How to Survive the First Year of Parenthood

How to survive the first year of parenthood….

So, as many of you know I have a 15 year old lad and a just over one year old little girl. Due to fertility issues it took us ten years to conceive our Little Miss and during that time we forgot it all. I forgot how small newborns were. We forgot how exhausting the sleep deprivation was. We forgot the timescales for weaning and immunisations. We forgot how much babies cost. We forgot EVERYTHING. The only thing we hadn’t forgotten was how to make a baby (and thank goodness for that!).

In a way, I think it was a purposeful loss of memory. Like all my brain cells got together and agreed ‘If she remembers how sheer bloody difficult it was, she might never want to do it again so let’s wipe her memory. Get rid of it all! The all-nighters, the projectile puking, the soggy shoulders, the I-haven’t-washed-my-hair-in-three-weeks look and every other tough time that they went through. Sayonara memories! Smell you later!”

Maybe it was for the best.

So when we were finally blessed with our Little Miss, it all came as quite a shock. Yes, we had been there before, but it was 14 years ago. It was a lifetime ago. A lot of the official guidance had changed so it was like having our first all over again. We were older (but certainly not wiser) and not as spritely as we had been with our first and having a high risk pregnancy followed by a special care baby placed us under pressure from the moment that little blue line changed our world.

I’ll tell you the punch line now though: it was so worth it. On many occasions over the course of the first year, it’s been tough. Like really tough. But never has ‘tough’ been so joyful, so full of love, so fulfilling.

 I’m no parenting expert (says the woman who has to bribe her one year old with a bag of Pombears, the top of a french stick and half a packet of chocolate buttons just to get round half of Asda) but thought I would share a few things we learned along the way:

  1. Pack a couple of different sized sleepsuits in your hospital bag. With my first (he was a whopping 9lb10oz so came out the size of a fully grown 3 year old) he was too big for newborn so needed the next size up and with my second, it was the opposite! She was far too small for newborn. I had lovingly chosen what was to be her ‘first outfit’ and all that went to pot when she was born so teeny. I ended up having to send my Hubby shopping for tiny baby sized clothes. I felt awful that I didn’t have something to put her in that fit her straight away. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my baby brain had led me to packing a hat for a 6-12 month old in my hospital bag. I ended up being given one of those nana-knitted wooly hats from the hospital to put on her when she was first born. I treasure it now though.
  2. Try and control your spending – this was something I was TERRIBLE at. I exercised no self control whatsoever but when I was handing over a black bag of brand new, tagged, unworn baby clothes to a pregnant friend, I sure wish I had. My baby would have had to remain at newborn size for three years to get through the wardrobe of clothes I had bought for her. I wasted so much money, which would have been far better spent on the boring stuff like nappies and wipes!

 

 

  1. Try not to romanticise the birth in your head – go in with an open mind, what will be will be. This is a biggie for me because both of my deliveries had their complications. I had an extremely difficult birth with my son which was incredibly traumatic and with my second it was an emergency section. So many mums visualise a boho-chic birthing-pool-with-whale-music-and-absolutely-no-pain-whatsoever- birth. Some mums get it. They are lucky. People like me don’t get that lucky! I think if I had gone in expecting a birth like that, I would have been extremely disappointed. All that mattered to me was that I had a healthy baby at the other end. I know that birthing experiences are very important to women – and so they should be – and women should absolutely have every say over how their birth is managed and planned. Unfortunately for me, both my deliveries went tits up but did it matter? No. My babies matter. They came through it, and that is all that matters.

