January 21, 2020

Mama Life || To The Mum Who's Just Found Out ...

Someone I know recently announced their first pregnancy, and it got me to thinking back to those early days. Up til the point you actually see those magical lines appear on the stick, you only really consider what it would be like having a baby, but once you KNOW you're officially a Mum awaiting the arrival of your bundle, your head rapidly fills with a million questions about the unknown you're about to experience. For me there was always the constant worry of miscarriage, something being wrong with the baby, then what the birth would be like, how much pain I'd be in, wondering if I was actually capable mentally and physically of growing and birthing a real actual human being. Being in the head of a pregnant lady is very scary indeed!

Needless to say, I got there in the end and even went on to have another, but I know only too well how scary and anxious those early days can be. Although even now being a mum causes me a lot of anxiety, it's different and a lot more manageable than being in the midst of pregnancy hormones and fearing the unknown.

With this in mind, I thought I'd talk a little bit about those very early days and maybe cover a few things that you or someone you know may be worrying about if they or you have just found out you're pregnant for the first time. Buckle up! You're about to have an adventure!

Who should I tell and when?

So this one is very different depending on your age, circumstances and employment. For most, a standard 12 week wait is adhered to, perhaps telling very close friends and immediate family only earlier on out of pure excitement. There really is no right or wrong with this one, but for me I loved having that few weeks of an amazing little secret that would change our lives forever. I told work when I had to for appointments etc, we told our parents after only being around four weeks pregnant and our siblings too. I kind of regretted telling people so early on, so second time round we waited until the 12 week mark as we knew the months of questions were to follow and wanted a little peace from it for as long as we could. The main thing is though is that this is your body, your baby and your family, so only tell who you want to when you want to. With work, you may need to let somebody know, but you don't have to let everyone know until you're ready and the person you tell will not be allowed to pass this around the office or wherever you work. 

Worrying if your baby is growing OK?

You will have regular scans but if you're ever, ever in doubt about the health of you and your baby, go and get checked. When it comes to our children, it's always better to be over cautious and although everything is most probably fine, not getting checked may cause you stress and stress is bad for us mamas. You may be told your baby is large or small for the gestation and once again, just make sure you are checked regularly. It's quite normal for baby to not follow the ideal lines exactly, but it's something we can't change, so really shouldn't worry about. Just insist on regular check ups if they aren't making appointments for you and remember how different us humans are to each other, there's never going to be a 'perfect' baby that does everything by the book at exactly the right times. It's great that they have guidelines but they can sometimes make us feel more worried than we need to.

Should I have the tests for down syndrome etc?

This again is completely up to you, there is no right or wrong answer, you go with your gut and that is the right decision. Not choosing to have it doesn't make you a bad mum or a bad person and neither does having it done. For me, I figured that unless the baby wouldn't survive whatever the results chose then I would keep it anyway, so it didn't seem worth going through the worry and risks it can bring. I felt that if baby was born and had any kind of issue, that initially they would still just need milk and cuddles like any other baby and that we'd figure the rest out as we went along. Others may read that and think it's a ridiculous way of looking at it, but it was the right decision for me.

What if something goes wrong?

The most important thing to remember not just in pregnancy but in life generally, is to not stress about things we can't change. Nobody can say everything will go to plan, but however much we plan, stress or research, we can't possibly change the outcome of what's to be, so there really is no reason to worry about it. Be sure to ask questions, no questions are bad ones and there are so many communities online to support you as well as in real life.

How painful is the birth going to be? I don't think I can handle it!

As someone that cries like a baby if I cut myself whilst chopping veg or gets a bad paper cut, I can happily say this was something that worried me, a lot! Even second time round I worried even though I knew what was coming. The main thing with this question is that yes, of course it hurts, but that even though we don't have a clue what we're doing, it's what our bodies are made for and it will just take over and do what it needs to to get the baby out. After nine months, we are all uncomfortable enough to endure pretty much anything to be able to bend again, so it's a welcome relief in a way when those contractions start or you head in for induction. You can handle this even if you have the lowest pain threshold ever and it's the one time you can have a cocktail of helpful medication and lovely gas and air to see you through. Do not worry about the pain! You just get in the zone and do it, then you're presented with your beautiful baby and it's instantly forgotten.

Baby stuff is SO expensive, do I really need it all?

No. If there's one thing we all learn the hard way, it's that you don't need everything and certainly not straight away. I remember my midwife telling me this exact thing, she said that really all new babies need is love and milk, so as long as you had a safe place for them to sleep, something warm to put them in and a source of milk, be it breast or formula, then they would have everything they need. Of course I didn't listen, we decorated a nursery, got a cot, bumpers, duvet, nappy bin, changing station, the absolute works! We were so excited, we had a million outfits, all the vests, tee shirts, baby gros and adorable little hats and most of it got passed on or kept in the loft unworn or unused. The one thing I'd probably still get carried away with if I had another would be the clothes, they are just too cute and fun to buy, but the rest was really not needed and here's why; For the first year Alfie slept in our bedroom, so that new nursery sat empty all that time! At one, he already felt too old for a baby room, so we needn't really have bothered with most that stuff. We ended up buying a mini crib for our room so I could have him close by and other than blankets and boobs, he didn't really want for much else in the first few months. After a couple of months a play mat and bumbo seat is a good idea and a few toys, but the larger things like high chairs and jumperoo type equipment can wait until they are four months - six months ish. After that point you can buy what you need as you go, so I would honestly recommend not spending a fortune before baby gets here.

