My New Life As A Mum + My Survival Guide For Early Motherhood

A few things I wish I'd known before giving birth...

My New Life As A Mum + My Survival Guide For Early Motherhood

 

Just over 3 months ago, I gave birth to my first child, a baby boy named Théo.

Since then, I haven’t stopped learning, adjusting and processing new things. So much that I haven’t seen time go by.

The fourth trimester (the first 3 months of your baby’s life) was so real for me. It was like the birth itself was not enough to separate Théo from my body. He was still me, totally dependant, needing a feed every 2 hours, and I was still him, totally focused on his own needs, not knowing who I was as an individual anymore, not even having time to think about it.

This is the kind of things you have to experience in order to understand it. Just like motherhood, people can talk to you about it for hours and hours, it’s not until you go through it yourself that you’ll fully understand what it means.

They say that nothing can prepare you for motherhood. It’s indeed so true and I was definitely not prepared for it (even if I thought I was)!

So, I ended up giving myself a few months of self-proclaimed “maternity leave” on the spot and here is my first blog post since the birth…

I’ve learned so much since the birth (and not only about changing nappies) that I had to take some time to write about it. I know that if I wait too long, I won’t be able to describe things that well, even-though the sleepless nights and the new learnings are still taking all my time and energy at the moment.

Plus, if I can give you – based on my personal experience – a few tips that might help in your own early motherhood journey, I’d be super happy!

People talk a lot about the bright side of having a newborn, which is of course magical. But I really think they should talk more about the challenges that come with it too and be transparent in order to avoid young parents not being aware that the first few months can be totally draining physically, and emotionally, but on their relationship too.

It’s pretty easy to understand that in just a few hours – after the birth of your child – your whole reality is going to be turned upside down. It’s a very different thing to go through it though.

People don’t often mention that it’s not only going to take a while to recover from the birth (for the stitches to heal, getting your pelvic floor back to normal, stop bleeding, getting your energy back, etc), but it will also take a while to adjust to your new life and find a new balance, as a family.

To be perfectly honest, it’s been over 3 months since Théo is born and I am still adjusting to it.

It’s also important to be able to take a break from your mum’s life to do a few little things on your own from time to time, such as having a haircut or a massage because you probably need it and it will help you to slowly get back to your life as an individual.

What I mean by that is that – at least it was what I experienced – it was difficult to redefine my identity as a person (without your baby) after birth. As much as you have to find your place as a new mum, you also have to re-learn to do things on your own after a little while. Simple things like going to the hairdresser or even doing grocery shopping might seem meaningless but will actually help you be with yourself again while baby stays with someone else.

Because let’s be honest… In the beginning, having a life beyond baby stuff is almost impossible. In the first few weeks, I was super happy if I could manage to get my hair washed and my teeth brushed before 6pm. No kidding!

Being a mum is a lot of work and harder than I thought! (Respect and love to all the mamas out there).

In the beginning, you don’t know when night starts or ends anymore. The days go by super quickly, sometimes without you leaving the bed. This little human being that just arrived into the world doesn’t have any rhythm yet and you’ve got to go with it. Baby is the boss from now on!

But step-by-step you’ll gain a bit more time for yourself. That’s why this first blog post is a kind of an accomplishment for me – I still can’t remember how many trials it took me before managing to actually write something coherent in almost one go.

I deeply think that birthing and creating a family is an amazing experience but it’s not all rainbows and sparkles like we are too often told. It comes with challenges, pain, suffering, stress, blood, sweat and tears.

Not to mention post-natal hair loss and depression. When your hormones are a mess, so are you! And it takes time to get back to “normal” and feel the same again… I am still not there yet and there is no magic recipe to fast-track it.

Of course, creating a family with the one you love is worth it and having the most amazing little human in your arms is just incredibly wonderful, that’s why I wanted to recommend a few things to help you get through the first few weeks, if like me, you were not prepared enough for the ride.

Here they are:

1. Take it easy!

Don’t try to manage it all. It’s ok to go with the flow (AKA your baby’s flow). That might mean that some days, you won’t leave the house at all, you might not even take a shower before 5pm and you might eat yogurt for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s totally ok. It won’t be like this forever (even though it might feel forever when you’re going through this).

In some civilizations, new moms stay at home, not doing anything but taking care of their newborn for 40 days. While the new mom is providing and taking care of her baby, others are providing for her.

This is something I’ll definitely plan to do for my second child. Not planning a move or anything for a whole month.

You might just want to plan a great book or a series for the first few months when you’ll be breastfeeding most of the time.

