Don’t worry, you’ll get back to normal soon.” Said a well-meaning relative a few days after having my first baby. Only my “normal” pre-pregnancy meant working past 8pm most evenings in my fast paced PR job, and if I managed to get out any earlier, bashing back a couple of bottles of Sauvignon with friends and doing pretty much whatever else I fancied.
The reality was that my life was going to be nothing like my old “normal” for quite some time, and that is, in fact, completely normal. After all, I had just squeezed a human being out of my body and my husband and I were now solely responsible for keeping that tiny being alive. In my world, there was nothing normal about that, but something quite extraordinary.
Yet it didn’t stop me striving for my old version of “normal.” It didn’t stop me walking miles to a local café with my family literally the day after I gave birth and had an episiotomy, because everyone else wanted to get out and about. Leaving me with weeks worth of antibiotics for an infection downstairs, and developing a particularly stubborn case of nipple thrush to match.
It didn’t stop me piling the pressure on myself as I desperately tried to get my baby to take a bottle, even though I had thankfully established breastfeeding, because I felt like if I didn’t go out with friends for a boozy night out I would be forgotten.
It didn’t stop me lining up a PT exactly six weeks to the day after I had my second 9lbs 7 ounce baby because I wanted to get my “body back,” leaving me with weeks of back pain and a hefty physiotherapy bill to boot.
As with most expectant parents pre kids I had perhaps naively imagined that the new babies would just slot into life, as I knew it. Not that my life would be turned upside down, and that I would spend the next six months and beyond trying to turn it right side up again. Never quite realising that the old life I was so desperately trying to cling onto, as I had previously known it, no longer existed. But little did I know this was no bad thing.
I should have allowed myself to fully float in the beautiful baby bubble, rather than worry about what others were thinking and allow the weight of that worry to hold me down. To concentrate on my new “normal” and what I needed, as a mother. Rather than solely focus on the baby and getting her into a routine so I could try and reclaim my life and time as my own again. After all, let’s be honest, it was a battle I was never going to win. In the last six years, it has been rare for me to visit the loo without a companion.
However, third time round, I’ve become much more accepting of life as a new mother and all that it brings – both the baby joy and the inevitable, but temporary, limitations. Self-care has been crucial in retaining some balance, particularly carving out time for myself in a noisy house of five, and taking note of what my mind and body need. Whether it’s escaping for a few hours to go on a solo-shopping trip, or inviting a friend round for that bottle(s) of Sauvignon and a takeaway, when going out for an evening feels impossible.
But despite all of this, retaining a sense of self and who you were pre-kids is also incredibly important. Remembering all the things you enjoyed before the stoppers were temporary put in place, and finding time to do them again as soon as the time is right, is vital in order to retain our sense of identity, which can so easily be lost under a pile of pampers and nipple cream.
I guess what I’ve learnt is key is to listen to myself more, and to try and switch off the outside noise and influences. To even out the priority list, with myself at the top alongside my partner and babies, and to find your “new normal” once you’re ready.