Becoming a new parent is an exciting (and of course tiring) time in your life, however it can also be a time of feeling isolated.
I remember after my first child, once the frenzy of well-wishers had come to visit the baby, there was a lull in adult company. I knew people were respecting the fact that I needed to rest when the baby slept and that it was hard for them to know when that would be, but all the same I remember feeling very alone. I was also overwhelmed by the changes in my life – the responsibility for caring for a child 24 hours a day, a lack of sleep and the changes in hormones as my body adjusted from being pregnant into being a full-time milk bar.
Having moved house a few weeks prior to having the baby, I didn’t have any friends nearby and my old friends were not at the same stage in life, so they were busy with work commitments. I remember when my husband went back to work that I felt a bit lost. I could go all day without any adult conversation. Of course, I was besotted with our new baby, but I also felt that I had little purpose beyond caring for our daughter.
Being a first time parent, I was keen to ensure my baby was in a routine and so my life revolved around a strict regime that I inflicted upon myself. I also lacked the confidence to know that my baby would be okay unattended in her cot while I got on with chores – I would even take her into the bathroom with me when I showered, so I could keep an eye on her.
With experience came confidence to start going out and when I joined a mother’s group, I found a supportive network of new friends who were experiencing the same issues with their babies as I was with mine.
I laugh at the contrast of my first time parenting experience with that of my fourth child. My youngest child’s routine was to sleep in the car as I ferried his older sisters to and from school. He adapted to the family routine and I no longer feared leaving my baby unattended in the cot for a small amount of time to do chores. Furthermore, I no longer isolated myself at home, instead I continued with the social commitments for my other kids and to be frank I didn’t have time to feel lonely when surrounded by friends and our combined hoard of kids.
What did you find the hardest adjustment to being a new parent?
(Image courtesy of Danillo Razzuti, freedigitalphotos.net)
There has been a lot of conflicting opinions about whether Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, left hospital too soon after giving birth to little Princess Charlotte.
With my second child I left hospital after 20 hours. I just wanted to sleep in my own bed without listening to other babies crying and without the nurses chatter disturbing me. What I hadn’t counted on was that people took that to mean there was endless visiting hours at our home.
The night after giving birth to our daughter I had 26 visitors at my house at dinner time. I was exhausted and wanted time to rest and bond with my new baby. Instead I was hosting a party and ordering in copious amounts of pizza to feed the hordes.
Returning home also signified to my husband that I was back on board to care for our toddler and resume cooking and cleaning. I was exhausted and didn’t give myself a chance to heal and rest after what was a stressful experience for my body.
For the birth of my subsequent children I stayed in hospital for 3 days which meant I had allotted rest times, scheduled visiting hours, had time to stare at my beautiful baby without worrying about chores and best of all just had to tick a box on a sheet to order my meals.
While I truly understand Kate’s motivation to leave hospital immediately, having done it myself I wouldn’t choose to do it again. Having said that I’m sure Kate has nannies, chefs and cleaners so maybe returning home so early won’t be quite as exhausting for her.
There’s one thing I can tell you for sure is that I certainly didn’t look as glamourous as Kate when I left hospital with my newborn babies!
I have agreed (maybe foolishly) to play basketball with a group of mothers from my children’s school. Our team’s experience is limited to watching our kids play and an odd game of basketball or netball twenty or so years ago.
Having watched and scored my children’s basketball games for the past ten years, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the game. Turns out that it is:
- Far more exhausting than the kids make it seem
- Far more brutal
- The hoop is a lot smaller than it appears
After a hard played 20 minutes our team limped off court, struggling to comprehend that we had only just completed the first half of the game. Watching and playing this game were really totally different experiences.
In the second half we lost a player after she provided the soft cushioning for an opponent who fell on top of her, leaving our player badly bruised and batted!
This experience has given me a new found respect for the energy levels of our kids and a wake up call that, whilst I may be an expert on how the kids should play the game when I’m a spectator, the same can’t be said when I’m actually the one playing the game.
Our aim was for the opposition to not double our score, which we managed to achieve. At the final siren we all gathered together happy to have played our first game whilst discussing appropriate triage for the numerous muscle strains, bumps and bruises.
They say you shouldn’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes – well now that I’ve run more than a mile in basketball shoes I plan to take a back seat on giving my kids pointers on how they can play basketball! Forty minutes on the court has proved to me that the game is harder than it seems and that at the end of the day, you are just there for some exercise and fun!
(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)
The expectation of a new baby being all smiles and settling easy, is often quite different to the reality! All first time mums (myself included) strive to be the most attentive, sensitive, caring mother a child can have. I remember picking up my eldest daughter every time she started to cry and spent hours rocking and patting her off to sleep. I have all too vivid memories of lying on her floor in the middle of the night with my arm reaching up into her cot patting her in the rhythm of different songs whilst willing her to finally doze off. I wouldn’t even leave my daughter in her cot while I showered in case she cried and I wouldn’t be able to hear her. I would put her in her rocker and sit that in the bathroom within arms reach. During the day I would let her fall asleep on me, finding that I was too scared that if I moved and put her to bed I would have to re-settle her all over again. I was literally trapped and immobilised by my little bundle of joy.
What I realised (all too late) was that I had created a rod for my own back. All humans are creatures of habit. Just as I like a cup of tea first thing in the morning, she liked to fall asleep on me. The other epiphany I had was that crying doesn’t hurt babies – in fact it makes them tired. As long as you know they aren’t hurt, have been fed and burped and have a dry nappy then they are crying just to whinge.
Babies need to learn to settle themselves, which if you constantly do it for them, they will expect anytime (day or night) that it is your duty to get them to sleep. You need to give them a dedicated sleeping spot that is preferably dark and quiet and leave them to doze. It is always best if you have them in a routine so they know that they are expected to sleep, but that isn’t always possible. My poor son, as the fourth child, did a lot of his sleeping in the car as I drove his sisters to and from school and other activities. I did however always try to allow him at least one sleep at home during the day to keep up the routine.
So my advice to any new mother’s out there is that although hearing your baby wail is heartbreaking, it will make life easier for you in the long run to let them cry. There is still plenty of time in the day for special cuddles and bonding. You will find that if your baby learns to settle themselves, you will actually have time for yourself as opposed to hours spent pinned under a sleeping child.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)