It seems when you embark on this new journey as a mother, advice will be offered at every step of the way. Whether it be your own mother, grandmother, a mother of three at the doctor's office, your colleague, or maybe even a stranger at the grocery store, advice will always be free flowing, welcomed or not. As much as it is all appreciated I find the advice doesn't always apply to modern day mamas, like us. I think back to when my mum was a young 27 and first time mum to my sister. She had friends, family, doctors, or books for advice, she couldn't just quickly go on her iPhone and Google like we do today. She needed that advice passed down and around from mother to mother.
Nowadays I feel we are a bit more closed off to these words of wisdom, because we as women have more of a voice, which can sometimes mean we think ours is the only voice worth listening to. I must admit I was not given much advice when I was first starting out. In my darkest hours I know I needed some, but didn't really know where to look. Recently I asked my mum why she didn't tell me to slow down in the beginning, instead of jumping right back into my 'normal' routine. She told me she knew I wouldn't listen and would just get upset, and she was probably right. I most likely would have been upset by her observation that I was rushing back into my pre-baby routine too fast, and that I knew what I was doing was right for me. Now looking back even if I would have been upset at the time, those words of wisdom would have possibly helped me make an easier transition.
At times it seems advice from past generations doesn't always hold the same merit as advice from today's mothers. Unfortunately our generation is a bit less open about giving advice and more open to giving criticism. In my own experience so far I feel there isn't much of a community of helpful advice being given from one mother to another. With that in mind, I wanted to reach out to some incredible modern day mamas who I admire so much. They give me daily inspiration to be a stronger mother, so I have asked them to share with us a token of wisdom from their experiences. Let's unite in this crazy, exhausting, incredible, love filled journey we call motherhood.
First off I wanted to share my own bit of advice that I wish I knew when I was starting this journey as Oslo's mum.
My second piece of advice that would have been invaluable to me is, don't feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking professional help in whatever form you need. I was in massive denial for the first month about the pain and struggle I was having with breastfeeding. I really assumed I was doing it correctly because the midwives at the hospital and the osteopath I went to see all said everything looked great. It wasn't until I was hit with mastitis, thrush, cracked nipples and my breaking point that James suggested we find a lactation consultant to help me. Within five minutes of her watching me breastfeed she could see the issues and fixed them right away. She did more than just help me successfully breastfeed for a year, she helped me connect even more to Oslo and helped me heaps in my postpartum recovery. It is so important to be aware of what you are struggling with whether it be physical or emotional and to seek the help you need.
I remember thinking that my body would never ever feel normal again after Oscar was born. It’s incredible what we go through as women. Pregnancy and childbirth, are massively physical things, and while I suspected there would be a recovery process in the aftermath of his arrival I didn’t quite realise the extent of it. I was induced and after a long labour, things concluded with me having an episiotomy and Oscar being born via forceps. Afterwards, over several weeks I healed well – but I remember six months on confessing to friends who had all recently had babies too, that I still didn’t feel back to normal down below. I wasn’t in any pain or anything, I guess I can best describe it as an uncomfortable weighing down kind of feeling. It was constantly there, but especially when walking. I was worried that I still felt this way all this time later. But it turned out that some of them felt it too. It was a relief for me to hear that this was just part of the recovery process. Though even after that reassurance I resigned myself to the fact that maybe I’d have the discomfort forever. Until one day out of the blue in the weeks that followed I suddenly realised that the feeling had gone. I couldn’t pin point when it had gone, but it had. Please know that if you experience this, it is normal and it will pass. And I guess the long and short of this little tale is when you have worries about anything like this, talk about it. Whether it’s to your friends, GP, your local midwifery team or your mum – just ask! Chances are something that’s worrying you, needn’t worry you at all.
