Heartwarming discoveries on maternity leave – part two

17 Oct

So yes.  My heartwarming discoveries.  Here they are:

1> The amazingness of nature

This is of course, the big one.  Despite feeling the kicks and seeing the scans, I never *really* believed that a perfectly perfect human baby was really in there.  But it totally, totally was.  After a gruelling 27 hour labour, Nancy flew out (kinda) and was handed to me – an absolutely perfect example of a human being.  I was in shock.  My body is a-maz-ing.  How did it know what to do to create such a thing?  And then how to eject it from my body (well, it got some of that bit wrong to be fair).  She had everything – fingers, toes (complete with nails), hair, a perfect pair of lungs.  Incredible.  I was suddenly a mother and I always would be.  In that moment I realised how incredible nature is, life is, the world is.  All those silly things that bothered me before, gone.  Insignificant.  Just like that.

2>  The kindness + generosity of people

Wow.  Where do I start with this one?  From the day I went into labour, I was exposed to a whole new level of human kindness.  Maybe it’s just that ordinarily I’m immersed in a world of deadlines and pressure where people really aren’t operating at their most calm, kind and caring.  But wow, the midwives, the health visitors, the GP who treated me with even more care than usual post-labour – what incredible people!  I know it’s their job – but they gave me so much time to make me feel at ease in an alien situation, to listen to how I felt about my labour and experience as a new mother.  To give me all the information and support I needed and reassure any concerns I had.

And then there’s the PRESENTS!  I actually got to know my Postman as packages arrived every single day for weeks!  We received so many flowers that we even had to buy more vases.  One of my school friends arrived at my door with two black bags full of amazing baby clothes that her little girl had grown out of.  I felt quite embarrassed when I realised the number of presents we’d failed to buy for friends and relatives when they had babies.  And also noticed how a large majority of the gifts were from people who’d had children – some of these people we hardly knew at all!  But I guess they knew quite what a big deal this whole thing is. And quite how hard it is in those first few weeks – when the kind wishes of the people around you go such a long way.

3> The wonderful community on my doorstep

This was something I hoped I’d discover on maternity leave.  Being around just in the evenings and the weekends doesn’t give you the chance to *really* get to know your area. I was excited to spend some proper time here – getting to know the people, the groups, the stuff that happens in the daytime when I’d normally be on the other side of town.  After I’d had Nancy I was amazed to discover so much more than this.  Those first 10-12 weeks were incredibly hard. But what helped is that all these lovely people would come and visit me.  The midwife came a few time, then the health visitor.  Then there was the weekly baby clinic where I could go for advice and to weigh Nancy.  I quickly learned that there was so much out there to help Mums deal with the many challenges of early motherhood.  Here are some of the things I came across:

Breastfeeding Cafes There are two ‘cafes’ (not actual cafes) each week that you can go to to get guidance and support from midwives on breast feeding.  How incredible!  I tried to go once and well, it didn’t quite happen.  Turned out I’d left it too close to feeding time and so I quite quickly had a screaming Nancy in the back of the car.  I then didn’t know where to park near the library it was taking place in, and I also realised that I wouldn’t actually have enough time to feed Nancy before it then closed.  So I ended up feeding her in an actual cafe instead.  But the point is that it was a huge comfort to know that it was there and lots of friends who had real trouble with breastfeeding would’ve given up if it hadn’t been for the cafes.

Sure Start Centres These are ace.  They are located all over the place (although due to cuts they are slowly disappearing 😦 ) They offer FREE classes, courses, groups that you can come to with your baby and meet other mums, learn all sorts of things or just get a change of scenery.  We did a baby massage course for nuffink!  Amazing.  And just so lovely that it makes this kind of stuff accessible to all.

The Nappy Lady  There is an actual nappy lady!  Again, I didn’t actually use her.  But awesome to know that she exists to help you with the whole disposable vs. washable nappy dilemma.

There’s also a Sling Library where you can go to to try different baby slings to find the right one for you.  You can even borrow it for a week to make doubly sure.  The actual library is of course awesome too.  They do baby groups, singing sessions and obviously you can also join and borrow books for free.

On top of all this baby stuff there’s everything else.  And when you have a baby everyone talks to you!!  People at the bus stop, people in the doctors, people on trains.  Also when you have a baby you feel braver to just talk to anyone too!  You just get to know everyone and everything.  Where to get the best coffee.  The best brownie.  That there is even a pub near here that runs a group called Crumpets – a playgroup for babies and a breakfast club for Mums!  Complete with pastries, coffee and of course, crumpets!  Omm nom amazing.  Anyway you get my point – you get to know where you live better and it’s ace.

4> The kindness + support of other Mums

This is the sort of comment that I know now really pisses off non-Mums.  But it’s true – Mums are amazing.  Of course, it doesn’t apply to every single Mum.  And many non-Mums are also amazingly understanding and supportive to new Mums.  But there’s something about other Mums with babies at the same stage and also those with older babies / kids.  They know.  They know how exhausted you are.  How unsettling the dramatic change in your life is over just a few short weeks is.  How hard it is to remain patient while your darling child screams in your face for hours.  How you sometimes question yourself.  And they listen.  They empathise.  They know how desperate you can become, and they offer their help.  Even though they have their own things to deal with.

There was a time when Nancy would be awake at night and asleep in the day.  Just to get her off to sleep would take forever and a great deal of effort.  I was a mess.  My kind NCT friends offered to come over and watch Nancy while I slept.  These are women I’d known for just a few months!  I also had other friends in the area who’d had babies too and we’d all email at all hours – ‘Has anyone’s baby done this’.  ’Did you know that’.  ’He’s doing this, should I be worried’ and so on.  We’d all have read something or been through it already and be able to offer an answer or reassurance. Now that I’m back at work and am having worries about Nancy’s childcare, my Mum friends are all offering to get together to look after Nancy if I ever need this.  WOW!  It’s just incredible.  But I think, going back to point no.1, once you’ve given birth and been through this you suddenly realise what is important and what isn’t.  Being kind, listening and offering help and support to each other – these are all important things.  Normally many of us don’t find enough time to focus on this stuff.  Or don’t prioritise it.  But this is something that I really want to retain – in my personal life and at work.

5> A new, more confident, kind and patient me

I’m going to be quick here as I’ve written enough already.  And it kinda relates to no.4.  But yes.  To make this point, here are some things I have dealt with in the last 11 months:

  • Nancy screaming in my face for seven hours (yes SEVEN) while we try to work out why
  • Singing and rocking a screaming, overtired baby to sleep for up to an hour for her to then fall asleep but then wake up 45 minutes later.  An hour or so later I would then have to repeat this
  • Waking up every 3 hours through the night to feed her – after a day doing the above
  • Breastfeeding and cooking soup at the same time because clearly we were both so damned hungry!
  • Spending precious sleeping time chopping, steaming, blending various fruits and vegetables for Nancy to then just turn her head away in disgust

I mean these are just just a few things.  But the point is, I’ve had to find a way to deal with all these things whilst remaining patient, loving and comforting for Nancy.  I’ve therefore learnt a whole new level of patience, tolerance and consideration.  Being so out of control, vulnerable and in need of help and support has made me consider other people in my life who might be in need like this for all sorts of reasons.  We’re not all strong all the time.  And we have to be there for each other.

So that will do, I think.  It’s quite a lot.  And I know it’s all very soppy.  But that’s what happens to you when you become a Mum. And I’m glad of it.  I feel better, stronger, kinder and who can argue with that?

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