If I could write a letter that would be read by myself a year ago, I think this is the advice I’d give.
1) You’re going to face some really tough times. You thought pregnancy was difficult? Think again. That was nothing compared to what you’re going to experience now. During the pregnancy, your body did everything your baby needed. Now, it’s all up to you and D, and you’re going to need to work at it.
2) It’s alright to put the baby in the Moses basket. Do yourself a favour. Don’t spend the next week holding the baby all night, alternating as to who sleeps. You are allowed to sleep at the same time as your baby – that’s the whole point of people saying ‘Sleep when she sleeps’! She will be fine – you don’t need to spend twenty-four hours a day holding her, as lovely as it is.
3) The night feeds don’t last forever! I’m not going to tell you to cherish them; I’m not looking back on this time with rose-tinted glasses. Just keep that in mind when you’re awake for the third time in a night, desperately putting together a bottle. On that note –
4) The way you feed her really doesn’t matter. Please, stop beating yourself up right now. Save yourself weeks and months of guilt and sadness over how you ended up feeding. Breastfeeding SB wasn’t meant to happen; it was healthier for her and for you to formula feed. It’s not what you planned, but plans always change. A year from now, she will be happy, healthy, bright and beautiful, and no-one will be able to tell how she was fed from looking at her.
5) Comparing yourself to other mums will never end well. What’s the point of it? It doesn’t change what sort of a mum you are. Everyone parents differently, and no method is better or worse than any other. If you’re doing what’s right for you (and you are, trust me), keep doing it. You don’t need to compare yourself, you’re doing great.
6) Every challenge is a learning experience. When she gets poorly, when she refuses her food, when she won’t poo or she’s getting fussy, don’t freak out. She will be fine, you and D will cope, and you’ll be stronger and wiser for it. Every experience, even the bad ones, are opportunities to learn and grow. Make the best of them.
7) Cherish her being unable to move everywhere! Seriously. Make the most of these days, where she’s so small, and just lies in your arms. Pretty soon, you’ll be chasing after her while she crawls, and constantly pulling her out of sticky situations. Enjoy the cuddles!
8) Don’t feel guilty about putting her into nursery. It’s difficult, and people may judge you, but she’ll love it there. She’ll be so bright and sociable as a result of it, and the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you’re where I am now, on the brink of finishing your degree, will be indescribable. It is SO worth it.
9) Don’t despair! It’s easy to think, when she’s so immobile and small, ‘What am I doing here?’. You’ve been expecting a baby, a tiny human, a new person in your family – and instead you’ve got a little thing that cries and eats and poops and doesn’t do a whole lot else. In a year’s time, she’ll be your best buddy, your little shadow, the centre of your universe. She’ll make you laugh so many times every day with the little babbles she comes out with, the faces she pulls, the mischief she makes. She’ll melt your heart when she kisses your cheek, and strokes your face, and looks at you when D asks ‘Where’s Mama?’. She’ll be your tiny little human, and you and D will be her entire world.
10) You are a brilliant mum. You are the best mum for your baby. Oh, how I wish someone had just sat me down in the first few weeks/months of parenting, and said this to me. People commented briefly that I was a natural, or I was doing great, but in my head, that was just what you’re supposed to say to a new mum. I wish someone had told me that it doesn’t matter how young I am, it doesn’t matter that I’m a student, it doesn’t matter that I’m lost – I am the only mum my daughter needs, and the best one for her, and I am doing really well. It may take a long time, but you’ll realise that, and you’ll get to the point where SB reaches out to you, and you realise that to her, you and D are everything she needs. Maybe other people are parenting differently, maybe their babies are walking at 9 months and reciting the alphabet at 13 months, and maybe you think they’re parenting ‘better’ – but they could never be SB’s parents in the way that you two are.