We can be prepared for most events in life – our first day at school; our driving test; a job interview – but when it comes to being a mother for the first time, life can take us by surprise. Before you know it, you’re in charge of a whole little person. Whether your pregnancy is planned or not, there’s lots to learn. But what are the things that mums wish they had known before they had a baby?
We spoke to mums – some who had their babies five weeks ago, and some who had their babies forty years ago – to ask them what they wish they’d been told before they became mothers.
We hope that we can pass this information on to any new or soon-to-be mums out there, to make the journey just a little bit smoother!
1) Maternal instincts to the rescue!
“Learning to look after my baby felt mostly intuitive. Feeding, bathing and dressing him soon became second nature. But at first, when anything went wrong it felt like the world’s worst emergency. I think the secret is, nobody knows what to do in difficult and unexpected situations, you just have to wing it! Luckily, your maternal instincts will kick in – a mother’s fight or flight reaction is a force to be reckoned with. Just remember to breathe.”
2) Rest and recovery
“Not only will you have a new baby to look after, but you’ll also be recovering from giving birth. I had a long and complicated labour, followed by an emergency C-section, and my body needed time to recover. Unfortunately, caring for a new born baby isn’t especially compatible with getting lots of rest… Especially if you have to do every night shift because you’re breastfeeding or because you’re a single mother, like me.”
Simple things like lifting your baby out of their crib can be difficult if you’re dealing with C-Section scars or you’ve got diastasis rectis, so take it slowly, and try not to be too hard on yourself. Your body has been through a lot!
If you need some professional advice on your post-birth recovery, check out the wonderful service offered by Mummy MOT.
3) Knock knock, who’s there? Everybody!
“When you’ve had a baby, the world and his wife will want to visit. I’m lucky enough to have a big network of family and friends around me, and there were queues out the door of people wanting a deep sniff of my daughter’s new baby smell. While it’s really lovely that people wanted to come visit, it was a bit overwhelming – I was still getting to know my baby myself! My advice would be, take things at your own pace, and have people over when you’re ready.”
4) A Change of plans
“No matter how organised you are, your routine will still be thrown out of whack by having a baby, especially while you’re getting used to the baby’s sleeping and feeding habits. Sometimes, if I’ve not slept much, my plans for the following day go out the window. These days I don’t worry too much about it – I try to see it as a good opportunity to rest and watch some Netflix, rather than playing catch up with my diary.”
5) Poo(h) and friends
“Nobody can prepare you for the amount of poo, sick and wee you’re going to get on you. And then there’s the fluids that will be coming out of your own body… I was shocked by how much milk I produced! Keep a pack of baby wipes close by, and a spare change of clothes for yourself, too, not just for your baby!”
Natracare has a range of wipes (and wipe alternatives), including 100% organic cotton, plastic-free baby wipes, and Safe to Flush Moist Tissues which are entirely made of paper, so you can easily deal with the messes you encounter.
6) Oh, the horror!
“We all love a bit of drama. Everybody’s got a horror story to share about giving birth, or they’ve got something to say about how terrible the sleepless nights are. It’s surprising that anybody has children at all, with all these cranks around! Eventually I learnt to ignore all of this – it’s not helpful and actually, it didn’t match up with my own experience at all.”
7) Babies – a law unto themselves
“Different babies reach different milestones at different times – every baby is different. My first kid started walking at 10 months, but my second took ages. It makes sense, because they’re different people! You’ll most likely have a sense of when something is really wrong, so don’t worry too much if your baby hasn’t slept through the night yet or there’s no sign of their first tooth – their time will come.”
8) Thanks but no thanks
“My top tip is that there is no rulebook for motherhood. At the end of the day, nobody knows your child better than you – so don’t worry about what others say.”
9) A new definition of tired
“Not getting enough sleep can cause a low mood for anybody, whether they’ve got a baby or not. I really struggled with it – it’s hard work doing anything at all when you’re sleep deprived, and quite quickly, it tumbled into having a really low mood, all of the time.”
If you feel that you’re getting into a state of mind that feels unmanageable, you should see a professional. Even when you’re really busy, your health shouldn’t be an afterthought.
10) Snap these moments up
“Time passes differently when you’ve got a baby. Hours, days and weeks are slow but months and years absolutely whiz by. Let people take photos of you with your baby – even if you feel you look like you’ve been run ragged, you’ll want to look back on this time and remember when your baby was so little that they could fit into your arms. If I knew how quickly my baby would grow up, I would have worried about how I looked much less!”
11) You are resilient!
“I wish that I knew how resilient and capable I actually was before I had my baby – it would have saved me a lot of anxiety during my pregnancy! No matter how worried you are about being a mum and getting it right, you can certainly handle it! Take each day as it comes.”
12) Spread the Love
“A lovely surprise about becoming a mum is how much it’s bonded me with other people around me. Not just friends and family but strangers, too – everybody is interested and everybody wants to help. Make sure you clear plenty of space in your freezer for meals made by well-wishers!”
13) When you know, you know…
“When all is said and done, you can’t ever really know what it’s like until you’ve had your baby and you’re in the thick of it. You can prepare for motherhood in theory, but the reality is bound to be very different to the stuff you read in books. Motherhood is different for everybody who goes through it – but for the most part, it’s an incredibly profound experience and one that most mothers wouldn’t swap for the world.”
What do you wish you knew before giving birth?