Remember when you first told people you were baking a ‘bun in the oven’? Chances are, you were on the receiving end of many audible gasps, passionate hugs, several hearty “Congrats!” and a truckload of baby advice and hand-me-downs. I know I was.
Having a child is an exciting, joyous experience – and so it should be! Enjoy the attention, savour the little moments, and by all means take in all the encouragement and goodwill that is being offered to you.
There will also be those who unload all their tales of gloom and doom onto you, painting for you a grim and hopeless picture of wailing babies, poo-stained carpets, never-ending sleeplessness and breastfeeding issues. While it’s good to have a healthy dose of reality, remember not to let others’ experiences define yours. Take it with a pinch of salt.
But there are some things that no one may tell you face-to-face, first-time mum. Not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how, or aren’t sure if you need to know, or wonder if it was “just them” feeling that way. So right here, right now, we’re going to share with you 10 things that you will probably never tell someone face-to-face.
1. Most of the time, you won’t really know what you’re doing
It’s true! Most mums are in the business of “winging it”, day by day. Not because they haven’t bothered to read up on the art and science of bringing up a baby, but because no two babies are exactly alike. Caring for a newborn isn’t something you can plan down to the last details – or rather, you can plan, but be prepared for those plans to unravel at some stage.
That’s not to say you’ll be a terrible mum – on the contrary, in the process of making mistakes, learning from them, figuring out your baby’s unique quirks and habits, and creating new systems or schedules for yourself that do work, you’re growing into the very best mother you baby could ever ask for! You’ll figure it out as you go along.
Don’t be discouraged by failure, instead take it as a necessary stepping stone to success. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when it comes to household chores and meal times – a little help can go a long way, especially in the early months of settling in.
2. Too much information can confuse you
Now that you’re eagerly awaiting the new arrival, it’s natural and healthy to find out as much as you can about your new role as parents, from diaper changing tips to sleep patterns, breastfeeding tricks to baby milestones. It’s good to be informed, but don’t make these books your “bible” when it comes to deciphering your baby’s cues. Always pay attention to your gut instinct, or what some call “a mother’s instinct”, which will help you intuitively sense what baby needs. Don’t let that be squashed or overridden by what you’ve heard from the so-called child experts or even the advice from your own mother. You know your baby, and your family, best.
3. It’s ok if baby cries a lot. You probably will too.
Babies cry a lot – for all manner of reasons – and often it is no indicator of how good a job you are doing as a mum. He could be hungry, scared, cold, hot, thirsty, sleepy, bored, and so on. Remember that, for now, this is his only way of communicating. Over the weeks and months, you’ll be able to “read” him better, and he’ll also get more used to life outside of the womb.
There’ll be many times you cry along with your baby. You’ll be exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, disappointed, lonely – not to mention the post-pregnancy hormones. By all means, let yourself cry. Don’t hold it in, trying to be brave or strong. You need an outlet for all that pent up emotion.
Remember that the crying will end. The uncertainties and anxieties of being a new mum will get less, or more manageable, over time. And if you keep your heart focused on the positive, you’ll soon be shedding tears of joy through
smiles of pride as you watch your little one develop and grow!
4. Breastfeeding isn’t easy
Breastfeeding is hard work. It is uncomfortable and even painful at the beginning. Most babies take at least a few weeks to be able to latch properly without assistance, and in the meantime, you will face the anxiety of worrying whether baby is drinking enough, all sorts of negative comments from well-meaning relatives and friends, discouragement if you don’t see your milk “coming in” yet, and the discomfort of sore nipples and engorged breasts. No, it’s not a pretty picture at all.
For many mothers, it will take all of your emotional strength reserves to make breastfeeding a part of your baby’s life. Decide now that you will fight for it, but not at the expense of your mental and emotional sanity. Discuss it with your husband, and be certain both of you are on the same page.
Be mindful of the issues that may crop up in your breastfeeding journey, but also look forward to the joys that will come with it. Like that close connection of intimacy and bonding when you are nursing baby.
Breast milk is best for your baby, for a whole host of medically proven reasons. But that doesn’t mean formula feeding is bad for him – on the contrary, formula milk today is rich in the essential nutrients and vitamins that your growing baby needs, and will in NO WAY harm your little one.
