When I was a new mum I read A LOT of blogs and articles about things that I was going through and wanting to learn more about, and I found it really helpful and normalising to read unvarnished tales of motherhood. I hope that in turn it is helpful for people to read about our story.
The main challenges I faced when I first became a mother were:
Mental health issues. I have had postnatal depression (PND), which was later diagnosed as mild postnatal psychosis, after both of my children.
If you’re having a tough time in those early months, even things said with the sweetest of intentions can induce parental guilt. In some ways a new mother is as fragile and vulnerable as their tiny baby.
Let’s celebrate the things people have said that were actually helpful! They will be different for everyone but I bet there are some that are helpful for lots of new parents.
One of the cards we got when Leo was born really stuck in my mind. As well as congratulating us and saying how gorgeous Leo was, it read:
I hope you’re enjoying parenthood and there are more ups than downs.
That one sentence, amidst all the cards saying how excited they were for us and how we should enjoy this precious time, meant SO MUCH to me.
It was the kindest little reality check. No judgement was implied – just a simple wish for happiness and an acknowledgement that early parenthood can be hard yards along with all the joys.
Helpful thoughts and practical advice people have shared with me:
This too shall pass (the good will pass, the bad too. So you may as well really be in this moment).
We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Make gratitude a daily practice.
Give yourself permission to feel overwhelmed.
Instead of putting your ‘parenting’ hat on, try just being yourself. It’s much more real and less energy.
It’s hard work being a baby – they’re learning so much and exposed to everything new.
You’ve got to be kind to be kind (rather than being cruel to be kind).
Motherhood is a marathon not a race.
Think about the sleep you’re getting rather than the sleep you’re not getting.
Start making dinner in the morning.
Say yes to whatever scares you most. Acknowledge it and then put your yoga to it. The fear will begin to shift and then you can see possibilities again.
Holding on tight is the surest way of seizing up any real potential for growth and change.
If something’s really not working then change it. Gently.
Unless babies have a poo in their nappy there’s no need to change them in the middle of the night.
Remind yourself that you’re doing great! (that’s the advice of our book).
In future posts I’m going to talk about some of the amazing people who have inspired me in my parenting (and inspired our book). I’m also going to write about the unhelpful things that people say to new parents.
What have been helpful things people have said to you? Please share the wisdom in the comments below!
As I get older and get to know myself better I see that a sense of community is integral to my happiness. One of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, talks about “the need to belong” and how universal it is.
As I mentioned in my post about loneliness as a new parent, we moved into a new area right before Leo was born, so we hadn’t had a chance to build up a local support network. In fact we didn’t meet our neighbours on either side until he was several months old. Once I had made friends and some new babies were born and other families moved into the street I felt like we were ‘home’.
Summertime is always lovely for getting to know people because we are all out of doors more. The photo above is from a very happy era on our street where the kids were toddlers and they played out the front until dusk.
Having a baby/kid is a great way of meeting new people. There’s mothers’ groups and playgroups, and when they are older there’s preschools and primary schools.
Any time I spend doing something that builds community gives back ten-fold. When I think of what community means, I think of:
Stepping out your front door and having someone to say “hi” to
Your kid playing with a neighbour’s kid
Helping someone with their pram going down the stairs
Giving a nod of solidarity and compassion when you see a parent with a tantruming toddler
Starting a meal train, or dropping some food off to a family when they’ve just had a baby or are having a tough time
Using collective buying power to start a food co-op
Wishing all the mothers out there a happy Mothers’ Day.
The first mothers’ day I celebrated as a mum was a joyful day. We saw my mum and I got to wish her a heartfelt happy Mothers’ Day – aware of the highs and lows that motherhood brings.
Leo was 5 months old and I was recovering from postnatal depression and finding my way as a new parent. Jeff and I were renegotiating our relationship now that there were three people in our family and our responsibilities and lifestyle had changed so much. I was getting to know Leo, forging an identity for myself outside of work, and forgiving myself for all the things that had been different from how I’d hoped (such as breastfeeding)… It was a tender, wonderful, intense time.
It is memories like these that inspired Jeff and I to write You’re Doing Great, Baby. It’s the book we wish we’d had when Leo was born – telling us that we were doing great, that our baby was doing great, and that we were going to make it through those early sleepless months just by hanging in there, taking each day at a time and reaching out for support when we need it.
This morning I was treated to breakfast in bed, made by Leo who is now five years old. Baby Clem was climbing all over the bed, and I was counting my blessings.
We are going to be writing more about our story and our progress writing and illustrating the book. We hope you’ll come along on the journey with us.