No one tells you how hard new motherhood is. They tell you about the lack of sleep and not much else. Whether it’s your first or fifth baby, the first weeks and months are often challenging. Postpartum is different for each mother and with each baby.
It’s best to prepare before your baby arrives, but read this if your baby is here already too. It takes a whole village to raise a child and support a mother and family.
When your baby is born, you’re both getting to know each other, learning new skills and experiencing new things. It’s the ‘fourth trimester’ for both you and your baby.
As a new mother, you have just grown a baby for 9 months, birthed your baby or became a parent through the journey of adoption or surrogacy. Birth is like a marathon.
Now your baby is born and you are born as a mother. You are learning together. It’s all new for you both. Your baby is getting used to being outside the womb and you are getting used to being a mum to your baby, who is unique and like no other baby. Nobody tells you how much support you will need. How the days are long and the nights
longer. You're probably sore from giving birth, you likely haven’t slept well in a while-between trying to find a comfortable position to sleep and wanting to pee during the night while pregnant. After the joy and excitement of finally getting to meet your baby, you’re exhausted and just want to sleep. Everyone wants to see and hold your baby and you’re left to care for yourself. It's you who needs to be mothered.
Being a new mother is hard. New mothers often feel exhausted, overwhelmed and lonely. Everyone wants to hold your baby, but it’s you who needs to be held. You need support, nurturing, nourishing food and love. You need to rest and recover from the birth. You and your baby need to snuggle in a postpartum cocoon and others need to do the housework, cook for you, care for you older siblings and mother you, while you sleep, heal and recover your energy. You have worked hard and babies want to feed often, be held, cry to communicate and take a lot of time, effort and energy.
You aren’t supposed to mother or parent alone. You’re supposed to have a whole village of support. Postpartum is known as the golden month, time for you and your baby.
Take your time. Ask for help and accept it. Do what’s right for you and your family. Say no to visitors until you're ready- or yes to those that bring food, wash dishes, hang out the clothes and offer to hold your baby while you nap and make you a cuppa. Don’t play hostess. Rest, learn to breastfeed and have your support team bring you whatever you need. Are you concerned about getting enough sleep? What do you do when your baby won’t stop crying? Who knew such a tiny baby could take so much time, so many nappies, cry so loudly and change your whole life? (If you were moving house or changing workplace- you would expect support and time to get used to it wouldn’t you?)
Will your older children feel left out? How can you spend time with them, rest and care for your new baby? If you choose to breastfeed, set up a breastfeeding chair, with drinks, snacks, your phone, the television remote, burp cloths and a basket of books and toys for older siblings if you have them. To make life easier when you feel ready, wear baby in a sling or wrap. Get some postpartum massages and take the time to nurture your relationship with your partner, even a hug or kind words are important. Your baby needs you both. You’re becoming or growing your family.
If you adopted, you need postpartum support too. You are a new mother with a new baby too.
Build your village, with family, friends, community, a postpartum doula, lactation consultant, and/or cleaner, to make your mothering journey easier and smoother, especially in the first 40 days when it’s so new and exhausting. I want all new mothers to enjoy their transition to motherhood.