My beautiful girl celebrated her nine month birthday on Monday and as well as wondering where the time has gone, it also made me think back to her early days and the things I wish I had known then. I feel like I am close enough to those newborn days, yet far enough away, to think somewhat objectively about things now.
Here are nine things I would say to my old self pre-baby.
1 – Don’t panic. Yes, it is frightening when you first get home and you and your partner are rather desperately looking at each other hoping the other has some clue about what to do. You will, eventually, get into a rhythm so don’t stress if everything feels slightly manic at first.
2 – Ignore the housework. People tell you this many times but you don’t listen. You should. If you don’t vacuum for a week, rats are not going to come in and take over your home. Use this time to just be with the baby. Put all of your focus into him or her. If you were one of those amazing people who cooks and freezes food in advance of the baby coming, excellent. If not, living on pasta, jacket potatoes, take out and other easy meals every day for a little while is not going to kill you.
3 – Trust your instincts. It’s fine to listen to the advice of other people – and you will be given it whether you want it or not – and while it can sometimes be really useful, in your heart you already know how you want to bring your child up so, as long as it’s not going to harm them in anyway, go with your gut.
4 – Do your pelvic floor exercises. Religiously. Unless you think it’s fun to wee when you sneeze, you need to get on that. Quickly. Also on that note, your body will not feel like your own for a long time. You will be in pain, bloated and all manner of other horrible things so that you will probably feel pretty negative about yourself but you will heal and things will change. Try and keep that thought at the back of your mind.
5 – Visitors = free baby sitting. Don’t be afraid to say no to visitors but remember that you can also use them for your own means. Invite them in, ask them if they want refreshments, hand them the baby and then do something (shower, maybe?) while they babysit/visit.
6 – Keep an eye on your husband. A baby is a massive change for everyone but you have had nine months of bonding time. When s/he started to kick/rearrange your major organs things got real for you but he hasn’t had that same wake up call. “Having a baby” for him is all a bit surreal, like walking along a familiar street on a foggy day. Seeing you cut open and then having a screaming baby placed in his arms (for the next three hours) is bound to be a bit of a shock. As is the realisation that life (and time to play computer games) will never be the same again.
7 – On that note. It’s also natural for you to completely freak out and wonder what on earth you were thinking about when you decided to have a baby but, believe me when I tell you this, the first time she looks at you and smiles you will get it. And you will gladly give up everything if she would just do it one more time.
8 – Things can be tough. Especially if you discover your baby is allergic to many things, including her milk – and you will wonder how you are going to get through it – especially after weeks and months of little sleep. Once you realise that you don’t have a choice, that no one is going to rush in and save you, you will find reserves of strength you didn’t know you had. Take things hour by hour, day by day, week by week and you will get through it. A consultant once said: “The baby you have today is not the same baby you will have in a week.” And he’s right.
9 – Instant bonding doesn’t happen for everyone. Circumstances may mean that you don’t immediately bond with your baby but don’t worry, it will come and very soon you will look at her and wonder how you ever got by without her for so long.