Dear new mother…. from Karen

Dear New Mother,

It takes your breath away, doesn’t it? You knew it would. You knew it would change, well, everything, but you didn’t know it would rock you to your very core quite as shockingly as it has, did you? I didn’t either. None of us did.

We read every baby book we could lay our hands on and listened to all the advice being thrown at us from every direction; some delivered with love and good meaning, and others, sadly,  delivered under the misconception that sharing a traumatic birth story would better prepare us for ‘reality’. We set up a room for our baby in peaceful, warm tones and imagined planting butterfly kisses on a tiny forehead and whispering ‘Goodnight’ as we turned on the gentle glow of the night light and quietly closed the door, leaving it slightly ajar, then snuggling, complete and happy, with our partners into the night. Motherhood looks beautiful, and we look beautiful doing it.

We felt prepared. We felt ready.

The reality was so very different, wasn’t it? The raw reality of surrendering to birth shocks, regardless of how prepared we thought we were. Did you have the birth you dreamed of? Did you have a voice in your baby’s birth? To my sisters who had the birth they planned for, I wrap my arms around you with joy. To my sisters left tender and a little broken, dazed as to how their beautiful birth ended so very differently, I wrap my arms around you even tighter.

Your baby is here. Now is the time to start your Mothering story. Now it really begins.

Your body will feel violated. You may look in the mirror in the days after birth and not recognise the woman looking back at you. You will feel soft, tender, emotional, vulnerable. If your birth ended surgically, you’ll have stitches and scars and pain when you stand. You will bleed postpartum and wonder if it will ever stop. Your breasts will be swollen and tender and you’ll leak milk at the mere thought of your baby. You may never have felt such vulnerability before and it may come as quite a shock.

Go gently. Let your body and spirit heal.

Do you remember the day you bought your baby home? How strange it felt to walk into your house, where everything looks exactly as it did when you left it, but somehow everything has changed? What do we do now? Day and night lose all rhythm and the Universe outside your door ceases to exist as you adjust to this new ‘normal’ you find yourself living. Yet the outside seeps in and you find yourself trying to live up to expectations of all the things you should be doing. You feel chained to your baby; feeding, sleeping, changing, but the domestic chores don’t disappear! “I can’t do this”. You’ll say it. More than once probably, as you look at the pile of washing, or stand staring at an empty fridge wondering what you could possibly make for dinner as your baby cries and cries, desperate for the cluster feeds he so needs in the evening.

You walk tracks into your carpet as you do lap after lap of your house with your baby in your arms, trying to help her sleep. You will stand at the door of your baby’s room as she screams, wanting to scream back, “What do you need? You cry when I hold you, you cry when I put you down! I don’t know what to do!”  You will be terrified that you’re doing everything wrong.

It will occur to you that to breastfeed a baby 8 to 10 times a day, sometimes for an hour at a time, is the equivalent of a full time job! It’s just one of the many full time jobs you have now. You will live by the clock (until you learn to turn them all to the wall) and you will study and log every second of your baby’s sleeping and feeding. Later, you’ll look at your notebook and laugh at yourself, but now, it’s the only thing keeping you in control……..feeling like you’re in control. You will wonder, “How does anyone do anything with a small baby?” You will feel like everyone has it together except you.

You sit, for the seemingly millionth time today, on the lounge with your baby at your breast, gazing dazed out of the window and wondering how on Earth you are going to survive this. “Everything gets easier after 6 weeks everyone says. So you grit your teeth, endure the cracked nipples and other realities of a newly birthed body and hang in there until the day dawns on your baby’s 6th week. Perhaps you feel a little less shell shocked. Perhaps your body is beginning to heal. So sure, it’s a little easier, but there is no magic dawning of a day when suddenly you are needed less by this little being.

Slowly, as you become more confident and more able to listen to your instincts and read the needs of your baby, you will begin to relax a little. You will get rid of the books that do nothing but bring stress and doubt into your mothering. You will be able to block out the advice that doesn’t sit well with your soul. There will be, even in the darkest of times, some moments of such pure joy it will seem like a light is shining on you and your little family. The love you feel for you baby will knock the breath out of you at times and you will happily spend hours just gazing into your child’s face.

Your connection is strong.