The truth is, breastfeeding may not be for you. – and that is ok! For example, you or your baby may have some medical issue that prevents a good latch. It is more common than you think, for new mums who fully intended to breastfeed to switch to formula in a matter of weeks. There is no shame in that.
Remember that, regardless of whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, your baby will still grow, will still know you love her, will still be cuddled and held, will still think you are the most amazing person in her world. Don’t let breastfeeding become that stumbling block to your joy as a mum. It’s really not that important!
5. A new baby changes everything
Bringing home a new baby is a life-changing event, not a small shift of schedules. Your very identity, what your marriage looks like, your daily routine, the state of your home – all these will be irrevocably changed when you have a little person to look after. After a few weeks of motherhood, it’s normal to look back on your “old life” with a tinge of wistfulness.
For a while, life may revolve around baby’s needs and routines. But take heart that things will get better as baby develops and becomes more independent. Some day, sooner than you’ll think, you’ll have the time and energy to comb your hair properly and make-up for a date with your husband. The housework will be managed. You’ll reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and possibly return to the workforce. You are still the same “you” inside!
6. Learn from your fellow mums
If you haven’t done this before, it’s time to start checking out some mummy blogs! While “expert opinion” sites dish out a whole lot of sometimes-helpful-often-scary information and suggestions, there’s nothing like reading the real life experiences of mums who are just a little bit further down the parenting path than you!
You can even connect up with some of these mums or mummy blogger groups, especially if you blog yourself. Having such an online (sometimes offline as well) community provides you with good support in tough times, when you’re marooned at home with a fussy, sick baby. For a start, here are some blogs to add to your reading list!
7. Everything will feel intense
Being a mum brings with it a whole new intensity to every emotion you will experience. Many times, you may find yourself moved to tears by the littlest things – the pride of seeing your baby struggle to lift his head up from the mat, the joy of seeing her take her first steps, the fear when he is running a temperature or has a fall, and the helplessness when your attempts to nap her are in vain.
In many ways, as a mum, you wear your heart on your sleeve for all the world to see. The immense love you have for your child will be clearly evident to any who observe you with him, as will the great shame when you lose your cool in public. That’s part of being a mum, and it makes this thing called “life” that much more meaningful.
8. You can’t handle everything
It’s tempting to say “We will manage on our own”. And maybe, just maybe, you can go it alone – but at what cost? It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and you’ll find this is often the case, especially in our Asian culture. Pushing away the offers to help of loved ones may do your relationships damage in the long run. And all parents, even the best ones, need a break from baby duty once in a while.
Don’t shut out the potential help. By all means, guard your privacy and alone times with your baby, but be generous in allowing others to get to know him or her too, and to receive the help offered.
9. Trust your husband
Your mummy instinct is your best ally, but your husband should tie for first place when it comes to who to trust. Too many young mums have fall-outs or major disagreements with their husbands over the details of diaper changing, bedtime routines, the one-month celebration, household chores, and much more.
As we’ve said, emotions run high during these early weeks, and there will be times you take things your husband says and does the wrong way, and vice versa. Little things can help your husband feel respected and trusted. Like not hovering at his side while he changes a nappy. Or asking him for the nth time if he remembered to swaddle baby before laying her in the cot. He might make mistakes along the way, but so will you.
At the end of the day, remember that you are doing this parenting thing together. Sure, you may both make mistakes, but then you are both completely new at this kind of thing, so give grace to yourself and the other to grow.
10. Document the journey
“Time flies”, many parents will tell you, “Treasure the moments.” And it’s true – be mindful of all the precious little moments and experiences that will be part and parcel of this parenting journey. Seek to be present, able to enjoy and take in all that’s happening in those times. And yet, the truth is that our memories are fallible things. Those special times may soon be no more than an extremely hazy memory, just 2-3 years down the road.
So, we say, document your journey. Whether you snap photos with your smartphone, or keep a journal, or create a time capsule or scrapbook, seek out ways to keep these memories intact. Of course, do find a balance that works for you – focusing on the perfect shot at the expense of sharing in your child’s joy in that moment just isn’t worth it.
So there you have it, the 10 things that no one may ever tell you to expect when you become a mum. We hope this is helpful to you, as you wait to begin one of the biggest adventures of your life!