I wasn’t planning on writing anything for a bit, and then a photo turned up on my Timehop today of me five years ago, smiling with my eldest, at that point about six weeks old. A few clicks further on Facebook and I came across a piece on Netmums regarding the #sogladtheytoldme hashtag, set up for women to share their early parenting tips.
Upon clicking on the piece what resonated with me was the very basic tips which mums had been advised, that are so run of the mill you’d expect people just to know. Tips such as #sogladtheytoldme it’s ok to go back to work appeared quite regularly.
Of course, two children along the way and I know a few things about parenting now, and so, I suppose it’s easy for me to sit back and think ‘well of course it’s OK to go back to work’. But looking back at that photo of me from five years ago, the adage of a picture’s worth 1,000 words is too far from the truth. Because whilst I may look content with my adorable little boy, the underlying emotion I was experiencing (and experienced until he was about 10 months old if I’m honest) was bewildering fear.
Basically, I was shitting myself (although some of that could have been the high iron diet they had me on). I had gone from pregnant, ready to go with cute baby gros, cute nursery and even cuter accessories for him and I, to ACTUALLY HAVING A HUMAN BEING TO LOOK AFTER. The fact is, that was terrifying. What made it worse was that I was breastfeeding, and I was so worried about doing it wrong, or not doing it all and letting him down (thanks midwives in our 60 min pre-birth session for that one) that I continually worried that if my son was malnourished IT WAS MY FAULT. I couldn’t apportion blame to anyone, because he survived from my milk. If I couldn’t provide, he wouldn’t survive. That mantra went round in my head morning, afternoon and night. And that six week picture? That was just after a night when he’d had a growth spurt. You know, that time that no-one really mentions until you experience it. Then they look at you with knowing eyes and say ‘oh yes, happens quite a few times in the early months, bloody tiring isn’t it?’.
Yes, it is tiring. And worst still, was that after feeding him pretty much for six hours straight, I was drained. Physically, mentally and definitely emotionally. I couldn’t do it any more. I wasn’t giving him enough, I had failed as a mother.
I wept. And wept, and wept some more. And my hub, who had by this point taken the baby from me, turned to me and told me, ‘I am so proud of you’.
And that is what I tell any mum who is struggling, because they don’t get told it enough – I’m so proud of you. You are amazing. You have brought a life in the world, and however you do it nothing you do is a failure because of that.
It doesn’t matter if the house is a tip
It doesn’t matter if your baby doesn’t have matching baby gro and hat (yep, freaked out over that one)
It doesn’t matter if you just squirted him in the eye with your breast milk by accident (those things go off like champagne corks)
It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel total and utter adoration for your baby (or child for that matter) every minute of every day because you are human
It doesn’t matter if you get poo in his hair because you’ve had to take his gro off over his head and he’s had a poo explosion to rival your husband after a vindaloo
It doesn’t matter if you crave time off, or go for a fake tan, or simply want a long bath instead of a swift shower
It really doesn’t matter if you’re not instagramming perfect cakes, perfect kid food or a perfect life
All that matters is that you try. And you will get it wrong (I still am, judging by today’s latest tantrum over a gingerbread man), but you will get things right too. Listen to your intuition, she’s in there still, even if she’s covered in baby goo and bewildered by a terrible labour and no sleep. If something doesn’t feel right, change it.
There were no blogs for me to see which said any of these things at the time I was experiencing them, I had no friends with babies as I was the first in my group to do it (and much as I love my friends, they didn’t have a clue what I was going through), and many of the women I met with babies claimed to have it all sorted. But my mum was honest, she told me stories I hadn’t heard before about her experience as a mum, which made me realise I wasn’t the first person to not have it all sorted, and I had a husband who was proud of me.
So my contribution to #sogladtheytoldme will be ‘that they were proud of me’. What about you? What’s your #sogladtheytoldme?
PS – I kept on the breastfeeding, I actually became proud of the fact that every time he was weighed he was getting bigger, and that was because of ME. I had nourished and sustained him, and I felt awesome. Until aged nine months when the little bugger bit me at 4am. That’s where our journey ended!