Child: Oliver, 4 and 1/2 months
Expectations of Motherhood: I think I had fairly realisitic expectations of motherhood, having seen so many friends and family go through it. I had prepared myself for a big lifestyle change. I expected to be tired, worried about doing things wrong and permanently covered in sick. I tried to prepare myself mentally for what life would be like with a difficult baby, although I never got much further than thinking ‘please God don’t let me have a difficult baby’!
Reality of Motherhood: I have been blessed with a very chilled, happy little boy who rarely cries. Phew! I am tired, worried about doing things wrong and permanently covered in sick!! The thing which, although anticipated, I never really understood until having experienced it is the physical and mental impact of tiredness. Months of broken and limited sleep really takes its toll and some days the smallest thing can seem like an absolute disaster. The other thing which took me by surprise is how continuous the feeding cycle is in the early weeks. My lifestyle has of course had to change, it isn’t possible to go off to the cinema or the pub on a moment’s notice, there is always the little man to think about. However I am not a clingy mummy, he’s been going into the creche at the gym since he was six weeks old and I left him overnight with his Daddy and Grannie at 10 weeks so that I could go to Munich to see Take That. I think allowing myself some time away from baby, knowing he is in the best care, has been very good for me.
Taking your child home for the first time: Firstly, I was pleased purely to be getting out of hospital (I’d only been in overnight but that was more than long enough!). I didn’t feel as overwhelmed by the occasion as I thought I would, I was just very excited for us to start our family life together and to get to know Oliver properly, but of course a little apprehensive – how would I cope if he was ‘a cryer’ etc. He had taken to breast feeding very easily but even so my main concern was how I would know if he was getting enough to eat. It definitely helped knowing that a mid-wife would be calling the next day, and over the following couple of weeks so keep an eye on things. It wasn’t until I started expressing and could physically see the milk that I stopped worrying that he was not getting enough to eat. The first day back Oliver’s dad had baked a pie for dinner with ‘Mummy’ written in pastry on the top which was lovely, and he took over cooking and cleaning duties for a few weeks which meant I could focus completely on Olliver’s need which was fantastic.
The best/worst advice: Best advice was to start expressing and feeding from a bottle very early on (I did one bottle a day from 8 days). It meant Oliver never had problems switching between breast and bottle. I don’t think I’ve had too much bad advice, but people had told me to give the baby some Calpol before going for his vaccinations. Luckily I didn’t use this advice as the nurse told me that there is now some scientific evidence that this reduces the effectiveness of the vaccinations.
The hardest part of being a mother: I think being permanently so tired has been the hardest thing as it throws everything out of perpsective.
Hopes for your family:Mark and I are just so excited about every stage of Oliver’s development and what the future holds for us. I’m looking forward to playing with him, talking with him, watching him play football with his dad, days out, family holidays etc etc but overall I just want us all to remain healthy and happy.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums:1) don’t try and follow rigid routines dictated in books. The odd baby may be able to follow them but most people I know have just become frustrated and upset trying to. Whilst I have taken some very useful tips from books and used them to gain an understanding of babies’ basic needs and behaviours I have found it much easier to follow Oliver’s natural rhythms. 2) Remember your baby is an individual and there is no point comparing him/her to other babies. 3) When you are having a ‘bad day’ or melting down over something, try and sit back and ask yourself if things are really bad or if lack of sleep is just making it seem that way. 9 times out of 10 you will be able to see that if you had had a good night’s sleep you wouldn’t be stressing about the situation at all. Just telling myself that often helped me to feel better.