The advice no one gives you (but that you really need)
Did you know that bus will sometimes cry because they want to be wrapped?
Neither did I.
Two days ago, Hunter had been fed and burped and cuddled and still wouldn’t settle. I walked around with him, pushed him in the pram – nothing. After about half an hour of trying to settle him, I grabbed his favourite muslin and wrapped him.
This was his reaction:
He slept for two hours.
There is so much advice that is given to new mums whether we ask for it or not. Most of what I have learned that works for Hunter, Pete and I, I have learned through trial and error. I can almost guarantee that all you other mamas and mamas-to-be will experience the very same thing.
But, if there is any light I can shed or help that I can off by simply sharing the things that I have learned and picked up along the way, then writing this is totally worth it.
Hunter changes every single day. Once you think that you have figured it all out, they evolved and grow and change and throw you a curveball. Having said that, I have found that establishing and maintaining a routine where possible makes a world of difference. Every night with Hunter is different from the last. Some nights he will only wake up once, have a big feed and then conk back out until 5/5.30 in the morning. And then there are nights like last night where he was barely asleep for more than fifteen minutes before screaming in pain with a sore belly (and then up at 4am for a bath).
I may not be able to control what happens during the night, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I can do to make my nights and my morning easier. Because I am expressing and then bottle feeding, I always try and make sure that I have one whole spare bottle up my sleeve and in the fridge. Even when I was breastfeeding, I would express into a bottle for the nighttime feeds. For me personally, this was easier than trying to get Hunter to latch and feed when I was barely awake to coordinate it, all the while trying not to disturb Pete because he had to get up for work the next morning.
My mornings always look pretty similar and it sets up my day nicely, eliminating a lot of stress. Before I go to bed of a night, I will wash two bottles and attach one to my hand pump and one to my electric pump – ready to express first thing of a morning. I also get the lounge room set up for Hunter and I so that in the morning all I need to do is cuddle up into the corner of the lounge with our favourite blanket ready to throw over the both of us. And possibly the most important thing I do for myself is get my coffee ready for the morning. Before getting into bed I will fill up the kettle, set my mug next to it on the bench top with a teaspoon, and get the coffee and the sugar out of the cupboard.
Even though Hunter is different every morning, those few things that I am able to prepare and control mean that I am relaxed and more importantly, caffeinated.
For nights like last night where Hunter was in agony (poor thing is constipated), I have found that the best thing to do is have him over my shoulder while I rub his back up and down with a fair bit of force. It took a while, but eventually it settled him and I was able to lie him down on his side and continue rubbing his back until he passed out. Rubbing their backs – or their bellies if they let you – help work out their wind (and who doesn’t love a back rub).
Another piece of advice that I would highly, highly recommend is to make sure you get out at least once a day. This can be something as simple as lying in the garden with you Bub, or walking to the shops, or going to a cafe – it doesn’t matter what you do, get out of the house. Not only is it essential for your sanity, but it is so important that your little one gets out of the house and stimulated. Different smells and sounds, things to look at, thee big wide world to interact with – I cannot stress how beneficial it is to get Bub out of their usual environment. If I spend more than a few hours at home, Hunter becomes really restless and unsettled. As soon as I put him in the car or in the pram and get him out and doing different things with me, he is a completely different baby. Hunter talks and smiles and sleeps so much better (and so much more) when we are out of the house.
When mum had me, she was twenty-one, single and went back to full-time work a couple of days after having me. The story of mum and I has been told over and over again, and my early days have been relayed to me over the years more times than I can count. The fact that mum was able to raise me alone at such a young age while working full-time is a huge achievement. Because of this though, I have felt like I need to live up to and be capable of the very same thing. I have the support of a partner, I am a bit older and I have the luxury and privilege of having one year of maternity leave. During the first few weeks of being a mother, I felt like I wasn’t as good a mother as my own because I had help and support around me. I felt like I should have been thriving straight away, should have gone back to work, should have should have should have. Even when things got really hard on some of those early days, I refused to ask for help because I was thinking to myself, “Mum managed me as a newborn by herself while working, I should be able to handle this.” It was dangerous thinking, and I will be honest, I still have moments where I feel like I should be doing a lot better than I am.
My piece of advice? Ask for help. Be okay with asking for help. Do not compare yourself to anyone else.
There have only been a handful of times in the last nine weeks where I have made the mayday call to mum to come over. And although most of the time I am really proud of myself and how I have been going so far, there are moments where doubt and guilt and anything else negative creeps into my thoughts and I feel like I could be doing so much more for myself and for my son.
This morning when Hunter was screaming and I hadn’t even had the chance to put pants on and I watched my coffee as it went cold and untouched, I burst into tears. Being a mum is hard work, it really is – but it is even harder if you don’t swallow your pride and ask for help. The people around you will want to help. I implore you to let them.
I am going to end this piece with probably the most important morsel of advice I can offer.
Don’t listen to anyone else.
Don’t even listen to me. Read this post and forget everything that I have said because I promise you mama, you will figure this out for yourself. Trial and error, and error and error and error. You’ve got this. You will continue to learn and figure this out. Ignore everyone and everything.