I went into parenthood knowing very little about babies. Nevermind changing a nappy, my experience just holding a newborn was very limited. When it came to becoming a mother, I didn't know what to expect. And when you leave the hospital, there's no manual they give you. You walk out, baby on arm, and are just expected to get on with it. And if your experiences with little ones is minimal, this can be incredibly frightening.
Now I'm no expert, and I would never tell you how to be a parent, but in the seven (nearly eight) months that Baby Ginger has been on the planet, there are some pieces of wisdom I've learnt and want to pass on.
Take Your Time
Giving birth is tough work. It puts a big strain on your body and it takes a while afterwards for everything to settle and get back to normal. During this time it's important to rest and really listen to your body and what it needs. If you need to sleep, then sleep. If you need everyone to leave you alone, then ask friends and family to hold off on visits. It's important not to rush yourself into doing things you are just not ready to do.
Trust Your Instincts
I didn't believe this when I first heard it, but it is true. You really do get to know your own baby. You get to learn their little quirks, their likes and dislikes, and how to gauge what they need. It may not click at once, but give it a few months and with every coo, cry or gurgle you will instantly be able to decode what you need to do to keep your baby happy. And honing in on these cues is really important, because it means that you will know when something is off. Even if to everybody else your little one seems normal, if you sense something isn't quite the way it should be, then really pay attention and listen to your baby.
"Mummy" In Your Own Way
There will be so many people in your life who are ready to give you advice about how you should look after your baby, but ultimately it is up to you what you do and how you do it. And this goes hand in hand with trusting your instincts in the point I made above. In that time you've had that time to get to know your baby, you will know him/her better than anybody else. So take any advice you get with a pinch of salt. Take heed if you like, but if you don't really agree, take it on board, say thank you, then feel free to ignore it. When you're spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your baby, you'll understand what works for you and what doesn't
Eric, for example, needs his sleep. If he's had a bad night or misses a nap time he is an absolute nightmare and really hard to keep happy. So if he needs to sleep, I'll let him sleep, even if this means missing out on a class or not going out. Some may think this is not the way to go about things, but I know Eric enough to know how to manage him. Because if I just keep him awake, then I'll be paying for it later. And personally, I value my sleep (and my sanity) way too much.
Being on maternity leave can be incredibly isolating. You're at home looking after your baby day in day out with nobody to really talk to. It can be really hard. Which is why I think it is so important to get out there and get social (when you're ready to of course.)
I'm a big fan of baby groups and classes. It gives Baby Ginger a change of scenery that is safe, exciting and stimulating, whilst giving me some precious "grown up time" where I can interact with parents/carers and have proper conversations. Having that time is something I truly value, and Eric is learning so much from watching and socialising with other babies. He's really happy around new people and isn't clingy, and I really think this is because he has been exposed to new spaces and faces from quite a young age.
I also use a few apps to connect with other mums in my local area. Mush, Peanut & Mummy Social are great platforms to find activity and class recommendations, find mummy friends (even if they are just online) and plan potential play dates. Having moved to a new area of Liverpool during maternity leave, I'm still trying to work out where there are classes I can take Baby Ginger and where the best soft play areas are, so talking to other mums who know and use the area is really handy (it also helps me not feel lonely too.)
Aside from connecting with new friends, it's also really important to stay in touch with your non-new -mummy friends. Because when it comes down to it, being a new parent is only just one part of who you are. I thought when we brought Eric home I would feel something overtake me that meant I was suddenly this grown up person so far removed from the person I used to be that I would feel entirely different. But in reality I feel exactly the same....only now I have a child to look after so am a little bit more responsible than before.
Are you a new parent too? What pearls of wisdom would you pass on?