You will find a support network of other mothers who understand you, who will stand honestly beside you in your journey. When you feel isolated you will find where to turn to discover these mothers and your isolation will ease. You will learn to surrender to the ever changing, always fluid, life of a mother.

But still, there will be things that, when they are happening, feel like they will go on for an eternity. Looking back, you’ll see that they were but a blink of an eye, but when you are sleep deprived and desperate you will feel like you will never sleep again. You will spend hours online looking for answers, to find out when other people’s babies slept, when they slept all by themselves. You don’t think you can survive being needed by your child so many times a night for the next 4 or 5 years.

But you will.

When, one bedtime, your child, secure in his attachment and love within his family, curls up in his own bed, pulls the covers up to his little chin and says “Goodnight Mummy, you can go now.” you will be rendered speechless for a moment. Then you’ll lean over, plant a little butterfly kiss on his forehead, whisper “Goodnight”, turn on the night light and walk out of his room. All will be peaceful. You will feel a pang, a pull on your heart strings that your baby is growing up. All the late nights, all the co-sleeping and breastfeeding, all the every 20 minute night waking, all the frustration and worry about sleep will, for that night anyway, be over.

Motherhood will look beautiful, and you’ll look beautiful doing it.

Until then, know that you are walking a path left by all the mothers before you and that the endless rocking, swaying, singing (and sobbing), and sleepless nights are a Universal truth for all Mothers.  Even when you are feeling lonely, you will never be alone.  We are standing beside you every step of the way.

Love, Me. xx

 

This lovely guest blog is by Karen Swan.karen

Karen is Co-Editor & Community Manager at Mamabake .

23 Comments

  1. Touched Says Reply

    Wow. This was so beautiful and so, so, so true. Thank you…. brought (yet another) tear to my eye 🙂

  2. Charmaine Says Reply

    So many years apart, and many miles, yet still our experiences have a similar feel. I feel your sisterhood in your beautiful words. Thankyou xx

  3. Bridget Says Reply

    my baby is only 4 months and so much of this resonated. I am in tears at the section where they will say goodnight mummy you can go now. It broke my heart. I’ve never really thought that far ahead in those terms that there will be a time when she doesn’t need me and won’t gaze adoringly at me most of the day. Ill have sleep back, but what I’ll be missing is worth so much more.

  4. Kat Says Reply

    Wonderful read. Just what I needed to hear 🙂

  5. Sarah Says Reply

    Tears! After a weekend from hell with my toddler who won’t let me put him down even for 5 minutes and a husband who did nothing to help, this brought me to tears. Thank you for writing these beautiful words that are so incredibly true and comforting xx

  6. Vera Says Reply

    Sarah…. I’m with you. I’ve had a difficult week and still going and a partner who does nothing to help. We women are amazing at what we put up with and how much . As I keep trying to tell myself, this too will pass. Thank you Pinky, tears I needed to release

  7. Sus Says Reply

    That felt like you were writing to me, every single word resonated so much. Ultimately, motherhood is a awesome privilege but so utterly exhausting and relentless…I feel physically broken today (6 months in and on baby #2), so thank you for that reminder of what a precious time this is.

  8. Charlotte Says Reply

    Couldn’t be put more perfectly!

    I cried it’s so true! It’s so hard in the beginning and then you just get confidence slowly and say stuff everyone’s tips and tricks and stuff the time and stuff books. I know what I’m doing now.

    I wish I savoured days where my baby would sleep cry and feed. It goes way to quickly to say I can’t wait until….

  9. Charlotte Says Reply

    Couldn’t be put more perfectly!

    I cried it’s so true! It’s so hard in the beginning and then you just get confidence slowly and say stuff everyone’s tips and tricks and stuff the time and stuff books. I know what I’m doing now, and I did all along. Only me and my husband truely know our baby!

    I wish I savoured days where my baby would sleep cry and feed. It goes way to quickly to say I can’t wait until….

  10. Elisha Says Reply

    I am sitting here with my beautiful 2 week old son sleeping in my arms, feeling such overwhelming feelings of love and exhaustion, and this article completely resonated. Some days I feel like I will always feel this sore, leaky, emotional and exhausted… and then I look at his little face and could cry with how strong my love is. Thank you for this article, I really needed it!