 

  1. Take control of your first moments together – I learnt the hard way with my first. I welcomed every man, woman and child to meet my son when he was only a matter of days old. I soon felt really overwhelmed with it all. I resented handing my baby around all the friends and relatives for cuddles because I didn’t feel like I had even had a chance to enjoy those cuddles myself. With my second I was a bit of a Mum-Zilla. She was in special care for a while and quite poorly and I didn’t feel up to visitors. Nor was I ready to share her with anyone. We welcomed grandparents (and the cuddles, support and reassurance they brought with them) but we said no to everybody else. Once we got home, I still took my time before inviting friends and family around. I wanted time as a family. I wanted to close the doors on the world and just enjoy her. I wanted my Big Lad to adjust to having a baby sister without the doorbell going every half an hour. I think she was almost a month old before my best friend met her. I don’t regret it though. I’ll remember that time we had, feeling our way through becoming a family of four, forever. It was beautiful.

 

  1. Forget your usual standards. So, you used to have an immaculate home? You used to hoover on a daily basis? You used to make all meals from scratch? You used to put your make up on every morning? Whatever your standards were before having a baby, make no mistake that there is no shame in lowering them (and lowering them again) after having a baby. Becoming parents is the most beautiful gift. But it is bloody exhausting. For a while, you live in a bit of a bubble. A big, love filled bubble of loveliness. Then shit gets real. It has to get real, unfortunately. I would LOVE to spend the rest of my life in that love filled bubble but, and it’s an unfortunate but, life kicks in. The hubby goes back to work. The washing basket is overflowing. The fridge and kitchen cupboards are empty. Reality bursts that bubble and suddenly you are expected to do everything you did before having a baby, now with a baby. I remember on my hubby’s first day back to work after paternity leave, I tried to be the ultimate domesticated wife. I tried to make a hot pot for him coming home whilst feeding the baby and shushing her and hoovering and dusting then shushing some more. I ended up burning the tea. The hoover spit out crap instead of sucking it up because it needed emptying and I hadn’t even noticed. And the milk I had just lovingly fed my baby ended up being sprayed all over the sofa in a reflux inspired vomit sesh. Yup. Never have I ever looked less domesticated.

Just because the hubby went back to work and I was at home on maternity, I felt under immense pressure to be the all-singing-all-hoovering housewife. I put myself under pressure to have a homemade dinner ready for him coming home, a clean and tidy home, a freshly bathed and changed bubba for post-work cuddles and maybe even a dash of lippy on my chops. What he got instead was a warbling hormone crazed mother with vomit in her hair, a shit tip of a home and a burnt hot pot. Did it matter? No. Was he expecting anything different? No. Taking care of baby is a huge deal. It is bloody hard at times. Don’t be afraid to lower your standards while you feel your way in to motherhood. You’ll never look back on this time and say ‘I really wish I had kept my home tidier’ but you might think ‘I wish I had just lowered my standards and focused on me and my baby.’

 

  1. Trust your instincts. On a couple of occasions during her first year, I have felt, instinctively, that something has been wrong with Little Miss. I sometimes felt silly making a GP appointment ‘on a whim’ or phoning the Health Visitor for the 35th time that week to talk through something that I was sure was totally in my head. My GP told me to always trust my instincts. If you feel like something is wrong, don’t be afraid to say so or seek help. The consequences of not saying it could be too big.

 

  1. Sleep is a constant topic of debate amongst parents. Or, more like, lack of it. Sleep deprivation is hard. There are no two ways about it. And as much as I loved to steal extra night time snuggles, when you’ve been ‘night time snuggling’ for twenty three nights in a row with about 40 minutes of uninterrupted sleep, it gets wearing. I was the silly mother trying to be Super Woman, telling her husband to go back to sleep while I sort the baby out. I was worried that he wasn’t getting enough sleep for work. And, well, let’s face it, I’m on maternity leave, so I don’t need the sleep as much as he does. Right? Wrong. We all need sleep. I reckon even super duper survival expert Bear Grylls would agree with me. You’ve got to be in it together. It becomes impossible for one person to continually bear the weight of sleep deprivation. It leads to exhaustion, resentment, illness – it’s not good. Share the load. Do alternate nights, or alternate get ups. You’re in this together. Don’t try and be a Super Hero, just be you, be the best mum you can be whilst taking care of yourself also. You are no good to anyone if you end up collapsing with exhaustion!

