In some ways these last 13 weeks have flown by, but in other ways it has been a slow few of months! We are all still adjusting to our new roles, both in the home and elsewhere, so some days have gone well and some have been…well pretty horrendous if I’m completely honest 😦
Over these first 3 months there have been incredible highs (a new life has just blessed your family) and really tough lows (you are now in charge of 3 younglings). Some days fly by far too fast, whereas others seem endless and without much hope.
Anyway if you ever wondered what it is like ‘now that chaos is the norm’, here is a list of what to expect :
13 things that you will notice during the first 3 months and (some) ideas on how to survive the tough ones:
1. Breastfeeding will literally take up most of your time.
From the early days when you need to feed every few minutes to fill those tiny tums, to those epic feeds that seem to last for hours. Then once you feel you have just about reached some sort of rhythm the cluster feeding starts and you will be feeding (on and off) all day and all night again! *yawn* Forget about your own needs now! Loo trips become almost scheduled and eating becomes a quick raid of the fridge, usually whilst your small one is still attached to your breast!
And in those few moments when you aren’t feeding you will be thinking about feeding: Worrying you have too much milk and will end up engorged or with mastitis, quickly followed by worrying that you don’t have enough milk and you are starving your poor baby! Sometimes you will be so fed up of worrying you will start to wonder if you should just jack it in altogether. Phew! Exhausted much?!
But…the good news is…you can survive it! There is a way to get through this endless cycle of continuous feeding and even enjoy it (at times, let’s not get ahead of ourselves)! The trick with this one is to stay hydrated and nourished! I mean everything feels better on a full belly or with a cuppa, don’t you think? So if there are people about ask for water/snacks whilst feeding or if you are on your own grab some bits before you start a feed. If you are heading out try to carry a bottle of water in your bag and maybe a piece of fruit too if you remember; so that when you’re caught off guard and have to give a quick feed whilst on the bus or on the local park bench (just to list a couple of the random places I’ve ended up feeding), you don’t end up gagging for a drink too! Just don’t forget to use/remove that little satsuma before it turns into green mush at the bottom of your bag, ready to cover your hand when you next rummage!
As for the ‘worrying about everything’ part-don’t!! Obviously easier said than done and to be honest something I am still working on. However, looking back I realise the worries are usually linked to two things in particular. 1) lack of sleep and 2) a growth spurt/developmental leap. If you can put things in place to help with #1 (see point 3 below) I promise you things will quickly start to look brighter. There is nothing like a warped sense of self and your thoughts when you are completely exhausted. As for #2 your baby is continuously growing and changing, but there are particular times over the first year (or so) of their lives that will be particularly eventful. These have often been labelled ‘The Wonder Weeks’ and will most probably leave both of you exhausted, tearful, hungry and just not yourself! So if you feel you want to prepare yourself, have a look on the tinterweb, buy the book or download the app about these stages of development. Or if you aren’t one for scaring yourself (!), whilst having a moment of worry or self doubt tell yourself it is not forever, ‘everything is transitory’. You will soon notice (about 3-5 days later) that your little one is through the worst and the normal feeding patterns will pick up again…she says hoping that one day soon her little one will last longer than an hour between feeds at night!
2. Your baby will catch at least one cold…maybe more if you’re really lucky! And if all the stars align, all 3 children (&your partner) might get ill…over a 2 week period… so you are literally climbing the walls juggling feeding, medicine administration, school runs, cooking, cleaning, entertainment and cuddles!!
So now you’ve just about settled yourself into thinking these cluster feeds, continual latching and unlatching, wakeful nights and clingy days are all part of a growth spurt and won’t last forever, your little one develops their very first cold and your life is turned upside down once again. They cough, they splutter. They can’t feed like usual, they just want a little drink…every 5 minutes. They cry continuously and will not be comforted by anyone but you (Mum)! They snuffle all night long and you spend each moment worried it will develop into something worse, checking they are still breathing and then crying along side them when at 4am they are still awake and fussing after their 1am feed!!! You get the idea…it’s not a lot if fun! Should your other children get ill too around the same time, buckle up and hold on tight…it will not be a nice time. Think children taking it in turns to wake up throughout the night, grizzly kiddies wanting your undivided attention and at least one who is still relatively healthy climbing the walls out if frustration! It is pretty much unending and possible the most draining time you will go through in those early days.
