Everyone will tell you having a baby is life changing… It’s the best of times and the hardest of times all rolled together into one big roller-coaster ride.
When you are pregnant so many people will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do and how it was for them years ago. Yet when you have your baby you will wonder why nobody told you so many things that would have prepared you better.
We decided it would be good to hear it from new mums living the experience right now, saying how it really is in their own words.
How did you feel when you first got home from the hospital after having your baby?
Mollie was in hospital for 10 days and had lots of help before having to go home and fend for herself. It was then that the emotions hit her. As she walked through the door she realised she had so much to learn. Everything had been done for her in hospital and she wasn’t sure how to do it on her own. Things like how to use the steriliser and when to start the night time routine were all new to her. She ended up feeling in floods of tears feeling completely overwhelmed.
Devon also didn’t go home for two weeks with her baby, as her baby was on life support for one week and remained in intensive care for another week afterwards. When they finally got to take their daughter home for the first time they were really happy but also found it a very daunting experience. As in Mollie’s case, the hospital had done so much for them and all of a sudden they had to learn how to do it themselves. Devon actually found the routine the hospital had developed for baby Wren of feeding her every three hours was a big help and she felt very lucky that she was able to continue the same routine when she took her home.
Charlene agreed that it’s all the little things that you have to learn which cause the most stress. Although you try and prepare yourself in advance by researching and reading lots; when the time comes to put it into practice you start doubting yourself. Then you ask your mum, your grandma, your auntie… how do I do this and how do I do that? Then to add to your doubts, you realise the way they did it years ago is different to how the health professionals say you should do it now! While everything is new, life can seem confusing and overwhelming until you find your own way. And the more you ask the scarier it gets. As Devon says, “Google is not your friend” – it gives you even more to worry about.
What’s the scariest thing about becoming a Mum for the first time?
Anxiety is a common feeling amongst new mums. Devon put it down to what she went through when Wren was born and needed intensive care. Although she tries to relax and enjoy the experience of being a mum, it is easier said than done. She knows that it is important to try and appreciate every moment because time really does fly by so quickly, just like every parent says.
The scariest thing for Kim was the responsibility that comes with being a parent. She goes on to explain that for her this was the realisation that everything you teach your child and introduce them to can stay with them for life and mould them into the person they become.
Do you think there is enough mental health support for parents?
There is definitely not enough support for new parents according to our mums. Charlene experienced the loss of her first baby in childbirth, and for her and her partner there was surprisingly no support at all afterwards. She felt very let down and they struggled to cope with the mental health issues they faced. Charlene and her partner only had each other to support each other, but when you need help yourself it’s very difficult to help someone else. Without the proper support, mental health issues can tear grieving partners apart instead of bringing them together to support each other. When they had their second child, Leo, the health professionals could not get enough of them and they were inundated with support, which was such a stark contrast to their first experience.
Devon and Gavin experienced a very similar situation to Charlene and Steven. They lost their first daughter a week before Devon was due to go into labour and they didn’t receive any professional support. The only thing that got them through their grief was each other and their family and friends.
The other mums that had not experienced baby loss had all thought there was plenty of support from health professionals in the first few weeks after the birth, but this was focused more on the mums than the dads. All the questions in their first few home visits were directed at the mums about how they were feeling and how well they were coping. No one ever asks the dads how they are doing. If the dads are struggling, there is no obvious route for them to seek help and they are left to deal with their mental health on their own.
Immediately after the birth mums have lots of visits from health professionals, but after a couple of weeks the health professional visits stop and suddenly mums are left on their own to cope. It’s at this time that they suddenly feel on their own, but keep going because they feel like there is no other way. Then after a few months of going along with it, they may realise they are not okay and need extra support. But it takes a lot of courage to realise and accept you are not okay and go and seek help.
The other issue they identified was that the support varies by region and the level of support in not standardised nationwide. Even the 9-12 weeks check ups seem to vary from one area to another. This means the level of support is surprisingly not consistent for all parents.
