Before Lulla, I used to look for those earth mothers’ to follow on Instagram. The ones that made parenthood look like a breeze with their bohemian-chic style and mason jars of green smoothies. Their insta feeds are made up with photos of them breastfeeding their babies whilst smiling adoringly at the camera and it felt like looking into the future.
What do I look for now? Since having Lulla, I look for the mothers’ who post selfies of themselves balling their eyes out and who openly admit to locking themselves in the kitchen so that they can chug their coffee whilst it’s still warm. The hashtag #motherhoodunplugged is my go-to search.
And I feel like the sisterhood well and truly left me hanging. Much like a job application, they filtered the job role to highlight the perks. Sure, they told me how great being a mum was and how much I was going to love it. And they were right about both things. But they didn’t tell me about all the times I’d pull my hair out and want to go back to my old 9-5. They didn’t tell me that sometimes I’d have to go hours without using the toilet or that I’d be so tired I wouldn’t be able to function let alone care for a newborn baby. And not a single person mentioned the post-baby hormones that can have you crying at everrrrrrrrrything. Happy? You’re sobbing. Tired? You’re sobbing. Carrot a little wonky? Full on meltdown.
1. It’s hard.
When I came home with Lulla I felt like reaching for my phone, calling up all my friends that have kids and screaming down the line at them, ‘You never told me it would be this HARD!’ Because it is hard. Rewarding, life-changing and amazing, yes. But super bloody hard, too. The needs of a baby can change on the daily, and just when you think you’ve nailed motherhood, you’ll be thrown a curveball and be feeling like you’re back to the start. Your baby will cry with a pain and you’ll be at a complete loss on how to help make it better. Lulla held onto her wind and suffered with silent reflux from birth and because of this she would cry in pain during and after bottles. Seeing your baby in pain and not quite knowing how to make it better kills you, yet at the same time, the continual crying can feel torturous.
You’ll think you’ve nailed feeding and then your baby won’t take their bottle. You may establish a fabulous routine only for it to change the next day. Motherhood can at times be like the season finale of PLL; it literally makes no sense.
2. You’ll bleed LOTS.
After your baby is born dust off your period pants, pull out a maxi pad and prepare to have a 6-week long period. Yep, as if childbirth wasn’t gruelling enough you now have to endure a super fun period after having your baby. You’ll flood your knickers. You may discover blood clots. And you’ll have midwives at the hospital wanting to monitor just how much blood you lose which means saving each and every wee for them to come and inspect. You really do leave your dignity at the door when it comes to labour.
3. Hormones turn you into an actual monster.
The blissful state I found myself in after having Lulla didn’t last long. Before I knew it, hormones snuck up on me, kidnapped my sanity and strapped me onto the emotional roller-coaster that is motherhood. I could be staring at my baby adoringly one minute and then having a breakdown because my coffee was cold the next. I would laugh and it wouldn’t be long before it turned into hysteric sobs. I’d break down and convince myself that I was doing a terrible job until I’d look over at my baby, happy and content, and would realise how ridiculous I was being. I well and truly kept Kleenex in business those first few weeks of being a first-time mum.
4. There’s a reason they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture.
The one thing I wish I’d known about before motherhood is the sleep deprivation. Sure, you expect to be tired. But sleep deprivation is a whole other ball game. I went a solid 48 hours without sleep and by the time I got home with Lulla, I’d gone past the point of exhaustion yet it felt like cheating to sleep when I had a newborn baby to care for. I was waking up throughout the night to feed on demand, and then during the day I had lots of people visiting, wanting to meet Lulla, so I truly felt like I never got a moment to just relax that first week. My mum took Lulla for the night a few days in just to give us the chance to get a solid night sleep and it worked wonders to recharge my batteries. I wish I’d followed the ‘nap when your baby naps’ motto – it works! No one can do their best for a baby when they’re that tired. I remember I couldn’t even hold a conversation and often broke down crying any time someone spoke to me – #hormones.
5. Your conversations change.
You know those people that only talk about their children? Yep, we all morph into those people when we become a parent. Gone are the days when you cared for celebrity gossip. Suddenly you’re talking baby poo (the colour, the texture, the smell..), breastfeeding and all kinds of baby-related things with anyone and everyone. You’ll be whipping out your phone to show people videos and photos of your baby and your social media feeds will be full of things you’re convinced the world needs to see. And your tone of voice will inevitably change. You’ll adopt a really high pitch and your eyes will be wide, your smile big. Even though you promise yourself you won’t, you’ll adopt a baby vocabulary and phrases such as bot bot, bum bum and dum dum become the norm. And sometimes, you’ll forget you’re talking to an adult and not a baby, and use your baby voice with them, too. We all do it, it’s okay. And yes, it sounds totally cringe when you hear other people using their baby voice. And yes, you sound exactly the same when you do it, too. Do we care? Nope!
