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This is my baby – butt out!

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After I had my baby, I had to stay in hospital for four days.
Now I look back and think how long it was that I was stuck in a baking hot ward full of other mums and crying babies and being woken all night – not just by my own baby but the ‘helpful’ staff who had to take my blood pressure every four hours.
At the time, I was desperate to be there. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby or what I was supposed to be doing. I looked up to every midwife and nurse like an oracle – “please tell me what to do, I want to be good at this”.

The same naive yearning for advice stuck with me for the next few weeks as I struggled with breastfeeding. My midwife and a breastfeeding consultant visited me at home but I was so desperate for help that also took on a half hour trek, a train and then a bus journey just to get to a feeding drop-in session. Did I mention this was with a one week old baby and a walking ability best described as hobbling?

But I never felt fully reassured. What I couldn’t understand is that everyone was telling me different things. Different methods, different ‘facts’, different ways of doing everything from holding my baby to responding to her cries and interpreting what she wanted. What I now know is that nobody knew my baby and nobody knew the right way of doing anything for her. It was something that only I – and her daddy – could understand and would learn instinctively each hour and day that we were with her.

But that doesn’t stop people trying to impart their often conflicting advice. The ‘experts’ portray everything they say as FACT. Many were brilliant and just wanted to help me but so many others treat new mums as idiots over the simplest of things. One scoffed at me for the way I was winding my baby (the way which actually worked). Another acted shocked that I was changing a dirty nappy mid-feed (because the previous midwife told me I had to). On day three of our feeding struggles, another sighed at me when I winced in pain, shaking her head saying “it doesn’t hurt” (it DID!)

But it’s not just the ‘experts’ you need to watch out for. When you become a mum, you suddenly find that everyone is a baby expert. Relatives, friends and – worst of all – strangers on the street. All want to give you their opinion.

I remember on several occasions being told that my baby couldn’t possibly still be hungry after cluster feeding for over an hour. So, being inexperienced and lacking confidence, I listened to them and watched as my baby became more and more distressed as I desperately tried to comfort her. I ended up leaving to feed her again secretly – which is what she wanted. Being tired, hormonal and worn out in every way, I felt paranoid that I was being judged and that others thought I was doing it all wrong. And worse, that their opinion mattered more than my own.

Surprisingly, strangers – mainly grannies – would stop me on the street to coo over my tiny baby. I’m not sure how holding a baby gives strangers the right to ask personal, intrusive and quite frankly inappropriate questions on topics from if I’m breastfeeding and how I’m raising her to childbirth and my recovery. And, most helpfully, little gems like how their baby never cried and fed beautifully every four hours.

I understand that having a baby can be a bewildering experience and there’s so much that I wish I knew. I’m hoping that all the people who gave me advice did so with the best of intentions – aiming to guide me and give me tips to make my life easier. But as I’ve mentioned, every baby is different and what works for one baby won’t work for another. I also think that the older generation look back on their parenthood experiences with rose-tinted glasses and don’t remember all of the hard times or when their babies cried for hours. I don’t believe that there was a generation of babies that didn’t cry unconsolably for their parents and that breastfeeding problems are just a 21st century issue.

To be blunt, I wish I’d told all of those people to butt out. It would have given me the opportunity to learn my baby’s cues and how to respond to her much sooner and I could have put all of the energy I wasted worrying that I was doing a bad job into much more constructive things. When I speak to expectant and new mums now, I do my very best to not give any advice. To just reassure them and empathise with how hard the early days are. And that way hopefully they won’t feel that they are being judged, won’t feel paranoid and will find their confidence much quicker than I did.

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Post Baby – Why I’ve changed

So your friend has had a baby. Are you thinking any of the following?

“She’s changed”

“She never answers the phone and takes three days to reply to my texts”

“All she talks about is the baby”

“She’s replaced me for her new mummy friends”

Well, let me speak up for all the new mums who are too polite and frankly don’t have the time to defend themselves.

