I’m reflecting on the joy (ahem) of being a new mum. (I suppose by now I’ve “been” a new mum, and am now a lifer). And thinking about some of the particular challenges for women who PAUSE the career-treadmill.
The type of women who know that if they try a bit harder at something, work at it for a bit longer, and read a few more books, they’ll get the desired results. To this, babies say “HA HA HA!!!“.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your adult life avoiding babies (we had nothing in common). Working long hours on Things That Mattered Very Much (albeit you now can’t remember what they were). And working away from family.
I mean – the pregnancy and baby books were read and the relevant sections highlighted. The hospital bag was packed with precision. The baby seat was ISO-locked in place and you triple-read the section on breast-feeding (so what could go wrong?). You knew in theory where to hire a breast-pump. And you had ice-packs in the freezer for dealing with Unmentionables, and a baby room thermometer. You had a bath thermometer. You had an ear thermometer. You also had a baby pedicure kit. These things helped you to be Prepared and In Control.
And perhaps you were. Maybe you’ve got your shit together (in which case – seriously, well done you). And/or were blessed with a baby who seemed to have got their shit together. This post is for the mums who don’t have their shit together; for mums who feel like hiding under the bed covers during the day. (But know it’s child neglect if they’re the only adult in the house.)
For these mums, it goes a bit like this:
The baby turned-up. To use a very good friend’s current colloquialism – you suddenly find yourself at the bottom of a very deep shitpit. A visit to Crazytimes with no return for the foreseeable future.
You’re sharing your shitpit with a baby who doesn’t sleep and cries like you wouldn’t believe. You’re dripping milk everywhere at the same time as struggling to breastfeed (how can that be?). It’s not the poop that will get to you, or the nappies… to begin with it’s the endless cycle of poop-pee-feed-burp-cry-maybe sleep but maybe not-poop some more-cry-burp-feed-burp-maybe sleep. If your baby has colic, reflux, any sort of illness, or any other delightful ailment that you read about but assumed wouldn’t happen – chuck in a load more crying, burping, and not-sleeping (you, baby, and partner). And worry. Googling and doctor visits. You’ll hurt your neck because you’re on WhatsApp at 3.17am messaging anyone who’s awake.
All the while… even though you know it’s probably not the case… the other mums and their babies have got their shit together. Your friends and family will be able to soothe your baby in nanoseconds. You’ll lose some baby-weight (hallelujah!) but quickly acquire new cake-weight. Evilness.
Breathe. A lot of new mums are feeling the same as you. And many of them were kick-ass at work and brilliantly competent before Becoming Mum, too. (And will be again – we’re just taking time out to grow a human.)
Let’s recap how to approach the early months, in case you missed it in the books you underlined. Here’s the trick:
It’s not about breast-feeding. Or routine. It doesn’t matter if your baby naps with the curtains closed in their cot or in their pram (your baby is asleep – bloody hell, high five). It’s about survival. About waiting it out until you reach your stride.
That might mean you need to burn the text books and sod the 3-hourly routine.
You might need to handover (preferably, not “lob”) your baby at the next Other Person who walks into your home. The Amazon delivery guy has never felt so loved.
You may have to ask daddy not to cook dinners any more – because you’d rather just stop eating so you can go to sleep while he looks after the baby after work. It’s ok to cry in bed if you need to, and to eat a lot of chocolate. It’s ok to breastfeed and sit around at home working with your teammate (clearly baby, not partner) getting it right. And it’s ok to burn your nursing bras and smash the breast-pump to formula-feed instead. Either way – your baby will thrive.
Survival. I’d have binned the baby books and embraced an Iron Man challenge instead, before running a marathon and staying up all night trying to watch (and follow the tenuous plot line of) every episode of 24. I’d have given up fruit and vegetables and survived on cereal and soup, to get my digestive system acclimatised to its new food-input. It would have been better physical and mental preparation for those early months.
Oh, and I’d have put sodding freezer meals in the sodding freezer for the next 8 weeks. Just like everyone tells you to. But all purchased from Cook – obviously.
New recruits: well done for getting this far. Give yourself a massive pat on the back. Book a babysitter for 4 hours, and then go to bed with earplugs and a massive glass of something to help you sleep… You’re amazing.