Dear First Time Mama
Dear First Time Mama: Be Kind to Yourself, Be Present.
It has been 8 months since I started wearing this honourable badge called ‘motherhood’: wearing it with pride and still with extreme awe. I thought now would be the right time to reflect on the challenges of the fourth trimester and share an important piece of advice I wish I was given in the early stages.
Prior to giving birth, I definitely would have called myself the planner, the problem solver, a slight (or maybe extreme) overthinker with the tendencies to prepare options A, B and C to ensure things didn’t go too off course. It meant I always researched and thought about logistics, which worked out as a positive for most things (especially for family/friend gatherings, birthdays and weddings). However, having a baby, I guess you could say, doesn't follow such a straightforward structure. I had been around a lot of children as some of my closest friends and family already had children, so I went into my pregnancy focusing a lot more on labour prep and what my baby would need and not so much on how I would feel.
From day 1, my son was (and still is) wonderful, cute and content - we spent most of the first three months waking him up to feed him as he enjoyed sleeping more, but I was filled with fear, anxiety and stress. I had no idea how to look after a new born and prepare for the different things he may (or may not) have needed. The things I had learnt in the antenatal classes had gone right out the window and questions I should have asked came flooding in: How do you hold a baby in the bath? What do you pack to go on a 5 minute walk for fresh air? How do you give gripe water? I found myself becoming anxious at every new hurdle, anxious that I didn’t have all the answers and therefore, felt that I was failing my son. I spent hours on hours on Youtube watching the basics, speaking to mum friends and being embarrassed that I didn’t know this information already. It became my part time job. Before I knew it, I would leave my son with my husband or mum whilst I went away to research every option available to make sure I was making the right decision. The habit to overthink every single problem consumed me, so much so, it robbed me of a few special moments with my son. I kept being told that I would know what was right for my baby and I would just figure it out, instincts, but having always worked on logistics, there was no room for instincts. I wanted the answers now. I wanted to know I was doing my best for him and giving him the best support and care he deserved. I look back now, scanning through photos were he’s smiling, or crying, or looking around the room and I remember how absent minded I was. Focused so much on getting it right, I was never in the present.
Dear first-time mama, some advice I wish I had been given from the start is: embrace the experience of learning on the go and be present in the journey. You have come such a long way in a journey you could not predict or control, and there’s so much you and your baby will learn together that it will be beautiful, and it will be right for you. Asking friends, family, your community or simply going online for information does not make you a failure - it makes you resourceful. It’s true what they say about the instinct thing, you have to just accept that it will kick in when it’s time. Being present allows you to appreciate every amazing part of your new born - enjoy it.