Yesterday was my son Luke's 8th birthday. on birthdays I always find myself thinking back to when he was a baby, his birth, the early days.
I have never found the early months after having a new baby the easiest. Actually they have been down right difficult and challenging both emotionally and physically. I have experienced post natal anxiety, doubted everything, feared for my marriage, lost my confidence and in all honesty found everything very overwhelming.
I remember writing something like
"Welcome to the world new baby evans. We're all so in love" as my Facebook status (I'm not sure for which child... whoops). I loved my babies deeply, from the moment I knew I was pregnant, but when they were born the feeling wasn't that rush of being head over heels in love.
I wrote the Facebook post because I wanted it to be true. I wanted everyone to think how shiny and wonderful it all was. I wrote it because it's what I saw others write and though that's what you should do. I wrote it because I wanted everyone to think I was a good mum.
No one would want to read something like:
"Welcome to the world baby Evans. Mummy is fucking exahusted, not sure how she's going to cope over the next few months, her nipples are already excuriciatingly painful and she is terrified of going to the toilet".
The expectations I placed on myself or perhaps the societal expectations on new mums is huge. Everything should be shiny and wonderful (but not too shiny - think of the backlash to duchess Catherine when she looked stunning hours after giving birth). It's right and proper that we welcome a new baby into the world with joy. But I think there is a massive difference between joy at the birth of a baby, gratitude for the new life, and feeling "happy" or even the giddy feeling of being "in love".
(I know that some people really do feel like this ❤️)
By the time we had Anna, I had cottoned on to realise that these were tough days/weeks/months for me. We put into place some things that I hoped would make a difference. These are the things I wished I known before I experienced the fourth trimester.
(Maybe it would have stopped the crippling anxiety or maybe it would have just made things a bit easier. )
1. Lean into it.
If only I'd know how much my babies would need me. And actually I think it's shocked me each time. Their needs, although simple (really), are all consuming. That can be overwhelming. Especially with family or society telling you to "get them into a routine" "put them down" "stop feeding so much".
I wish someone had said to me "dear Chiara, lean into it. It won't last forever, so sit back and let the fourth trimester wash over you. Don't fight with feeding schedules, don't worry about routine, bedtime. Cuddle all day if that's what they need, and that is a real need."
2. Expect the hormones
Day 3-5 bloody hell. Batton down the hatches. Let the tears come. You're not doing anything this is normal. But so so hard. It will pass. I know how unhelpful it is to hear it at the time but it will. You will get through these days. The hormones are there for a reason. Welcome them. Ride it out. And know that they will play a huge role for sometime!
3. Be kind to yourself
And while you're riding out the hormones, the seep deprivation, the round the clock feeding, the recovery from birth, be nice to yourself. I mean don't be hard on yourself for not feeling happy all the time. Don't punish yourself for doubting your choices. Don't look over the day telling yourself off for all the things you think you've done wrong. This is not a time to do anything other than survive. So be nice. Focus on the basics. Eat, drink, go to the toilet. (And a sling will help with these things) because actually, you're doing fine.
This is a tricky one because babies keep you up all night. And when someone told me to sleep when the baby slept my anxiety would sky rocket. Because I feared when the baby would wake up and need feeding again. It felt like the cruelest punishment to be woken up after 5 mins of sleep that I was so full of stress I couldn't sleep.
But rest is important. Sit, watch TV, with baby. Don't move from the sofa! Baby doesn't mind, they just want to be with you. And if you have a toddler, it's ok to watch Peppa pig on repeat for a few weeks. It just is.
And finally, trust the love. Trust the bond you already have. Because you won't always feel it. But it is there. Some days are too hard. Some days are just a grind. I'm finding that parenting is an exercise in blind faith. Where you need to trust in that love which is there, even when we don't feel happy, or pleased. But you can know that deep deep down you are connected, "the tie between a mother and child is greater than just how the mother feels on a particular day". Trust yourself that you've got this.