Dear Jodi, .....I recently became a new mum to a beautiful boy. He is seven months now and feeding so well. Our birth was traumatic to be blunt. Inducement - 18 hour labour - him not turning - went for forceps - ended with cesarean. The first few months were pretty rough as I just wasn't ready for the aftermath of birth, physically, but more emotionally than anything. But he feeds so well and I found the light. I am smitten, I am in love and I'm scared, too. I have struggled a little with my gentle (which came naturally) parenting techniques. I am receiving so much negativity towards my parenting approach (esp regarding sleep) and just though maybe you could share some guidance/wisdom on sleep techniques you use yourself or how brand new mums should trust their instinct in general? I can understand how busy life would be at the moment so no worries if no reply..."
Again, thank you
Brand New Mother
Dear Brand New Mother,
Congratulations on your beautiful boy. The first year with your firstborn is such an almighty ride; full of fear and doubt and not-much-sleep. It's life-changing and often very confronting and while I experienced it seven years ago I still clearly remembering the endless self-questioning that went on. I got up and out of the house each day but everything else went on the back-back-does-it-still-exist-burner while I got on with being a mum. I enjoyed it, I loved my baby, but there was a lot of internal struggle, too.
Now three-months into life with my third I'm here to tell you that I'm a brand new mother, too. And guess what? I know nothing! Really, truly, I'm still fumbling my way through, often googling symptoms or advice and, when in doubt, taking my questions to fellow mums on facebook. Percy is currently doing the classic 45minute sleep cycle during the day and is waking and feeding every two hours at night. Yes, I'm tired, but I think it's less of a shock third time 'round and honestly, I don't have time to sit around and contemplate my exhaustion. I just get on with it because I have to (may be why I succumbed to the flu in the first week of winter!). But while I sit here and consider how my body feels (tired, achy) and how my mind is (foggy with a touch of impatience and a tinge of can't-quite-comprehend-what-you're-saying), I guess when it comes down to it, I really wish I was getting a bit more sleep at night.
And so I suppose this is what I do know: I'll continue to follow my intuition and do what feels right for us today and if the time comes to seek help, I'm open to suggestions and advice. In the meantime, I'll continue to co-sleep with Percy and settle him with cuddles and milk and know that some people may read this and think I'm creating a rod for my own back. And you know what, maybe I am...
But whilst we can have the best intentions and set ideal goals in this first year of motherhood, it really is just about today. Do what feels right and works best today. And yes, new mothers are subject to all kinds of advice from those who have been there, done that - it's like a rite of passage for the new mum, no-one is immune to it. And I suppose the best thing you can do is graciously accept what they're saying and then stay true to what you know and believe is right for you and your baby. At the risk of sounding like a complete cliche; it's your journey, stick by the decisions you make and if they don't work out, you're only going to learn from them.
Despite what you see and read on social media, no muma has it all worked out. I know I definitely don't! There might be fresh flowers on the table and well-dressed children frolicking in grass but you can be sure that there's also baskets of dirty washing, piles of dishes, dusty bookshelves, squabbling siblings and perhaps a little bit of fear or doubt or guilt or wondering...a muma is always questioning, no matter how old her child is.
Thanks for reaching out to me, Brand New Mother. I hope this helps xxx