Mollie had been a nursery nurse, she had nieces and nephews and everyone had told her she would be a fantastic mum. This all added to the pressure she put herself under to be the perfect mum. At 36 weeks pregnant she started to feel the pressure she was putting herself under to be the perfect mum build up and broke down to her partner. This pressure continued to build over the months after the birth. Each day she would wake up thinking she would have to be the perfect mum. This finally became too much for Mollie when her baby was about 5 months old. She decided to tell her doctor and was diagnosed with post-natal depression, which surprised her. She thought this would have happened much earlier than 5 months down the line. Her support network became social media. By speaking to other mums on Instagram she has been able to connect to so many other mums that feel the same as her. In opening up to them it has allowed her to deal with her depression and anxiety and realise she is not alone in her feelings.
Many women are fearful of letting their health professional or GP know they are suffering from depression, but Mollie and Kim now realise from their own experiences that there is nothing to fear. There is no text book baby and there is nobody judging you on being a perfect mum. They encourage other women feeling the same to seek help from their GP. It’s such a common issue, and should be talked about openly much more than it is.
Did you get good advice from people around you?
There is too much advice most of the time. It’s very easy for women to feel confused by all the information they are being told. Parents and in laws often share their recommended way in an effort to help and make it easier, but sometimes that adds to the feeling of being overwhelmed and pressured. The truth is there is no one right way for everyone. It’s up to each parent to decide for themselves how they want to bring up their baby. Although the advice is well intended, it is up to each parent to decide whether or not to take it on board. The mums recommend listening to all the advice, then pick the parts they want to keep for their own parenting recipe.
Having friends with babies of a similar age is useful because you are more likely to listen to a friend’s advice when you have lots in common with them. As they are going through the same experience as you, their advice is more relevant and supportive. However, this can sometimes work the other way and turn into a parenting competition when you start comparing your child with theirs.
Social media can be your ally in motherhood and you can make some really great friends, often through Instagram. Sharing your journey with them can bring so much support and friendship, but on the days when you are feeling low, seeing gorgeous photos of what appears to be mums leading wonderful lives can trigger feelings of insecurity and comparison.
Is it hard when Dads go back to work?
When dads go back to work, you spend all your day focused on looking after your baby. Running around all day long, often forgetting to look after yourself. Sparing just a few minutes to yourself to get showered is a massive challenge. You often have to wait until they fall asleep to find your window of opportunity to get washed!
It’s important to find some time to yourself, even if it’s just a bath. Finding half an hour to yourself can make such a big difference to how you’re feeling – and if it makes you feel guilty not being with your baby for half an hour – that’s all the more reason to take a break!
Do you have equal roles as parents?
Although babies are made 50% from mum and 50% from dad the parenting roles aren’t always equally split. Most mums can relate to the stories in the video. Mollie thinks she does 80% of the work because her partner is so laid back. Amy called out the freedom dads seem to have compared to mums, explaining her husband sometimes lets her know he’s going out for the evening after work. Amy says she just can’t do that herself, even though she’d love to at times.
Kim said when her partner has the baby on his own she prepares everything and packs the bag for him. He has everything he could possibly need, all done for him. So when he says it easy looking after the baby, she knows it’s because she’s done most of the hard work for him.
Although it may appear dads have an easy ride, the impact of becoming a parent on dads should not be underestimated. Mollie highlights the importance of men’s mental health. Her partner Kyle suffered from anxiety during the pregnancy and became very apprehensive about becoming a dad. This is a reminder to us all to recognise that dads need supporting too. There is often an expectation for dads to be the backbone for mums to rely on. But if they are struggling, who is there for them? It’s important for men to seek help and speak up about mental health just as much as it is for women.
Is it hard to get out of the house now you have a baby?
It’s definitely harder to leave the house when you have a baby. There’s no doubt about it! With so much to remember to do and pack every time you step outside the front door, the chances of forgetting something small are high and the consequences often higher.
Kim recalls the time she forgot a bib and had to improvise with paper napkins to try and prevent her daughter from getting soaking wet. She was annoyed that she had forgotten such an essential item, but has realised that you always find a way to manage in the end when you’re a mum.
Packing for all eventualities becomes the norm and this increases once baby is at the weaning stage. It then becomes a matter of remembering to pack bottles, food, spoons, bibs, wipes, wipes and more wipes…
Do you go to any groups for parents and babies?
