Being a first-time mum is all about learning lessons – within just a few hours of my baby being born, I had built up my knowledge of parenthood far more than reading all those books throughout my pregnancy. But one of the biggest lessons I had to learn early on, and one that I still have to remind myself of, is to stop wishing time away.
And let me tell you, despite comments of “don’t they grow so quickly” and “she’ll be five before you know it”, I found it very difficult to do.
Yearning for a routine
There’s no sugarcoating it, those first few weeks of motherhood are really hard. I didn’t know what I was doing, whether I should be feeding by the clock or on demand, whether I should be waking her up at night to feed or waiting for her to wake up naturally, to swaddle or not to swaddle, to rock or use the dummy.
There are so many things you have to decide from the get go that you feel will shape the parent you will become and the habits your children will form, I found it very overwhelming at times.
As *Moo always had to be walked, driven or bounced to sleep (and stay asleep!), it’s hardly surprising I yearned for the days when I could put her down in her cot for a nap and leave her chatting until she dozed off.
And while I had no routine of feeding, sleeping, showering or even leaving the house during those first few weeks, I envied those mums who had their toddlers in a professionally set schedule.
At the start, we lived in chaos, and despite everyone cooing over my beautiful baby daughter and delighting at how tiny she was, I really looked forward to the day her hands weren’t so small and her button nose not so teeny, but at least our lives were in order again.
Waiting for the elusive ’12 weeks’
I guess I started wishing time would speed up when other mothers began to tell me it’ll all get better at 12 weeks. It felt like there would be a magical turnaround at three months when looking after Moo – who wouldn’t settle at night, even after endless feeding, who had reflux so bad she screamed when you laid her down, and who cluster feed for hours before bedtime – would suddenly be a walk in the park.
When Moo was five weeks old, I remember clearly being told to hang in there, as I was halfway through. I never found what was meant to happen at ten weeks and I was too sleep-deprived to ask, but every day it felt like we were just counting down to a better, easier, calmer experience.
And every time someone told me to “not wish time away”, I was torn with the guilt that I wasn’t enjoying this time as much as I should’ve been and that I’d miss it when she was a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket. (FYI, I do).
A miracle turning point?
The sad thing is ten weeks came and went, then so did 12 and while, admittedly, things did get a bit easier, they weren’t exactly a doddle.
And they might have just got calmer because of my sheer determination to set up the routine I coveted so much and help Moo learn how to self settle so naps and evenings were a bit easier (for me).
It is definitely true that she couldn’t have learnt those things when she was a dot and she eventually developed a fantastic schedule and great habits that make my life easier now, but I think it’s only afterwards you realise how precious that time at the beginning really is.
Take each day as it comes
Babies have the rest of their lives to grow up, learn how to nap and get too big to sleep cradled in your arm, and they will soon be crawling away or answering back to you before you know it.
So, maybe I should’ve accepted the advice of other mums who came before me and enjoyed the special time when she was a newborn more, instead of feeling my eyes sting with tears of anger and guilt at their mere suggestion that I was silly to want to skip the difficult first few weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, motherhood became far more enjoyable when the long colic nights, reflux and endless screaming came to an end. But when I see my little girl, once someone you could rest in the crook of your arm and stare lovingly in her eyes, now growing faster than you can imagine and jumping on the bed with a vocabulary that gets bigger every day, I realise how fleeting that newborn time was and we’ll never have it back.
So, do I regret wishing that time away? You bet.
But, do I bite my tongue to stop telling other new mums to make the most of this precious time? I certainly try.
Instead, I’d tell them to take each day as it comes. Tomorrow will be a little bit easier, but today is just as special.
* Our affectionate nickname for our beautiful baby girl.