What's my body going to be like after?

I won't lie, you may well be a bloody (literally) mess afterwards, but also - you won't give a shit about it. I laid there covered in blood, a drip in my arm, a tonne of stitches and a catheter in place but it was the best day ever! My tummy still looked like it was harbouring a few more babies in there but do you know, two weeks later I was two stone lighter and slowly deflating, so it's all good eventually. I had a bit of a traumatic birth, so had quite a bad tear (front to back no less) and the stitches were very sore. It took me around eight months before I could let my husband come near me again and around a year to feel healed. My body went through a lot, so it needed time to recover which came as a bit of a shock. Mine was quite an extreme case and second time round I had none of the same issues, I had a small cut made with fewer stitches that healed well and quickly and was out shopping with baby on day two! So like everything, there's no way of telling how it will go, but you can do it, you will do it and it will all be worth it. 

How will I know what to do with a baby, I've never even held one before?

This is something I heard a lot in NCT classes etc and I know I definitely felt this one, a lot. Everyone says it feels natural and when the baby is here you will just take to it like a duck to water and in most cases this is true, especially when it comes to soothing, cuddling, changing etc, but it all takes practise. The things I found hard were things like co sleeping which terrified me but had to be done and bathing which was also scary as hell. The hospital were great with this kind of thing though, so I recommend getting advice when you're in there and asking ALL the questions. You will learn as you go along and just don't let anyone make you feel bad for not knowing everything from the off, nobody does. At times we all feel a bit useless and hopeless, but it's only because we are great mums and care so much. You'll find your way, I promise. On the flip side, it is quite common for mums to not feel much of a bond and almost feel it's a little bit of an anticlimax as they aren't having that feeling everyone says they will. If this is you, don't worry. It will come and if it does carry on, be sure to reach out for help from your midwife of after care team, they will know just what to do.

Breast or bottle?

People say fed is best and in theory yes, it's better to feed a baby than not of course but the fact is breast milk is healthier for a baby. That said, if you don't want to breast feed for any reason, that's OK too, your baby will still thrive and in many ways I would have loved to have bottle fed, but neither of mine would take a bottle! Do your research as much as you want, but also go with the flow when baby is here. The thought of feeding is quite weird and a bit icky before baby, but once you're holding them and your body does it's thing, it can feel very natural. If you want to breast feed but are struggling, in pain or nervous, ask ask ask ask ask for help! Health care professionals can vary in their knowledge of feeding and the advice you give, but there are also lots of trained peer supporters like me dotted about that are more than happy to help those in need, especially if we get teeny baby cuddles! So if you don't want to stop, don't. There will always be help somewhere close by, so be sure to reach out for it. If you want to, your midwife will be able to help you latch baby on almost straight away, and in a days time you will wake up with some whopping porno boobs full of milk! You may get a bit leaky for a while, but your body is super clever and will eventually adapt to what your baby needs and alas, your page three beauties will shrink back to a more 'normal' size. If your nipples get sore, you may need to readjust your latch, apply some nipple cream or magical breast milk to sooth them. Usually, if it hurts then you just need to work on your latch, so relax and keep trying. If formula is more your cup of tea, then my advice would just be to not spend too much on bottles and formula until you know what your baby likes, as they can't reject certain bottles or have reactions to certain formulas, so try one to start with with a couple of bottles and go from there.

Will my social life be over when I become a Mum?

Your life as you know it pre baby will be gone, I'm sorry about that. Your social life will of course be different, you will have someone to get home to, someone that wants to wake up at 5am and jump on your head in two years time and you probably won't want to go out in quite the same way you did before, at least not for a while. Your life will change, a lot, but it's a great change and it will bring new hobbies, loves, careers and friendships. You will find fun in different things, perhaps with different people. Your priorities will change, you may have less time for yourself, but it's still important to take care of yourself and have fun, so always be sure to make that time for yourself too. 

Will I be a good mum? I can't even keep a plant alive!

To this day i can't bring a plant home without killing it, yet I have two beautiful school age children absolutely thriving. If I can do it, you can too. Us mums are terrible for being too hard on ourselves and scrutinising our every move, especially in those early days, but remember that worrying about being a bad mum actually makes you a great mum. I always think that an actual 'bad mum' wouldn't give a damn what kind of mums she is, so if you're worried about that then you're automatically a good egg of a mama, you care so much that you're even worrying if you're doing it right, you totally are.

I really hope this post finds someone that finds it helpful at some point, though if you have had a baby already and want to add to these points, or you're a mum that's just found out she's pregnant, feel free to leave me a comment below. Good luck mama and congrats!

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