9 January 2016

Supporting A New Mama

This year there will be several babies arriving in our immediate network. It's made me reflect on my own experience of becoming a mother and about what kind of support new mamas really need when their babies arrive, whether it's your first baby or you are adding to an existing brood. 

Here I am some time between day 1-3 with Ellie, Phoebe and Lottie
(note the equal size of the smiles and bags under my eyes in all three!)

Becoming a new mum is incredible, amazing, exhausting, a learning curve, a bit of a shock to the system and sometimes a bit overwhelming all at the same time. It's a real roller coaster of emotions in those first few weeks as you find your feet thanks to hormones, sleep deprivation and more. I've never felt more vulnerable, tired and elated than coming home with each of our three babies.

These are the things helped me adjust to life as a new mama and that helped make my journey into motherhood as smooth a transistion as possible.

1. Space, time and privacy 

However you end up giving birth your body has gone through an epic journey and I think new mamas need space, time and privacy to recover and get to grips with the fact that they are now a mummy, with learning to care for and spend time with their baby and form their new family unit. I certainly did and loved spending the first few days at home in my pyjamas. The only people I really wanted to see were close family. I needed support and looking after and didn't need to be worrying about anyone else other than my baby. I also just wanted to stare at and cuddle my babies, as much as they roll in to one the newborn days go so fast.

We sent a message to friends and family announcing the girls' arrivals and included a line to say that we would let people know when we were ready for visits. Everyone respected this and it meant we were in control of when and who came to visit us so that we had the time together we needed. With paternity leave being only two weeks I think it's so important for parents to have this time together, with all the essential visits from health professionals thrown in there too the first few weeks could easily be filled with people constantly coming and going which is in itself exhausting. At the same time I always felt incredibly proud of the little human I had grown and wanted to introduce my babies to my friends and family so we scheduled one visit a day in the afternoon or evening so we could have nice lazy mornings together. We also arranged these visits mostly on the day particularly in the first week when hormones are flying around in every direction. If I wasn't feeling up to it we could just have a quiet family day.  People are always keen to visit but as excited as friends and family are to meet the new arrival I think it's so important to remember that no one has been more desperate to meet that little person than the parents themselves.

When people did come and visit I always appreciated it when they kept the visit short, 30 mins, an hour at the most and made themselves and me a cup of tea! I also always really appreciated it when as soon as my baby so much as grumbled she was passed back to me, as a new mum believe me that grumble sounds like 1000 babies crying and you just want your baby back as soon as it cries. I also really appreciated it when people who were poorly stayed away until they were well, although this is perhaps a first baby worry as this all went out the window with Phoebe and Lottie when Ellie came home from playschool with all manner of coughs and sneezes! 

2. Food, support and hugs 

It meant the world to me to receive little messages just to see how we were all getting on, especially on days 3-5 when my milk came in and on the first day Oli went back to work. Just to know someone is thinking of you feels great. Offers of help or things like milk, bread and nappy deliveries were so welcomed. When visitors brought meals for us it was like all our Christmases had come at once. You spend all your time looking after your baby it's so easy to forget about yourself and while a takeaway or two is lovely there is nothing quite like a home cooked meal that just needs reheating. Ready meals like lasagne, posh cook at home pizzas and ready prepared salads and cake were just some of the things people bought over for us and we were so so grateful. There are some incredible websites out there that do all the hard work for you at the press of a button, my favourites are COOK who deliver home cooked meals to your door.  Special gifts for new mums that arrive through the post are so valued too I love these two websites 'Don't Buy Her Flowers' who have thoughtful packages to treat mums and other special people in your life and My Little Box  which is a subscription pick me up service for 'me time' treats. You could always make your own and send a tea bag, a magazine and a bar of her favourite chocolate. 

3. Advice, reassurance and patience 

Babies don't come with a manual and they are all different, caring for them, although pretty basic, is a steep learning curve and having someone rely on you entirely for all their needs is daunting. There are so many different ways to parent and so many different bits of kit to get your head round it can all be a bit overwhelming. I had never changed a nappy before or dressed a baby and only held one a couple of times. I found it invaluable to be able to ask people who had already been there anything I wanted and appreciated them offering their pearls of wisdom and top tips. As a new mummy I worried about everything, was I doing it right, was this normal, was that normal. As a second time mummy I worried about logistically juggling two, if I was giving them both enough of me. As a third time mummy, if I'm honest I haven't had much chance to even think about worrying! But I have tough days and it's nice to have people there just to listen, to reach out to and ask for help and guidance if I'm not sure or struggling. Above all I think as new mums we sometimes just need a bit of reassurance that we are doing ok, motherhood seems to bring with it a dose of self doubt. I am a huge fan of these New Mum Cards designed by Katie at Hurrah For Gin:

I have a stash ready to send out to mummies to be for when they need a reminder that they are indeed doing a brilliant job, they are like a hug in the post.

I was acutely aware all three times and I still am, that I may have seemingly fallen off the face of the planet to friends in the first year of having a baby. Things change when you become a parent. It literally takes over your entire world, it's epically life changing and all your priorities shift. It's all about the tiny little person that now lives in your home. That little person infiltrates your brain 24hrs a day when you are with or without them. There just isn't the time, capacity or energy for socialising much as you did pre children in those early weeks and months and personally I've always found it really hard to leave my babies. It's nothing personal, I have just been busy being a mum and have little left to give sometimes. I try really hard to keep in touch and to go to things if I can. Luckily my friends are awesome and very forgiving and know I'll emerge in a few months or so ready to get back to me a bit and share a large bottle of wine ;)

So to all the expectant mamas I know; I can't wait to meet your new arrivals this year and am looking forward to being there for you with a plate of lasagne, cake, reassurance and a massive hug

Me x

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