There are lots of things that I wish I’d known when I was a brand new, first time mum. Things that I would go back and say, if only I had a time machine. That is after I’d given myself a big hug, sat myself down, made me an enormous cup of hot tea and taken the crying baby for a minute or two whilst I ran a bath!
Firstly, you’re doing great. You really are. This can be so tough and it’s OK to find it tough. You don’t need to find it easy, that doesn’t make you a bad mother. You don’t need to enjoy every moment, it doesn’t make you a bad mother if you aren’t enjoying it when they cry. This can be tough and you’re doing great.
When she cries it doesn’t mean that you’re doing everything wrong, it doesn’t mean you’re failing, it doesn’t mean she hates you. It’s the only way she’s got right now to try and steer you in the right direction, to show you how to do this better. So try to listen to her rather than the people telling you that you should do it the way they did. You’re both working this out together, find the way that works for the two of you, and don’t worry about everybody else.
I know that you’re used to defining your success with numbers, the percentage you get in a test, the money in your pay packet, the number of patients you see in a shift. You can’t define how good a mother you are that way. It’s not about the number of grams of weight she puts on each week, the number of mls of breast milk you can express, the hours of continuous sleep she gets or the number of naps she takes. Mothering has no numbers and no definitions, you just have to do the best you can, in the situation you’re in right now, with the baby you have. And some days that will feel like you’ve done great, other days it will feel like it’s all gone wrong, but you’re still here, you’re still trying, and really, truly that is enough, and that is success.
Ask for the help you need. Have a mental list, or even better, a physical list as you’re probably not going to be with it mentally, of the people you can ask. If you feel anxious about it, check with them first that they don’t mind you asking. If it turns out the people that you thought you could rely on aren’t able to give you the help you need, move on and don’t let it stop you asking somebody else. We all need support sometimes, and it’s not a sign that you’re not good enough.
There is no perfect way to do this. There is only the way that gets you through this moment, and then the next moment, and the next. If you decide next week that that probably wasn’t what you should have done, it’s ok, do something different next time and see how it goes. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re learning and you’ll try to do better next time.
I suspect even if I was able to go back, I wouldn’t believe the hindsight I have to impart. I think that it’s very difficult to really understand while you’re going through it. And I suspect that I needed to be broken into a million pieces, that I needed to get to my lowest and to cry a thousand tears, in order to be able to rebuild myself into the mother that my daughter needed. I also suspect that I wouldn’t even be that good at listening to my words of wisdom now. I suspect I am still far too harsh on myself, far too reluctant to ask for help, and far too likely to compare myself to others. But as I say, I’m learning, and I’ll keep trying to do better.