Not only am I a first time mum, a new mum, but my baby is only three months old. When it comes to parenting, I’ll admit, I have no idea what I’m doing.
When it comes to the first few weeks however, those memories are all too fresh. Having got through them and come out the other side, I thought I’d share ten things I’ve learnt so far; some things that took me a little by surprise…
Ten Things I’ve Learnt as a New Mum
1.The whole flushing out thing
Warning: this first one’s a bit gory. I had a pretty full-on labour and c-section which I won’t go into here. My anaesthetist had heard me beg for drugs, sliced through my abdominal tissues and accidentally sprayed nitroglycerin into my eye. So when I thought it was all over and he announced, “oh here comes the worst bit” I knew things weren’t looking rosy.
For those of you who didn’t experience this (apparently not everyone is so lucky) a nurse pumps down on your freshly stitched stomach to flush out all of the leftover blood clots. No one had prepared me for the horror of this. I can only imagine what that is like without a strong epidural numbing your entire abdominal area!
2. Babies are shit at breastfeeding
Breastfeeding: a happy, natural miracle. Well unfortunately not for my baby. It was all, making a wedge, correct exact body position for baby, nurses squeezing nipples, husband helping, clamping baby’s head on, keeping baby awake, and then cleaning up the blood. This was not how it was sold in my birth class.
I wish I’d known that babies get better at it eventually. Perhaps I could have avoided all the supply worry and flat nipple guilt (more on this delight below) of the first month. My friends would doubtless have been pleased to escape the “I fucking hate breastfeeding” texts they were receiving from me at 3am too.
3. I have flat nipples
After enduring the whole flushing out thing and the ‘shit at breastfeeding’ discovery, came this revelation. I hadn’t known this was a thing and I definitely didn’t know I was the lucky owner of two. My husband nodded in agreement with the nurse and later told me he’d always thought that. Great – what other anatomical abnormalities is he not telling me about?
My baby is no doubt delighted that hours and hours of pumping have sorted out this problem. I sometimes struggle to wedge them into my bra these days.
4. Nipple confusion is exaggerated
I can confirm that my baby has been pretty confused: she doesn’t recognise her own hands and regularly hits herself in the face, she thinks the girl in the mirror is her friend, and she eagerly licks up her own sick. But not once has she seemed confused about nipples.
Nipple confusion – the concept that once you introduce a bottle, a dummy or a nipple shield your baby will be so confused she will no longer be able to breastfeed – hasn’t been a problem for any mums I know. In fact, sucking things has been the one constant throughout my baby’s first three months. She’ll even do it in her sleep.
“Oh, I’ve never heard of a percentile” said no new mother ever.
I found myself discussing my baby’s 95th percentile head and 19th percentile weight (yes it’s a good look, think Renee Zellweger) with complete strangers. My bad breastfeeding, flat nipple facing (but not nipple confused) baby was not putting on enough weight and was plummeting down the percentiles.
Of course I was pumping eight times a day because of the supply guilt and to rectify the flat nipple situation, so I had plenty of milk. Unfortunately for some reason, I decided that the best thing to do with all this milk was to hoard it in individually packed, neatly labelled bags in the freezer rather than waste it on my under-eating baby. Yep, great mum decision.
6. Constipation hurts
The low point of my first few weeks was a cringe-inducing late-night Christmas Eve trip to the 24 hour pharmacist for, *whispers*, suppositories. A particular shout out to the two teenage shop assistants who politely believed that I wasn’t sure exactly which brand “my friend” wanted, while I waddled through the aisles behind them.
So yes, constipation hurts. OK, this wasn’t really a surprise, but I don’t think I realised quite how much it could hurt or quite how long it could last. Everything about having a baby seems to cause issues down there: stitches, strong pain meds, dehydration from breastfeeding, dehydration from exhaustion, piles from pushing. Oh, the glamour.
7. Eating presents some new difficulties
Tortellini is the dream food: it’s quick to cook and easy to eat with one hand. And crucially, the pieces aren’t big enough to get lost inside your baby’s ear when you drop them while breastfeeding. I think I ate it every day for the first two weeks.
After losing a bit of hot dog at a first birthday party, only to re-discover it floating casually across the baby’s eye the next day, my doctor did confirm that babies have no sensation in their corneas. Phew.
8. You’re in a sleep competition…
…and you want to lose. In the first month I told my husband, “there’s no point saying I’m tired anymore, it’s like I don’t go around saying ‘my name is Laura’. But he would still regularly tell me how tired he was. Every time he did, I obsessively calculated how many more hours sleep he’d had than me.
Just to make matters worse, the third party in all of this was sleeping 14 hours a day, but often seemed to be completely unable to drop off . Meanwhile I’d be rocking her while leaning against a wall with exhaustion. And of course my husband would probably be sleeping somewhere, again.
9. Learn to clear your Google history.
‘Hate breastfeeding’ ‘Baby won’t sleep’ ‘Baby won’t wake up’ ‘Flat nipples images’ ‘Breast pump broke my nipples’ ‘How to put on a nipple shield in public’ ‘What is a percentile?’ ‘Force feeding babies’ ‘Baby’s head too big’ ‘How to insert suppositories’ ‘Hot dog chemicals in eye’ ‘Can you die from sleep deprivation?’ and my personal favourite: ‘No one tells you how hard having a baby is!’ I actually included the exclamation mark in that last search.
While I found the answers by other equally crazy mums pretty reassuring at 4am, seeing the reminders the next day when you open your phone can start to make you feel like you’re losing the plot.
10. It gets better really quickly
The most important thing I’ve learnt over the past three insane and amazing months is that things change really quickly. Just as you’ve learnt something new or solved one problem, another will appear. Instead of worrying about all the things I don’t know, I’ve started to be able to enjoy learning them and enjoy the surprises.
I think the reason that mums don’t always share some of these things isn’t because they’ll put other women off, but because learning them for yourself is half the crazy fun. Three months in I haven’t even scratched the surface yet, and I can’t wait to keep learning!
I’m a new mum to one little girl, who is an American as she was born there but we are all moving back to be Brits before she starts calling me ‘mommy’. I’m excited to be able to share some of my WTF moments as I embark on this whole parenting thing.
Photo: Newborn birth by Mamma Love (cc) Flickr