Wednesday 25 April 2018

To My Friend Who Just Had Her First Baby

Oh man, I envy you. You only become a parent for the first time once, it's not an experience you can relive. I envy you taking those first terrifying steps as a mother. And yet, at the same time, I don’t. I think back to those early weeks of motherhood when I was a 25-year-old with a constant caught-in-the-headlights-of-life expression set upon my exhausted face and I am filled with warmth. I can remember the utter amazement I felt each time I looked down at my baby. Everything about her seemed so perfect. Her luscious eyelashes, her perfect little fingernails, and that perfect wrinkly little butt of hers. I can remember the pride I felt at having grown her in my tummy, it felt so crazy that she was finally in the real world.

I remember what a complete and utter head fuck it was to be thrust head first into motherhood. I didn’t have many friends with children and I hadn’t spent much time around babies. I had no idea how to change or nappy or stop a baby crying, and then, all of a sudden, I had one of my own to take care of. It felt huge. Overwhelming. Too much. I would look down at her peaceful sleeping face and feel overwhelmed with the realisation that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

I can remember the exhaustion. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. It was a heavier tired to the I-stayed-up-all-weekend-partying I was used to, it was something I had no control of. I wasn’t staying up because I was having fun, I was forced to stay awake because of the crying or the feeding or the generally being needed. I was a kind of tired you can’t escape from, I could feel it in my bones, my entire body ached for sleep and yet I couldn’t sleep because I was constantly needed.

I can remember the soreness, the aching of a body trying to rebuild itself after the birth. I can remember struggling to find comfortable clothes that fit, the difficulty of finding a snug position to fit in, one that didn’t hurt in all the wrong places. I can remember trying to take as few steps as possible, wanting to just sit down and rest, even when a crying baby meant I was forced to walk in circles around the room at 2 am.

I can remember the struggle to breastfeed, the nights lying awake in tears at 3 am because I didn’t want to have to do another feed. I can remember the toe-curling pain of each feed, having to steady myself before she latched on so I could handle the pain. I can remember leaving guests downstairs so I could escape to my bedroom and feed in peace so that nobody would see me cry. I can remember feeling like it would never not hurt, then forgetting just weeks later when breastfeeding had become second nature.

I remember those things, the hardships, the adjustment, the mental fatigue of worrying about absolutely everything. And yet, I still feel content when I remember the early days of motherhood. Those days were the making of me. Becoming a mother shook my entire world, it changed me in every possible way. I can’t even imagine who I would be today if it were not for that beautiful little baby who made me a mum. I remember long afternoons camped out on the sofa, binge-watching crap TV with a baby attached to my breast. I remember long nights spent wondering when sleep would come. I remember the joy of those firsts. The first smile, the first laugh, the first walk around the park.

To my friend who just had her first baby, know that there is a whole community of women who know what you’re going through. You are not alone, even though it might seem that way at 2 am when the street outside is dark and quiet but you are pacing the room with a restless baby. We see you. We see the worried look in your eye and we hear the break in your voice as you try to soothe your crying baby. There is an army of women out there for you to lean on. Women who will pick you up when you fall, who will watch your baby when you need five minutes to yourself, who will tell you their own stories to help you feel less alone.

Right now you are probably exhausted, overwhelmed and perhaps a little shell-shocked after the birth. You are probably in survival mode, doing what you must to get yourself and your baby through the day. But it won’t always feel like this. You will find your stride, build your confidence and feel proud of the mother you are. I promise. And in the meantime, I am here whenever you need me.

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