Eight years ago this week, I became a mother. FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. I look back now at photos of my younger mum self (not just that hilarious post-birth picture) and, beneath the love and contentment, I can still feel how green I was. How unsure I was. I remember that first night at home with her like it was yesterday. ‘What on earth do we do with her? Can we put her down, do you think?‘ Eight years, three kids and no nappies later (yes, new mums, it really does happen one day), this is what I’d tell my first-time mum self (if she’d have listened).
‘It’s going to be ok.’
Yesterday morning, I dropped the boy off at nursery, the nursery I will have been at for eight years by the time he starts school. (Don’t think about the money, don’t think about the money. Haha.)
Sarah, who co-owns the nursery, opened the door and we started talking about The New Mum’s Notebook. What the next Notebook is going to be. And she reminded me how far I’ve come as a mother. ‘Do you remember,‘ she said, ‘when you first started here and you told us that Beaver was a Gina Ford baby and had to nap at this exact time in complete darkness and silence? You left and we thought, how on earth are we going to do this in a nursery environment?’
It made me laugh. Because I do remember that. Vividly. I remember my first-time mum self well. The one who was so scared of things going wrong. Who once shouted at her own mum for daring to look under the muslin whilst her baby was sleeping. The one who felt the need to control EVERYTHING (and foolishly thought she could).
I want to go back and give her a hug. Tell her that it will be ok. That the world won’t implode if things don’t go to plan. That there are NO PLANS when you have a small baby in tow.
There is love. And there is cake.
And that is all you need.
My first-time mum self did a good enough job, as good as she could. After all, she didn’t know any better.
But she missed out on some stuff along the way. She worried about spoiling her newborn. She could have cuddled her more. Indulged herself in that intense and beautiful feeling of a new baby on her chest. And forgotten about the ridiculous things she’d picked up elsewhere, like needing to stimulate a tiny person who already had all the stimulation she needed. The warmth and security of her mum.
The thing is, my first-time mum self was lucky. Really lucky. Because she got to do it all again. Twice. To have another two children, who mellowed her a little more each time they came.
The second baby reminded her that she could do this. Because she’d already done it once before.
But, it wasn’t until the third baby that the penny really dropped. Maybe it was the knowledge that this baby was her last and that made him more precious. Maybe it was the frailty of her mental health and her need to feel that newborn on her chest. To feel that closeness, that warmth, those two hearts beating as if they were one.
Because when she felt that, she felt less desperate and alone.
And the crazy thing is that, despite being unwell for so much of those early months, her third time was a charm, indeed.
The fear of going out and the safety she felt when she was tucked up in bed with her new baby and a boxset made her slow down for the first time in years. For the first time in her life as a mother.
In that respect, PND was both a curse and a blessing. Because, when she started to get well again, she had learned a lesson, albeit the hard way.
She had learned to slow down. To catch the moment. That it would be ok. All of it. That the world wouldn’t implode if things didn’t go to plan. Because things hadn’t gone to plan. They had veered so far from any plan a new mum would ever make.
‘It’s a good job then, that there are no plans when you have a small baby in tow,‘ she thought.
‘There is love. And there is cake.
And that is all I need.’
(It’s going to be ok.)