Keeping it real
Keeping it real
No matter how well prepared we think we are – becoming a parent for the first time will always bring its surprises! What do you wish you'd known before you started this journey? Often friends and family don't share the hard stories because they don't want to be negative or put us off – but unrealistic expectations can be among the hardest things to deal with in those first weeks of new parenthood. If you know someone who's pregnant for the first time, be positive, be supportive, but be honest about what to expect, and let them know about the huge range of support and advice that's out there should they need it.
Boy - did this parenting tip from 'Parents Inc.' grab my attention! This is, I believe, one of the main reasons I struggle with PND... I naively believed that I was as well prepared as I could be! I was an older Mum, I had worked in ECCE and with the littlest people for a number of years (a number of years ago though, admittedly), I have watched friends with kids and HAD some strong ideals on how I was going to bring my kids up.
I can so see how I set myself up for unrealistic expectations - I wrote a personal post about this here as I was coming to terms with my PND.
So the past few days have been spent thinking about the above - what would I say to first-time parents? How would I encourage them, but at the same time be honest with them? My Mother-In-Law said at the time that nothing anyone says can prepare you for becoming a parent, and she is correct; seriously, nothing anyone says can prepare you... But surely if people were more honest with me before Button was born - then it could have saved me from some of the anxiety I experienced in those first few weeks/months? Would I have listened? I guess I'll never know, but I can now try to make more effort to have an 'honest' discussion with first-time-parents-to-be who ask for advice.
However - it really is one of those things of 'but what do I say?'... the more I think about it, the more I am unsure where to start. Everyone's experiences are different, every child is different - it really is a difficult subject to broach, as you don't want to scare anyone by being too honest... but, they 'REALLY' need to know; if for no other reason than to know 'they're not alone' in those early weeks!
So I guess - I can just start off with my own experiences, what I wish I had known about... the few bits of advice I was given that stuck (I was probably given a whole lot more than what I remember - but a few bits have stuck out, and been remembered at appropriate times).
The first thing I remember is my sis-in-law telling me that as a Mum - you second-guess EVERYTHING! Your previous experiences of being an ECCE Worker, or a Nanny (in her case) mean zip when it comes to your own child and the emotional investment you have in them! And that is SO true... even now, with winter upon us - I often get up 2-3 times a night to check that Button is warm enough, and adjust the heater accordingly; only to then lie back down in bed and think - did I adjust it too high/low? Will she wake up early because she is too cold/hot? Was that 'sleep noise' trying to tell me that she is uncomfortable? And so it goes on - sometimes I HAVE to be hard on myself, and tell myself to go to sleep (or I just wouldn't due to worrying) and remind myself that if she gets too uncomfortable she WILL wake up, and I can deal with it then (but she never has, in case you're wondering)!
Another thing I remember, although never when I needed to remember it, is my Mum telling me that 'love grows'... I didn't understand what she meant to begin with, I was expecting to feel that instant overwhelming feeling of love for Button when she was born - but I didn't. Hubby did, he was besotted with her from the moment he knew she existed; and when she arrived it really was 'love at first sight' for him... I still sometimes feel that he loves her more than I do. It has taken a long time to forgive myself and cut myself some slack over that - as it took weeks for me to bond with her, and months before I could say that I even 'liked' her - don't get me wrong, I loved her, but I didn't have that overwhelming love that I was expecting. But like my Mum said - it has grown, as we have got to know each other better, it has grown and blossomed and I can honestly say that I have not felt a love for anyone, that way I feel for her now (although I am sure it will be just as deep for any consecutive children)!
They are probably the two biggest pieces of advice I remember and found to be true in my case...
So, now onto advice I would pass on:
1) Throw ALL your ideals out the window - seriously! You never end up being the parent you imagine you're going to be, but that's not a bad thing! So just relax, take each day as it comes and do what you have to do... some days it is all about survival, and if that means extra time in front of TV for either you or baby - so be it!
