Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When it comes to parenting there is always going to be things that we look back on and wish we could have done differently or better; from not buying too many unnecessary products to worrying about sniffles. Now that I'm a mama to two, if I could go back and give my younger, first-time-parent self some tips, tricks and advice, it would look something like this... Maybe someone like me will read this and it can be a help to them as I know it would have been to me all those years ago.
It all started so quickly it's impossible to think that it's now four years since I was you... sitting in a hospital bed holding this tiny bundle that I was now responsible for. This mini human that I was going to have to raise, teach, love, nurture and have in my life forever. Once the drama of that first birth and initial hospital stay is over, it may be overwhelming, and you may feel a little lost. So here are a few pointers to help you survive the first four days, four weeks, four months, four years and beyond.
"There is such a thing as being too prepared."
I remember well how I was convinced I needed hundred of products in my cupboards "just in case". How I went to 'big' brands because I felt they were the trusted ones I knew and stocked up on so much that was uneccessary. I bought hundreds of nappies only to discover Squidgy was allergic and we had to buy cloth alternatives. I bought years worth of bath products (which I am still working my way through, even with two children to wash!) and stocked up on Calpol and Nurofen. The reality is that new baby you've currently got attached to you like some kind of super cute limpet only requires a few things: to eat, to poop, to sleep and to be loved.
You don't really need to stock up on everything though, instead simply buy the basics. For example, a baby support sponge in a shallow run bath works just as well as a baby bath; and nappies can be topped up when they go on offer rather than having a massive stash. That delicate, sensitive skin will take extra care though, so keep products like Metanium nappy cream (one of the only creams to relieve Squidgy's inflamed bum!) and Vicks BabyRub (which by the way smells awesome thanks to the Rosemary, Lavender and Aloe Vera and is great for soothing you too!) at the ready for those inevitable times you need to soothe nappy rash or calm a teething baby. Natural, non-medicated options are a big thing with so many people these days, and especially for you now you're a parent. Whether that tiny person in your arms is newborn, six months, or six years you will feel the same. Be sure to check the label though, because many have an age at which you are able to use them... and the last thing you want to do is use something too early!
"You are not alone."
Things may seem slightly easier when your other half is around on paternity leave; but those first couple of weeks fly by, and before you know it you're going it alone. Don't worry though, you are not alone. The days may seem long and the nights even longer (whoever said babies settle into a pattern and wake every four hours or so for feeds can't have been a parent...) but you will get through it. Family and friends can be your life line, and they are only a phone call away. Whenever you feel lonely just give them a ring, sometimes just having an adult conversation can make all the difference. Plus, most people love babies so if you drop them a line saying you need to see a friendly face I can guarantee many will agree to visit or meet you for a coffee!
"You're new parents, but don't forget to make time for each other too!"
When it comes to your other half, don't forget that they'll be tired too. Like you they're living on broken sleep (even if it sounds like they snore blissfully away whilst you get up for nappy changes and night feeds) and then have to get up to go to work each day. Whilst you attempt to take the midwife's advice and catch up on sleep when your newborn naps in the day; your partner doesn't have that option. Be sure to make time for each other to stop resentment taking hold. Whether it's from you, dreading your other half leaving but at the same time feeling jealous that they have the opportunity to get out of the house; or them, wishing they could be home bonding with your new baby and catching up on sleep. Whether you go out, hold hands on the sofa, get jiggy in the bedroom or simple spoon to fall asleep together, those little moments will mean a lot in the long run.
Poo-splosions are a thing. As is projectile vom. Oh, and the snot balls. Seriously. Every orifice of that little human you're raising will give out some kind of gross bodily fluid at one point or another; and as much as you may think you won't be able to cope you will... Just don't panic about it. If you get poo on you, have a shower. If someone says you've got puke in your hair, laugh about it. If you get stressed, you'll only stress out your baby.
"Children bring so much joy, cherish those moments."
When people tell you that time flies, you may think that it's a bit cliché... but honestly it really does. Before you know it you'll be celebrating your bundle of joy's first, second, third and fourth birthdays and then you will be me; sitting here writing this and wondering how you missed the time. Each moment is there to be cherished. Take photos... lots of them. Spend time together and enjoy the joy that that wee child will bring you. Smile with them, laugh with them and hold on to every memory.
"It's ok not to be ok."
Nobody is perfect and sometimes you will feel broken. One of my favourite quotes, which you should hold onto from day one is this, "Successful mothers aren't the ones who have never had a struggle. They are the ones who never give up, despite the fact that they struggle." You will get tired, and sometimes feel overwhelmed. You will have to continue to look after your little one, even when you're under the weather. Sometimes you might feel depressed, worried, upset, under pressure, and even like you can't cope anymore.
It's ok that you're not ok.
It's ok to feel that way.
The most important thing is to talk to someone, and of course get the help you need.
"Be kind to yourself."
Motherhood is a 24/7 constant, and as many joys as it will bring you, equally it will have it's not so great moments. After holding that tiny newborn in your arms for the first time everything changes... including you, so be kind to yourself.
Take a break.
Have a bath.
Go out for a coffee.
Enjoy time with your new baby but equally make time for you.
"You got this mama!"
You've got this. Even when you feel like you haven't this is the number one thing you need to know. You've got this. Through every storm; after every tantrum; when you're cleaning your bedsheets for the umpteenth time after there's been another poo, wee, puke or other accident; especially when you're up yet again in the middle of the night because your baby is hungry, needs changing, is teething or even just wants a hug; know that you really have got this.
The reality is, as parents we are always learning... and we will never be perfect. Ultimately all you can do is do your best. So as much advice as I can give you, mostly you will just have to take each day as it comes and work things out for yourself.
Good luck, have fun and treasure this amazing journey we call parenthood!
The future you xxx
This post is an entry for BritMums #VicksBabyRub Challenge, sponsored by Vicks BabyRub; specially designed for babies aged 6 months and over. Vicks BabyRub is available at Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and all good pharmacy chains. RRP £3.99.