But you will get through! Keep them warm, keep them close, keep them upright when you can. Steam up the bathroom, wear ‘Snuffle Babe’ on you like perfume and pop some lavender oil in their bath (just as a relaxing aid, not a cold cure). If you fancy trying the saline drops for their nose go for it, even if its just to watch in fascination at how their drippy noses suddenly fill with humongous crusty bogies that you can enjoy pulling out later!! 😉 Above all try to rest when you can. If you are not someone that likes napping, just pop your feet up with a cuppa or a magazine for 5 minutes when they finally sleep. Watch a bit of TV or just enjoy watching your tiddly one sleep (propped up on your chest no doubt so they can breathe). If you can take a nap or even enjoy a proper sleep, then do. Anything to fuel your tank for the next sleepless night!
As for the older ones stay strong. Take the days slowly. After the crazy rush and trauma of getting the well child to school along with dragging the poorly ones up the hill too, settle yourself on the sofa together: read some books, do some colouring, watch some TV, have lots of cuddles and snuggle down for a kip if you can. The washing can wait, the dishes can be left till later, the chores will still be there once everyone is better, so enjoy the extra time with your big ones and ride the storm together. It will pass!
3. Some days you just won’t want to get up at all.
So after numerous wakeful nights full of less than satisfactory feeding, poorly children, tears, tantrums and whirring minds you are bound to get to the point where you have just about reached your limit. Your body will ache from the lack of sleep, your ears will be ringing from the constant crying, your eyes will burn from the tears and your chest will pound from the frustration. The last thing you need is for your alarm to be blaring out in the wee small hours and a school run to get through.
Fear not though my friend. Just when you feel you have nothing else to give, your days will change. Your baby might choose that day to start smiling, your partner might suddenly decide to tidy the kids bedroom, your older children might bring you home a picture, learn to read or just get on for 5 minutes! If you are really blessed a friend (or even 2) might go out of their way to drop off some goodies at your door!! Take pleasure and comfort in the small things and it will help see you through those dark days.
Also rest! As much as you can. Go back to bed after the school run if you can or get into bed as soon as your children are in theirs at night. Treat yourself to a bubble bath to relax in (day or night) or put your feet up with a cuppa and a magazine if you can’t sleep. Just allow yourself time to adjust, recuperate and relax.
A few other life hacks for getting through those days where energy is in short supply are these:
Take a shower before you go to bed and set your alarm for 10 minutes later. Even if you are already awake in the morning, those few extra moments in bed can feel like heaven.
Use dry shampoo! No one need know that you haven’t washed your hair (again)! A quick squirt of that and you’re good to go! Mask your body odour with a bit of deodorant and the school run seems manageable again after being up all night and sleeping through your alarm!
Encourage the older kids to help out where they can-make their own packed lunches, find uniform the night before, put the breakfast things out after tea so they can help themselves in the morning,etc. Just remember to check what they have packed themselves for lunch before you go…and perhaps remove the uncooked garlic bread from their lunch box even if they are convinced it is a baguette with cream cheese!!
4. There will be sibling rivalry!
Whichever way you look at it, having a new baby is a big adjustment… for everyone. Even the most calm and serene family members will be shaken by this tiny one. From fierce over protectiveness, to intense jealousy, your other children will ride the wave of the highs and lows with you.
To begin with your older children will be so excited (well once they’ve stopped crying about you having a girl instead of a boy). They will want cuddles and kisses. They will pose eagerly for photographs and talk endlessly to relatives when asked ‘what is it like having a baby?’ They will ‘help’ with bath time and nappy changes. They might even go get things for you that you’ve left lying around the house! However, just like our own ‘honeymoon period’ (of adrenaline fueled hormones) slowly but surely disappears so too will their initial wonder and tolerance. I find that this usually happens around 6 weeks after baby arrives, give or take and can really throw all your best parenting efforts to the wind! Anything from acting out, to rudeness, to purposefully hurting others (baby included), being withdrawn, sad or overtired are reactions to their new role in life. Throw starting school into the mix and you’re really asking for trouble!
