The glossy magazines, the conversations with your midwife, the NCT course, the happy purchasing of the baby essentials, and the pregnancy bubble you may be in, all build a perfect picture of what life will be like when your newborn arrives. However they couldn’t be further from the truth, nothing will actually fully prepare you for the tidal wave that will hit you once your baby arrives. So here it is, from the horses mouth, how it actually is once you have a newborn baby in your arms. This isn’t scaremongering, it is the reality of being a parent for the first time.
I’ve been there twice and following the birth of both of my children, I felt exactly the same. Obviously less so with my second, but the same feelings of being hit by a bus returned.
It’s so hard. It will be the hardest thing you do in your whole life; that is raising a child and looking after a newborn baby that you have no idea what to do with.
The minute you return from hospital will feel like a very odd experience. Just like when you return home after a really long holiday, everything feels a little strange, the house is cold, quiet and unfamiliar, only this time you have a newborn sleeping peacefully in car seat on the kitchen floor. You will wonder what to do, and consider all the millions things you do need to do, and panic about them, feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of having a small human to look after.
The first few days will pass by in a blur of feeding, rocking, worrying and trying to sleep. You’ll be lucky if you find the time to squeeze in a quick shower. But don’t worry this is all totally normal.
If you’re breastfeeding this is all you will do in the early days, and it will feel like every inch of your time and energy is dedicated to feeding a baby. Enjoy this time. Pull up that drawbridge and really get to know your baby. Remember that spending time with your baby is one of the ways to encourage breastfeeding, although you may feel that you want to escape from your baby. But use this an opportunity to spend days in your PJs, in bed, with Netflix on in the background. When else will you get the chance to do this?
You may also find that it hurts as your nipples adjust to a baby’s latch and constantly being in their mouth. Trust me after about 6 weeks (hopefully less) the pain should pass.
Sleep will feel like a distant memory. You may have had a difficult birth or a really long labour, and spent hours or days awake. You will never truly know what sleep exhaustion and being deprived of sleep really feels like until you have a newborn baby. You may be lucky and have a baby that sleeps for long stretches at a time, but wait until they hit the four month sleep regression and that will all change. Be prepared for little sleep.
The worry and ‘what ifs’ you experience will be crazy. You will find yourself googling like mad often in the early hours of the morning. You’ll be searching things like:
Why does my baby feed all night?
Will I ever sleep again?
How often should a newborn baby feed?
Why does my baby cry for hours?
What is reflux?
The list goes on and on, and you’ll drive yourself mad for constantly searching Google, Babycentre and Mumsnet for the answers.
Whilst your in the cycle or constant feeding and trying to get your baby to sleep, you’ll feel determined to step off the hamster wheel and venture out into the outside world, taking your baby out for their first walk in the pram. You may feel absolutely fine to do this or you may be gritting your teeth through the pain from stitches or a c-section wound.
As a first time parent I was absolutely desperate to get out of the house, almost like I had something to prove and the need to show-off my baby. Second time round I loved being at home, being in bed and recovering. Your recovery is so important as well as taking things slow.
You mind will be telling you that you need to do all the things. But actually you need to stop.
Lastly you will start to feel all kinds of mum-guilt. You’ll be worried about giving a bottle, worried about breastfeeding and if you need to add a bottle of formula, worried about formula feeding and worried that you are not doing enough with you baby. This list of mum-guilt feelings goes on and on, and doesn’t ever stop.
That is the reality or the dark side of looking after a newborn baby. Trust me it’s not all bad. Having a baby is a wonderful thing, they bring so much joy to your life, you just may not feel it or feel that love at first. But it will come.
You will get to a stage where eventually everything clicks and starts to fall into place, and you see a light at the end of the tunnel. It may take time, but that’s what the fourth trimester is all about. Don’t rush it as you’ll soon be dealing with the next challenge. You will look back at this time and it will feel like a distant memory.
If you can take one thing away from this, remember that you’re doing great. It may seem like the biggest hurdle you’ve ever faced, and you may not yet feel like supermum, but you are doing great!
All that your baby needs is you.