Tuesday 24 April 2012

Things I Wish I'd Known

Life changes drastically when you have your first baby. In those first few weeks there’s not really much time or energy for thought processes so all the changes are made quickly and accepted. I was thinking today about how much life has changed since Ebony arrived, and all the things I do and see differently now. 

Motherhood isn’t how I imagined it. I thought it would be a bit awful if I’m honest. Sleepless nights, exhaustion, vomit everywhere, the lingering smell of poo, constant bickering with my husband... but it’s not like that at all. I wasted a lot of time during my pregnancy worrying that I would be miserable as a Mum, but in all honesty I have never been happier. Even when I’m covered in vomit.
Here’s a list of all the things I wish I’d known before I had Ebony:
1. Midwives are amazing. I didn’t know this before Ebony was born because my prenatal midwife was an evil goblin from hell. I was terrified she would end up being my actual midwife, she seriously looked like one of the goblins at the Harry Potter bank, I didn’t want her to scare my baby back up. 
2. Nothing can prepare you for the intensity of holding your baby for the first time. 
3. Childbirth is ok, there’s no point worrying about it.
4. Sitting down can be... interesting for a few days after birth.
5. More than three visitors at once is too many.
6. When you have a newborn, it’s ok to be strict with people about how long they can visit for.
7. Breastfeeding in public is ok, it just takes practice. 
8. Not to buy iPhone apps in desperation to get Ebony to sleep in the early hours.
9. That sleep deprivation would only last two weeks and then life would be ok again.
10. Babies grow really fast, so clothes don’t fit them for very long.
11. It’s ok to let Ebony sleep in the bed with me sometimes, as long as I make sure to do it safely.
12. Washable nappies are not hard work at all, and they are much nicer to use than disposables (which smell like bovril). 
13. Bathing a newborn baby is the single most terrifying thing ever. 
14. You get to watch loads of TV when you have a newborn, but none after they start being awake more.
15. Ebony’s arms probably aren’t going to break by me putting clothes on her.  
16. If you spend time getting ready, or carefully select an outfit, you will definitely get covered in vomit.
17. Some people are really scared of holding babies, and laughing at them does not make this any less awkward. 
18. Strangers will offer you unwanted advice at every opportunity.
19. Some people will offer you advice which you think sounds like child abuse, but it’s best to be polite and remember that everyone parents differently.
20. You have to warn people in advance that they should not drink hot drinks over the baby, otherwise they will go to do it without thinking.
21. Some people will dismiss your parenting views (such as not drinking hot drinks over babies). It is ok to not see these people again, at least for a while.
22. You are the parent, and you can ignore everyone else’s views. Do not be made to feel like a bad mother for ‘spoiling’ your child by allowing them to sleep in your arms.
23. Your body will slowly start to turn back to normal, so don’t waste time crying about it. 
24. You will be hormonal for a few weeks after the birth, and might be quite emotional. In these circumstances, it’s ok to ring your Mum and ask her to come back and stay a bit longer.
25. The love you feel for your baby will be all-consuming, and nothing else will matter as much anymore.
26. You don’t have to do what other people think you should do. In the first couple of weeks, people kept asking if we’d been out with the baby yet. Ebony and I didn’t leave the house until she was seventeen days old. I’m glad we had that time in the safety of our home before we started going out, it was cold and rainy and I just didn’t feel up to it.
27. Babies don’t stay newborns very long. In the blink of an eye they become alert, inquisitive and attentive. Make sure you enjoy each stage of development, because babies grow up so fast.
28. Your friends become even more important to you. It’s invaluable to have people you can talk to, and people who will come round and keep you company or help out when you need it. 
29. You will realise how much your parents love you. And this will make you feel terrible for all the times you acted like an angsty teenager to them. I dread the thought of Ebony turning into me at fifteen. 
30. It’s ok to tell people you are not up to seeing them, or need a day alone with the baby. If they don’t understand, they are not being very considerate of your situation. 
31. If you breastfeed and use washable nappies your baby will hardly cost you a penny for the first couple of months.
32. Every time you are away from the baby it will feel like you are missing a limb. 
33. Don’t panic.
I asked my husband what things he wish he’d known before having Ebony, and he said he would have liked prior warning that the filter pipe from the birthing pool was about to escape from the sink and snake around the room. So, to anyone else planning a water homebirth, do not leave your filter pipe unattended when trying to empty the pool. Or you might end up having to, as we did, throw out a very filthy welcome mat.
The first few weeks were terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was constantly worried I was doing things wrong. But my friend Felicity gave me some really good advice, she said:
“The baby doesn’t know what you’re meant to be doing either. You’re both finding your feet so it’s ok to make mistakes.”
And it’s true. Stay calm and everything will be ok. Ask for help if you need it, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. If all else fails, ring your Mum for sympathy because she knows what you’re going through.

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