 

  1. Take photos. Steal precious moments. Breathe it in. That might sound a bit airy fairy but believe me when I say that time flies. They aren’t small for long and that first year is really special. Even the evenings I spent pacing the floor with a baby who thought sleep was for the weak gave me the opportunity to steal precious moments. Holding her close to me, in the dark, in the silence, just me and her . Ok, I was an exhausted mess, but I consciously told myself that one day I will look back on that moment and want to relive it. So I held her a bit closer. I breathed her in. The smell of her, the soft touch of her skin, tracing her tiny fingers as they grasped mine. There is something to treasure in every moment.

 

  1. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for advice and don’t ever be afraid to ignore unwanted advice. Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to parenting. It is one of those topics that no one is ever going to agree on. We all have different ideas, different parenting styles, different ways of doing things. And thank goodness we do – it’s our differences that make us beautiful, after all. Get used to the idea that family, friends (and maybe even complete and utter strangers) will want to share their advice with you – even if you express no apparent need for it. Don’t take it personally. Listen to it if you like, consider it if you want to, but it is equally fine just to ignore the buggar and continue doing your own thing. My mother in law once mocked me for parenting my baby ‘as if I’d read a text book on it.’ I’m not sure what she meant by that. That I was trying my hardest to get it right? That I had done my research? That I was an uptight parent? I’m still not sure what she meant by it and she said it 15 years ago. But the look on her face when she said it definitely suggested that I was getting it wrong. I was only young at the time so it definitely knocked my confidence. Don’t give anyone that power. Parent the way you want to parent. By all means get support and advice but on your own terms – when you want it or need it – and forget everybody else.

 

  1. Finally, try not to compare your child to others. Both my babies have been slow at achieving the physical milestones like crawling and walking. With my first I actually lost sleep over the fact he wasn’t walking at 14 months. I would go to playgroups and see babies the same age as him whizzing around the place or see babies older than him at his nursery well ahead of him. I was convinced he was never going to walk. My Little Miss isn’t being much different either. She’s definitely got a bit of the lazy thing going on. I mean, why walk when you can flutter your eyelashes and get your big brother or daddy to carry you?! She’s a diva in a nappy. This time though I am so much more relaxed. Contrary to my fears, my Big Lad is not still crawling about at 15, he just walked in his own good time. Nothing good can come from comparing your child’s development to that of others. If you have any concerns about their development, it is best to see a professional for advice. Every baby is different, they will achieve milestones at different ages, they will grow and develop at their own pace. That doesn’t mean that there is anything to be concerned about. Just focus on your own little bundle and support them to learn and grow and flourish and they will get there.

I hope the above helps, even if just in a teeny way. Wherever you are in your first year, enjoy it. The joy our little treasures bring to our lives is just immeasurable. They are the most precious gift. Enjoy every moment. Even the poo and vomit filled ones.

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Amy

Ola! It’s that time again folks! This time it’s the turn of Amy from ‘The Rolling Baby’ blog. Amy has a beautiful baby girl and is giving us an insight to an average day in her life. She’s currently on maternity leave so it was really lovely to read about how she and her little one spend the days together. I loved that every week they have dedicated time to spend with the baby’s grandparents – they aren’t small for long and sharing the precious first months and years with family is really special – for both them and the baby! My mum lives a good fifty minute or so drive away from me so still relatively local but she doesn’t live close enough for me to just pop in unannounced. She gets so much joy out of spending time with both my children and they absolutely love seeing her. Even my Big Lad, who turns 15 in January, will continually ask to stay over at Grandma’s or to go and see her. He gets absolutely spoilt by her – there’ll be popcorn, sweets, ice cream on the go – the lot! But I love that they have such a close relationship. I know not everybody has grandparents so I feel very blessed to still have two of my grandparents around and that my children have grown up with two grandfathers and a grandmother. Not everybody has that luxury these days and it’s something I won’t ever take for granted. 

