Two of my fellow mums came over today and we spent an afternoon sharing stories about our babies. I realised in talking to them how important it is to have supportive people during this stage of life; taking a baby home for the first time is such a daunting task and, depending on how the pregnancy and labour went, can take a long time to get accustomed to.
We shared a lot about what we’d experienced (or rather, endured) and learnt in the first few weeks of motherhood and the things we have yet to learn, for example: how to not let the piercing screams of your beloved infant break your spirit (no one seemed to know the answer to that); the best way to take baby on an outing without packing the entire nursery into the car (apparently slings are really good?); whether or not having a routine is better than demand feeding (in my personal experience, following a routine saved my sanity and to some extent my baby’s life).
The five hours we spent talking amongst ourselves was so uplifting and educational I’ve decided I want to write down and share what I’m learning and experiencing as a first-time mother. This is both a record for me (so one day I can look back and hopefully laugh and what a paranoid novice I was) and a record perhaps for my son (and maybe future daughter – fingers crossed) should he one day be blessed with parenthood, and also for the other first-time mums out there who are looking for support, love, learned lessons and someone who can empathise with the sheer exhaustion that comes with having to drag oneself out of a cosy bed in the middle of the night to feed their beloved, wailing baby.
To begin with, I’d like to share how extremely grateful I am for the support that has flowed nonstop from the people around me. Not a day has gone by when we haven’t had someone – be it parents, siblings, friends – extend a gesture of love and understanding of what a difficult and tiring task taking care of a newborn is. I haven’t had to cook a meal in a whole month, because we’ve had food delivered to our door. (Admittedly, that hasn’t stopped me from adopting a diet primarily consisting of Easter eggs, but I know that’s no one’s fault but my own.) 🙂
I’ve also had siblings and other mothers offer bits of wisdom, links to helpful websites, words of encouragement that there is light at the end of that middle-of-the-night-feed tunnel, advice on what books to read, and (perhaps most importantly) company.
All this, paired with the love and cooperation of my husband, has made my first month with my baby so enjoyable and – dare I say it – smooth sailing. This is despite Joshua having to endure two separate admissions into hospital.
I share this because I want to emphasise how important having a support system is. I could not possibly achieve any of what I have without it. Even the number of people who “Like” Ukulele Baby’s photos on Facebook is uplifting, because it makes me feel like there are friends (be they close by or overseas) who are on this journey with us.
I can’t bear to think what it would be like to have to go through this journey alone. I understand now why family and fellowship is such an integral part of life. I think of the traditional village or tribe, where the whole community takes care of the baby; it is such a simple yet critical principle and one I hope every mother embraces because it has allowed me not to just survive the first few weeks of motherhood, but to thrive in it. Despite the difficult days, the sometimes long drawn out hours and the steep learning curve, I am loving this.
There’s a really important element to the whole concept of support that is sometimes overlooked; and that is we need to be open to it, and when it’s not there, we need to ask for it. (There’s also another element which is being able to let people know when to back off when you’re being smothered or when they tread all over our territory, but that’s a post for a later day). Being humble enough to ask for support is so important. As one very wise man once said; “Seek and you shall find.” There is no reason why any mother (or father) should feel like they need to go it alone in this journey. Even on the public health care system, there is a whole network of community nurses and mothers groups who are available to parents who don’t have an encouraging network of family or friends. I’m not trying to plug anything here, I’m just saying that when the resources are there, take them. Of course I don’t take on every bit of advice I get, but I’d like to think I’m open to it and have the smarts to work out what’s best for me and my family. I’ve learned that when a baby’s life depends on me, I need something/someone (or lots of somethings and lots of someones) for me to be able to depend on when I’ve reached the end of my tether.
That for me, has been lesson number 1: I am not alone in this. And I never will be.