5 things I learnt second-time around
Only Rihanna can give us pregnancy style in the way that she does – seeing her bulging belly proudly on display is a beautiful thing. I love that she isn’t afraid to push us to the edge of uncomfortable and yeah-why-not-I-guess vibes.
However, in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder how many women look at that and think “ohhh a baby-bump and a little mini-me would be so cute!”
A baby bump might be fashionable but motherhood is real… real hard, and real motherhood doesn’t look quite so appealing on those IG squares, which is why we don’t see it nearly as much. They’re not so cute, when you haven’t slept for days on end or when they think they’re fresh enough to back-talk at 10.
We glamourise and exalt the pregnant woman and couldn’t quite give a toss about her or her child beyond that. You only have to look at the extent of post-partum support to see that as a society we are seriously lacking in this department.
We can look at the pictures of bumps and mini-me’s and think how perfect it all looks but ask any mum and they will tell you that it’s far from perfect.
The average new-mum struggles during the first year after birth, it’s estimated between 10-20% experience postpartum depression, most go undiagnosed and many more probably don’t even know they can and should seek help.
We’re on the verge of my second son, Noah’s first birthday, and here’s what I learnt this time around and wish I had known first time:
Let yourself be taken care of – period. That’s it. We see weakness in this, but in cultures and societies where community is still a thing, a new mother/family is supported and taken care of. There is an innate understanding that the transition a woman has made into motherhood has been physically, emotionally and mentally draining – and as such she needs to be replenished and nurtured. So many people came to help us, which we didn’t have first-time around, it was truly lovely and soul-affirming. Let go of needing to do it all or worrying about what others will think, and allow yourself to be looked after. You will thank yourself for it.
Take mental photographs – not everything is for the Gram! There were (and still are) moments that I just want to remember that a photograph can’t capture – like how small he felt in my arms, like how tiny his hand felt in mine, like how his hair felt against my cheek. It might seem futile – I know because I wish I could remember how these things felt with my now 10-year-old but I don’t, so I’m making a point of capturing that information this time. Take a pause, close your eyes and focus on how you feel in the moment that you want to feel forever – that’s your mental picture.
Don’t wish it away – there is always the next milestone or the idea that it will be easier when… they start crawling, walking, talking, doing it for themselves. When you spend your time thinking I can’t wait until they do X – you miss what they’re doing now. You’ll end up missing the previous stages because you know you can’t get them back. The period they are little is so small, don’t hurry them to be grown or independent. Everyone wants to speed up post-partum and get back to normal but there is no going back, life has dramatically changed forever. Let yourself just go with the flow – however challenging it may be, because every milestone/stage brings a new challenge, it doesn’t necessarily get easier, it just gets different.
Practice HALT – if the crying or attachment is getting to you, then HALT, figure out if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Perhaps it’s all of them. Go lie down, you will feel better. Go eat, go out, go figure out why you’re feeling what you feel. Your needs are important – so be clear on what you need and express it and get them met in a healthy way. Get some me-time and don’t feel guilty about it – it’s a basic human need.
You don’t have to know – or be perfect! The hubby is always asking me why Noah is crying and my answer has been the same for the past year: I don’t know! Sometimes I do know but those cries where he is throwing himself back and is uncontrollable, often I don’t have the foggiest. 10 years ago that would have thrown me in loops, I would have felt like I had to know and have to fix it. But I don’t know and that’s okay, I don’t have to – in those moments my only requirement is to be there and soothe him even if he doesn’t want to be soothed because that’s the job: be there, when they fall, when they hurt, when they laugh, when they cry. Our babies don’t come with manuals, they don’t have to be figured out like some Tamagotchi – they are here to be with and grow with, and learn and discover with, that’s all.
There is no shame with suffering from postpartum depression, if you do, speak to someone, contact your GP or services such as, The Association for Post Natal Illness