The transition from full time career woman to full time carer – from manager to mummy – has not been easy. I’m not naïve enough to expect it to be, but having never done anything like this before I just had no idea of the magnitude of the change. I’ve always been so focused on my career and what I was going to achieve at work each day, so the reality of being a stay at home mum was a rude shock.
But I’m not just talking about all the baby-related tasks that you have to get used to. Putting the sleepless nights, endless nappy changing and rocking to sleep aside (don’t get me started on ‘sleep associations’, that’s one for another post!), one of the hardest things to get my head around has been a feeling of losing my identity.
Used to back to back meetings and working long hours in a high level corporate role, lying around like a whale waiting for baby to arrive was the first shock. After his birth, in the first few weeks I felt like nothing more than a milk machine. Yes, we were bonding with each other and it was overwhelmingly magical, but it was also bloody hard.
Life has changed markedly. My days used to be filled with meetings. Now they are filled with nappies. In the first 6 weeks after giving birth I’d only infrequently look in the mirror. Why? Because most of the time I saw an exhausted, emotional, hairy, saggy, pimply, teary, milky, sweaty, bad hair mess. I’d never been more in need of a long shower (one that isn’t cut short by a baby needing my attention), cut and colour, wax, good meal, stiff drink, ‘grown up cuddle’ and/or a mani pedi (not necessariy in that order).
No one tells you how hard the first few weeks will be. But they also don’t tell you how amazing they are. But I don’t blame them – I find myself doing the same thing now for my soon to be first time mummy friends, basically sugar coating both the birth and the first few weeks. Because let’s face it, when you’re heavily pregnant and dealing with mood swings, putting up with endless waiting for your bundle of joy to arrive amid a lot of uncomfort and lack of mobility the last thing you think want to hear about is how that's actually the easy part!
I didn’t think the baby blues would hit me. Huge mistake. In the first two weeks after Harry's birth I’d find myself randomly breaking into sobs, either through happiness (‘can you believe we created this??’) or pure exhaustion (‘you did this to me you pr*ck!!’) after being up all night. There were many times my bub would be feeding and I’d be bawling, the tears dropping onto his sweet chubby cheeks. Not exactly the glowing new mum!
I also thought breastfeeding would come more easily than it did. After all, women have been doing it for eternity, so it must come naturally right? Another mistake. I found it damn painful for a good few weeks, even months. At one point I had to ‘retire a boob’ as the midwife at the hospital liked to put it, because it was so chewed up from bub latching on incorrectly. Not. Comfortable. At. All.
I used to wonder what stay at home mums did with their time. Sure, there’s the feeding, changing, washing, cooking etc but surely they still have a few hours in the day to themselves? Wrong again. Maybe it’s because I like having the house in order (it keeps me sane) and also because we’re following a routine (a somewhat controversial subject that I will talk more about in future posts) but I literally only have about one or two hours during the day when bub goes down for his lunchtime nap in which to run around the house tidying, washing, cleaning and prepping food. And that’s with a super helpful other half who is really good about sharing the load, even the night feeds (now that we have bub taking one bottle a day)!
BUT, as I'm sure every mother can relate to, the hundreds of moments of crisis all pale into insignificance when I look at my little guy and he gives me a coo or a smile. He’s a little legend and I could stare at him all day long. Being responsible for a little life is overwhelming yet fulfilling. When he goes to sleep, I miss him, even though it might have taken hours of rocking to get him to that state (as was the case last week when he had his vaccinations).
The other thing I was wrong about - I probably underestimated the amount of love I’d feel. Sure, we were very attached to him when he was squirming around in my womb and we spent a lot of time dreaming about his future. But nothing can compare to when you hold that little person who is utterly and completely yours, forever, in your arms for the first time.
Ladies, if you’ve just given birth or are in the first 6 weeks take heart in the fact that it DOES get better. By the time Harry was nearly 8 weeks of age we were sleeping around 7-8 hours a night (broken, but STILL!) and had bub in a great routine that means he knows what he’s going to get and when (as do I!).
But back to my identity and feeling lost. Yes, I miss my pretty power suits, I miss being around other like minded PR people and accomplishing projects. But I’ve come to realise that I’m creating a new identity, one where I’m doing literally the most important job in the world – being a mum. There is honestly nothing better, and it just overwhelms me. I didn’t have any idea until I experienced it how good it really is. As my other half put it, it’s the best of times and the worst of times, and it’s all worth it. My mummy identity is still developing, as are my mummy friendships which are also in their infancy. I also now have the flexibility and opportunity to start something new career-wise.
It’s still not easy by any means, but the good definitely outweighs the bad by a long long shot. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’d love to hear from other new mums about how they found the transition!