Why it’s OK not to love the newborn stage

I remember in those early months with Archie so many people telling me, “enjoy it now, it’ll only get harder”, “wait until he moves, THEN you’ll feel tired”, “wait until you’re weaning, that’s a whole other ball game” and so on. And looking back, I’m shocked because that’s the last thing a first-time mum wants to hear. When things are feeling tough, being told the unthinkable that’s it only going to get harder is ridiculously insensitive and probably not true.  

newborn stage

I know that not everyone has a negative experience of the newborn stage but for those that do, it’s OK to admit it and it’s not something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mum or that you love your baby any less. Becoming a mum is a huge change to your life so it’s bound to take a bit of adjusting. I remember the endless guilt I felt because I wasn’t enjoying it “like I should” and it’s only now I can see that I had nothing to feel guilty about.

Dealing with so much change

As I came to the end of my pregnancy, my anxiety went through the roof because I knew the hardest bit was yet to come (and I’m not talking about labour!). But nothing could prepare me for just how much my life was about to change.

Before having Archie I was a marketer for a financial services company in London. It was a fairly high pressured job and I worked long hours on top of a 3 hour daily commute. I’ve always been someone who’s pushed themselves mentally so I enjoyed the complexity of the industry I worked in and the constant dialogue I shared with others in the company.

Going from this environment to: long days alone at home with a baby; feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by my new responsibility; scared to leave the house because of all the prep that entailed and worried about how I’d cope when I was out; the general feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing; a lack of adult interaction and overwhelmed by the constant lack of routine was a real struggle.

And in those first few months, my perspective was totally skewed from sleep deprivation. I couldn’t see the woods for the trees. It felt like my old life was a distant memory. Of course, I can see now that those hurdles were most definitely temporary and things settled down much quicker than I ever thought they would. But at the time I just couldn’t see things clearly.

My experience wasn’t helped by a few things – one being that my family lived far away and the fact I didn’t know anyone in my local area. My husband also works long hours so the days were longer for me at home too. Our feeding struggles and the effect that ultimately had on my bond with Archie also had a huge impact on how I was feeling.

But I honestly take my hat off to anyone who can go through the transition into motherhood without feeling that there are some elements they just don’t enjoy. In fact, I’d be amazed if there is anyone else there that feels this way, even if your experience is overall a positive one.

It’s a major upheaval to your life. And of course, it’s ultimately for the better and over the long-term you’ll forget how tough you even found it. But if you’re going through it now and you’re worried because you’re not enjoying it. Or that it’s going to get harder. Then please don’t. This stage is purely about survival and clearly you’re doing just that so give yourself a pat on the back. And know that this phase is just that. A phase. It will pass and in time you’ll have a completely different perspective to the one you have now.

 

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Bonding with your baby

When I gave birth to Archie, I was lucky enough to feel an instant bond with him. When I first held him, it was like I’d known him for ages and I just felt an overwhelming sense of love and protectiveness towards him. Unfortunately, a few weeks later and (I’m ashamed to say) that I no longer felt like his mummy and the initial bond we had seemed to be fading. 

bonding with your baby

I know I’m one of the lucky ones for feeling an immediate bond with my baby because not everyone does. I think partly it was down to the fact that he was 2 weeks overdue and there were honestly times when I thought I would never even meet him! So I just fell immediately in love with him and I know it sounds strange but I felt like we instantly knew each other and were just meant to be mummy and son.

I’m sad (and embarrassed) to say that over the next few weeks, I really struggled to connect with him and we grew further and further apart. It stemmed mostly from my inability to satisfy his hunger with my own milk (read more about our feeding journey here). He was constantly angry about this (understandably!) and would scream for hours on end unless attached to me. I felt like a complete failure and dreaded every moment I had to be alone with him.

It definitely wasn’t the way I’d read about it in the books or heard about it from other breastfeeding mums. They spoke of the amazing bond they felt with their baby when feeding. For me,  I just never felt this way.

Breastfeeding seemed to just tear us apart. I felt so disconnected from him. It was like I’d been handed someone else’s baby and I just didn’t feel like his mummy anymore.

I looked forward to the times when other people were around and could hold him for me. To give us some physical distance. And he seemed so much happier in other people’s arms which made me feel like such a failure (in hindsight it’s probably because they didn’t smell of milk like I did).

Luckily, introducing formula and (ultimately) bottle feeding helped to bring us closer together. I realised I could do so much more for my baby beyond feeding him. I became better at comforting him and knowing what he wanted. Simply making him smile/ giggle was (and still is) one of my favourite things to do!

It took a good few months to feel like we’d bonded again and it breaks my heart to even admit that we were so disconnected for that long. But I wanted to be honest and share my experience in the hope that it’s of comfort for anyone experiencing similar. And to know that there is hope – it really does get better and I can honestly say it hasn’t affected us in the long term.

My separation anxiety

You’ve probably heard of separation anxiety from the perspective of a baby/ child. But I’d never really thought of it in eyes of the parent before – and now it is something I really struggle with. As much as I know it’s healthy for me to spend some time away from Archie, I find it really hard to leave him and the anxiety I feel before sometimes makes me question, is it really worth it?

separation anxiety

The answer of course is most definitely yes. It’s not good for me or him to be permanently attached to each other. And when I do manage to spend time away I do actually enjoy myself but it’s certainly not as easy as it was before.

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the spa with my mum and we had the loveliest time. I really switched out of mummy mode for a while and it was nice to have a break. The few days before though I was feeling really anxious – barely sleeping, mind racing, feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve only ever left him with my husband or my parents and I’m certainly not worried about whether they’ll be OK looking after him as he usually has the best time and they are more than capable, so what am I really anxious about?

This is something I’ve been trying to figure out and I really can’t put my finger on it.

I think part of it is because Archie has become my little comfort blanket. When we’re out and about he is the topic of conversation and everyone’s attention diverts immediately to him. So when he’s not there suddenly I feel very exposed and not quite sure what to do with myself. I worry about making conversation without him being the natural distraction and I just feel a bit lost without him.

I think some of it is because I’m a stay-at-home mum and he’s my whole world now. I used to be pretty career driven and would passionately chat about the industry I worked in but now I feel a bit disconnected from it all. When I’m not in mummy mode, who even am I? I’m not sure I’ve figured that out yet.

And if I’m being truly honest I think that part of me is being selfish. I want to soak up every moment with him. And I want him to “need” me. I know it’s so irrational but I worry that if anyone can look after him (and effectively do my job) then what if he actually doesn’t need me after all. And is what I do really that purposeful?

I know it sounds crazy and it’s something that I really need to get on top of. I’ve been making a conscious effort to leave Archie on a more regular basis (where practically possible) because surely the more I do it the easier it will become? I’m so worried about the impact it has on him, I don’t want him to suffer as a result of my own struggles. I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this. Can anyone else relate? Any words of wisdom you’d be happy to share? I’m all ears 🙂