I recently read Giovanna Fletcher’s latest book, Letters on Motherhood (which I highly recommend) and it got me thinking about who I would write a letter to. I would write a letter to pregnant me, and any other first time pregnant mamas. So here it is…
Dear mama-to-be,
Congratulations! You’ve probably been waiting for those two blue lines for what feels like forever, even if it wasn’t. Or maybe it was a nice little surprise. Either way, you have no idea what you’re in for. And nothing that anyone says can ever prepare you for this journey. Pregnancy and motherhood are such personal experiences and every single one is different. Yes you’ll find shared experiences and common ground with other mums but each experience is entirely unique.
You’re probably reading all of the books you can find hoping that it will prepare you for what’s to come. It will, to some degree. But I have to be honest with you… you’re going to forget 90% of what you’ve read and half of it probably won’t be relevant to your experience. My advice is to read the books, but don’t panic about how you’re going to remember all of the information. People will tell you that you’ll learn as you go and you won’t believe them and you’ll overwhelm yourself with trying to know every single thing about babies so that you can be the best mum you can. But I am here to tell you, that you will learn as you go. You’ll learn, you’ll adjust, you’ll act on instinct. And you will be the best parent you can be, even without the books.
Your motherly instinct kicks in the minute you find out that you’re pregnant. Your whole pregnancy you’ll find yourself getting certain ‘feelings’ about your baby. You’ll know when something isn’t right, you might even have a feeling about what gender baby is or when they’re going to arrive. All of these instincts are preparing you for motherhood where you’ll really strengthen that intuition until it’s less like a whisper and more like a warning sign. ALWAYS go with your instinct, mother always knows best. If you don’t feel right about something you’re being told, question it, do your research and find what works best for you. If you feel like there is something wrong with baby, don’t worry about coming off as ‘dramatic’, get it seen to. Your instincts will guide you on your journey, but only if you choose to listen to them.
You’ve probably already started debating what you want to do about feeding your baby. Let me tell you something that I was never told… you might not have a choice. So many women I know wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. So many women wanted to bottle-feed but due to allergies found it much harder than expected. Do your research and have an idea of what path you would like to take, but be open to it not working out. And don’t be so hard on yourself if it doesn’t happen the way you want it to. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s best for you and baby. If breastfeeding makes you miserable, it’s not worth it. You need to look after yourself first to be able to look after baby.
People will tell you how horrendous birth is and it might be long and painful but it also might not be. Again, every birth is different. Baby could be here in a matter of hours, baby could take days to come. You might want a water birth and end up with a C section. There are so many different avenues and complications when it comes to labour. But one thing all births have in common is that every single woman was born to do this, and you will get through it, because you don’t have a choice. When you feel yourself giving up, just tell yourself that it isn’t an option. Was my birth what I wanted or expected it to be? No. Did I ever feel scared during those 48 hours? No. Because I knew that it was just something I had to do and there wasn’t an option to give up.
You’ll be a bit sore, and exhausted, and struggling to walk after giving birth. Or you might feel okay, running off adrenaline and feeling like you can run a marathon. You can’t. Your body and mind has been through some severe trauma and if you try and rush your recovery, you’re only going to slow things down and do more damage. Take gentle walks, but don’t push yourself. Listen to your body. I’m not going to tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps because I never did. But try and prioritise rest in the best way possible for you. Go to bed early with baby, take an hour during naptimes to just sit with a hot drink and rest your legs. Plan your aftercare. Research what you need to be kind to your body. Do your Kegels, read your books, have plenty of baths with a nice facemask and drink your water. They are such small things but taking things slow will really aid your recovery in a massive way. Be kind to your body and listen to what it needs.
You are made for this. You are already the best mum that you can be. You’ve kept your baby safe for 9 whole months. All you can do is your best. There is no such thing as a perfect baby, or a perfect parent. Talk to people. Open up about how you feel, and there will be somebody else feeling the same way. Ask for help any time you need it. Never doubt yourself and take it day by day. But most importantly, don’t let the fear of what’s about to happen overshadow the absolute life-changing joy you’re about to experience. You got this mama.