I remember the day we brought our first baby home from the hospital, and my boyfriend looked at me as we were leaving and asked: “Can we just take her and go..?”
Such was the feeling that we were totally and utterly clueless as to what to do next.
I mean; here we were, having read ourselves silly on what to expect for pretty much every aspect of pregnancy and birth, but had never really given much thought to what comes next. Like when they let you take a brand new baby home with you and realise you are now in charge of keeping this tiny human alive. For the next 18 years.
It is overwhelming and also a little terrifying.
Amateur hour after amateur hour, we slowly started feeling like we might just be able to do this. Breastfeeding was going well-ish, we learned how to attach nappies so they actually stuck on and eventually stopped feeling like we had to wake her from her sleep every few minutes just to make sure she was still alive.
However, there were also times when I did feel a little lost. And this is despite having my mum there for a lot of the time, my pediatric nurse best friend on the other end of the phone and a loving partner by my side. I mean; there were so many questions, so many things I didn’t know if I was doing right. Nights when I struggled to settle her that felt like an eternity, cries that I didn’t understand, boobs that ached, babygros that I was afraid to pull over her head in case her neck broke…
I was, like every new mum, tired and bewildered, exhausted, and, at times, rather lonely.
And much as I count myself lucky for the amazing healthcare system in Norway, where I gave birth, and my husband and family, and look back at these post-partum days with mostly warm and lovely feelings, I still remember those nights when it also felt like I was slowly going crazy – I think we all have those.
Which is why, when I came across a Facebook post by Canadian mum Anneliese Lawton, it made me remember the rollercoaster of emotions that those first few weeks of motherhood really is.
In the post, Lawton describes herself as a “first-time mom without a clue.” Sure, she was stitched up, given painkillers, and even stool softeners, but none of that addressed the emotional upheaval that new mothers often endure — and the anticipation that they would have any idea what to do when they return home with their newborns.
Lawton writes that she felt “thrown into motherhood with the expectation my instincts would kick in.” It was as though she was just supposed to intuitively handle all the things herself, because she was a mom now.
It was the last bit of Lawton’s post that really hit me. Here are her powerful words:
“Our world forgets about mothers.
We slip through the cracks.
We become background noise.
And in that we learn our role … our place in our family unit … to always come last.
Folks, we can’t put mothers last.
Our babies need us.
To be healthy.
To know that we are worthy.”
And it’s so true. Today, mothers are expected to just sort of manage, often on their own, many far away from relatives and family.
What we really need, I think, is to go back to a time when all new mums had the whole village come over to tend to her when she had just given birth — making her meals, walking and bouncing her fussy baby while she slept, and showing her the ins and outs of breastfeeding, diaper changing, and soothing.
So if you know someone who has just brought their baby home from the hospital – show her some extra care. Send a text and ask if she needs anything. Bring food and coffee. Offer to help out with older kids or pets. Bring her some new pj’s and cozy silppers. Whatever it takes – just make sure she feels cared for. New mums deserve more of that.