Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Letter to my pregnant self

I cannot believe my little boy is turning 5 in a few weeks! It seems like no time at all that I was pregnant and then welcomed him into our world, yet it seems like he has always been here, a part of our lives.
Looking back over the past 5 years I can see with the utmost clarity what I have learned and wish I could have my time all over again, knowing what I know now. With experience comes wisdom and confidence.  Confidence to say that before I had a child, I thought (embarrassingly) I knew it all - I grew up with babies and young children (being one of the eldest of 19 cousins, who the majority of, have their own children too), I had watched all those Super Nanny programmes, thought the "naughty step" was a great idea, used the expressions "well, a skelped arse never did me any harm", "Mother always wins", and was extremely judgemental and opinionated about parenting and other's parenting choices. Suffice to say, pre-Kiddo, I was a mainstream-conditioned know-it-all. Oh, and smug too. Yes, "My child will never..."
Then I came across home-birthing, which lead into Attachment Parenting and home-education. Pretty quickly my whole parenting ethos flipped 180. I devoured books on AP - unfortunately though, I read most of these after Kiddo arrived. (apart from the home birthing - I genned up on everything home birth related that I could find at the time regarding safety, statistics and methods)


So with this new found and thoroughly researched info (about 80% of what I read either in books or online is about parenting and child psychology and education and has been, over the past 5 years), and 20/20 hindsight, I would tell my pregnant self this :

Dear Me in 2010,
You are about to under go a life change that you are completely unprepared for despite thinking quite the opposite. Forget everything you think you know about being a parent, and just go with your gut - it is rarely wrong and highly intuitive.  Here is a what I have learned over the past years,and would like to share with you to make the parenthood journey a little easier :

1. The one biggest recommendation I have for the labour and birthing experience is : hire a doula!!! I have come to know what a doula is and how wonderful it can be to have someone with you solely for you (who also understands the process) . She is not a random midwife who will turn up at the house, whom you have never met before nor have any connection with (and has never seen your birthplan, will give it a cursory glance and will not know what is important to you).  The midwives who do attend are a mixed bag, one will seem grumpy and a little 'all-business-like' - she is actually wonderful, and you will be so glad that she is one to deliver Kiddo in the end; the other is hamfisted and will annoy you from the beginning until she leaves.

2. Take shares out in Kleenex. You are going to cry. A lot.

3. Mum is invaluable for the first few weeks, despite the numerous phone calls each day.

4. Do not go for that new hair cut.  You have long hair easy to stick back in a pony tail. Your new do will have no shape (despite being cut by the salon owner who is younger than you, and should really know what the hell she is doing) - butchering is a different trade to hairdressing.  You will cry (plenty of new mamma hormones still in circulation) and being told you look like your aunt who is approaching 60, is not something a 31year old new mother wants to hear.

5. It's time to grow a thick skin. You're going to need it. You will be judged from now on, The passive aggressive comments are the worst, and your sarcastic retorts and flaring nostrils will make you come off as the bad one. There will be a deluge of advice from all sides (parents, in-laws, sister, other relatives, work colleagues, bosses, strangers in the street, friends, etc), 97% of it unwanted or not asked for - IGNORE IT.  Learn to trust your own instinct.  This will piss off some people and others will question and judge - that is their problem.  Kiddo is yours and Hubby's.  While you're at it, perfect the glazed eye big fake smile that says "mm, I'm taking in all your advice" while sitting thinking about anything else.

6. Breastfeeding, once you get established, its great. Get along to the support group (the one time you went and it wasn't on does not count.) you will need it to continue to bf past the 5 months mark, when the health visitor will tell you to supplement with formula.  Get over the breastfeeding in public and infront of others (particularly males) - if they have a problem with you breastfeeding it is their problem not yours and their embarrassment does not trump Kiddo's need for a feed. And don't ever ask visitors if they mind you sitting feeding Kiddo when you are sitting in your livingroom! The patriarchal hangups with bf are alive and well - get over it. It is nothing that needs to be hidden. Sitting for 2 hours upstairs on your own feeding Kiddo during a family meal is something that will never happen again!

7. Sleepless nights are hard going - especially when you spend the vast majority of the night rocking the crib back and forth to get Kiddo to sleep. It is surprising you don't have arms like popeye!  You already know that Kiddo falls asleep no problem beside you. You already know that co-sleeping is safe when done properly. Save yourself the stress and just continue the co-sleeping on from when you did that 1st night.  Ignore anyone who does not sleep in your home - the sleeping needs of the 3 people living here are the only requirements that need to be met.


8. Forget the housework. Seriously. As Kiddo gets older, you "will have time to get on with your housework", or you do as I did, and screw the housework and spend days just playing and having fun.
I love these 2 poems I found on netmums.com thread :

I hope my child looks back on today 
And sees a mother who had time to play. 
There will be years for cleaning and cooking, 
But children grow up when you’re not looking. 
Tomorrow I’ll do all the chores you can mention 
But today, my baby needs time and attention. 
So settle down cobwebs; dust go to sleep, 
I’m cuddling my baby, and babies don’t keep.

and 

Housework Can Wait

Come in, but don't expect to find
All dishes done, all floors ashine.
Observe the crumbs and toys galore.
The smudgy prints upon the door.
The little ones we shelter here
Don't thrive on a spotless atmosphere.
They're more inclined to disarray
And carefree even messy play.
Their needs are great, their patience small.
All day I'm at their beck and call.
It's Mommy come! Mommy see!
Wiggly worms and red scraped knee.
Painted pictures, blocks piled high.
My floors unshined, the days go by.
Some future day they'll flee this nest,
And I at last will have a rest!
Now you tell me which matters more,
A happy child or a polished floor?