Without any further a-do, let’s open the door on a day in Amy’s life!

Little one usually wakes up somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30am. My other half will usually change her nappy while I get her milk ready, then I’ll feed her while he gets ready for work and takes our dog for a walk.

An hour to an hour and a half after first waking up and after daddy’s gone to work, little one will have her first nap of the day. During this time, I grab the laptop and a cup of tea and will blog, catch up on what I’ve missed on Twitter and join a linky (or two!) I usually put either Emmerdale or Coronation Street on in the background too, but have to quickly turn the volume down when the theme music comes on otherwise it wakes up baby.

When little one wakes up, I’ll prepare a breakfast of porridge for us both. Then, we’ll head back upstairs and get ready. Being on maternity leave means we have real lazy mornings and by the time we’ve dressed and ready for the day it’s usually late morning.

From there I’ll do a few chores such as the washing and putting the drying up away from the previous evening’s dinner. We often then go for a walk around the block. It’s not far but it gets us out of the house and some fresh air into our lungs for half an hour or so and the dog loves it! I’ve got a shopping bag clip which I use to attach his lead to the stroller so I don’t have to worry about him running away.

Two days a week we spend the afternoon at my mums. We have lunch there, a catch up, a bit of play and little one generally falls asleep while cuddling her nanna. I usually use this time to do a bit of shopping on my phone – it’s mostly Christmas shopping at the moment, but I also throw things in my online Asda trolley too. When my dad gets back from work, he has around half an hour with little one before we head home to see daddy, have dinner and get to bed.

On the days we don’t go to my mum’s, we mostly potter around the house. Sometimes we’ll go out to the shops – we love a little wander around B&M and it usually sends little one to sleep. I also try to squeeze in an exercise DVD as I’m trying to get fit and lose my baby weight. We play fetch with the dog a lot as little one loves laying on her tummy on the floor so she’s face to face with him and it really makes her laugh.

My other half gets home around 6pm and I try to have dinner ready for then, although it is baby permitting! We’ll eat, give little one a bath and get her ready for bed. She then has her milk before I lay her in her cot and read her a story. From here anything can happen! We encourage her to stay in her cot for as long as possible, but at the moment we’re going through a ‘I’m not sleeping until at least 10pm‘ stage, so when she starts kicking and screaming we usually end up taking her out and rocking her to soothe her.

If we’re lucky we’ll then squeeze in a bit of TV before heading to bed, ready to do it all again the following day!

Ahh, thank you so much Amy for being involved and for guest blogging for me. I have to thank Amy also for being such an all-round-lovely-person too – whenever I take to Twitter to blow off some (digital) steam or I grumble on about not getting any sleep or about the time I’ve spent picking boogas out of my Little Miss’ nose, Amy is always there with something lovely to say. She is so supportive and it is appreciated loads. 

Reading about Amy’s days on maternity leave brought back fond memories of mine. It feels like it was years ago but it was only this time last year. One thing that Amy manages in her day that I didn’t most days was to get dressed and get out! I’m no mathematician but I think it would be pretty bang on to guesstimate that I spent at least 75% of my maternity leave in my Pyjamas, with no make up on and my hair pulled (very roughly) in to the ultimate of mum-buns. The days were never very organised or routine but we bumbled through it, the two of us, enjoying the time together. In the early days I would stress about the state of the house, the never-ending pile of washing and ironing, the lack of time to prepare meals in advance (looking back I’m not entirely sure what I WAS doing mind, she slept for the best part of 3 months!) and the list went on. The best piece of advice I was given was from a friend who told me ‘With a baby you have to lower your standards for everything else, then lower them again’ and I totally got that. Having a newborn baby – any baby – changes everything – your pre-baby routine, your energy levels, your priorities – the lot. It is impossible sometimes to keep all the plates spinning just as fast and efficiently as you did before. I gave myself a bit of a tough time at first over not managing to be the ultimate house wife whilst on maternity leave but my friend was right. As long as the baby is warm, fed, loved and the house is relatively clean (you’ll note I didn’t say ‘tidy’ – my house was never tidy for a number of months!!!) that is what matters. The moment I stopped giving myself a hard time over the absence of any ‘Super Mum’ qualities I started to focus on, and enjoy, the time I had with my Little Miss and now I’m looking back on it, I’m so glad that I did that because it does go over so quick and you can never get that time back again.  It sounds like Amy is a lot more organised than me and that they have a great routine going, it sounds like Amy and her Little One have wonderful days, and that’s what it’s all about.

