There are some emotions which cannot be named because of the complexities involved, and the particular emotion I feel now is one of them. It’s a cocktail of uncomfortable feelings, among which I recognise disdain, regret, frustration, nostalgia. When I think back to how naive I was in the months following Pixie’s arrival, I want to shake myself. Since that’s a futile wish, I’m penning this missive instead: my best advice to a first time mum – in the form of a letter to myself, as a new mum – before I had a clue.
My Best Advice to a First Time Mum: Three Observations – and What I’d Do Differently
Hindsight, they say, is a wonderful thing. If I could wave a magic wand and grant myself a do-over, there are many things I’d do differently, and that makes me so sad because I’m never getting that time back.
You had it all for the taking but you couldn’t see it because you were so bound up in anxiety and angst. You let the most precious of times slip through your fingers like sand on a windy day – and it’s too late to put right. Now, as a second time mummy, there’s nothing I’d love more than the exquisite luxury of indulging my baby with my full monopolised attention, without the crushing responsibility of another little human to entertain and – you know – keep alive.
Here’s what you needed to know three years ago – and it’s now too late to change. I’m not too sure how to put a positive spin on this! Perhaps I’ll simply direct our girls to this page when their times come in due course…
I Wish I Had…Trusted Myself
You got so heartily sick of hearing everybody else’s opinions about your baby. But it took a long time to get there, because initially you blindly believed every woman who has ever raised a child knew more than you did – even if they’d birthed their baby thirty years previously, when thinking was vastly different (and sometimes plain misinformed). You too often readily accepted the (unsolicited) advice you were given.
You were, at least, sensible enough to verify facts, but it took many months of doing this for you to appreciate that even (especially?) the most earnest advice-givers were full of pap. And then it reached the point where you no longer wanted to hear it – but you still had to listen apparently…
Here’s the thing: nobody else has ever been a Mummy to your baby; nobody else is an expert on your baby.
Exchanging theories and ideas (when sought) is wonderful and supportive. Somebody else foisting their own agenda onto you however is nothing short of arrogant. And damn annoying. Damn annoying.
So, if I could be a first time mum again, knowing what I know now, I would trust my instincts and tell everybody else that their thirty year old instincts about their own bundle of joy (who may or may not be a 14 stone oaf now) are not relevant and not welcome.
I Wish I Had…Spoken Up:
At Work; In Hospital; At Home
With the above in mind, I really wish you’d spoken up more and politely demurred.
At work it was difficult, and I’m not really sure things could have been handled differently – there’s no two ways about it: they were arseholes to you. And in that final meeting when the MD suggested you take a pay cut after indefensibly hollering at you for twenty minutes? You did us proud. Six months pregnant, on the back foot and entirely unprepared for the unjustifiable vitriol directed your way – you calmly responded with:
‘I’m obviously not going to accept that [pay cut]; so where does that leave us?’ *Buuuurn*
It left us in a position whereby your full pay remained intact – in spite of his unethical attempts to bully you into signing away a third of your salary.
And that time in the hospital when the nurse told the midwife to ‘cut her’ – it felt brutal. It was brutal – but again, just like in the office – not the time to get into a debate about manners and courtesy. The woman’s job was to save your baby’s life, so yeah, it was part of what made the experience traumatic and it was horrifying – but it was necessary.
However, at home, when there were repeated episodes of people attempting to undermine you? That was your moment to shine. It was sink or swim, and over and over and over again you swallowed back the words burning in your throat until they pulled you under. I don’t even know who that person was because before and since I see you as a strong woman – yet during that time when you had a tiny infant depending on you, you lost your way.
It was insidious and devastating, and I wish you’d fought back before you got so ill. But you learned a lot and haven’t allowed the situation to be repeated, which is something to be proud of, I guess.
I Wish I Had…Appreciated and Enjoyed It More
Mostly, as every woman the world over has said before me, I wish you’d enjoyed it more. Your naivety of how good you actually had it is breathtaking. You did your best at the time, but it’s desperately regretful that such precious time is passed and gone, and you were unable to fully appreciate it; such is the life of a new mother. You twit.
From My (cynical) Self
What I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mother
I would love to do-over being a first time mother to my (not so) little Pixie, with a healthier, more positive outlook. She deserved me to be happier more of the time when she was tiny.
Equally, I would give anything to have the opportunity to split myself – and Old Father Time – in two, so that I could experience my second baby without any distractions.
Attempting to be a good enough mum to both my girls feels a task beyond my capabilities at the moment. Pixie is jealous and demanding, desperate to have quality time with Mummy – which she promptly sabotages through sheer frustration the moment it’s on offer. Elfin, on the other hand, whilst technically coming first, has to simply fit in around her sister for all non-essential attention. The balls are in the air and I never know from one day to the next when or where they’re going to land (usually on Elfin’s head if Pixie has anything to do with it).
It’s exhausting, and demoralising. But I’m trying to fix it…
Making the Best of a Difficult Situation
I’ve started setting aside precious time for Elfin; I’m taking her to bed ten minutes earlier to give her little back and tummy a massage. I was gifted a tub of Vicks BabyRub which provides soothing and moisturising comfort, and helps us both wind down for the evening, and because it’s non-medicated I can use it every day. With a mild rosemary, lavender, and aloe vera fragrance, it’s not only gentle on the skin but also relaxes Elfin. Since I started using it she has fiiiiinally stopped regularly waking for up to three hours during the night, instead going straight back to sleep after her feeds. Thank god – it’s only taken nine months.
Update: with a dreadful bout of illness we’ve gone soooo backwards – ten months now and I’m tearing my hair out!
As for Pixie, I’m clawing back our relationship – from being ferociously intense to something which has inevitably evolved, but will ultimately be healthier. We’re spending ‘special’ time together at the weekends, exclusively for us. She just has to accept that as she grows up we are separate people and she can no longer be the sole centre of my world – she has to share that spot now. She’ll get there…
We’ll get there.
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