6 Week Survival
Before having a baby I really had no idea that you get at home visits from Community Midwives following the birth, or any clue what a Health Visitor was. But you will get to know them and get used to lots of people you've just met looking at your vagina to check your stitches if you've had them! (Midwifes, not Health Visitors - don't show your Health Visitor your vagina. I somehow don't think they'd appreciate it.) Now Midwives are amazing and Lucy, who supported me while I gave birth was incredible, but Community Midwives are also phenomenal and the support I received after giving birth was amazing and helped me a lot.
On Day 2 I had my first Midwife visit at home. Now I never got this wonderful woman's name, because well...sleep deprivation made me forget it as soon as she told me it, but there was one key thing she said to me which;
1. Made me me feel a WHOLE lot better and
2. Has stuck with me and I try and tell anyone who's about to have a baby and it was this:
"The first 6 weeks are pure survival and anyone who tells you they enjoyed them is a liar."
Now some might find that statement a little brutal, or be upset by it because they look back on those first 6 weeks and think "Well I enjoyed them!" (probably with a big ol' pair of rose-tinted glasses on) but for me I needed to hear those words. I needed that brutal honestly and I think she could see that. I do remember laughing out of relief at her telling me this but also being shocked at the time and feeling afterwards genuinely upset that it would be 6 weeks of feeling as I did. She then also went on to say the first 6-12 months are really the true initial survival period and then it all begins to ease. "3 MONTHS!" I internally screamed, thinking that that sounded like the longest time, but it was true. Of course it was true. She was an experienced Midwife who knew what she was talking about and had been there done that, and seen it all many many times before seeing little me sitting in bed with my tiny newborn terrified about everything.
The first 6 weeks are pure survival, then I had an easing where you get into the swing of things a little bit more, then at around 4 months I started to feel so much better in nearly every way and I really started to enjoy being a Mum. Having a baby is a total adjustment to every single aspect of your life and you're still physically recovering and adapting. On that note another Midwife told me that it takes 2 years to physically recover fully from having a baby. Yep you read that right 2 YEARS. And as she said, by that point a lot of people are either already pregnant again or already trying for another baby, so they don't fully physically recover from the first pregnancy and labour. Terrifying. That statement is contraception enough to put off any siblings for my son for a while.
I did find what she said on Day 2 really helpful in those early days, weeks and months though. I just kept reminding myself of '6 week survival' and then '3 months survival' once I'd got through those first weeks. Now I was obviously suffering with Postnatal Anxiety and Postnatal Depression during this period which heightened things, but you don't have to be suffering with any Maternal Mental Health illness to agree with her statement and use it as a mantra. My experience was sadly more extreme than some, but also less extreme than others but, as I've said before, I quickly got the support I needed which I am eternally gratefully for and if you feel at all like you need help or support please speak to a Midwife or your GP.
I think it's also really hard regardless to admit that you are finding motherhood, or parenthood, difficult. I had wanted a baby for so long, and had dreamed of being a Mum since I was little, and then when I found myself there, literally living my dream, I was miserable. And I was heartbroken at that. I wanted to love it. I wanted to soak up every moment and enjoy it all like I had dreamed, and everyone else around me seemed able to do, but I didn't. Now I'm not saying every moment was awful or difficult but the overriding memories for me of that time are sadly not happy ones. I vividly remember literally sobbing at one point in the middle of a night saying to my husband "What have we done?" because I was struggling, couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, and, at that moment, I truly couldn't believe what we had done to our lives in having a baby. Now some, or a lot, of that can be attributed to my Maternal Mental Health but I also think too often this picture of perfect newborn life is painted by us as a society that creates a false narrative of becoming a parent, particularly for the first time. However much you wanted that baby, however hard you tried for it, however long it took to get pregnant IT IS SO HARD BECOMING A PARENT. And I needed someone to tell me that. Yes my baby was wonderful, and yes I of course loved him, but I struggled. I really struggled. And that's OK and totally normal. And if you needed to hear that I hope this blog post does for you what that Midwife did for me. She in a strange way gave me 'permission' to find it difficult and not expect it to all be wonderful and sweet and lovely. Because, real brutal honesty here, it's not. It has it's moments of course but those first few weeks and months are SO hard. And they're hard for everyone however they're painting it to you either when you speak to them or what you might be seeing on posts on social media (another whole post is coming at some point about the 'Insta-sham' of motherhood because it's a real issue for me!).
Too many people also tell you to "enjoy it while it lasts" because "they're only this little once". My God I could have slapped those people. Public service announcement - don't tell anyone to "enjoy it now" or that "Ooh this is an easy age, wait until they're X, Y or Z years old." Just don't. It doesn't help anyone, makes them feel worse whether they tell you it did not and it made me dread other upcoming ages. So far nothing has even remotely compared in levels of difficulty to those first few months. 4 month sleep regression - nope not as bad. Teething - it's been going on for 6 months and is still much better than those first 3 months. 8 month sleep regression - total doddle comparatively. Every age has it challenges so don't put anyone else down for finding a certain period difficult. A friend of mind found the 8-10 month age period really difficult, I'm sure lots of people find the 2-3 year old stage difficult. It's all down to individuals and individual children so try not to compare. However if I could have time-traveled and skipped those first 3 months I would. My birth was great and I would happily give birth again but I do have a genuine fear now of those initial months for any future children. It's something I will actively seek support for in advance should I have more children because I know I'll need it and I at least have that knowledge, and the experience now to rely on. But it's taken nearly 10 months for me to even consider the thought of anymore children because I found that time to be so difficult. I know memories will fade and those first few months do already feel so long ago even already but it's OK to need support and I will have to remind myself of that should the time come again. And I'll never forget that mantra "The first 6 weeks are pure survival and anyone who tells you they enjoyed them is a liar." because it's so true.