9. I am sorry to report but following your craving induced binge on creme eggs prior to birth will mean that you will no longer be able to face the gooey delight. It will no longer matter "how you eat yours" because you will only experience nausea at the thought. Worry not though, because in 2015, Cadbury's in their infinite wisdom changed the recipe and apparently it is now vile. Now no-one can stomach a creme egg. All is well.

10. When Kiddo starts showing signs of teething at 12 weeks, but takes a further 2.5 month to pop a tooth, he is not really teething that whole time. He is hungry. Accept this now and remedy it, or be forever reminded about how "that wean was starving".

11. Kiddo will always do something when he is ready, not because he is a certain age and ought to be achieving which ever milestone. This is especially true for potty training...one day it will just click and he'll be dry, same goes for night time (2 nights and dry). Do not try and be creative and clever using pinterest ideas for potty training. It does not end well. Hilarious yes, but mission certainly not accomplished - step forward the birth of the the smurf feet!  A little water and blue food colouring in the bottom of the potty to encourage Kiddo to use it. If he pees, it'll turn the water green, Ooh! Wow! Kiddo was completely uninterested. I needed to tend to my own call of nature, returning 1 minute later to blue feet, a large blue splashy stain all over the carpet and a delighted grin across his face. Oops, my bad!

12.  When other new mums and friends ask you to meet up or invite you to go along to a class or such : GO! Otherwise these first 2 years will be the loneliest 2 years of your life!!!  They are asking because they want you to go. Do not think that you are annoying or outstaying your welcome. If you are invited, it is for a reason!

13.  Baby-wearing is so much easier than humphing the big pram. Finding the right carrier is key. Wraps are superior interms of comfort for baby and parent, than the Baby Bjorn or the ill-fitting and footery pouch sling that you spent £100 on.

14. Sensory play and all baby activites are not complusory. Same goes for playgroups and nursery - none of which sat well with either Kiddo or you. Try them out out and stick to what you like/enjoy. Do not continue to go along for the sake of it - it is does to nothing to benefit you or Kiddo (quite the opposite infact).

15.  This parenting business is not easy and you won't "love every minute of it". While you will always love your little bundle/big bundle/ screaming toddler/sarcastic pre-schooler (yes, that he is sarcastic! Well, surely that won't come as too much of a surprise?), you will not always like him. Fact! It is impossible to like one person all the time. You are not (and no other parent on this earth is either) a saint. However, when you voice this opinion it will not go down well - you will be met with horrified faces.  Oh well.

16. Under no circumstances decide that you are qualified to cut Kiddo's hair. Especially with curved nail scissors.  His beautiful locks will meet an untimely end with an emergency appointment at the barbers with the clippers once you give him a fringe that resembles dormer windows in a thatched cottage roof. You will cry.

17. Baths cure everything from bad moods to high temperatures to boredom, oh and to clean too (this information is purely for Kiddo, you have no hope of having a peaceful bath for years to come unless you wish to have one in the middle if the night)

18.  A new thing I just learned, envelope top vests are designed to be rolled down the baby's body in the event of nappy-geddon. No need to slowly and gently cut it off.  Who knew this???

19. Every time you second guess or have doubts about buying something (for example his own bed or that bike for his 4th birthday that has been ridden only twice in almost a year) - DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY!!

20. Discipline is a minefield - you will try the naughty step, forced apologising, hit back, putting Kiddo in his room, (he will cry it out just the once - one time too many!), ignoring behaviour etc, none of it works for Kiddo (or you) and to be honest, is done for the benefit of others. Conversations when calm work far better and achieve more. You are a shouter though, nothing has changed there, but every day is a new day and am still working on this (getting better though)

21. Just relax and try to enjoy each stage for what is it.  Even the awful stages and shitty days - they all pass.  Something funny or cute will happen and balance will be restored.  If no-one died, its not worth your stress.

22.  There is always wine. Until it's wine o'clock you will survive on industrial levels of coffee.

Remember - you can do this.  It's not going to look like anything you imagined prior to Kiddo's arrival.  It's going to test you like you've never been tested or pushed before. You will learn more about who you are as a person and who you are as a parent.
You're ready.
ps. there are no more coming along after Kiddo, so don't torment yourself holding onto all Kiddo's clothes and toys and 'equipment' just in case. It'll only be harder when you do part with it. (must get finger out and get that pram on gumtree...)

I have no idea what the next 5 years hold, but I will enjoy and embrace it, regardless of it throws at us. If the past 5 years have though me anything its that I am a good mum, infact I'm the best mum possible for Kiddo. And that is the most important thing. I am now confident in my choices I've made for our family. They wont be the right choices for everyone or anyone else, all families are unique with their own individual dynamics and needs. My parents made choices they felt were right for my sister and I, and Hubby and I are making ours for Kiddo. And no, they are not the same and neither they should be.


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