6. Cancel your Netflix subscription.
Save yourself £9.99 a month and cancel your Netflix account. If you have time for watching TV then I’m both envious and suspicious. Your life as you knew it before is now a distant memory and the reality of this will hit you at some point. Probably when you sit down to enjoy that box set you started whilst pregnant, and that’s the exact moment your baby will choose to need you. You don’t get much downtime when you’ve got a newborn baby, and even when they sleep and you get a few golden moments, TV will be the last thing on your mind. Your baby will scream for an hour and you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the most of your freedom pre-baby. Don’t feel bad if you feel nostalgic for the life you led before becoming a mum, we all feel it at some stage. But wait until your baby smiles at you for the first time; it’s worth more than any episode of Making a Murderer.
7. Sometimes you’ll need help.
I can’t stress this enough, but even the most patient of mums will need help at some stage. And asking for help and admitting you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re not a great parent, it just means you need a break. At first, I was scared that asking for help meant I wasn’t coping, and that to me felt like failure. I remember my auntie ringing once and asking if I needed any help and I said no, yet I’d been holding a wee for the last 8 hours, hadn’t drink or eaten all day and was actually feeling faint. There have been many times when I’ve rung someone to come and help me, especially during the times when Lulla has been crying relentlessly, and it was the best thing to do. Sometimes, you just need someone else who hasn’t had a baby screaming in their face for hours on end to come and hold your baby. You can have a breather and compose yourself. Remember, babies are so in tune with their mums, they pick up on exactly how we’re feeling. So if we’re stressed and agitated then we’re not going to be able to calm a crying baby very well. Accept help. Ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re failing – it just means you’re human!
8. You may get whiplash from checking on your baby.
If I had a pound for every time I asked someone “Can you just check she’s breathing” then I’d probably be spending more money than I already do on UberEats. But you may check that your baby is okay 1,000 times a day, and that’s okay. I carry Lulla with me whenever I leave the room. If I go outside I peek through the window at her every three seconds. She coughs and I’m ready to do the Heimlich manoeuvre on her. When I put her to sleep I get back out of bed about twenty times to check that she’s breathing. I felt like I would never be able to sleep again. But you will. It’ll get easier and before you know it you’ll only be checking on them 500 times a day.
9. Phantom kicks will convince you you’re pregnant again.
Apart from the lack of sex that it would require to have a baby (forget rational thinking post-baby) I was convinced I was still pregnant due to the fact I still felt baby kicks after having Lulla. I even Googled whether it was possible that the midwives had missed another baby and that all along I’d been pregnant with twins. It’s the weirdest feeling. I’d sit and feel the same kicks and movements that I felt when pregnant, but it’s just your uterus shrinking. And don’t get me started on phantom crying..
10. You’ll Google, like, everything.
Oh, Dr. Google, how I love you. I saved myself a few visits to my actual GP by using Google (other search engines are available) to search lots of things, such as can my baby die from not pooing (mamas, we all know what it’s like when our baby gets constipated for the first time) and can my baby combust from crying. The reason I started this blog was because I found solace on baby forums in the early days when Lulla was born. Other mums sharing their tips and experiences was such a comfort to me.
11. Baby brain is real.
I was convinced I had Alzheimer’s. I would ask people a question and literally not remember their response and then five minutes later I’d forget I even asked and repeat the cycle over again. I felt like people would talk to me and they sounded as though they were under water. I forgot what day it was and the weeks all merged into one. I had to write down everything on a notepad and forget remembering appointments. I was frazzled! 4 months in, it’s still just as bad.
12. You’ll feel guilty.
After two weeks, both my mum and Lulla’s dad went back to work and I was left to go it solo. Many times during that first week alone I called up my mum on her lunch break sobbing at how hard being a mum was. And some of the things I said to my mum during that time make my cheeks burn, even now. One thought I had was “I can’t do this. I’m just not ready to be a mum.” One time, after a particularly long day where Lulla cried pretty much ALL day, my mum came home and asked if I needed anything and I remember nudging Lulla’s bouncer towards her saying, “I just want her away from me.” Don’t feel bad if you say stuff you don’t mean, or even if you feel like you do mean it at the time. I’ve had some hateful thoughts pop into my head that I knew I didn’t mean, they were simply just a way of venting the frustrations I felt at being overwhelmed with motherhood. And those feelings will be temporary. You’re going to have bad days and adjusting to being a mum will take time. Don’t punish yourself; you’re doing the best job you can.