Amy doesn’t finds parenting groups enjoyable. She finds the parenting styles more competitive at groups than on Instagram. Her experience of parenting groups is one of mums saying their children do this, do that…etc and there's a lot of showing off. She prefers Instagram because she gets to see mums sharing the not so great stuff too. She relates to this more because it's more balanced and real!
How do you make time for yourself?
Having parents or parents-in-law living nearby is a godsend for allowing you to grab some time to yourself. If you’re not lucky enough to have a relative to babysit for you, finding ten minutes to half an hour here and there is sometimes the most you can expect. Even taking a shower becomes a luxury.
Doing the supermarket shopping without your baby is a massive thrill. You forget how quickly and easily it can be done. To jump in a car with just your purse, drive to the shops and be in and out in ten minutes is an amazing feeling. The mums all said they are so used to packing a baby change bag whenever they go out that they feel a bit lost when they have the chance to go out without it. Having a handbag is now a distant memory.
Kim is over the moon when she can find the time to dry and straighten her hair. And she is fully expecting this to get harder as her daughter grows and becomes mobile. Devon is pleased to just be able to brush her hair!
How does it feel seeing your baby happy and playing?
Kim says it’s hard at the start as you are not getting anything back from your baby, but as soon as your baby starts expressing their personality by smiling, it suddenly becomes so much more rewarding. Seeing her daughter’s face light up as she recognises her dad coming home from a full day at work fills them both with pride.
The mums all love the compliments their babies receive from friends, family and strangers – they take them as personal praise they are doing a great job! And their children’s achievement become a really big deal. Every single milestone gets logged as a moment of pride. Amy remembers crying with pride when she saw her daughter roll over for the first time! Although everyone tells you having a baby is the best feeling in the world, nothing at all prepares you for the love and pride you feel about your child.
What advice would you give to someone about to become a Mum for the first time?
The advice from Kim is to always speak out and don’t be scared. Every mum has a different experience and there’s not one right way for everyone. You can take on board other people’s advice if it works for you, but don’t feel obliged to accept all the advice. Some of it might work for you and some of it might not.
Mollie’s says don’t expect too much from yourself or put yourself under pressure to be the perfect mum. You are going to have some bad days like everyone does and you’ll get through them like everyone does. Her best advice is to try not to take on negative advice and do your own thing.
Charlene’s advice is to always speak out. No matter how you are feeling there will always be someone else who feels exactly the same and you’ll realise you are not alone. And by speaking out you’ll not only be helping yourself by expressing your feelings, but you may also be helping other mums feel better about themselves by relating to your experience.
Amy’s advice is if you are lucky enough to be offered help in the early days – take it! Amy didn’t take the help she was offered. Instead she tried to do everything herself and ended up exhausted operating on autopilot. With hindsight she wishes she had taken the help and spent more time enjoying being with her baby.
Devon’s advice is simple. Take each day at a time and enjoy them all– you won’t get that precious time back and it goes by so quickly.
What are your funniest moments since becoming a Mum?
Kim’s funniest moment was laughing at a not so funny moment for her husband. Will likes to play aeroplanes with baby Florence after she has been fed. Kim always tells him she’ll be sick if he does it and, sure enough, one day she was right. Florence was sick all over her dad and right in his month - Kim still has the photo to prove it!
Mollie recalls visiting her mum in hospital and forgetting to take the change bag with her. When she arrived at the hospital her baby did the biggest nappy explosion. As Mollie had no spare nappies with her, she had to ask the nurses for help. Between them they made a makeshift nappy that made her baby look like a sumo wrestler in the biggest padded nappy ever!
Charlene’s funniest moment was probably her worst moment of sleep deprivation. She remembers being so, so tired one day that she had a bath to make herself feel better. Afterwards she went downstairs to make dinner. As she walked into the living room, she wondered why her neighbours were looking at her strangely. Then she looked down and realised she had forgotten to put her pants on! lol
Amy remembers laughing hysterically at her husband as he held naked baby Edie after her bath one day and...yes, you guessed it. It went everywhere.
Devon’s funniest moment was possibly on of the most unusual. She was playing with baby Wren one day and afterwards she looked in the mirror to see the biggest love bite on the side of her face 😊