August 2010: I’m about to embark on maternity leave. I’m excited, scared, sad, happy. I cry in the office loos on my last day. I have no idea what’s ahead.
August 2011: I’m about to go back to work. I’m excited, sad, happy. I’ll probably cry in the loos on my first day.
But what new mum tips would I give my August 2010 self, if I could go back in time? Here’s what I would say to 2010-Alison:
- The birth. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but WOW. The most useful thing I can tell you about it is that a few weeks after the birth, you won’t even remember why it was so, er, painful. You’ll use the word ‘traumatic’ when describing it to friends, but really, doesn’t true trauma stay with you for a long time? The memory of your labour won’t. Phew.
- Kind people will say ‘It gets easier’ to you a lot. Listen to them – it does. After a few months, you’ll get to know your baby, what she wants and get into a natural routine.
- The next year will go by so quickly (but it will also feel like five years – isn’t time funny like that?) Before you know it, you’re going to be the mum of a fun, smiley 11 month old who you love spending time with.
- You’re about to go on a huge (huge!) learning curve. Your brain will hurt like it never has before, as it soaks up advice, tips and knowledge from books, experienced people and the internet. After a while though, it’ll all just come quite naturally, and bizarrely, you’ll start to forget lots of the stuff you learned at the start, because you just won’t need to know it anymore.
- As mentioned in Point 4, you’ll be offered a lot of advice. Try not to panic about what’s the right thing to do. Let all the advice wash over you and just select the tips that make most sense to you.
- Chocolate and cake will be your best friend. Don’t fight it. Don’t look at your waistline. Just succumb to the chocolatey desires and wait for the endorphins to kick in.
- Face the fear. Do things that seem scary – whether it’s taking your newborn out in the car for the first time or getting on a train to London for the first time. The sooner and more often you do the scary stuff, the sooner they’ll feel normal.
- When your newborn is screaming in public, those looks you’re getting from the people around you? They’re sympathetic looks, not judging glares. Your tired, hormonal mind will struggle to realise that.
- Oh yes, the hormones. As if you haven’t got enough to deal with, your body will be pumping around a whole host of lovely chemicals that will make you feel rrrubbish. You’ll cry on a regular basis, but that’s OK. It won’t last long and you’ll soon feel your usual positive self again.
- Don’t forget about Daddy. With all the focus on you and the baby, it’s so easy for the world to forget about him. Tell him how fab he is on a regular basis.