Once I let go of everything else I wanted to do (working, exercising, cooking, grocery shopping, wearing make-up, seeing friends and family, etc) and went with the flow of not doing much but just being with my baby, everything became easier. But pay attention, that also means relying a lot on the new daddy for everything else.

 

2. Don’t skip meals – especially if you’re breastfeeding

I had a hard time managing it all at the beginning. When the simple fact of getting showered was a challenge, you can imagine that eating 3 balanced meals per day is mission impossible. So, sometimes I just forgot to eat until I got starved and ate anything I could find that didn’t require any preparation. This is NOT something you want to do!

Recovering from the birth is tricky and requires time and energy. Not to mention that you’ve lost a significant amount of blood and that you might be breastfeeding all at the same time. This is hardcore!

For my part, I had to be careful to eat regularly – luckily, my wonderful boyfriend was there to help. But despite his help, I still had low blood pressure and managed to catch a urinary tract infection, an eye infection and a breast infection over the first 4 weeks after the birth. I was so weak that my immune system was down. So…

 

3. Take your vitamins (+ cell food)

Of course, it’s super important to take a good pregnancy multivitamin throughout your whole pregnancy (and even before if you’re planning it). But it’s as important to keep taking it after to get back on your feet and breastfeed your baby. I can’t stress this enough.

Also, your periods after pregnancy and/or breastfeeding might be very heavy. It’s often the case after pregnancy. Heavy periods can cause iron deficiency (which triggers even heavier periods). This is why I kept taking my multi-vitamins over 18 months after birth. Cell food can also be great to replenish your minerals and trace minerals.

 

4. Limit visits and ask for help

Friends and family will want to see your little peach. And even if it’s a great thing and that you love them all very much, you won’t have much time left to cook, clean and take care of yourself, the house and… your guests. To me, visits were just extra, unnecessary pressure.

So put yourself first and don’t be scared to say “no” when it’s too much. A friend of mine used to tell her family “ok, you can come and see the baby after work but you’ll have to bring dinner”. I think it’s a brilliant idea!

 

6. Make sure you get enough proper sleep… here is how

The difference between being tired and sleep deprived is huge but the boundary between both is thin and easily crossed when you’ve got a newborn. You’ll definitely be tired in your baby’s first months of life. You’ll notice that your short term memory is not working so well anymore, that you have to go to bed at 9 pm because it’s impossible to stay up late anymore and that sometimes you’ll be falling asleep on the sofa without even realizing it.

Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is much more destructive. It happened to me once, when I experienced a few sleepless nights in a raw.

I guess everyone reacts to sleep deprivation differently. Personally, I was so tired that I was not feeling tired anymore but more sad and depressed – like I was on the edge all the time. No need to mention that taking care of yourself + your baby when you feel that way is pretty difficult and very draining. You just can’t do much anymore.

The most interesting thing (and maybe dangerous) is that, unlike when you’re tired, you won’t sleep more or better when you’re sleep-deprived. Actually, it might even be more difficult to fall asleep and that’s what you have to pay attention to. Unfortunately, there is not much you can take when you’re breastfeeding to help you sleep better. Even the natural valerian root is not recommended.

So make sure you won’t cross this thin line.

What I found works best is drinking heaps of camomile tea during the day and before bedtime. This will also help calm your baby down via the breastmilk. When I feel a bit more agitated, I am taking homeotherapy remedies. I found that “Ignatia” was working well and a friend of mine also gave me “Pulsatilla”, which works wonderfully too!

I also found the Sweet Dreams tea by Yogi Tea, which contains a small amount of valerian root. So drinking a cup of two just after breastfeeding might also help you have a good night sleep.

This is very precious when you notice you’re not sleeping as well as you should!

 

7. Try to cook big batches of nutritious foods in advance

When you’ve got a bit of time, cook a big batch of nice and nutritious food to store in your freezer. I can guarantee there will always be a time you’ll bless this extra meal.

If you can do that before the birth for the first few weeks postpartum, that could be a very, very good idea!

 

8. Be tolerant with your significant other

Be gentle in your relationship. Welcoming a baby into the world is a huge change for both parents. New dads often feel a lot of pressure trying to manage it all while you – the new mum – are very restricted in what you can do. It’s totally normal to experience some kind of tensions and challenges in your relationship until everyone starts feeling comfortable in his / her new role.

 

Tiredness and sleep deprivation also impacts your relationship. You’ll most probably go through more difficult phases when everyone doesn’t get enough sleep. Just remember that’s normal and that shall pass. Be patient. Be tolerant.

 

Now, I’d love to hear from you too! Do you have any tips that helped you go through early motherhood? Please share your tips and insights in the comments below, so we can all support one another in this beautiful, magical journey!

xox

Pauline

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