2) Forget about trying to be perfect - you're not your neighbour, best friend or sister-in-law! You're YOU, and you do it your way... So don't compare children, houses, meals, social outings - nothing; you just do what you feel is right for you and your child! If that means more time at home - then stay home, but if you need to get out and clear your head - then bundle bubs into the car and head on out. But don't over analyse things, don't try to 'keep up with the Jonses', and don't go putting to much pressure on yourself to conform! Button is 14 months tomorrow, and we're still not attending church regularly - I used to feel guilty, but I gave up on that a long time ago... we're doing the best we can, and if people don't like it - tough!
3) Don't listen to what anyone else says either - family in particular are always full of advice and helpful hints! Listen and be respectful, but don't feel you have to do everything they suggest in order to 'keep the peace' (however - don't throw the baby away with the bath water either, as they have a lot of wisdom to share as well)! This is your family now, and things ARE going to be different to how you were brought up, and that's okay! Nothing personal to your family / in-laws... but make it clear from the start that you love them, appreciate their input - BUT things will be done your way!
Haha - and this doesn't mean that my family or in-laws have intentionally put pressure on us either, but you feel it nonetheless... just the way of it I guess!!!!
4) Be kind to yourself - if you have a bad day; go and eat some chocolate/take a bath/have a sleep (or do all three if you can)! Whatever you did is NOT going to scar your child for life - honest! I went about consumed with the possibility of having scarred Button for life in those first few months, she saw me cry more than any child should ever see their parent cry through-out their entire lifes... But you know what? She is a lovely child, happy and reasonably well-balanced from what we can make out - praise God, she won't remember those first few months, and she still loves me!
5) Don't take your 'stuff' out on the baby - it is SO easy to get mad at the baby when they're not doing exactly what you expect them to do... relax, understand they're little humans with minds and needs of their own, and just like you - they didn't show up with a handbook on how to handle life! I used to get so angry when Button didn't sleep - I don't mean normal anger though, REALLY REALLY angry inside (and still do get frustrated, but have learnt how to cope better now). I thought all new-borns slept their life away in those first few weeks, but apparently not; and she isn't the only one who didn't sleep! Remember when they cry it is their way of telling you something is wrong - they have no other way of communicating... and when you're dealing with reflux (or bad wind/colic), then they can and do scream for hours. It is not a conspiracy theory to send you over the edge - they seriously just no nothing different. BUT get help - I had to ring Mr. C to come home one afternoon, Button screamed from 7am through to 9:30pm that day, and by 2pm I was past it - I'd tried everything, but by the time I rang him I'm not sure who was crying harder, me or her! He raced home in a mighty hurry, and I was told not to wait so long next time...!!!
* Please note - I never took my anger out on Button, I just internalised it and crashed with PND... I hadn't realised it wasn't normal! It IS normal to feel some anger / frustration / resentment at times, just not ALL the time like I did.
If you need help - reach out and ask, take what is offered and forget about the pride!
From everything I now understand - if you've still got 'The Baby Blues' after six weeks, then it's time to go ask for help. The real 'Blues' settle down after only a few days, possibly upwards of a couple of weeks... anything beyond the six week mark is getting to the point of needing help. Help does not necessarily mean medication, I never took any; although I am not anti-medication either - your Doctor or Midwife can work with you to decide what is best course of action in your situation.
There is a LOT of information out there on PND - don't do what I did and take months before asking for help, and then never do any research! If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from PND here are some NZ based websites to start off with, that will give you basic information; but nothing beats a personal visit with your own Health Professional:
So there you have it... just my own two cents worth! And just like I said about other bits of advice - just glean what you want, and ignore the rest! Nothing and no one can really prepare you for becoming parents - it is the hardest and yet most rewarding experience ever!
Relax, and love on that baby of yours... they're only little for a short period of time. Shower them with love, cuddles and kisses and that is what they'll remember for life!
PS - Now I think I'd better do a post on all the amazing things babies bring into your life... this seems a little on the negative side due to my own experiences! Please know that we'd never want to imagine our lives without Button - she is the most loved and adored baby EVER *grin*! It is far from all bad...