I’ve been asked to write a blog post as a guest and while I was thinking of what would be appropriate and engaging for the fellow mamas, this topic popped into mind. While no matter how prepared you are, everything about a newborn seems surprising when it happens (except maybe the level of sleep deprivation we experience – that is next level). However, there are some things that I learned about myself that were surprising.
1) My sudden boob obsession and shift from ‘breast is best’ to ‘fed is best’
There is no doubt; the female body is amazing! But then comes boobs. Despite being part of the itty bitty titty committee, I have never questioned having small breasts. And when they went from a B-cup to a D cup; I hated it!!! I looked at myself in the mirror in disbelief, I held them (softly as they felt like they were on fire), my husband enjoyed the sight but knew there was no point to the size as the pain of engorged breasts and mastitis didn’t give ‘fun’ a look in.
As a first time mother, my experience was hideous. The one thing we are meant to be able to do as mothers is nourish our children naturally. However, the first four days of my son’s life were spent screaming for nourishment. Needless to say, I was a wreck riddled in guilt and while some midwives were supportive and continued to encourage breastfeeding (despite NOTHING coming out), only ONE midwife offered formula and that was on day 4. My son became so calm, so happy and slept!!!
The advice – go home and use a breast pump every couple of hours to try and get some milk to flow. Well, two weeks later; there was milk AND mastitis. I quickly learned that yes ‘breast is best’ but ‘fed’ is second best.
Then came my twin daughters, the whole view of breastfeeding changes. The stigma is dropped, the irony of my experience is something so many could learn from. My daughters were born via natural birth at 36 weeks; 3 big pushes and Twin 1 was out followed within minutes by my third baby. They were swiftly taken to Special Care Nursery (SCN) where they were closely monitored. The irony, they were formula-fed even without my permission. Due to many factors, it was hours until I saw my girls again. They were with my husband and nurses at the time. At the time, fed was best. There was no waiting for me to see if I could feed, the girls were fed to ensure they had a sucking reflex otherwise they would have to be nasal-fed and spend longer in SCN. My milk came in within days but the girls still had to be fed with formula to ensure they were sucking consistently.
Through different circumstances and for different reasons, I chose to bottle-feed 3 out of 3 children. I feel that my decision to formula-feed always calls for justification, even thought it doesn’t need any. As I said, breast is best but fed is second best.
2) Mind on my money. Money on my mind.
When merging two lives to one family, finances are always an interesting topic of discussion between couples. Let’s face it, most couples argue over money. I’ve always been pretty good with money and known the value of money. My partner on the other hand, polar opposite. We both want the ‘good’ life (I mean who doesn’t) but we had very different attitudes. This meant that my awareness increased when we welcomed our first-born. At the time, we were quite comfortable as my husband and I had both worked and were both on reasonable incomes.
However, having a little one, my attitude shifted. I knew we would always need a back-up of money more so than ever before. And lucky I had that attitude as my husband’s contract was not renewed so he was unemployed for 6 crucial months. As a Millennial, I stepped up as wives and mothers of today do and returned to work sooner than expected. We were back on our feet.
In hindsight and if I had my time over again as a first-time mum, I would have set a very tight budget for our family to cater to all realistic scenarios to have reduced the pressures I faced as a first-time mum. It’s only normal to need time to adjust to a new lifestyle and reduced income and it would be a lot easier having both parents on the same page.
3) My relationship with my own Mother (and let’s not forget the mother/monster in law).
I have always been incredibly grateful for everything my mother had provided my sister and I with growing up. Despite coming from parents that were separated, I had a wonderful step-father, an ongoing relationship with my father and a mother at the core to ensure there was no damage done. My mum worked hard, I never remember her taking a day off work unless it was to care for my sister and I. I literally cannot recall a day where she called into work unwell.
However, it was beyond that level of gratitude once I had a baby. I realised the true meaning of unconditional love as a mother. And I grew a greater level of respect for my mum and her high level of values and morals. We were raised with an emphasis on respect and manners. We definitely didn’t have it easy but we had a whole lot of love behind every decision she made in her parenting.
I remember getting into trouble at school (although I was a bit of a ‘goodie-goodie’ and it didn’t happen very often), she would defend the teachers immediately. At high-school I got suspended for being involved in an altercation. My sister and I were sent home with my mum in disbelief and wouldn’t speak to us or listen to our ‘reasoning’ for the whole first day we were home. It wasn’t until my year advisor at the time came knocking on my door and in a joking manner asked “is Rocky home?”. My mum saw the funny side but still didn’t understand why he wasn’t grilling me but rather congratulating me on stepping in when it was necessary as we had a huge playground and no teacher was in sight. It’s fair to say we were raised with a tough-love approach but my gosh, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
While I enforce manners and respect for my children, I know my mum will always support me in this and tell me if my parenting is slipping in this aspect. I can only hope my children admire my work ethic, values, morals and love I have for them as I do toward my mum.
And as for my mother in law, she is quite savvy on social media when she has to be so, I shall say no more. Click on the image below to see if you can resonate:
4) My attitude towards feminism
Yep, I am a FEMINIST LOUD AND PROUD! I knew I had been raised by a mother that enforced the fact we could take on the world in whatever way we wanted. However, since being a mum and a mum of a boy and girls I have realised the depth of my wishes for my three children to have the same opportunities offered to them. I’ve always been vocal about gender equality, but it’s now very obvious. I used to think that feminists represented females with a chip on their shoulder and never really realised my mum was a ‘feminist’ but rather an advocate for women being strong contenders in all aspects of life. On reflection, I realise there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to the F-word. Why shouldn’t females want equity? If females aren’t feminists, I question what they foresee the future to be and maybe that’s why there is still a gender-gap because more females aren’t feminists.
Feminism is about equal rights for all genders. That’s all it really is! And now, I’m so much more aware of inequalities and the problem with gender stereotyping.
5) My attitude to sex and the female body
Before becoming a mother, I saw the female body as a body, not just female. I appreciated the physical traits of a body and the way in which we could alter our mind, body and soul based on the way we treated our body. However, I didn’t quite appreciate the biology and the physiological ability of the female body.
We are incredible creatures, able to fall pregnant and produce healthy off-spring. Males will never (well for our generation and I’m sure a fair few generations to come) experience pregnancy. That alone, makes the female body incredible. I also think about the women who can’t experience this and the frustration, disappointment and sadness they must feel if they desire to hold a baby but their bodies don’t allow it. The fact that my husband and I were able to conceive naturally and I was able to experience a normal pregnancy and a multiple pregnancy then deliver three babies naturally is incredible. Those statistics of one female in the world are good and healthy.
So then comes the S-word. To think that some people fall pregnant and experience pregnancy after the first time they ever experience sex still blows my mind. So much happening all at once!!! But I do understand and appreciate that this is the beliefs of some cultures and sadly at times, the result of terrible life experiences for some women and even girls.
I have never heard so much about the pelvic ‘floor’ in my life than when I was pregnant. My goodness, was that a whole other world! It wasn’t just do your pelvic floor exercises, it was how to do your pelvic floor exercises. And then comes post-baby pelvic floor/flaw discussion. Well, that’s a whole other saga for some women. I became so paranoid about my ‘pelvic floor’ that any time I had a spare ‘moment’ those muscles were activated and getting quite the workout! I just hope my husband would agree that they worked (wink wink, nudge nudge).
Mamas, we are incredible beings. Our bodies are incredible. I hope you all realise this! If you have a story about the surprises of becoming a parent you would like to share, please email email@example.com