Reflections on motherhood...


Monday, March 10, 2014

Letter to a new mother

Dear new mother

Everyone will say 'congratulations' and you should rightly feel proud of yourself.  You just made a new human being.  They will usually follow the congratulatory remarks with a searching "and how are you?". They will study you for signs of cracking.  It's absolutely okay to get a little teary and say you're overwhelmed and confused most of the the time, not to mention exhausted.

Those who are already parents will tell you to "enjoy it - they grow up so fast".  As if they enjoyed every waking, shitting moment with their precious little bundle.  What they mean to say is to savor it.  Savor the highs and the lows.  Let the lows wash over you and tell yourself, repeatedly, this too shall pass.  And savor and celebrate the highs, commit them to memory, or better yet, take a photo.

There will be days when getting out of your pyjamas is a superhuman feat.  Put it on your 'to do' list and tick it off so you feel like you've achieved something.

Time in the shower, or even on the toilet, has suddenly become a precious commodity.  Sorry but I have no solutions here.  Console yourself with the thought that you're doing the planet some good by saving water.  Take evening baths with your baby.  Make up for lost shower time when you visit your parents or in-laws.

Everyone will tell you to "sleep when your baby sleeps". I say do whatever the hell you want while your baby sleeps - this might be your only chance today to take a shower.

Strangers will want to hold your baby, or touch his cheeks, hands or feet.  I have no solutions here either.  Give over that baby and enjoy a break.  Watch those grandma-looking types - they usually know a thing or two about holding a baby - you might learn something.  

Most days you will have moments of misery and moments of triumph.  You will be baffled when the trick you used yesterday fails to work today.  

Learn to laugh at yourself.  Tell stories about your worst days and have a laugh. Tell them to other mothers - let your guard down and get some perspective.

You may not get to the end of every day in the same clothes.  Or if you do make it, by the end of the day, forgive yourself your dignity if you're covered in splotches of milk, drool and baby vomit.

You'll be baffled, repeatedly, by the question, 'is he a good baby?'. As if babies either come out innately 'good' or 'bad'.  What they mean to ask is whether your baby is an easy baby. To which you might answer "mostly".

I also want to tell you that it's okay to feel like you might throw your baby out the nearest window because he's been fussing and crying for three hours straight and you still haven't had a god-damned shower or gotten out of your pyjamas.  In these circumstances you also need to know that no harm ever came to a baby who was put in a safe place and left to fuss for 10 minutes while her mother has a cup of tea or a quick shower.

Contact with other parents with babies will save your sanity.  Or at the very least, should give you an excuse to get out of the house.  But don't engage in the parental one-upmanship that can sometimes be a feature of conversations at mum's groups.  Your baby might sleep through the night, or even sleep for more than three hours in a row at night.  Even if you want to shout it from the rooftops, remember that the mother sitting next to you is on the edge of sanity as she hasn't slept in three days and keep it to yourself.  Tell your parents, grandparents and anyone else who doesn't have a baby in the house.

Go easy on yourself.  Your number one job is to be a parent, not to run around like a blue-assed fly ticking off jobs on your maternity leave to do list and getting all manner of household chores done.  If your baby wants to sleep on you all day, slow down, forget about the washing, vacuuming and ironing, and savor the feeling of his gorgeous little body snuggled on your chest.  Try not to feel guilty when your partner arrives home and the house looks the same as when he left that morning.  Don't imagine he's looking around thinking "what the hell has she been doing all day?".  He'll realise exactly what the hell you do all day on Saturday when it's him stuck on the couch with a sleeping baby on his chest.

The God particle: may or may not be
related to whether your baby sleeps.
Accept the fact that the buck stops with you. You're his one and only.  You know his cries, his faces, his noises and his needs.  You know the special rhythm that will ensure his descent into lala-land faster than anyone else.  You know the bounce or special move that will get a burp.   You get him.  

Take comfort from the thought that all your rocking and bouncing is burning calories.  You can finish your meal or your cup of tea later.

Above all else, don't try to solve the mystery of baby sleep.  It's the parental equivalent of discovering the God particle

Keep calm and carry on.

P.S. I have so much more to tell you, but I know you'll work it all out for yourself.  Go you!


  1. Oh Aph. I love this! Keep going, I love reading your blog!

  2. I don't believe truer words have ever been spoken (or written as the case may be!)


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