But once again, the storm of sibling rivalry can be survived…or at least eased somewhat. Something as simple as articulating how your older children might be feeling can really help them feel heard and understood. For example, saying out loud ‘it’s hard work sharing Mummy with a new baby that feeds all the time, isn’t it’ or ‘it must be a bit annoying having to wait til after I’ve done the feed to go to the park’, etc can really validate the massive change these other little people are going through.
Any chance you get to spend a little bit of time 1:1 with the others or with both of them away from the baby should be grabbed with both hands. For example, if one of you needs to pop out to get milk or something, take one of the older ones with you, or if one of the older ones wake up whilst you’re in the shower, take the time to give them a big hug with both arms (preferably once dry). If someone is having a cuddle with the baby use the time to play a game with the others, read their favourite book, talk to them! Any thing that reminds them that you still love them, value their company and miss the extra time together.
If your older ones like to ‘help’ encourage it. It may take four times as long to popper those 3 buttons at the end of the baby grow, but your older one will feel so useful and wanted! Ask them to choose an outfit for the baby (she won’t mind if the colours/patterns clash), pass you the wipes, wash their face,etc and be genuinely thankful for the help. It might not feel like much now, but with encouragement they will soon be of real use and their bond with their new sibling will be stronger because of it.
5. Every night you will go to bed thinking you’ve neglected at least one of your children.
Mother’s guilt is a gift you are given by the universe the minute you become a parent. From sun up to sun down you will feel guilty about something-you were too harsh when dealing with a tantrum, your children are missing out, you gave them oven chips…again, you haven’t ironed any clothes in about a month, you’ve let them watch too much TV, etc,etc. The list is endless and can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed at times. Now that you have 3 children to juggle, your guilt levels will increase by another notch and the simple pleasure of spending time with each one, doing something they enjoy every day just isn’t always possible, especially if your baby is cluster feeding again. Can you believe you ever thought having just 2 children was hard work?!!
However, instead of always beating yourself up for yet another day passing when you feel one of the older kids hasn’t been given your full attention, hasn’t got to play that board game with you, despite asking for weeks now, hasn’t been read to for about 3 nights running,etc make time to at least connect with each child each day. This can be done through very simple actions, such as holding them for that little bit extra when they wake up, looking into their eyes and really listening to what they are telling you, showing you are interested in them by asking meaningful questions about their day, genuinely praising them for something they have done/achieved/helped with, putting on their favourite song while you cook so you can all have a boogie, or setting up their favourite toys/games for when they come home from school, even if you don’t then get a chance to play with them. Basically little actions of kindness that make them feel loved, cared for, secure and special even when you haven’t spent a lot of time together. Think quality over quantity for now.
6. You will not always be the mum you want to be.
Continuing on from the previous point, when you’re not beating yourself up for not being present enough for your children, you will exhaust yourself with feelings of inadequacy instead! The house will never be how you want it. The Hoover will become an archaic relic lost at the back of your cupboard. The bathroom will no longer gleam after a deep clean. In fact it will not even get cleaned any time soon. There are much more important things to do in those five seconds your hands are free.
Alongside the filthy house making you feel embarrassed every time the doorbell rings and with a feeling of not being able to truly relax, you will also have moments when your parenting is completely under par too. Some days will just not be great.
There are no two ways about it, it is exhausting having 3 little ones. It is tiring being up time and time again each night and draining when you don’t even have 5 minutes alone of a day, so the last thing you need to be doing is aiming for perfection. Of course its not all going to be rosey all of the time. You have just added another human to the mix with another set of needs to be met. There will be times, days, weeks even where you will fall short, shout, maybe rage in frustration or simply don’t like it, but it doesn’t have to define who you are or your parenting style.
