What I wish I knew: New Baby
To say I was unprepared to be a mother to a new baby, would be a gross understatement. Of course I thought I was ready, because this was no accidental pregnancy, but nothing could have prepared me for those first 6 weeks as a mom.
It felt a bit like a car accident, really. Labour was okay. I wasn’t very well informed but, all things considered, it wasn’t bad. Until of course Zac aspirated maconium and was very sick. Which was obviously my fault. And so begins the guilt of that first 18 months.
But anyway. My bonding was hugely affected by finding myself in a hospital bed an hour after the birth with an empty womb but no one in my arms (because he was being treated in NICU). It took 24 hours of fighting with the nurses to finally get to do kangaroo care with him and this was in 2004.
Another thing I was unprepared for was breast feeding. “It’s the most natural thing in the world” they said. “Your body is MADE to feed your baby”. Yeah, no. That wasn’t the case for me and my poor child lost weight so fast, it was scary. And yes, I tried EVERYTHING. Oh hey, look at that, more guilt.
So here we have no milk and no bond and now you’re stuck at home alone with this new human being, without a clue what to do next. Yes, I know we should spend as much time as possible staring into each other’s faces but I’d rather stare at a good book, or a movie. To say it felt weird would be putting it lightly. I was so disconnected. But anyway, it’s time to turn this post around.
How to prepare for becoming a mom
From the moment you fall pregnant or start the adoption paperwork you need to realise that this is not about you. You will shortly be 100% responsible for a new human being, with a soul and feelings and a brain that needs to think for itself eventually. No pressure, but try not to mess this up.
Labour is called labour for a reason. It is hard work on your body and your mind. Eat well, exercise and take your vitamins. Smoking and drinking is not going to make things better for anyone. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU ANYMORE.
Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to many of us. The only thing that worked for me, after being better prepared mentally with Zoë was Alfalfa Tonic. Jungle Juice, Brewers Yeast Tablets and that disgusting tea did nothing for me. Nor did the anti psychotic drugs. Although, it probably helped with the post natal depression a little bit. But it was more about the mental preparation than anything else.
It can take a good 6 weeks to find your way out of the fog. Cooking, showering and cleaning house should be left to someone else. There is a good reason why, in many cultures, moms go home to their families. You need to be with people you can trust and who can guide you back into the land of the living again. Yes, it is that traumatic.
Take time. More time than you think you need. Just hold the baby. It’s not much fun in the beginning but it will slowly make you feel like this is all real. This new human doesn’t need much from you. They just want to be fed, clothed and loved. Do what you need to do to make that happen.
Do what is best for the child ALWAYS. If breast feeding or whatever isn’t working for you, let it go. Enough with the guilt now. Remember, judgy moms are dissatisfied with their own lives. Their opinions have nothing to do with you.
Raising a child is a huge responsibility, and it doesn’t even feel rewarding, for YEARS. Just keep the kid fed, clothed and loved and you’ll be fine.