Newborns, nappies, night feeds. A hazy, sleep deprived rollercoaster. This blog post has sat in my drafts for weeks, months . With good intentions and words added during blurry 3am feeds. But this February, welcoming our little Lilah into the world, my life changed completely in that moment. No time for a self-absorbed blog. No time to even brush my hair without newborn baby stuff consuming every moment. I’ve become that person who takes minimum 3 working days to reply to your text. Somehow I’ve blinked and seven months have passed. Surely now is the chance to take a breath and write it all down?
Regardless of how many books or podcasts you consume during pregnancy, nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent. There was overwhelming responsibility from the very first moment of being handed Lilah, so tiny and new. And yet, the moment she opened her eyes and looked at me, it was as if she said “Oh it’s YOU. Hi, Mum”. It was perfect. With all the poo explosions, leaky boobs, and hysterical crying that followed in those first weeks, that warm buzz of being Lilah’s Mum carried me through. Here’s how else we survived…
Find your people
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that couldn’t be more true. Turns out, newborn babies are hard work. Whether it was handing over Lilah to a loving family member to bounce around the room so I could get an hour’s sleep, or bonding with other Mums over poo-sprayed walls, every interaction is so vital. It reassures you that you’re not mad, you’re doing a great job. That everyone is muddling through and making it up as they go along. The laughter (so needed) and advice (not always wanted) from strangers, friends and family was a huge support in the newborn phase. Having my family down the road was an immense help that I beyond grateful for. Some friends inevitably drifted, in a different place in their lives. Other friends were more supportive than I could have imagined. Early parenthood can be unrelenting and I really needed to build a newborn support system around us, until it all started to make a bit more sense.
Find your routine
So many nights, when feeding and rocking blurred into one, were saved by Wordle and Desperate Housewives. One eye closed, trying to think of literally any five letter word let alone to work out the daily puzzle, helped me keep my sanity and crucially stay awake during night feeds. As a new Mum, I found very quickly I needed some semblance of a routine. Even if it only lasted a few days before the next phase shifted us back to step one…
Those early nights before Lilah knew day from night, when she was sleeping in our arms or cluster feeding all evening, I delved into the scandal of Wisteria Lane. When Lilah used to scream her head off every single nappy change, we made up a silly song even though she just screamed louder. For a while, Aerosmith and Oasis were our go-to songs to serenade her to sleep. When the witching hour struck and nothing worked, I marched her round the block listening to the hilarious Parenting Hell podcast. With everything so scary and new, any routine is a lifesaver.
Find your mantra
Some very wise words I’ve repeated to myself often for the last few months: There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, so just be a real one. You and baby are both learning so be kind to yourself. Everything is a phase. Blame it on a growth spurt. And, courtesy of my own wise Mum, babies don’t make good decisions. Just because your newborn screams murder at the simplest task doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing. Madness isn’t far away when you are doing feed, change, sleep on repeat at all hours of the day and night. Find a mantra to keep your cool in those bleak moments.
& Hold your nerve
Something magical happens when you walk around with a baby, especially a newborn: people lose all manners and cross boundaries and suddenly you’ve got a stranger in Waitrose asking about your birth story. Whether people have kids or not suddenly everyone has an opinion on how you’re doing this. The wave of conflicting parenting opinions started during pregnancy, and not long after birth preachy parenting pages dominated my social media feeds. After sleepless nights, there was absolutely no comfort to be found in countless Instagram pages telling me I would be the worst parent ever without not doing X, Y, Z. You need to hold your nerve and tell yourself you’ve got this, and trust your instincts.
There’s a quote I read long before having Lilah, that becoming a parent means having your heart walk around outside your body. Now I’ve blinked and somehow I’m now seven months into protecting this piece of my heart, trying to make the right decisions and raise a happy, decent human. It has been a whirlwind, but it’s not one that I ever want to stop. The newborn stage is a lot of poo, no sleep and pure magic.