  11. RJ Says Reply

    Simply beautiful! Brought tears to my eyes too. I can’t believe how quickly my tiny baby girl is growing up!

  12. Dana Says Reply

    My friend is getting ready to have a baby and I just had to help her decorate the nursery. I bought her wall decals from http://goo.gl/ty3U4v and she loved them. It really makes the room look so much better.

  13. Karin Says Reply

    Oh my. This. My life in words. We’re 10 months in, very much in the thick of it. The hope of the butterfly kiss moment is all that keeps me going, that and the purest love I’ve ever known.

  14. Bel Says Reply

    Thank you so much for this post… I had my baby girl almost 4 weeks ago & reading this was incredibly helpful & cathartic for me. And teary!

  15. Leah Says Reply

    “Your connection is strong.” What about when it isn’t? For some of us that takes a long time. For some it takes a really long time. I feel excluded and a failure reading this article.

    • Lisa Says Reply

      Don’t feel a failure, you’ve just done the most amazing thing growing and bringing a baby into this world. Your journey of experiences are endless. Have no expectation of what will come -or how you ‘should’ feel. .. just let what happens happens, day by day. This will help you accept these new experience/feelings. No expectation. .. no disappointment.

    • Lauren Says Reply

      Sometimes the connection takes awhile to develop. I know some people who felt it instantly but that wasn’t me. For me it took awhile to grow and to get over the reality shock of being a mother as I had no idea what to expect. If you are ever worried talk to your GP or family health nurse.

  16. Lisa Says Reply

    I wish I was how I am now with baby 2, relaxed and calm, when baby 1 arrived. The difference is day and night between these two experiences. .. All New mums out there, there’s truth in how baby can sense our stress . This letter sounds very familiar to me, but not now with my second son. Losing a sense of control tips our world upside down with the first born, but going with the flow (have no expectations) helps make readjusting easier. ‘Calm’ is the word of like to tell my younger self, it all is ok.

  17. Brianna Says Reply

    I love everything about this – except for this, I call BS on this, because for some of us it never happens and the isolation is relentlessly real: “You will find a support network of other mothers who understand you, who will stand honestly beside you in your journey. When you feel isolated you will find where to turn to discover these mothers and your isolation will ease. You will learn to surrender to the ever changing, always fluid, life of a mother.”

  18. sam Says Reply

    Ive read a lot of posts about this after I already went thru it and already spent time just listening to her cry because I was to frustrated to hold her and having my in-laws come in to make sure she’s okay….. the thing no one warns new moms about is at times itll feel like your husband is worthless because he doesnt have to get up with the baby or anything he just goes to work and comes home and all is peaceful and for a while you’ll wonder when you get to be a person again if you’ll get to be a person again everyone asks how’s the husband how’s his job how’s he taking having the baby around how’s the baby how’s the baby is she eating enough and ask many other things but absolutely no one looks at you and asks how you are if you’re sleeping enough eating enough anything

    • Lauren Says Reply

      I agree I would hate hearing the door close when my husband went to work. The hours till he was home would feel so long. I felt chained to breastfeeding which would take an hour then baby would be due for a nap and would only catnap. During this time I had to run around getting food and drink and try to sleep before baby woke up. All I wanted was for someone to make me a cup of tea and make me some food as I felt so drained caring non stop for a little baby… But it hardly happened!

  19. Sarah Says Reply

    This couldn’t be any better timed. I’ve just spent the last few hours in deep depression and overwhelm, feeling completely alone and unsupported. It’s not true at all, my husband does and will always support me, the problem is I’m so busy doing seemingly everything, I forget to actually ask for help. For some reason I expect that he “should” know what needs to be done, he “should” just do it without needing to be asked. Then when he doesn’t just get up and do stuff I huff and I puff and I blow the house down with expectation and disappointment.
    I gently spoke up today…he got it. He gets how I feel now and knows that I’m not working to be superwoman, at the moment I’m just working to survive. I went out for a long, slow walk and let the ocean breeze wash over me. Then I came home and had a bath and while I was taking some seriously needed me time, he did all the jobs. I got to sit and cuddle my girl right before he tucked her into bed for the night. I thanked him for his help and gently reminded him that I need it more often. He gets it.
    I’m on my way out of this funk and I feel those sisterly arms wrapped tight around me in love and support. Received with love, thank you.

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