Six weeks in or thereabouts, your baby will most likely smile for the first time, making everything up to that point worthwhile, but until then, there’s a lot written about new motherhood, about the wonders and the horrors of trying to navigate a brand new person: how to bathe your baby and tend to their umbilical cord (not as terrifying as it sounds), the importance of accepting help when it’s offered (which you absolutely should do), and ways to organise your time now that you can pretty much write off a good night’s sleep for the next 30 or so years, but before you get that first rewarding smile from your little bundle of joy, there are still some things that people won’t tell you.
You will feel guilty – whether your baby doesn’t put on weight fast enough and your midwife tells you to switch them to formula (because clearly your breasts are inadequate), you’ve rudely chosen to take a shower for the first time this week and they’re lying in a Moses basket on the bathroom floor crying, while you add the conditioner, or you just haven’t gotten around to calling your lovely aunt/friend/work colleague back, even though she’s now sent several hand knitted items and left you half a dozen messages, unless you have very healthy self confidence, you will undoubtedly feel a twinge of guilt (or a bucketload) before you hit the six week mark.
You will get bored (and then feel guilty about getting bored) – picture this, you’ve chosen a comfy seat on the sofa, you’ve got a drink lined up next to you, and the TV remote (not switched on, because your darling little one shouldn’t be watching television until they’re at least two according to the experts), and you’re settled in to try and breastfeed, then suddenly, baby decides this is not the nipple for them and cries, requiring a quick joggle, a walk around the lounge and a feed from the other side, and before you know it you’re stuck on the wrong sofa cushion six miles from the remote, staring at the wall for 45 minutes as your throat dries up and you struggle not to cough and disturb the baby. Parenthood is psychologically tough, but at this stage, there’s not a lot for your mind to do, so you may find yourself going stir crazy. Don’t worry, this stage is very short, which brings me to the next point.
Time will alter before your eyes – The first week at home with your new baby will be one of the longest weeks of your life. Parenthood is one of the most focusing things you will ever do, it demands you to be there, in the moment, living it minute by minute. You will stare at other mothers in clinics and midwife waiting rooms, and think your baby will never possibly get to be that big. And then months later you will look at tiny newborns and think your baby could never possibly have been that small. Your inner clock is now officially broken.
Parts of you that used to be on the inside may now be on the outside – Not to be crude, but I’m talking now to the women who gave birth vaginally, because there are a whole host of other problems that come with a c-section. You will have been warned about tearing, and soreness, and bleeding, and don’t worry they’re all going to happen too (fun times), but no-one seems to mention that the strain of pushing a baby out of yourself may well result in the odd bit of labia hanging loose for a few days until it gets its act together, or a few piles paying you a visit, just until things calm down a little. Needless to say the weeks following childbirth will not be a hoot, but everything should sort itself out given time.
You will have nothing to wear – You splashed out on a few maternity outfits, and you probably invested in a nursing bra before your baby came along, but nobody seems to warn you that you will now require a wardrobe for a sort of inbetweeny sized, different shaped woman, who needs to get her breasts out in public at regular intervals, preferably in colours that hide vomit well, and material that dries quickly. Your old clothes might take a few months to decide if they will ever fit you again, while after the first few days your maternity wear will billow about like a sail on a ship. Go out and find yoga pants, they are your new friend, and feel relieved that almost everyone you meet over the next 12 months, will also be wearing a tiny bit of sick.
There are gorgeous moments too. There’s something extra special about the newborn stage that you’ll never quite forget, but the most important thing to remember is that you have just pushed a tiny human out of yourself, by whatever means necessary, you are a frickin’ superhero. Now go and buy yourself some cake while you wait for that first smile.
Alex Townley, Journalist and Mum