As a pregnant woman you will excited, brimming with joy and anticipation of your new arrival and expecting everything to happen the way that you happily read about in all of your books. The books are great, there is no denying that. You can buy one for each month of the pregnancy, the countdown to the birth, the birth itself, what a Dad should expect, newborn advice, weaning and so many more.
What no book tells you is the detail of how shitty some of the times are really gonna be. You know there will be sleepless nights but not one baby book describes the feeling of sleep deprivation – yes you heard me right, deprivation! There is a reason it is used as a form of torture. You will be exhausted, craving caffeine and sweet things, you will be irritable, emotional, teary and sometimes angry. Add in a birth that you do not get time to recover from, a newborn who probably does not stop crying and a Dad who only gets 2 weeks off work to help you and you are suddenly on a merry go round you cannot get off!! You will no longer know what feeling like you is… newsflash, you may not for another 18 years!
The books do not tell you this, coz let’s face it, nobody would ever want a baby if every little crappy detail was broadcast! BUT how on earth are you supposed to cope if you have not been prepared? Many parents sit at home and behind closed doors look at each other wondering what on earth they have done and why is it only their baby who won’t stop crying, won’t sleep or is feeding so much that it seems as though it will never be full?! In reality, every single parent at some point thinks this. I swear it is an unwritten rule that all parents must feel at a loss, feel guilty and like they are doing it all wrong within the first few months of bringing their bundle of joy home. This just comes with the job. A job with no description, no interview and certainly no time off.
I will be honest and say there have most definitely been times when I have screamed into a pillow, punched that pillow and phoned a family member begging for help so I could sleep. I would (and still do) text my sister every detail of what is happening with my son and in my day just so I can stay sane and get a reply from another adult, who then can tell me everything is gonna be ok. The lack of sleep is the killer. If we could all hand our babies to somebody at 5:30pm and get a full nights sleep every night, not one of us would look bedraggled, have huge bags under our eyes, have greasy hair, a messy house and we would all be able to think clearly. Waking every few hours kinda takes the reality out of life. It is like living in a parallel universe where some days all you do is simply function until the day is over. You do what you need to do to get through it and ensure your teeny bubba is well looked after. Days and nights merge into one another, dates and weekdays evade you – no wonder we all start saying ‘I just don’t know where the time goes’ when you suddenly look down at your baby to discover it is now 6 months old!!
You may not recognise yourself, you may feel like you are living in groundhog day and you may want to cry at every little thing that goes wrong simply because you don’t have the energy to cope with it like a ‘normal’ person. I am here to say this is all ok. My son is 2 and I still have days like this. He can wake at night (like he is at the moment), he can challenge me, he can infuriate me and wear me out. He no longer naps, he is on the go from the moment he wakes up and I not only have to keep up with him, I also need to tidy the house, carry out chores, do the shopping and so on. So, whether you have a newborn, a 2-year-old, a 7-year-old or even a teenager, you are most definitely not the only one in a situation which may make you feel like you could easily close the bedroom door and sleep for 2 weeks straight just to feel like a human being again.
The best tip ever given to me was by a health visitor on her check after Jake was born. She told me that if I was having a bad day, if he was crying too much and I felt like I couldn’t handle it, to place him in his Moses basket, ensure he was safe and walk away and make a cuppa. She said a little crying would not hurt him and me taking a breather and getting away from the intensity of a situation would help to calm any Mum (who was at home alone) and you could return to the baby once you were more composed. This always stayed with me and it was something I needed. The guilt of not being able to settle your baby can affect you in different ways. You may start to feel like a bad parent, you may feel depressed and you could feel anger towards yourself for failing. You are NOT failing. You are a person and you have needs too. You still need to eat, drink, sleep, recuperate and be you. You cannot ignore your own needs otherwise you will be no good to your little one. If leaving your baby to have one sip of hot tea is what you need to do to clear your mind and return to them with a huge smile on your face then do this. If you need to scream into a pillow, do it! If you need to punch that pillow to let your frustrations out, punch away. Don’t bottle up your feelings it will only make things seem so much worse. Everybody deals with situations in different ways. Some people may find peace for their mind through meditation, some may need some fresh air, some of you may feel the need to scream and shout, crying may work to release your emotions and others of you may need to punch a pillow! Do whatever works for you.
There will be days when the house looks like a bomb has gone off, you won’t have time to fix it, you won’t shower and you may even forget to brush your teeth – I got to 4pm one day when I realised I hadn’t brushed mine!! I am in no way saying this is how it will be day in day out. I am saying there will be days like these and these days will feel like months. They will be your darkest times and without time for you, they can be made to feel even worse.You are doing a fantastic job and you have brought a beautiful new little life into this world. This life does not mean that yours stops. It means you have many more responsibilities and your days will be busier but sometimes you need to say sod it to the washing up, ignore that pile of washing, turn a blind eye to the dirty bathroom and just cuddle your baby on the sofa all day. You are not perfect, nobody is and if anybody moans that your house is a mess just point them in the direction of the hoover!
Be open with yourself and also with your family and friends. If you are feeling pretty crappy tell somebody. Get a family member to watch your little one whilst you take a well-deserved nap. Let your Mother in law do your washing up, let the friend come round for the cuppa regardless of the mess and if you need to cry, just cry. Let out all those emotions and let them wash away, out of your body so you can start afresh.
Then have a hot cuppa and that bar of chocolate because you have most definitely earned it!!
″If you’re completely exhausted and don’t know how you’re going to keep giving this much of yourself day after day, you’re probably a good parent.″