After some thoughts I think my best advice is to ask for help, and be honest with the people around you. When Mac was first born I thought I had to do it all. I put so much pressure on myself. Breast feeding was a challenge, I was discharged from the hospital with cracked & bleeding nipples, and recovering from a c-section. The sleep deprivation was a complete shock! "Sleep when the baby is sleeping", advice is much easier to give than accept. I should have asked for help; watch him so I can go have a shower, watch him so I can have a nap, watch him so I can go get my haircut, etc. If we don't take care of ourselves, it's hard to take care of others. We have this idea that we need to be supermoms, and the perfectly crafted Instagram photos that now invade our lives make us feel inadequate. We have to learn to trust ourselves, and most of all, believe in ourselves. Women can be so hard on each other, especially when it comes to mothering. We need to support each other. Being a parent is tough! We will all make mistakes, we will lose our tempers, we will say things we regret, but we must move on. So to all new moms, and especially experienced moms in the trenches - ask for help!
(And if you plan to breastfeed, don't leave home without your Jack Newman all purpose nipple cream!)
The words "This too shall pass". Something to remind yourself when you're cluster feeding for days, or your tiny baby decides they no longer need sleep, or it's wind, teething, endless crying....the list goes on. I've found, as I was warned by other mama's, "it's all a phase". Even on the hardest of days, I remind myself "this WONT last forever", and sure enough, it never does. Stay calm, breathe and just let it be. I like to think that learning this pretty early on has made me a relaxed and confident mother and I really have enjoyed every single day with my boy, even the toughest ones.
Having a newborn is magical, but not as you imagine it might be. You've created a life, but you have greasy hair, it hurts to pee and walk (at the start, unless you are super lucky!), you live in a milk-stained nightie and you're more tired than you ever thought possible. It's magical, but not picture-perfect.
My new mummy advice is, sleep when baby sleeps.
I feel like I am learning lessons every day. It's true when they say your baby will be the one to teach you new things. So as I sit here as sick as a dog, in horrible pain with almost 2 months to go until our next son arrives, the best advice I can think of in this moment is that not everything goes the way you plan. No matter how well you plan. Your birth, your recovery, feeding, parenting, sleeping training... all of it. I quickly learned to embrace the "just roll with it" parenting attitude and I'll tell you, for the most part, it's working.
Another piece of advice is good old patience, patience, patience. Twice since babe number one was born I've lost my patience. It wasn't pretty, and it was the point where I literally threw my hands up in the air, walked out of the room and declared "I cant take this anymore!" (And of course, there were a lot of tears, because if you don't know already - new moms cry A LOT). I felt bad for taking out my lack of sleep on my toddler who was also cranky, teething, sleep-deprived and miserable, but those moments will happen. So try very hard to be patient and understand that your little one is new to the world and doesn't know how things work. They need you, for everything. You are their comfort, so be there to hug them when they cry and tell them everything will be okay. This kind of transitions into another piece of advice: the importance of talking to your little one. Seriously, talk to them as if they understand everything you are saying from day one (because they will). Baby talk is cute, but they are learning from the moment they are born. Listening to you, picking up on your cues, emotions, tones and gestures. It will save your sanity a little, or make you look crazy when you get caught having a one-way conversation. Oh and read to them - every. single. day.
Follow your instincts. Never be afraid. Being a mother is written in your DNA. Let yourself be carried by nature and enjoy each moment with your baby.
My advice would be to take help if it is offered and to look after yourself. I made sure that I showered everyday in the first two weeks postpartum and it helped me a lot. Being clean helped me to feel a bit fresher and more like myself, while I was recovering. My mum came and held Alfred, when my arms needed a break and brought groceries etc. Dan made sure that I ate and drank enough everyday and made sure the kitchen was relatively clean. Our health visitor gave us her mobile, so we could contact her with any questions. I talked about my tiredness on social media, which helped me stay connected and not feel alone. Also, don't be afraid to say what you need, if that means that you don't want any visitors that day. Be strict. People can wait, if you need some alone time as a new family.
I am so touched that all of these wonderful mothers contributed their words of wisdom. Thank you so much ladies! I hope this advice will be used to help many soon-to-be mums, new mamas and veteran mamas feel less alone and more united through motherhood.
If you have any advice that was invaluable to you or some you wish you knew about when you were starting out, please leave it in the comments.
(Top photo by Wild Eyed Photography).