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.

Gifts for new parents/ new baby

When we had Archie I was blown away at how incredibly generous our friends and family were with gifts. So many people asked us if there was anything we wanted and we’d bought so many practical things for the baby that we couldn’t really think of anything at the time. So, with hindsight in our favour, I thought I’d put together a little list of ideas for anyone who needs some inspiration. 

new baby-parent gifts

Keepsake gifts

Newspaper of the day baby was born – I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t ask someone to buy this for us because I’m seriously sentimental and I think it would be a lovely keepsake to show Archie when he’s older. You can buy back copies but they’re not cheap so it’s worth asking someone to do this for you if you’re the one expecting!

Photo frame – I know this is a little old school but I love having photos printed and put up around the house so a photo frame is right up my street.

Baby record book – Some organised mums-to-be might have bought one already so it’s worth checking first but it makes such a lovely sentimental gift and a year later I still love filling Archie’s in and looking back at the entries so far.

Imprint kit – I’m sad that we never got round to doing one of these and the off-the-shelf ones are inexpensive so it definitely makes a lovely present for anyone wishing to cherish those tiny fingers and toes!

Teddy bear – We received quite a few of these which is lucky because Arch is a big fan! But it might be worth checking with who you’re buying for so they don’t have too many. The personalised My 1st Years ones make a lovely keepsake.

Gifts for the whole family

Homemade meal – when you’re a new parent the likelihood is you’ll be grabbing more convenience food than you’re used to so some homemade food – whether that’s a whole meal or just some snacks – will be seriously appreciated!

Food box subscription – when Archie was small we invested in a weekly Hellofresh box for a few months and it was brilliant at getting us back to cooking at home. The recipes were very simple to follow with the ingredients pre-measured (very important for sleep-deprived parents!) and we were surprised just how healthy and tasty they were. I think it would make a great gift for any new parent – whether they’re competent at cooking or not.

Newborn photo shoot – this will not be high on a new parent’s priority list but it makes for some lovely memories that you can cherish forever so again I think this would make a lovely sentimental gift.

Gifts for mum

Pamper kit – you can buy ready-made ones specifically for new mums – the Elemis gift sets are great – but they tend to be pretty pricey. It’s very easy to compile your own – personally I’d include a face mask, lip balm, hand cream, body oil – anything that feels a little luxurious and is really moisturising.

Loungewear – new mums will likely spend a lot of time in clothes that resemble PJs but are slightly more appropriate for leaving the house in! Next do some lovely ones as do ASOS.

Something with Mum/ Mummy on it – whether it’s a mug (the Emma Bridgewater ones are my personal favourite), a piece of jewellery (this Next necklace is lovely) or a slogan top (I love the Selfish Mother ones) most new mums will be so proud to flaunt their new role!

Gifts for baby

Outfit/ Babygro’s – It’s worth bearing in mind that for the first few months a baby will mostly live in Babygro’s so if you’re choosing a cute outfit then you might want to size up for when they’re a bit older. Remember to consider what season it will be when the baby’s at the age too so you don’t buy something impractical for the weather.

Muslin cloths/ bibs – From someone with a sicky baby, there were never enough muslin cloths or bibs clean in the house despite owning enough to put a normal retailer to shame! For bibs, any soft round bibs with a popper fastening are great for the newborn days (save the more stylish dribble bibs for when they’re older). And for muslin cloths TK Maxx do some great ones and I really don’t think you can beat the Aden & Anais ones for quality.

Blanket – Particularly for a winter baby, a blanket makes a lovely gift. My most used one was this Chenille one from Asda as it was super soft and washes well. But for something a bit more special I love this personalised My 1st Years blanket.