Having a baby changes absolutely everything. I was convinced things only really changed if you let them – and there were so many things that I certainly wouldn’t let change. I now mock the old me who must have lived in a fantasyland.

This BB (before baby) me planned to keep up an active social life; I would go out on Fridays while my husband stayed in and we’d swap on Saturdays. Why wouldn’t that work?

I thought we could keep up our schedule of visiting our baby-free couple friends around the country or hosting them. I knew that the itinerary for the weekend visits would obviously change but couldn’t see why we couldn’t sustain these visits. After all, babies sleep in cars and what else are travel cots for? Right?

I was also incredibly naïve as to think I may have time to fill during maternity leave. A year was a long time and I like always having something to do; this would be the ideal opportunity to decorate the house, sign up to a course and do those little tasks like I never got around to doing such as putting my thousand photographs into albums. I’d definitely be able to do that.

So, how has it all worked out? I haven’t achieved anything during my maternity leave which hasn’t been caring for the immediate needs of my baby; my landing is half painted and my drawer is still stuffed with photographs. I think I managed to go out twice in the first six months. We visited our friends once but what used to be a three hour drive turned into seven hours of torment – screaming, multiple stops, exploding nappies and sick. The thought of a long journey now still genuinely fills me with fear.

However, what perhaps I don’t realise is that everyone I’ve left behind in my BB fantasyland must still have the same assumptions I did and now think I’ve either gone nuts or become a very bad friend.

The reality is that there is no time in my life anymore. If you are baby free, you can’t fully understand. But trust me. New mums are not trying to edge their old friends out of their baby bliss-filled lives. We are chronically time (and sleep) deprived.

It’s not necessarily that being a mum is difficult – although it is at times – it’s the intensity of the job. Some days we can’t shower or even eat anything until tea time. We’re not deliberately ignoring your missed call or text, it’s just further down the list of priorities than trying to keep our babies and ourselves alive because we don’t have a clue what we’re doing and while it sounds dramatic, at times it really does feel like all we’re trying to do is survive!

I miss my old friends; really miss them. Of course we’re still friends but I don’t get to see them as much as I used to. And it’s really sad. So this is my plea to all baby-free friends:

We’re sorry we can’t be as good a friend as we used to be. Our lives have changed beyond recognition; we’re struggling to learn how to look after a little tiny person and we are so so so tired. But please understand that you are still wanted and needed perhaps more now than ever. Do you know how many mums I meet who feel lonely and are desperate for the support of a friend? Please keep on calling us. Please don’t stop inviting us out. Please come and visit us. Just bring cake.

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It’s for the baby – a blog to keep me sane

A bit of a boring blog post I’m afraid, just to set the scene. Future ones will be more interesting. I hope…

When I found out I was pregnant in November 2012, I thought it would be a great idea to start a blog.

I think (and talk) a lot but it was excruciating not being able to share the biggest thing in my life. But even when it was official, I didn’t think the people I see every day would want me wittering on about babies constantly.

This blog would give me the opportunity to chronicle my journey through pregnancy into motherhood which would hopefully connect me with other new mums – perhaps people who would want to listen to me and it would also be something nice to share with my baby when she grew up. So off I blogged – anonymously until I could tell people I was pregnant.

However, after a few months, we had a little bit of a scare with the baby. It all turned out fine but at that moment, blogging wasn’t my number one priority. Then when the baby was born, I didn’t have the time let alone the mental capacity to keep it going. My baby is now 15 months old!

I’ve wanted get going on this blog again for a long time. In fact I’ve actually written a few blogs along the way and not published them. I had intended on back-publishing all my old blog posts but actually, I doubt anyone would back and read them. So I’ve spiked all my old blog posts and today I’m officially starting It’s For The Baby from the beginning (again).

What gives me the authority to write about babies and being a parent? I’ve got one of these…..

My first day

My first day

…and we’ve both survived – so far at least.

Right, hopefully I’ve explained myself. Boring post over.