It can sometimes be hard being a new mother. Sometimes harder than you thought it would be. Here is my basic, simple and practical advice for new mums, part 1.
It's good to have a bit of an idea of how you would like things to go during labour - an idea about what is involved, what will be happening, what pain relief or other options are available, etc. Just please don't be too rigid about it! The hardest part of the birth for some girls is having things work out differently to what they had planned. Perhaps you want to go drugs-free - and that's great - as long as you have that as a loose plan and can feel comfortable about changing directions during labour if you change your mind. Strangely enough, no-one gives out medals saying, 'Yah-Hoo! You did it all without drugs!!' You do get a wonderful, swirming and tiny prize however - either way :)
Just go in there and do your best, and let 'come what may, and love it!' :)
Advice for after the birth
You might absolutely adore your baby from the first moment that your eyes meet. (Yes, they will look at and see you from the first moments.) All the gushy, overwhelmingly tender and fiercely protective love that you never thought anyone could feel this strongly might rush over you in that moment, irrevocably changing your understanding of your place in life forevermore..
..Or you might feel nothing. Or nothing much. Or perhaps a bit of awe, or fear, or even resentment - this was the reason for that, afterall!
Be patient with yourself. There is nobody standing by, grading you on some cosmic mother-appropriateness meter. It's really ok to be yourself and to be honest with yourself and others about how you feel. Give yourself some time to grow into things. Ask for help. Talk to somebody who will be understanding.
There is one thing that is more important than anything though - even more important than your feelings and challenges at this stage, and that is the safety and health of your new baby. For good or ill, you are the one person on earth more than any other who has the responsibility of ensuring the safety and well-being of that tiny person. There will be people around to help you if you need it (and very often even if you don't :) - but yours is the prime responsibility, unless you officially pass it on to someone else.
Doing whatever it takes to get through the day
I had a good friend, a lovely girl, who was home alone with her new baby one night, pacing the floor with a baby who would not stop crying. She did all she could, until finally, she said, she had, "an overwhelming impulse to throw (her baby) against the wall." She put the screaming newborn carefully into her cot, then left the house and walked around the block a couple of times until she had calmed down enough to go home.
Leaving your new baby in a house alone is not normally the right thing to do, but in this case it was a matter of doing what she had to, to get through the day - something of a mantra that I think should always be kept in mind by new mothers. I believe that the daily objective of every new mother should be to keep their baby safe and healthy and themselves sane, and to do whatever it takes day by day to achieve that! :) If you can get to the end of the first few months with your baby safe and well and yourself sane - well done!! You made it and you are doing great! Really :)
Perhaps this will mean having lots of take-aways, (or easy, throw-together meals like, say: a tin of tuna, a banana, some frozen green peas straight out of the packet, a tomato and a drink of milk - Ta-da! Nutritious and it just took you one minute and 18 seconds to prepare :), or letting the dust in the house accumulate and the ironing mount up.. This time of night feeds and unsettled tummies won't last forever, and you will eventually get back on top of things when a routine finally kicks in. It will happen. Until then, don't fight it my friend. Remember the mantra, and the daily objective :)
Ask for help, and say 'yes, thank you!' when people offer
You're capable, smart and independent. When people offer to help in any way after you have had a baby you ought to say, 'yes, thank you!' - because that is what capable, smart and independent people do! :)
Maybe you won't have anyone offering. It's nice if you do, but you'll still make it if you don't. While it would be nice to have someone dropping by a home-cooked meal some days, you'll be ok without it too. But if you do need help in achieving the Daily Objective, (of safety and sanity), then you need to ask somebody for help. It might be a friend, family member, kind neighbour, or a helpline. I think all Australian hospitals have someone 24/7 that you can talk to for advice whenever you need to. You're not alone, remember that. There are people who care about you and your baby and who will gladly help :)
Advice and criticism
You're almost bound to get a lot of advice as you embark on this challenging adventure. (Here I am, giving my share, and I've got still more to come too :) It's pretty much all well-intentioned, even though some of it may even sound like criticism on occasion, (perhaps when you are tired and frazzled :)
This advice will range, (and I do mean range!), from whether or not to breast-feed your baby, when to toilet-train, whether or not to enforce a schedule, whether or not you should leave your baby to cry, whether you should swaddle, when you should start feeding solids... ... !
My advice is to listen humbly to it all - but most of all to your own mother's advice, if you can. She will probably love you asking her for advice, and you will probably find her an amazingly helpful resource.
Then, you should do whatever your own mother's heart tells you to do. That's my advice. I believe that mothers are often blessed to know what is right for their child. So: learn from others, but most of all - trust yourself! You're a mother. What feels right to you?
(If you are not feeling anything, then go to the advice of the person you trust the most :)
Photos by Ann Geddes