Be honest when things get to much, voice your feelings in the moment or ring a trusted friend/family member to help calm you down. Take a minute to look at the situation objectively and think what you can do to improve it. Will it just be too much to start cooking dinner tonight, whilst feeding and breaking up a fight? Then give the kids a cold tea or a simple dippy egg tonight. Do you need someone to take the older kids off your hands for an afternoon so that everyone gets a break? Would it help if your friend did the dishes next time they visit? They did offer after all. Above all, be kind to yourself. We are human and not perfect and that’s OK.
7. At least one person will judge or comment on your parenting style.
When we are ‘getting it right’ and finally having a day where things are looking more as you imagined you will probably end up coming into contact with someone who will pass judgement on your parenting rather than yourself this time! It might be that the Doctor doesn’t agree with you delaying the immunisations, or the Health Visitor questioning your co-sleeping habits. It might be a parent at the school gate commenting (negatively) on the way you babywear or that your older children are poorly behaved. Seriously it goes on-you are too harsh on your kids, you are a complete pushover, you have given your baby a dummy, you have stopped breastfeeding, etc,etc. Unfortunately you won’t always be encouraged as a parent and it is very easy for others to become offended by differences no matter what you do or why you do them. Society seems to have become really good at putting others down and targeting the most vulnerable.
But don’t let it get to you. (I need to keep reminding myself of this one) Be proud of who you are and who your children are. Accept that not everyone will see things the way you do or do things in the same way. Surround yourself with people you know will be supportive when you can and use it as amour when you come across negativity. Know that you are doing your best with the tools you have been given and listen to the truth. Just keep going and smile in the face of adversity. That really helps…you can always have a private cry later!
8. You will experience intense loneliness.
When you are tired and you are regularly feeding in the early days, you have multiple school runs to fit in and food to prepare for when the children get home it can feel like an impossible task to add socialising to the mix. It can be very tempting to head straight back home after dropping the older ones at school and immediately crack on with all the other things on your to-do list or head back to bed for a nap. And by all means this is fine…but maybe not every day as this feeds the isolation and can have you spiraling into a rather gloomy place.
Your head may be so wrapped up in remembering what to do, what time you need to be where, which appointment is on which day and even what your children are called that to begin with it can be hard to think what you can say to anyone else and not be the bore that only talks about their baby (like this entire blog).
But keep trying. If someone invites you over or out for a coffee and you could go say ‘yes’. You don’t have to stay for too long and if you are worried about having a conversation, be the listener that day. Let your friend do the talking and really listen so you can hear what they are saying. In no time you will be able to relate to something they say (after all you are friends) and be able to give something to the conversation too. If you are not up for going out, invite people round. They really will not care what state your house is in. They will just want to see you (and the baby). And if you still can’t bring yourself to see anyone, at least send a text to someone, call your mum or send an email. Something that will provide you with a bit of connection that day and relive a bit of the loneliness.
9. Your body will still be unrecognisable!
Despite being told breastfeeding will help you regain your body after birth I can quite honestly say this is not always the case. Yes, you will see people snap back into their skinny jeans within seconds of pushing a baby out, but underneath that tight material they may still have the baby pouches. If you are like me however, you won’t get back into any of your old clothes any time soon and the baby pouch that should only be on your stomach will in fact spread to every corner of your body so that each morning when you go to have a shower you are rudely stared at by the stranger in the full length mirror next to your bath! Your skin will break out like never before from all those crazy hormones still wandering around inside and your hair will look like you have oiled it, no matter how many times you wash it.
