The more experiences I have as a mum, the more I realise how many things I did wrong. As a new parent there is so much pressure on us to do things in a certain way and nearly everyone has an opinion on how you should look after your child.
Looking back, I was driven far too much by what people would think of me. I went out to classes with the pram and the pushchair loaded with all the extra bits and pieces I needed to help support Eric and it is just laughable to think how I must have looked. We'd go to groups and because I was still learning and had zero confidence in myself neither of us got a lot out of them other than ending up flustered, stressed, and - in Eric's case - sleeping all the way through it. In reality, I should have ignored advice I got and practised going out with Eric on my own, learning my limitations and understanding what I needed to do to help myself.
Given another chance I would do things so differently. Because as much as being a mum is celebrating your baby's milestones, we need to mark some of our own too. And I'm only just doing that 18 months on. And actually, that makes me a little sad.
Fantastic First #1 - Making Friends
It took me a while, but it finally happened. Over the summer I found it in myself to reach out and make mummy connections. Up until this point I saw and interacted with other parents but there was nobody I really meshed with. It all seemed a little bit clique driven and because I would travel to classes, there was nobody in these groups I already knew. Add to that the weird and wonderful way I parent and I got the feeling everyone was looking at me and wondering what the hell it was I was doing.
But then I found women I actually found an affinity with. Women who didn't make me ashamed if I did things in my own way. Women I knew had my back and wouldn't hesitate to help me if I asked for it. And it feels amazing. Coming from such a low point last year I have now found the piece I was missing as a parent. There is one lady in particular who I have grown pretty close too and I feel so supported in that friendship. We meet up at least once a week and it gives me something to look forward to. I can vent, I can moan, I can ask for advice and I don't feel stupid in any which way. And it makes me smile so much.
Fantastic First #2 - Changing A Nappy In Public
You've probably just read that header and thought 'What? Is she joking?' But no my friends, I am not. Hard as it is to believe, I had never had the confidence to change Eric's nappy in public until this year. i tried it once and it was an absolute disaster and it just put me off. However, after I made new friends everything seemed to fall in to place. My confidence came back and I was more open to trying new things. And part of this was doing the dreaded nappy change.
I still remember where and when this happened. Eric and I had a jam-packed day and there was no way he would have lasted without needing a fresh nappy. I couldn't escape it. So I reached out to my friend who was with me, asked her to wait outside the toilet door and to come in if she heard me holler. And I think knowing I had a wing woman really helped. It was almost as if Eric could sense this new found confidence and heard my call for cooperation. He laid perfectly still and sat contentedly while I changed him. I came out the door doing a happy little dance for joy, turned to my friend and whispered 'I did it'!
Fantastic First #3 - Giving The Baby A Bath
Again, this may be confusing for some, but when it comes to giving Eric a bath I just couldn't do it on my own until he was confident enough to sit up on his own. When it comes to parenting aides, if you have a newborn or younger baby there is nothing really out there that can support those of us who do things one handed. So I missed out a lot on that bonding time bath time can bring.
But all that has changed now that Eric is older. And baths are now a pretty regular part of our routine, especially on days where the weather is awful and we are stuck in the house. About a month or so ago I was going in to the nursery to tend to Eric after his nap and I decided to give him a bath. I took the phone in there with me just in case, ran the water, plopped in his toys and just did it. And to my surprise it all went to plan and I didn't struggle at all. Granted, I've given him a few since that haven't entirely gone to plan, but I've crossed every bridge as I've come to it and stayed completely open-minded to things I need to change along the way.
Fantastic First #4 - Going To The Park
As I'm writing this post this is a mummy milestone I only just conquered this week. For the longest time I knew that taking Eric to the park just wasn't an option. There was the possibility he'd get stuck in the swing or that I wouldn't be able to lift him, and - of course - that he might try and escape! But now that I have friends with babies of a similar age, little trips like this are so much more accessible to me because I feel comfortable enough to ask for help.
It was such a fantastic feeling actually going to the park "by myself" and pushing Eric on the swings. He absolutely loved it, especially because he was there with one of his little friends too and there was so much to look at. We then all went for a little picnic and the babies sat smiling and babbling at each other in between gobbling down their lunch. It was such a little thing that most people might take for granted, but for me, it meant so much!
I may not have fully chosen to be a stay at home mum but in reality, it has been the best thing for both me and Eric. We have an amazing relationship and watching him learn everyday is the most magical thing. And Little Tikes has been a big part of that too. We have been kindly gifted a few of their toys and honestly they have been the most well-received by Eric for the stage he is. And having recently discovered how dexterous he is, both the Singing Sorter and the Sleepy Stacker from the Fantastic Firsts range help build on those skills while also encouraging him to learn about colours and shapes. They are also small enough to be easily transported and have come with us on our travels as some of our travel toys.
Being at home has also meant that I have learnt a lot about myself. Now, when we have more children in the future I'll be going into it with much more confidence and self-belief. There won't be a lot I can't do and if there are things that I struggle with, I won't beat myself up about them.
As a parent we are always focusing on the milestones our baby reaches but it is also really important to turn to our own achievements as well. No day is the same and with each new experience we have we discover something new about ourselves too. And no matter how big or how small, these things need to be acknowledged. Because whether we have good days or bad days, we are all doing an amazing job!
If you have a mummy milestone you're really proud of why not share it on social using #FantasticFirsts so that we can celebrate it together?!* This post is written as part of the #FantasticFirsts campaign by Little Tikes. We were very kindly gifted the Singing Sorter and Sleepy Stacker in exchange for this post. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer.