08 Nov 10 Things I Wish I Knew With My First Baby
I think like all first time mum’s, we focus on our pregnancy and the experience of growing a child. Experiencing that first kick or seeing them on a screen for the first time, learning that they can now hear you or have five little toes, it truly is amazing. I was one of those obsessed women reading where my little boy was at each week, tracking him from a poppy seed to the scary size of a watermelon, in between vomiting of course. Then I began focusing on the birth and labour. Making “plans” for how I would like it to go, huh, silly me.
I really believe it wasn’t until little Oscar was in my arms that I realised that this was the end result, I was now a mum and I was the one to look after this little guy for the rest of his life. Sounds silly I know but I kind of feel that is how it went for me. From the moment my first-born came into my life I realised how much I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Do you remember the first time you try and put them in the car seat to take them home? Then you get home and realise that it is now up to you and there is no midwife to buzz when you can’t get them to burp, sleep, feed – the list goes on and on. There are so many things that I have learnt along the way and am still learning. Why did nobody tell me about a defiant four year old? But that is a whole other story.
Since having my second there are so many things that I had wished I knew the first time round, that have made the second time round a less stressful journey. Here are 10 of the things I wish I knew with my first baby. Hopefully a couple of these will be helpful to other mumma’s on their own journey
1. With all the focus on the first times we tend to forget this also means there are last times:
I felt like the first time round I couldn’t wait for Oscar to take his first steps or sleep through the night or stop feeding so much so I could get some rest, but in doing this I didn’t appreciate the present moments enough. I now know that these times go so quickly and that you won’t even know when it is the last time they crawl across the floor at a million miles an hour and clamber up your leg. The last time you will feed them to sleep and see that gorgeous content groggy face. The last time they will need you to soothe them in their sleep. I know this is hard to think of when you are so exhausted, but I found the second time round, I enjoyed those night time cuddles a little bit more, knowing that it wasn’t forever.
2. There will be a last time
I know this sounds the same as the last one, but I mean it in a different way. When you are up for the 12th time in the night and it feels like you can’t possibly stay awake, I took comfort the second time round in knowing that each phase does come to an end. They will eventually sleep through the night, stop throwing tantrums, finish teething, and be able to explain what they want. Each phase does not last forever, there is a light at the end of each tunnel, knowing this can help you to get through those tough times.
3. Practice Self Care
Honestly I think this is one of the most important things, but so difficult to achieve. I am not talking about weekend yoga retreats, although we can dream. I mean taking small steps to do things for yourself. Becoming a mum is so consuming and it is so easy to feel you are losing your own identity. I believe most mum’s go through this. I went from travelling the world to being a stay at home mum in the blink of an eye and it really was a huge reality check. For me it took a long time to realise I am a better mum, wife, even friend if I take care of myself. Take baby steps, take the dog for a walk, get some fresh air, join a gym with a crèche, go for coffee with friends. Find some small things that make you happy and make fitting them in a priority. The laundry can wait because hey when do we ever get on top of that job? Work up to bigger things like loooooong lunch breaks and those yoga retreats as your little ones get older.
4. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are doing a great job and don’t forget it
I keep seeing articles that if your child is throwing tantrums, yelling, bighting, not sleeping through the night or any of the multitude of things that normal children do on a regular basis, it’s because you, the mum, are not showing enough love, support, co-sleeping, not co-sleeping, breastfeeding too long, bottle-feeding etc etc. I feel we are very quick to point out a child’s negative behaviour is all a reflection of how they are being raised. I believe it may be a factor but cannot be the sole reason for every outburst or bad behaviour our children commit as they learn and grow. If we are going to take judgement for every bad behaviour our children commit we also need to take some ownership for when they behave well. Make sure you are giving yourself a pat on the back when you hear your two year old say please and thank you or leave the park without a melt down or your six-month-old self settles. You must be doing something right. Take pride in these small victories.
5. When offered help take it
Pretty self explanatory this one, but if someone offers to do your dishes, cook you a meal, hold the baby while you have a shower, let them. People like to help and although you may be used to doing it all on your own it can really help with the exhaustion in the early days. This also goes with the Dad’s. Make sure you are letting them, or forcing them, to help out with the baby and the house in the early days.
6. Relax a little
Anyone who knows me is laughing right now. They don’t call me stressy Jessie for nothing. The old saying “children survive despite their parents” has some merit here. It is really hard at first to just chill out. I still struggle to do this but am working on it and have improved, somewhat. If you had a lot of control in your old life you have to let this go a little. Try and keep some perspective, especially when it comes to sleeps. You can really lose your mind over this. Both my boys haven’t been the best of sleepers and I have found this a really consuming, exhausting, stressful part of parenting. I believe whole-heartedly in routines but also think we need to go with the flow a little on this too and follow our little ones leads. If you have sleep issues I found this site really useful https://www.babysleepsite.com/
7. Baby Brain is real and it is called sleep deprivation
I honestly started to think I may be losing my mind and this new state of baby brain may be my new norm. Remember how I mentioned that my little ones were not good sleepers? Well after four years of lack of sleep, my vagueness was pretty bad. I would rush to the shops only to come home missing the one thing I went for. What did I come in the kitchen for? Who was I meant to call back? What is my name again? Seriously I was a walking zombie. I am happy to report that after four years of lack of sleep, I finally have two children who both sleep through the night, most of the time…. Amazing I know, if your not there yet, know that the day will eventually come. Guess what? Not only can I now remember my shopping list but I even have enough cognitive function to start my own business. It’s not baby brain guys it’s sleep deprivation. The walking zombie state will pass, I promise.
8. Be Present
I know this is a tough one, sometimes we just are too tired or busy to be in the moment, and that is ok too. As someone who was constantly chasing the next big adventure this is something my boys have taught me, to just be in the moment and enjoy the little things. Sometimes seeing things through their eyes is just what you need to appreciate the small things. So get down on the ground with them and follow the ants, join in jumping on the trampoline with them and enjoy a teddy bears picnic, it is refreshingly fun to be a kid again.
9. Get out of the house on the hard days
I really wish I knew this one the first time round. You know the days that start off bad and just get progressively worse. A day with a clingy, crying, cranky little individual can be hell on earth. Social media’s rainbows and cute baby selfie’s didn’t prepare me for these days. With my first, as I was still learning my way, I always struggled being in public with a crying baby. I felt all this judgement that probably wasn’t even there. You know how now when you hear a newborn baby cry it sounds so quiet? When it’s your own it sounds like a freight train and you think all eyes are on you. Well first time round on these days I would tough it out at home as there was no way I was dealing with my fussy screaming child in public. Second time round, with more confidence in my abilities and therefore less care about what others think, I have done it differently. Get you and that baby out of that house- go for a walk, go to the park, anywhere but being stuck inside those same four walls. Your miserable little devil may stay that way or the change of scenery may turn them back in to a little angel. Either way at least you have had some fresh air and tried to turn your day around.
10. Provide time for them to create their own fun and games
As a first time mum I provided constant stimulation for my little guy, always providing the entertainment or ideas, over time I have realised that children are amazing at creating their own games. I try to ensure now that I sit back a little and provide time for them to come up with their own games; they have a much better imagination than adults and come up with some of their favourite games to play. From boredom creativity is born.
This is just some of the things I personally found worked for me. Like all well-meaning advice, if it resonates or works for you then run with it, if not just ignore it. I struggled to keep this to ten so feel free to comment or share any of your tips and tricks you have learnt along the way and as my mumma taught me, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. Please keep this a positive space.