You can keep up to date with Amy and what she’s up to via her blog therollingbaby.co.uk You will love it so make sure you give it a visit! The #ThisMum series continues on Sunday evening with an amazing guest post written by Jen from the Life-Milk blog. I’m really excited about sharing it with you because for one it is utterly brilliant and secondly, we are yet to feature a single mum and Jen very kindly let’s us take a look at an average day in her life as a single mum to a beautiful nine year old daughter. It’s definitely a post you don’t want to miss so keep your eyes peeled for it on Sunday! Until then my lovelies, have a fabulous week!

A Day in the Life of #ThisMum: Kate

It’s Tuesday again folks! (is it me or are these weeks flying?!) We are literally hurtling towards mid December at the speed of light; I’m sure the big man in the red is doing some lunges and star jumps to get warmed up for the big day already.

I am so incredibly excited to share with you today’s #ThisMum post. Today’s ‘Day in the life of’ post comes from Kate, a mum from New Zealand who has a slightly different family dynamic to the families that have featured in the series so far. I read Kate’s post with both real interest and admiration. Kate’s current set up, raising her five month old boy with both her and her husband at home just sounds so perfect. Those first months with your baby (the first year, even!) are just more precious than anything else in the world – it seems so harsh that one parent out of the two misses out on a lot of that precious time because they have to go to work. My Little Miss has just recently turned one and we are really feeling the ill effects of her spending so much time one on one with just me and not my husband. She won’t settle with him sometimes, she cries when I leave the room despite Daddy being there and she’s extremely clingy towards me. I think that had we have had Kate’s set up for even just those few months, things would have been very different. I think it is so refreshing and so beautiful to have both parents at home raising the baby – you are going to love reading all about it. 

