It’s some years ago now, and my offspring are almost grown and flown. I’ve weathered the toddler tantrums and I’ve tearfully returned to an empty house when school days started. I’ve had to hold my breath on more than one occasion whilst enjoying a heated debate with a teen who, lucky for me, was born knowing everything!
What I do recall from all those years ago however, is the research, the reading, the planning and the prepping I did for when my first little one finally made an appearance. There was not an article written or TV programme commissioned that I hadn’t taken advice from when it came to childbirth and raising a baby. Just like my teens now, I knew it all. Confidently, and ever so slightly smugly, I KNEW I was ready. Bring it on, I’m all set, ready to put my research to the test. What I didn’t know wasn’t worth knowing, I was going to nail this!
Fast forward to me holding a wriggling, screaming, non-compliant being, who clearly hadn’t read the manual. It didn’t take me long to realise that what I actually knew about looking after a baby, in theory, was very different from the reality I was now experiencing.
I like to think of myself as a person of relative intelligence, but this had knocked me for six. I did, however, take comfort in the fact that a very well read Doctor friend of mine was equally floored a couple of years later when she had her first born. This helped confirm what I had been thinking for some time. Raising a child is harder than it looks, and now I had proof. If the most intelligent person I knew wasn’t finding it a walk in the park, then how was I supposed to manage?
And it didn’t stop there, in fact I’m still learning. Navigating my way through whilst my children are becoming young adults is not for the faint-hearted. The tantrums are more articulate, the sleepless nights are for very different reasons and my mind is just as frazzled as ever. But, I’ve made it this far, so I must have done something right.
Looking back, the person I was before having children, and the one sitting here today, are very different. Body and mind have changed substantially. Some of the changes have been welcome, some not so much.
Here are some of the expected, and not so expected changes that came upon me. I’ll break it down into body and mind, but every experience is different. It’s important to remember that your experience is as valid as the next person’s, and the way you navigate this time in your life is yours to decide.
Has anyone seen my body?
Of course I expected changes. I understood the necessity of these changes and was ready to welcome them as part of my pregnancy and parenting journey. I gained weight, but I was growing a baby, so I was happy to hand over control. As expected my stomach grew rounder, my hips grew wider. I get it, there’s a baby growing, and it needs to get out, so my amazing body is preparing for this miracle.
But hold on a minute! My arms are fatter, my legs are fatter, even my face is fatter. And don’t expect friends and family to hold back. They will tell you! They will inspect and prod and poke you to confirm the results, and then they will tell you… over and over again. Be in no doubt, if you’ve grown an inch somewhere, someone will be delighted to let you know about it!
There are positives from an aesthetic perspective though. Your hair can get beautifully luscious during pregnancy. Your breasts will be fuller (not everyone’s idea of a positive, granted), and your face can radiate with a new found healthy glow. After you’ve given birth however, things can change. Sagging stomach, deflated breasts and a dull complexion are not the end of the world, but it doesn’t do a lot for your self confidence. So much so, that many women, following childbirth, turn to cosmetic treatments and surgery to regain the figure they once knew. The mummy makeover is on the rise. Tummy tucks, breast augmentation, botox and fillers can help you regain your pre-pregnancy body. One such company is Enhance Medical Group. With clinics throughout the UK and the very best surgeons, they can help you turn the clock back.
Where did I leave my mind?
After the euphoria of meeting your newborn has faded and the visitors cooing over your bundle of joy have ceased, you are left with the daily reality of being a ‘stay at home parent.’ Whether this is a temporary arrangement, or your new routine, the day to day tasks involved in raising a newborn can have an impact on your mental health.
Your life will probably have changed considerably, and you are getting used to changes in your role. Your finances, your partner’s role and your mental state can all be affected. You will make new friends, and old relationships may dwindle as your priorities change. Maybe in your working life you have been used to strict routines and being in charge of a team; holding a level of importance and responsibility, with people hanging on your every word. It takes a complete shift in mindset to get used to being governed by feed times, nappy changes and constant crying for no discernible reason. And all this fuelled by only a few hours of broken, snatched sleep. It’s not surprising that these things can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. It’s not a reflection of your ability to look after a baby. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Recognising when you need a bit of help, and asking for it, is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby.
Take your mental health as seriously as you take raising a child. Thankfully, these days, we no longer write off everything as the ‘baby blues.’ Speak to a Dr, speak to friends and family, get the help and support you deserve. Your baby will thank you for it later. I’m not sure how much later, I’m still waiting, but I have hope it will come one day. Probably when my children are trying, unsuccessfully, to rock their newborn to sleep at 3am! And of course, I’ll be there, ready to drop everything for them without hesitation. Because that is what parent’s do, isn’t it?