The first year with baby, regardless of any of your other circumstances, is a steep learning curve. Suddenly you are responsible for this little life and all of the extra stuff that comes along with it.
Here are some simple tips to get you through the first year with baby. They are the kinds of things that I wish people had told me in my first year. Or, probably more correctly, that I wish I’d really listened to!
This is going to get easier
Your child will soon be able to communicate their needs to you (some of us with older kids would argue that they communicate a little too much!). They’ll be able to indicate clearly when they need to go to the toilet, when and where they feel sick, what they want to do and when they want to do it. You’re not always going to be trying to crack the baby code. The two of you will grow together and, just as you’ll be able to understand what your baby wants and needs, they’ll also be able to become more attuned with you. You never forget the first time your little one spontaneously slips their hand into yours when they feel unsure – your connection will grow and it will become easier.
You don’t have to ‘win’ every day
Sometimes it all works. You get up early, baby takes nice long naps, you can get everything done around the house and you leave for a little outing. You might even manage a social event!
On the days that it doesn’t work, don’t see this as a ‘failure’. Sometimes the pieces just don’t align and you will be glued to the couch with a sad, teething baby. This isn’t a failure. This is what needed to happen on this day to keep everyone going.
Accept help whenever you can
There’s this pressure, isn’t there? To do everything right the first time, to do everything yourself. It’s as if we feel it would be an admission of failure to accept well-meaning help from others. “Oh, no it’s fine, really, I’ve got it!”, you say into the phone as you hold back tears and wish for sleep.
If someone offers to help you, accept it. If it’s coming ‘round for a cup of tea and some company – let them come over. If it’s picking up something from the shops – sure, milk and bread thanks! If it’s baby-sitting, and you trust them, DO IT. You will not win a prize at the end of that first year for never having had a second to yourself. Fight against the urge to be the mystical ‘supermum’ we often see presented in the media and just be yourself. Just a parent trying to do a good job who occasionally gets it wrong.
And months from now, when you see a newer mum than you struggling with these things, remember how you felt. Remember the times you felt alone and unsure and like you were the only person in the world this didn’t come ‘naturally’ to. Instead of judging, criticising or isolating, offer the hand up that you wish you’d received instead of the slap in the face.