Motherhood albeit hard beyond belief at times is also something that I whole heartily enjoy. The first 6 weeks I remember happily sitting hour after hour breast feeding. I guess it helps being quite relaxed about letting things pile up around you. Yes I sometimes got frustrated at the mounting washing pile or loaded dishwasher that needed to be emptied but I aways favoured catching up with sleep or just time with Austin (I can be quite lazy). It got me thinking about why I enjoyed those first few weeks/months so much especially when they are also the hardest as a first time parent.
In some cultures women move back home with their parents after they give birth and are looked after just as much as the baby. I have always thought how wonderful that sounded although I’m sure the reality could be slightly different! Generally, the focus most of the time is always on the baby? Are they feeding ok? Are they gaining weight? how much do they poo etc. The majority of visitors from family and health care professionals ask questions that revolve around your baby and then you after. Nothing wrong with that I guess, I just know the importance of feeling some love your way too.
If you are lucky there will be someone “team mum” whether it be your partner, parent, sibling or friend. My husband was entitled to two weeks paternity leave and although it went super quick it was so lovely to have him help and bond with Austin. Even though I was exclusively breastfeeding he helped me in the night with nappy changes and settling Austin when I couldn’t. He very much became the house husband which was extremely helpful. Looking back quite a few people advised me that Phil shouldn’t take the time off in the beginning and that I would appreciate the help later on. But those first two weeks were when I needed him most. Kudos to all the amazing mama’s out there solo parenting because those early weeks are nothing more than a haze fuelled by sleep deprivation, forgetting to eat thus depleting energy levels. Night time feeding can also be VERY lonely. Picture below was our first night at home together as family.
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy motherhood without that support and for many they soldier on as they have no choice. For me it was so nice to have some care in my direction. The reality is after giving birth you can be just a tad uncomfortable, you know like someone has cut your fanny sideways kid of uncomfortable. I personally couldn’t sit down straight for 2 weeks and a doughnut cushion was the only thing stopping me from feeding and sleeping stood up. My mum had batch cooked about 12 meals that were stashed in our freezer so all Phil had to do was defrost them and then literally feed me when Austin was attached to my boob.
I really believe in the fourth trimester, the idea that the first three months of your baby’s life is very much an extension of life in the womb for the baby. But also for yourself trying to rest and recoup the limited energy you have and the opportunity to bond with your baby. Breastfeeding is bloody hard but one thing it does do is force you to sit down, sometimes for hours and hours of a day, especially when cluster feeding. Very clever from Mother Nature and something I look back on as one of my favourite times of motherhood so far. Not for everyone and for some the tedious, repetitiveness of feeding (both bottle and breast) is isolating and exhausting. This is where the support I think saves the day. My mum lives 5 minutes away so when Phil went back to work she was on speed dial. Looking back my enjoyment came from having the same care and attention focused on me just as much as Austin. When my nipples were bleeding and cracked and I could easily have given up feeding, my mum helped me express so I could give my udders a break. If you don’t have that help, that support what do you do? Carry on in misery and everything then becomes overwhelming and lonely.
Yes there are baby cafes and lots of support groups but they actually require getting dressed and leaving the house. Not something you always want to do in those early weeks. Postpartum bleeding and recovering from an episiotomy all hindered my chances of leaving the house and I don’t actually think I took Austin for a walk outside until he was maybe 9 or 10 days old. Even then I think we only got the end of the road before I announced to Phil I felt like my fanny was going to drop out (I don’t think thats possible). I happily turned down play dates and meet ups even a few months along in favour of sitting on my arse watching re runs of the Kardashians whilst Austin fed and I ate my own body weight in skips. When Austin was 4 months old I sat and watched 8 episodes of Love Island in one go. Happy Days. I guess that’s a personality thing too as for some mama’s they need to get dressed, get out and enjoy some normality and company. I just think its ok to admit you don’t always want to do that and it doesn’t mean you are a reclusive mother bordering on PND. I LOVED shutting the door on the world.
Being able to just focus on your baby can be a wonderful experience and mothers should feel no judgement either way. So if you aren’t getting out and about or you don’t know the lyrics to wind the bobbin up (I still don’t) you are by no means failing as a new mum. That’s not to say I didn’t have my struggles and it was all smooth sailing. Austin seemed to feed every 2-3 hours for the majority of the 10 months I breast fed him and the sleep deprivation caught up with me eventually. It was a relief to be able to share the responsibility of feeding once I moved him on to formula.
I often wonder if all our troubles conceiving and the days where I thought being a mum was just a dream gave me a very grateful view on motherhood? I didn’t want to miss any part of it so cherished those early days when quite frankly we did nothing. Ultimately all the support we had made it easy in most ways. I think there is quite a bit of pressure to be out with the baby looking refreshed and happy as you stroll down the high street with your pristine bugaboo pram. The reality can be very different and that’s OK. Not getting dressed, showering or not getting out is absolutely fine if you can’t/don’t want to. For me, it was one of my favourite memories of early motherhood. Quite frankly, without that support in those early weeks/months telling me it was ok, I would probably still be on the sofa sat on my doughnut cushion 17 months later. Maybe not that extreme, but I certainly won’t feel bad enjoying that time again one day if we are lucky to have another baby.