New Mum Helly cradling newborn Ev hours after his birth

Dear New Mum: You’re doing great

Dear New Mum,

You’re doing great. I know you’re tired, and your body aches from birthing the miracle that you carried. But you did it! I am in awe of you.

It’s OK if you look in the mirror and don’t quite recognise the reflection staring back at you. Your body will take time to heal. Give it that time. It might not look the same as before, but remember to be kind to yourself. The marks will fade. The after-pains will stop. One day you’ll feel like you again. Until then, see the woman that I see. A woman gentle enough to cradle her newborn, but strong enough to withstand the trauma of birth. I think you are incredible.

I know you’re tired, and you wonder if you’ll ever sleep through the night again. You will. Yes, the tiredness will stay for a while. Your baby is new to this too; they’ll settle into a routine in their own time. Until then, don’t be too hard on yourself; learn to lower your expectations. A day when you and your baby are dressed before lunchtime is a good day! Didn’t make it out of the house today? Don’t worry, there’s always tomorrow. It will get easier, I promise.

As for the house itself, don’t put pressure on yourself to keep it up together. The washing can wait. The cleaning can wait. What matters now is you and your baby. The cleaning will still be there tomorrow, and the day after that. But there will come a day when your baby doesn’t want to snuggle like they do today. That day will come too quickly, take it from a Mum who knows. So stroke their soft, fine, hair; breathe in their newborn milky smell; feel their warmth against you. Enjoy those precious moments; they don’t last forever.

Enjoying those moments doesn’t mean that you should feel guilty if you’re not always happy despite this wonderful blessing. Your hormones are wreaking havoc with your body. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next you’re overwhelmed with emotion. Surround yourself with people that you don’t have to make an effort with. People who will laugh with you over a cuppa (that they have made!), and hold you when you need to cry. You’re not alone. There is always someone to talk to if the fog doesn’t lift.

If you have offers of help, accept them. Whether it’s making you a hot cup of tea, or looking after your baby while you have a soak in the tub. Time for yourself isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. You matter too.

Once you make it out of the house, just focus on you and your baby. Don’t compare yourself to other Mums. There will always be someone that you think is more polished. Someone who looks like they’ve got it under control. Someone who makes you feel like you’re not quite good enough. They’ll be having their own struggles and they’ll be admiring you.

Don’t panic when your baby starts crying in the middle of the supermarket. Don’t worry that people are looking and judging. We’re not. We’re looking and remembering when that was us. We’re trying to make eye contact, so you know you’re not on your own; we’ve been there too.

You’re doing a wonderful job; just look at those little eyes that follow you, full of adoration. Everything else will fall into place. One day you’ll look back and forget the tiredness, the aches and the tears. Until then, have a snuggle, eat some cake and remember: you made a human! New Mum, I’m in awe of you.

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