go” wipe of a washer. Oh how far we’ve come!
7. The first time you leave your baby with someone else
Even if it’s his dad and you’re just dashing to the shops to grab some milk, the first time you leave your baby in the arms of someone else can feel like you are missing a limb. It just doesn’t sit well with you and you feel so uneasy. So much so that if you’re breastfeeding, your boobs will likely start to let down as you think about your baby starving with hunger, only to return to find her in the exact same sleeping position you left her in.
8. First poo explosion when out
Ah, the poo avalanche! This is the type of poo that only a newborn can deliver that just keeps coming until it spills out of the nappy and destroys whatever cute outfit you have your baby dressed in. It’s particularly unnerving though when you can feel the rumbles of one coming while at the shops and you have to madly dash to the parents’ room. If you make it, good for you. If you don’t, you better hope you packed a change of clothes as well as nappies and wipes.
9. Leaving bub without the boob
Even if it’s just to grab an ingredient for dinner, leaving your little milk junkie without access to his boobie fix can bring out the panic stations in not only your baby, but you, your partner or whoever you’ve left him with as well. I remember fearing there would be a terrible traffic accident if I left the house for 10 minutes and that I wouldn’t be able to get back to my baby. That was before I discovered the reassuring power of leaving him with a little tin of formula. Not that we ever had to use it, but it was good to have in the pantry for ‘just in case’.