If there’s one thing that no pregnancy guide or baby book can prepare you for, it’s the shell shock you feel in those first few weeks of bringing your new baby home. Becoming a mum is life-changing!
Of course, we are told this but you can’t truly comprehend it until you experience it for yourself. New motherhood is a rocky ride! There is no induction. No manual. No training. You have to learn on the job! In fact, if the responsibilities and conditions were outlined in a job ad, I am not sure it would receive many applicants! And yet, many of us keep going back for more….
As a first-time mother you devote all your time and energy to your newborn baby. It’s a steep learning curve and being responsible for a little baby is all consuming. I’ve been reflecting on those early days of new motherhood. I remember when Mr NASD and I prepared to leave the maternity hospital with Miss A. She was sound asleep in her capsule and I was a mixed bundle of excitement and apprehension. When we got to the exit I remember thinking, “Are they really going to let us leave here with this baby?” I half expected an alarm to go off and security to come and take the baby off us. I mean, we weren’t experienced or responsible enough to care for a tiny baby, were we?
As it turned out, no alarm went off and no one paid us any attention as we left the hospital, and began our very slow and cautious drive home from the hospital. When we arrived back at our inner city home (because the ‘burbs hadn’t come calling yet) I remember staring at our tiny person in utter disbelief. We were home. We were parents. We had a baby. Officially we were grown ups!
Any day now I will be returning to newborn land, where days are characterised by (what seem to be) endless feeds, nappy changes and an unrelenting sleep fog. I remember those days well. And I am staring down the barrel of them again, after a four-year hiatus.
New motherhood brings so many changes. And I am not just talking about leaking boobs, a merciless fatigue and a weak pelvic floor! Amid the wild celebrations and emotional vertigo, there can be some intense emotional pressures and challenges. You hear it’s tough, often tiring and sometimes tedious (sometimes?), but you can’t really understand it until you’re living it.
For me, I found the physical changes easier to adjust to. I’m not saying I enjoyed living in a perpetual state of fatigue for 12 months, but I was able to cope with it. What I found more challenging, and less discussed, was the sense that as I had become a mum, I had lost a sense of my “self”. Having worked in a corporate environment in a role that involved travel, responsibility, decisions and change, I suddenly found myself alone at home spending a lot of time on the floor. I struggled with the monotony of motherhood; the lack of interaction, adult conversation, the “buzz” of an office. The soundtrack of the Wiggles played on an endless loop in my head and I tired easily over conversations about poo, sleep and milk.
By far the most difficult adjustment for me was the way motherhood altered my sense of space. In short, it destroyed it. My “Velcro” baby was so attached to me that I couldn’t be apart from her. I wanted to be needed, but I needed some space too. But it can feel impossible to keep a sense of your self when there is a person whose very purpose is to need you. I couldn’t reconcile these conflicting needs and so I gave myself entirely to motherhood.
I am sure my experience is true of many first-time mums. If only I knew then what I know now. Sacrificing yourself entirely for your baby does not make you a better mum. It makes you an exhausted mum and can compromise your health. I now know that my role as a mother is important but it doesn’t exclusively define me.
New resources are being developed all the time to assist mums with the transition to new motherhood, like Bupa’s mummatters. mummatters is a mobile tool that is designed to help women who are pregnant, or just had a baby, look after their emotional wellbeing. It emphasises the importance of ‘me’ time and encourages you to regularly ‘check-in’ with how you’re feeling, which is so important at this time. And if more help is ever needed, mummatters can help you find it.
Becoming a mother is life-changing. Literally overnight you become responsible for an extension of yourself; you become a lifeline. The good news is lifelines are available to you too. As I approach motherhood for the fourth time I feel so relaxed about it. I know that in order to be a happy mum, I must give back to myself to. And the mummatters app is a fabulous way for me to stay on top of my emotional health and wellbeing.
How did you find the transition to new motherhood? Did you feel like it altered your sense of self? What was the hardest adjustment for you?
*This post was brought to you by Bupa.