13. Mama Bear will rear her ugly head.
The protectiveness I felt once Lulla was born was frightening. I turned into a whole new person, and quite frankly she even scared me. I had a list of demands that people had to follow when visiting: if my baby cried, I wanted her back. If she needed feeding, only I could feed her. And no one else was changing her nappy. Even watching people holding my baby ignited anger inside of me. The whole time you’re pregnant, it’s just you and your baby. When they’re born, suddenly you’re sharing them with the world. It’s like trusting people with your most cherished possession. People would talk and make plans for Lulla, and as innocent as those comments were, it felt like I had no control over my own daughter. Don’t feel bad for feeling this way. Any women who have ever had a baby will understand how you feel and remember you ALWAYS have a say when it comes to your child because YOU’RE their mum. And if you ever feel that something is wrong, you have every right to voice your concerns. But bear in mind also that those feelings of protectiveness won’t always be so strong. After a while, you’ll be begging people to hold your child just so you can have a few minutes to yourself.
14. You may feel angry.
I’ve spoken before about postpartum anxiety, and how I experienced extreme anger after having Lulla. At first, I thought I was just overtired and irritable. But before long I was raging and I knew that it was due to more than fatigue. It would come out of nowhere and engulf me. This anger was never directed at Lulla, but everything surrounding her. Something so silly would be a trigger and before I knew it, I would be shaking with anger that I couldn’t contain. You can’t explain why you’re angry, just that you suddenly feel furious. And it was hard for me to understand why I was feeling so much rage when I was actually in a really good place – the two didn’t seem to go together, and I’d be plagued with guilt for feeling so mad but it’s not something you can help.
Any new mum will need a great support system around her after having a baby, but when you’re suffering from anxiety or depression, you really will appreciate having people who you can turn to. Try to remember that anger is a difficult emotion for some to talk about and the anger that comes with postpartum anxiety literally makes no sense. If you know someone suffering from anger after having a baby, just be there for them. If they snap at you, know that they don’t mean it. And if you’re the one experiencing the anger, don’t punish yourself. You may snap, yes. You may feel like everyone hates you because of this, yes. But you’ll get through this; it’s only temporary.
15. Breastfeeding is tough.
I had a breast lift and augmentation when I was 18 and wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to breastfeed Lulla. So when I started leaking colostrum at around six months, I was thrilled to learn that I would be able to. And as someone that always kind of secretly found the idea of breastfeeding a little gross (it’s natural, yes, but the thought of a baby sucking on my titty always made me feel weird – soz) I didn’t expect to love breastfeeding as much as I did. When Lulla first latched after being delivered, I can’t express that initial bond I felt. Being able to feed your baby is an amazing feeling, and so I was crushed when I started to struggle.
Due to my implants, I didn’t store enough milk and Lulla didn’t seem satisfied after feeds. Plus, one boob was producing pretty much all the milk whilst the other one was super lazy, so the one that gave the most milk became the only breast she would latch onto. Inevitably, my nipple became unbearably sore and even bled. One time, I remember having to squeeze Lulla’s dads hand as she fed because it was so sensitive and sore and I remember what my midwife had told me: when done correctly, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt at all.
I tried to express but would only get a tiny amount of milk, not nearly enough for a feed. I started to get frustrated feeding her and felt that I was somehow failing her. I’d overcome one hurdle by actually being able to breastfeed, I felt let down in my body that I couldn’t fulfil my role. I combined breast with bottle because I wasn’t ready to give up on breastfeeding fully, but after talking to my community midwife, I realised that the reason I was unwilling to let go of breastfeeding was because of that bond I’d felt. I was worried that bottle feeding my baby would take away that bonding experience. And this is where I feel like women need to step up and support one another. ‘Breast is best’ is drummed into us again and again, yet sometimes it’s not that easy for women to breastfeed their baby. Some struggle, some don’t enjoy it and others simply wish to choose bottle. And motherhood can be overwhelming without stressing over how your baby is being fed. Breast or bottle, so long as you’re feeding your baby and your baby feels loved and is happy, how you choose to do so is okay.