I saw these cute Letters to My Future Self in Waterstones today and it made me really think about what I would write to myself 4 years ago when I was about to give birth and become a parent for the first time.
Here are my top 5. Number 6 is the best.
1. Get a Doula. They are not a midwife (though mine was for 20 years – check out the wonder of Pat Wood), they are a birth partner and they have your back in every sense.
First time round I had 3 midwives over the 36 hours in hospital, and the one that was there for the money shot I locked horns with and just didn’t like. It made for some unpleasant interactions and negativity when I was feeling particularly vulnerable. (Think being told “What do you know?” when you have your legs akimbo in DVT socks in stirrups. Nice.)
Yes they do cost money (I have heard between £450 and £1500 depending on experience/ area) but as you can get cots, prams, highchairs EVERYTHING second hand on local Facebook groups for some real bargains, do that and spend what you save on a Doula. SO worth it – for the consistency of having them with you the whole time, the support before and after the birth and the positivity that all brings to the equation. JUST DOU IT!
2. Don’t be made miserable by trying to stick to regimes that are impossible from books written by people who make their fortunes from your inexperience and insecurity.
Some people love them. I happen not to.
First time round I read Gina Ford and the Baby Whisperer for some guidance and I had a miserable first year.
I spent way too many hours trying to get my baby to sleep, moving 5cm away from her each time she went down until I was on the moon when, looking back, she probably wasn’t tired.
I was wound so tight and felt like I was a bad mother and so rubbish at my mum job. It’s 2pm, why is she not asleep like the book says?
It was painful. I was miserable. My friend told me that her Dad took all the books away and chucked them out. I thought that was so extreme. But now I totally see his point. I have not referred to anything this time, followed my gut and my baby’s cues and I am such a happy Mum this time.
Happy mum = happy baby.
I realise this is easy to say second time round with the wonder of hindsight and experience. A nice normalising book that didn’t make me feel like a weirdo is Your Baby Week by Week.
3. You can breast feed a baby from one tit.
With my first baby I just couldn’t get feeding from my left boob to work. It was mega painful, she was always starving and crying 10 mins later.
After 3 weeks my nipple was a split, open sore (TMI?) and every time I went to feed from it, my toes curled and my eyes cried.
There were a few reasons for this – bad latch, mild tongue-tie, funny flat nipple – a perfect storm in my ZZ-cup. But it was fine on the right side.
No one could advise me on what to do. After days of me anxiously questioning everything, wanting to give up, a woman said to me, “If you have twins they have one breast each.”
So I thought Fuck It, I’ll give it a go. I closed down my left boob in 2 days, hand expressing just a teaspoon of milk. I continued to feed my daughter for 13 months just from the right one. And she thrived.
So when my son was born I was anxious about the pain and I decided from the start to just go with the right. Health Visitors were all disapproving and said I really “must try” using my left but I went with my gut and didn’t bother. My boy is a thriving WHOPPER. In your face, doubters.
4. Be kind to yourself. You have birthed a baby.
Whether you pushed it out or had a c-section this is a HUGE deal. It will affect your body and your mind. So give yourself time to heal, accept help, ask for help when you need it.
Feeling unhappy all the time is not a good place to be and it needn’t be so. Post-Natal Depression is still a bit of a taboo and it shouldn’t be, it is so common. I didn’t even realize I had it until it lifted, but the signs were there when I think back. Speak to someone, a doctor, a friend. Check in with your partner and see how they think you are.
It is hard not to compare yourself to other Mums and there’s always going to be a rosy-cheeked goddess who seems to be sleeping 12 hours a night finding it all really easy. They are not. They are crying in to the washing up, wiping bums and being narky with their other half too. They are just good at personal PR. Don’t buy it.
5. Sleep/ Life/ Sex/ Your Mind/ Your Fanny will eventually go back to normal. Well maybe not normal, whatever that is, but nicely recognisable. Just give it time.
6. The best piece of advice is not to take anyone’s advice. You have it in you.