I thought I was totally prepared. The nursery was complete, and I was mentally ready.
Oh boy, was I wrong. For starters, the baby was in our room anyway so the nursery didn't matter a bit in those early days. And I finally started to understand why everybody told me to 'sleep while you can' when I was pregnant.
For me, the first 24 hours were a blur. Honestly, I was so scared leaving the hospital with this new little baby who was completely dependant on me, so when Reuben and I got in the car in the hospital car park, I burst into tears. I was emotionally and physically drained and shit scared about what was to come. I haven't been around a lot of babies so can honestly say I had NO idea what I was doing.
Everybody's experiences are different so don't take this as gospel - this is based on my own personal experience. But these are some tips I think would have helped when I went into this whole parenting thing blind. (Feel free to add your own tips in the comments!).
1. Accept all offers of help – this is one thing I didn't do. I'm all Beyoncé, Independent Woman ... and I was absolutely f**ked after a few sleepless days/nights. Accept offers of meals, breaks for you to shower, etc. Don't feel as though you're a burden to other people, because you aren't. I thought I could do it all myself and quickly learnt this was not the case.
2. Sleep when baby sleeps – or it's likely you'll never sleep again. If you can't sleep, at least lay down and rest - don't worry about everything else you have to do (at least in those early days).
3. Have plenty of maternity pads on hand; steal the hospital ones if you can (they resemble a super king mattress). You will bleed, a lot, sometimes up to 6 weeks (or more!). Also invest in some Hypercal lotion or similar for your lady bits if you have a natural delivery.
4. Don't forget to take your pain meds if given some. In a tired haze, I forget - then had instant regret.
5. It's totally normal to cry in those early days. If it wasn't my partner, or me, it was the baby.
6. Confide in a friend/family member or midwife (if not your partner) about how you are feeling and doing. Make sure you know the early signs of postnatal depression and if you feel like things are getting too much – seek help. It's normal and more common than you think.
7. Try to shower everyday, and even chuck on some moisturiser/BB cream if you can - it made me feel (and look) so much better. It is so easy to live in track pants, but not looking after yourself is a quick way to start feeling down.
8. Learn that its okay to say no to visitors in the early days. Yes, you're super excited to show off your new baby, but they're more prone to picking up bugs in those early days - plus you're still learning the ropes. I was still trying to figure out breastfeeding and attempting to do it with an audience was the last thing I needed.
9. Be prepared to be on an emotional roller coaster – even more so than when you were preggers. I would cry for no reason, other days I was on top of the world. Hormones be crazy ... it's normal.
10. Trust in your midwife – they are a hive of support and information. Don't be afraid to ask them (or your GP) questions. It's their job and I'm sure they've heard it all (and worse!) before.
11. Get somebody to show you how to bathe baby if you're not sure – we had no idea and quickly realised this when it came to giving him his first bath. We're total pros now.
12. Expect nothing – leave your expectations behind. Baby is going to do what it wants to do and no book or advice is going to change the way he/she is.
13. Drop your standards a little. This was hard for me; I tried to maintain a spotless house knowing visitors would come over while trying to find my feet as a new mum. But it's okay to not have vacuumed, nobody is judging you – plus, it'll give your visitors something helpful to do!
14. Don't be alarmed by weird sounds – it's all part of it! I often felt like I had a small pig sleeping in the bassinet next to my bed.
15. Establish a routine early – this worked so well for us. For the first few days while we found our feet we just worked around baby and his cues. Once we introduced a routine, it made all of our lives easier and is still successful 10 months on.
16. This could be a bit controversial, but for us, introducing a bottle worked. I gave Baxter some expressed breast milk in a bottle early on to get him familiar with the bottle in case we ever needed it. He was able to go between the boob and the bottle with no fuss and it made our lives easier. It also meant I could take a break every now and then and that Dad could do the night feed.
17. Put baby in their bed when showing tired signs – this way they learn to fall asleep on their own and associate bed with sleep time. This was SO beneficial for us. Sounds easy, but it really was. Rubbing eyes, yawning? Put them in bed.
18. Remember it will get better – the hard times WILL pass. While it might be super tough now, it's going to be so rewarding soon. From weeks 6-12 you start seeing more interaction and it gets more exciting from then on.
Most importantly, try and enjoy it. The days goes surprisingly fast and they're only small for a short period of time.