But don’t beat yourself up about it. You have just created a beautiful baby who is not bothered in the slightest about the way you look, smell or dress. In fact as long as you feed them and comfort them you are pretty much perfect in their eyes! There really is no rush to look like a model and you will always be your harshest critic so step away from the mirror (and spend as little time as possible naked)! Honestly though, it can be hard not recognizing yourself in the early days so why not treat yourself and take a nice long bubble bath (ensuring those bubbles cover your alien body). Pop to the charity shops and find some new clothes that fit. That way you don’t have to part with too much money, you are helping a worthy cause and once you do fit into your old clothes you can get rid of them without feeling too wasteful. Get a hair cut or restyle. If you aren’t able to go out to one, look up mobile hairdressers, ask a friend to help you or just grab a home dying kit. All these little things that can change how we feel about ourselves and help us be more accepting of who we are now. If you are able do one thing each day that cheers you up you will feel muvh more positive. It doesn’t need to cost money. Having a coffee with your feet up, watching your favourite film, reading a few pages of a book, looking through old photographs, etc can all help you feel a bit more…you! 🙂
10. You will resent your partner (more than once)
From the heady feeling of love and gratitude you have for your partner when your baby arrives, to the solidarity and security having them around brings, to the complete hate and resentment at watching your partner sleep soundly whilst you pace the floor at 3am with a baby screaming blue murder. Is it really possible to sleep through a whole night?! I can’t even remember the last time I did that! There is a whole host of feelings you will experience towards the one you love.
It’s amazing how our emotions can roller coaster from one to the other within seconds! The initial acceptance of them going out for the evening can quickly turn sour if you get to spend the time they are relaxing at the cinema rocking the baby (that you have been holding all day) as they won’t stop crying. It is easy to let their small irritants become major grievances and their ‘man flu’ make you want to move out!
But the way to help regulate your feelings (other than extra sleep) is to communicate. If you simply ask for help you are more likely to get some rather than stamping around the house slamming cupboards…Trust me, they really don’t get that hint!! You are parents together. You both have a responsibility to take care of the children and of each other. If you need a break tell them you do. If they need a break let them have one. You need to be honest and let it go both ways. (I am definitely still working on both of these). Take time to remember why you love them. Show them you love them (even if you can’t get near to them without a small child in the way). Tell them you love them…it will help you believe it next time you’re watching them sleep whilst you don’t and let them show you they love you. It can be so easy to push those closest to us away when we are struggling. Let your partner see your raw emotions, but remember to get them to help too so you can all survive them.
11. You will cry…a lot!
The combination of regular feeding, lack of sleep and surviving pushing an 8lb baby out of your yoohoo is never going to be the winning combuination for positivity and there will be days where you will just cry. Maybe without even knowing why. It can feel like you are on your own and no one understands what you are going through. It can feel like you haven’t slept properly in about a year, no matter how many naps you have had lately. That your partner just does not get it, that your friends are having a much better time with their new baby. That you miss your mum, are fed up of always feeling cross or the new advert out is just so sweet! (Apparently! I have yet to cry at anything on the tv!I save my tears for everything else!)
Whatever it is that is making you cry. It’s going to be ok. Sometimes a good cry is just what we need. If you are crying because of one of the other things listed in these points, check out the survival tips, grab yourself a bar of your favourite chocolate and ask a friend to share it with you…or maybe just invite a friend round and keep the chocolate all for yourself!! Most importantly be honest though! When we are vulnerable others will also share their vulnerabilities and you won’t feel so alone or they might have some great advice for you if that is what you are looking for. Let others know that you are not having the best time of late and allow yourself to actually say the words ‘I am upset/struggling/feeling low’. Once you get that part out of the way I assure you, you will feel a little brighter!
12. You will constantly spam Facebook/Instagram!
You have officially become that person that puts up every photo ever taken of your baby! But so what!? It is a great reminder of all the things your baby can do, all the good times you have spent together and a record of what you have been up to over the past 3 months when you are struggling to remember! Your distant family can tap into your lives and feel a part of the progress you have all made and remember what you all look like before the next visit! Looking through your photos can also be a great way to calm you in the hormonal storms, settle you in the bleakest moments and celebrate that you have survived! So go on, get snapping!
13. You will feel that 3 months has flown by once you get there!
Enough said! It really is such a short time that the bad days seem worth it now! Good luck. Stay strong and above all be kind to yourself. 🙂
Love and Peace Xx