Since becoming a parent just over a year ago, there are so many things that I have learnt. Nothing in the world could prepare me for parenthood and both the highs and lows that come with it, but there are a few things that will stick with me forever:
A year is not a long time.
The newborn stage with Little R was a huge struggle and a complete shock to both of us. We were repeatedly told that babies begin to settle at twelve weeks but the first twelve weeks was the longest time of my entire life. I even marked the date on the calendar so I had something to look forward to. Sleep deprived, feeling isolated and struggling to feed Little R meant that I spent the first twelve weeks wishing it to go faster. Looking back on the past year, it has probably been the fastest year of my entire life. It has flown by. It seems like only last week that I was sporting a baby bump and preparing to give birth, and now I have a beautiful little girl who is trying to walk and talk. Everyone says to treasure every second but until you look back, I don’t think you can. I am saddened that Little R is no longer my little baby but I am so excited for all of the adventures that yet to come.
Breast Feeding is difficult, but it is worth it.
I struggled an awful lot with breast feeding at the beginning. I was constantly in pain and I spent my whole time dreading the next time she would want to feed. Once I had passed the six week point, however, it seemed to get easier and by twelve weeks I was a professional. It is my single, greatest achievement that I was able to feed Little R all by myself, for a whole year. I decided that her last feed would be on her first birthday and nothing could have prepared me for how heart breaking it would be. I am really lucky that my husband has been so supportive in my decision to feed her, and then my decision to stop. I could not have done it without him. During Little R’s newborn stage, he would sit up with me until the early hours of the morning, rubbing my back, whilst I sobbed because ‘I couldn’t do it’. He was my absolute rock and it was only his support that allowed me to continue to feed her.
PND is nothing to be ashamed of.
Post-natal depression was one of the challenges that I faced in parenthood. I am still dealing with it now, but I am on medication and I know that I have the support of my family, my friends and my husband. Becoming a new mum is a lonely time; my husband was at work and my family were far away. I would spend day after day sitting at home with a screaming baby, counting the minutes until husband came home. It was awful and I couldn’t cope. I hated being a parent and I felt like I couldn’t do it. At twelve weeks, my husband called my health visitor and arranged for her to come and see me. Once again, he was my absolute rock and offered so much support. I was referred to the GP who put me onto a course of anti-depressants. After a week, I had begun to feel so much better and as though I could be a parent. I am still taking the medication but I no longer feel like a fraud. It has helped to rationalise my emotions and has allowed me to fully bond with Little R, and helped my relationship with husband.
Becoming a mum leaves you open to judgement.
As soon as you fall pregnant, people feel the need to voice their opinions. Whether they think you should remain pregnant, whether they agree with your pregnancy, whether you look as though you are carrying a boy or a girl or how much weight they think you should have gained. It continues once you have given birth, people feel the need to comment on your baby, the way you have chosen to feed or the way that you have decided to parent. At the time, I would take it personally when people would make these comments but I am now able to shrug them off. Whilst I still come home and rant to my husband about things I have been told, I no longer get upset when people are rude. People will always voice their opinions and it’s important to ignore them. Unless you ask for advice, don’t take it.
Mummy knows best.
Not only do people judge your parenting, but they will offer advice. I was told countless times that nursing Little R was the worst thing I could do, that I wasn’t filling her and that she needed formula milk. Even recently a woman informed me that formula is better for babies than breastmilk. Health professionals also offer ridiculous advice. I chose to co-sleep with Little R at the beginning because she just wouldn’t settle in her own bed. The health visitor informed that I was doing the wrong thing and I was increasing the chances of cot death. I began to wean Little R at sixteen weeks, but was told by the GP I was doing the wrong thing and that it would cause problems because she wasn’t ready. Although it upset me, I continued to introduce her to solid food and I completely stand by my decision. She was such a greedy baby and at one point she was waking up every 45 minutes for milk. Now, Little R will eat everything and is the greediest baby I have ever met. She is still doll-like but she has a huge appetite. There were similar instances in which I was told that I was wrong, but the longer I have parented, the stronger I have become. Only my husband and I will decide on our parenting techniques, and as long as we support each other, we are strong enough to raise Little R well.
My family are amazing.
The most important thing that I have realised since having Little R is that my family are amazing. My mum, my sisters, my sister-in-law and her husband and most of all, my husband, have offered me their unconditional love and support. I didn’t realise that people cared so much about me before. Whilst I have lost friends through becoming a parent, I have discovered how amazing all of my family are, and how lucky I am to have them there.