Hello and welcome to a day in the life of our little family.
I’m Kate, from New Zealand and I was selected to be part of the #ThisMum series because my husband and I are both home together raising our only son- which makes us a bit different from what is considered ‘normal’.
For some Mum’s, having your husband home while caring for a 5 month old would be considered a dream, for others a nightmare but for us it is reality.
Like every family dynamic it has potential difficulties
1) Will we get sick of each other?
2) Will our son attach to one of us more or both of us equally (or dislike us both)?
3) Will we use our time at home together wisely and have adventures or will we stay on the couch being the stereotypical sleep deprived parents the world knows and loves?
1) To avoid getting sick of each other and to uphold the individual identities we had formed ‘PB’ (pre-baby) we each have valuable ‘me time’. I was working as a Manager and my husband worked as a Storeman. My brain was always busy and he was always active, we now reflect this in our hobbies. ‘Me time’ For my husband is being in the garden, working on something around the house or cooking an amazing meal. My time involves getting OUT of the house. I am the worst “stay at home Mum ever”. Before my husband had his hip surgery (which is why he has joined me on my Maternity Leave) I took Ted out daily. Catching up with friends, walking, coffee dates, drives to new places…. etc… this kept me sane. I can’t do nothing, I am useless at it. I have tried relaxing or sleeping while he is asleep but planning events/weddings and working on projects are far more exciting.
2) It has been 8 weeks with us both at home and Teddington has formed a special bond with both of us. When he is playing or sitting on someone else’s knee he will look to my husband or I to ensure his ‘security blankets’ have not left the building. Of course as a breastfeeding Mum I have an advantage when it comes to cheering him up (well.. I have two advantages ;-)) meaning the initial bond was in my favour. Prior to his hip surgery my husband would typically finish work and be home by 5:30 p.m. and Ted would be in bed by 7:00 p.m. Since both being home, Ted flashes us equally awesome smiles as we enter the room and knows he has someone else to play with when he gets a bit bored.
I love watching the boys interact. It is playful, exciting and informative. My interactions with Ted are cuddly, giggly and relaxing. We believe Ted will benefit from having different experiences with each parent. Our underlying approach to parenting is the same- our child should be able to choose what he plays with/explores and he should have opportunities to figure things out on his own. We want to raise him as a team. My husband recently said “I don’t want to look back on his childhood and describe it as Mum+Ted and then Dad sometimes, I want it to be the 3 of us“.
3) My husband helping with Ted daily means I have only had a couple of days where I have felt the full impact of sleep deprivation. I am really appreciative of everything he does around the house- he is a far better chef/cleaner than I am! We understand that not all families have (what we consider) the luxury to parent together- we will eventually both head back to work but we hope to work alternate days so Ted has time with both of us individually.
Contrary to popular belief, Mum’s do not just sit at home and drink coffee all day. My husband and I don’t even like coffee, but that is besides the point. A typical day for us goes:
  • 6:30 a.m.
  • Teddy wakes up. Mum feeds Ted before he hangs with Dad. Ted enjoys a nappy change, tummy time, laughing, playing/peeing on his mat on the floor
  • 8:00 a.m. 
  • Ted naps. Mum wakes up and gets ready for the day. Dad makes both of them breakfast and then heads outside to work on the garden or whatever project is at play
  • 10:00 a.m. 
  • Mum feeds Ted. Ted plays/pees on his mat some more. Mum does paperwork/event planning/emails. Dad does yoga for his hip, Ted copies and shoves his toes in his mouth. Everyone gets ready to go out (sometimes this includes our two dogs if we are heading out for a walk).
  • 11:30 a.m.
  • We go somewhere. Errands, a play date, visiting family, babies group, a drive… Ted naps then joins us around lunchtime. We all have our lunch.
  • 3:00 p.m.
  • Head home. Ted wakes up and will play with either Mum or Dad while the other does jobs around the house/ has some ‘me time’
  • 4:30 p.m. 
  • Ted’s last nap before his bedtime routine starts. If Ted doesn’t feel like napping him and Mum have a cuddle in bed and relax.
  • 5:30 p.m. 
  • Dad starts cooking Dinner. Ted showers with either Mum or Dad and Mum reads him stories (Ted’s favourite is Dr Suess).
  • 6:30 p.m.
  • Mum feeds Ted. We both say goodnight and whoever is last to leave puts Ted in bed. Mum and Dad eat dinner, chat, plan tomorrow, watch TV, eat chocolate, read by the fire or hang out with friends…
  • 10:30 p.m. Mum dreamfeeds Ted (Her favourite part of the day, he looks super cute half asleep trying to feed!!)
  • 2:00 a.m. Mum feeds Ted, Dad sleeps with his useless nipples
and repeat.
Until Ted changes his mind, we change our routine, he grows up or we go back to work.
I look forward to seeing which happens first 🙂
Kate xx
Told you you’d love it! I laughed out loud (I’m an LOL-Phobe hence the lack of abbreviation!) at the ‘Dad sleeps with his useless nipples’ – isn’t that just brilliant!!! I can’t thank Kate enough for contributing to the series and shining a light on a family dynamic we were yet to feature. I absolutely love the sound of Kate’s set up – it sounds so perfectly balanced and beautiful. What do you think?
If you’d like to follow Kate on Twitter and find out more about her, you can find her by looking up her Twitter handle @Quippybaby