What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

When becoming a new parent is nothing like you'd expected ...

By Bern Morley

When becoming a new parent is nothing like you'd expected ...

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day I brought my daughter home. I was young and heartbreakingly naïve and I had no idea what I was meant to do with this tiny human that I was holding in my arms.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I had to keep her safe, warm and nourished but apart from that, I was clueless as to what I was supposed to do with a baby.

This is the one great taboo amongst parents. We know that we want a baby, we know that we are instantly in love with them, but it’s hard to admit that not only are we out of our depth, we are also struggling to see where we ourselves, fit into this new life.

During the first week, I was still very much riding the newborn “buzz”. I was still open to visitors popping in. In fact, my daughter hadn’t really even woken up all that much. I remember openly questioning what the big deal was. These newborns, what a piece of cake, what was everyone going on about.

After about a week though, everything changed. Suddenly my house wasn’t full of well-wishers anymore and my beautiful girl was still beautiful but had also taken to waking up every 2 hours and because I was the one in possession of the breasts, i.e. the food, I too was up every second hour. They don’t use sleep depravation as a torture method for nothing, let me tell you.

Then not long after, the mastitis hit. And I just didn’t understand what was happening. Because in all the classes, in all the conversations I’d had with my friends, no one had mentioned that I might suddenly feel as if I’d been struck down with the flu. And then not long after, with hot, pulsating, aching breasts, become so sick that I could barely move.

I felt like I had jinxed myself, believing that this whole being a Mum wasn’t so hard. I had gotten cocky and look where it had landed me.

Being this sick though, doesn’t register with a 2 week old. They, and rightly so, still want to eat and wake and poop and well, be a baby.

If I were thinking anything in those first four weeks it would be this: What have I done? Because I was suddenly baffled as to why I would put myself in this situation.

There you would find me at 2am, screaming baby in one arm, desperately hoping the electric pump would work fast enough, crying in pain, angry that I wasn’t shown any of this in the brochures.

Luckily, after a heavy dose of antibiotics and a fantastic and supportive doctor, the fog cleared. Most importantly, I got to catch up on some sleep. My daughter settled a little, started to sleep for longer stretches and I started to fall into a routine. A broken, imperfect routine, but a routine none the less.

My mind also cleared, or should I say, the fog cleared. I started to make plans to go out with my friends, no longer panicking that I might have to feed her in public or activate my new, complicated pram in public.

My days changed of course. They revolved around making sure my baby was fed and changed and warm and my mind was constantly trying to anticipate the next thing it would be required to process, especially as she grew.

For one, the thought process that goes into baby-proofing a house really is quite daunting. The minute they start to move about, suddenly the innocuous snow globe that has always lived on the side table is a potential hazard. The toilet cleaner, ditto.

Every new stage came with a new game plan, one I had to rewrite each time. 

Your first child of course is the guinea pig. The one you learn on, the one that teaches you and sets you up so that when the second one comes along, you’re ready, or more so, you aren’t so surprised.

It’s funny, when we are pregnant, so much focus goes into actually having the baby that so little is left for the aftermath. Yet really, in the blink of an eye, the baby is out, one way or another, and it’s just you and the little human. This is simultaneously daunting and miraculous.

If I have any advice it would be to ask for help and guidance. The internet is also an amazing place to find support. You are never alone. 

Was becoming a mother easy? No, definitely not. Was it stressful, yes, yes it was. Is it worth it? Nothing is worth more in the world.

Bern Morley is the Parenting Editor of Mamamia and proud mother of three.

Posted in:  A new reality  Baby 0-4 weeks  Parenting Experts  Your needs