Seven things I wish I’d known before becoming a mother
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Ten months in, here’s what I wish I’d known from the beginning
1. Don’t pre-empt your parenting style
Remember all those “I will never let my baby watch TV” statements you made while you were pregnant? I must say I did get quite far with this one. But once lying under a baby gym lost its novelty for my son, I was grateful to the creators of Hey Duggee for providing a way to have five minutes to enjoy a cup of tea while it was still hot. Other common “I will/will never” statements include but are not limited to: “I will never co-sleep”, “I will do baby-led weaning”, “I will never contact nap”, “I will go to all the baby groups”, “I will make sure I take time for myself when the baby comes”; the list is endless. It is ok to do things you never thought you would. You haven’t failed if you don’t puree only the finest organic vegetables grown in a 2-mile radius from your house. Being a parent mostly means having to go with the flow.
2. Breastfeeding is hard
I breastfeed my son. We are currently at 10 months. It has not been the natural, easy process I thought it would be. He was premature and needed to be tube-fed for the first 8 days of his life. I pumped every three hours, day and night, for all that time and beyond to make sure that I had a supply adequate for him when he was strong enough to latch. I got mastitis in week three. I have had it once more since then. We now have teeth to contend with…I will say no more on that. I have spent hours, literally hours being cluster-fed from, where the longest break you have is to quickly give baby to your partner while you run to the toilet and back. It is tough, for lots of people I would say, judging by my friends’ experiences. Of course, there are many reasons why it is worth it. But if your breastfeeding journey comes to end before you plan, like mine nearly has so many times, or doesn’t even start, don’t beat yourself up. It is tough and there is a lot of pressure out there. Of course, if you are acing the boobing I salute you, mama! But just remember, a fed and loved baby is a happy baby.
3. As well as all the other crap we deal with as women, there is this new thing called mum guilt
This ties in with point number two. Because hands up if you have felt guilty about whether your baby is eating enough? Sleeping enough? If you worry that you’ve taken too long to change a nappy? That you don’t bath them enough? That you bath them too much? That you bought the cheaper monitor/pram/crib/highchair/anything compared to the all singing and dancing version? That you have a phone in his face too often, video calling the grandparents? That you forgot to give him his vitamins on Monday, and Thursday and Friday? That you cried because you’re tired? Ever felt guilty for any of that? Push the mum guilt aside. There is no perfect mother and you are doing the best possible job you can.
4. Beware of the 3am spree
It’s late. Or is it early? You don’t know up from down, you just know you have a tiny person on your person who is hungry and you need to stay awake. You reach for your phone; hello Amazon/ASOS/JoJo, my old pals. I have bought some great buys during those wee hours, but my advice to my pre-mum self would be not to get sucked into buying the whole world just because it’s baby-related. No, you don’t need those extra soft, extra large, extra extra muslins; you have a million and one in the drawer next to you. No, you don’t need the Scandi-style nursery lampshade for £80. Practical buys of things that you didn’t realise you’d need; yes. Extravagant, nonsensical purchases; just say no. While we’re at it, don’t be afraid to limit what you buy before the baby comes. Make a list of essentials and stick to that. You can always buy extra things later. You don’t want to end up with a house full of stuff you never used (she says, eyeing up the cupboard brimming with things that definitely shouldn’t be there…)
5. Don’t be afraid of second-hand
As well as being kinder to the planet, buying second-hand can contribute to a healthy wallet. I am lucky; my mum manages a charity shop so we had a second-hand bouncer, playmat, door bouncer, clothes, nightlamp and I’m sure various other bits and bobs that my sleep-deprived mind can’t think of right now. Facebook Marketplace is another great resource for pre-loved baby items. As long as it’s in good nick and safe, go for it.
6. Everything is a phase and sleep isn’t linear
You’ve cracked it, this parenting malarkey. Your child is now sleeping five, six, eight hours straight (for the record this has never been us and I am envious if it happens to be you!). The routine is perfected, everything is going your way. Congratulations! Wait, what’s that? Is that a tooth? Oh, are we hitting the four-month sleep regression? Six-month sleep regression? Seven-month separation anxiety? Nine-month separation anxiety? Developmental leap? You think you have it nailed and it all changes. Don’t worry though; things will settle, teeth calm down, the separation anxiety passes but until then it is understandable (perhaps even necessary) to go into survival mode and do whatever is required to get you through (pass the biscuits, sugar is life!). And just when you think you’ve cracked that stage, it will all change again.
7. “It goes so fast” is a cliché for a reason
I had a pound for every time a stranger told me while I was out for a walk over the last 10 months how quickly it all goes, well, I’d be sitting somewhere much sunnier and beachier as I write this. But it’s true; as we edge towards the one-year mark, I am teetering on the precipice of “mother of a baby” to “mother of a toddler”. It is genuinely terrifying how time has slid through my fingers like fine play area sand. And for that reason, cherish those cuddles, the milky smells, the gummy first smiles. If you do end up co-sleeping when you never thought you would, relish waking up with a podgy foot in your face (hopefully your baby’s, not your partner’s!). Appreciate the slow life. It is incredibly cheesy but a friend told me “the nights are long but the years are short” and, although in the depths of sleep deprivation it isn't at all helpful to hear, it is very true.