‘It’s like volunteering to squeeze your nipples into a tiny, adorable blender’

The weeks after having a baby are some of the strangest of your life. It’s a miracle in anyone’s book, but you’re still celebrating new life while mourning your old one, navigating a relationship that has acquired a very demanding new member, trying to master foreign skills you have literally no context for AND doing it all on no sleep.

I’m sure there are women who sail through new motherhood unscathed, but I wasn’t one of them, and to be honest, I don’t know any. Unsolicited advice is out in full force, and while being told to rub organic Peruvian mountain goat saliva on your bleeding nipples isn’t super helpful, people (usually) mean well.

That said, there are a few things I learned along the way that I hope help prepare you for the ride of your life.

Remember going to festivals like ‘Good Vibrations’? This isn’t like that

Oh, don’t get me wrong. You’ll be up all night. You’ll be buzzing with love, and probably wouldn’t mind a quick back rub and a Smirnoff Ice. But you might also be really emotional, out of whack, kind of sad and not know why. There’ll be days you’ll feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, so remember that you’ve just gone through a monumental change, give yourself a break and know that you won’t feel like this forever.

Survival tip #1: Being a new Mum is isolating, and you can feel really alone. Reach out to someone who’s done it (preferably recently) who’ll assure you that everything you’re facing is normal. Lean on your sisterhood, HARD.

You know what’s sexy? Neither.

You survived the maxi-pads, the baby blues and the first few days (weeks/months) of worrying you might accidentally kill your spawn. As your relationship finds it’s new norm, you’ll be running on hormones and may find yourself in a bit of a weird place with your partner. It makes sense, you’ve gone from having ‘all the time in the world’ with each other (date nights, weekends and the occasional roll in the hay) to your entire world revolving around your little one (late nights, never-ending weeks and the occasional roll in sh*t).

Survival tip #2: There’s a gear change in your relationship when you need each other the most, and are often too exhausted to deal. Be extra kind to each other – life as a new parent is tough on your partner too, so tell them what you need and remember they’re in the same boat.

Netflix and milk

It’s beautiful (mind blowing, even) that a woman’s body can feed her little one, but it’s also like volunteering to squeeze your nipples into a tiny, adorable blender every three hours for months on end.

Regardless of whether you breast or bottle, you’re lucky if you get an hour or two between rounds, day and night – especially in the early days. But you know what makes getting up around the clock (a little) easier? Back to back episodes of terrible TV. I’m breaking mother-of-the-year rules here, which advocate finding a quiet place to feed, being ‘present’ and so on, but I DID say this was a survival guide…

Survival tip #3: You might need toothpicks to hold your eyelids open, but when that tiny alarm clock sings out for their next feed, you’ll get the added bonus of indulging in some guilty pleasure viewing. The guiltier, the better.

I got 99 problems and the fact my baby won’t sleep is 98 of them

You’ll have a newfound appreciation for sleep that you can’t comprehend until that bundle of joy arrives. Babies are as unique as fingerprints so you need to find what works for you, which can be tough when the tiny terrorist is employing every sleep deprivation torture technique under the sun (or moon). Get yourself a copy of ‘Go The F*ck To Sleep’ (or better yet, let Jennifer Garner read it to you).

Survival tip #4: There needs to be a bit of a ‘riding it out’ philosophy in the early days, but it’s heartwarming to know that there’s also plenty of help in the form of residential sleep schools, mother craft nurses and sleep specialists – not to mention plenty of books that will give you far more practical advice than my suggestion above.

You won’t know what you’re doing, and that’s OK

If you’ve ever been to a country where you don’t speak the language, you’re halfway to understanding what the early days are like. Now, add that the (tiny) people there don’t speak your language either, and you have to teach them things neither of you have ever done before. You’ll wonder where the hell the manual is and why no one shared it with you, but regardless of whether you read ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’ – I promise you’ll work it out.

Survival tip #5: Ask all of the questions, as many times as you need to, and maybe write down the answers or get someone to do it for you – memory won’t be your strong suit for a while.

Ever thought you’d do well on Survivor? Here’s your chance

Once you’ve given birth (for which you deserve a medal, regardless of how it happens), you enter one of the most physically and emotionally grueling periods of your life. It’s kind of like a constant episode of Survivor with increasingly difficult challenges, seemingly different teams, poor hygiene and poorer nutrition.

Think of yourself as an athlete. What do you need to survive today? Lots of water, healthy food, maybe some support for an hour so you can have a shower. Remember those? You still need them. While the level of hygiene you’re used to may become a luxury, taking care of yourself will help you get through taking round-the-clock care of someone else.

Survival tip #6: Ask for help, and be specific. I read this piece of advice a few times pre-baby and thought ‘No sh*t, Sherlock’ – but when it comes to the crunch, it’s hard to do. People genuinely want to help, so make good friends with phrases like ‘Yes please’ and ‘Would you mind’, and use them.

Enjoy it

Jokes aside, early motherhood has been some of the best times of my life so far. Remember that you magically mashed DNA together and grew a tiny person INSIDE YOUR BODY (which still blows my sleep-deprived mind), and that once this time is gone, it’s gone, so try to enjoy every step of the way – even the tough bits.

Survival tip #7: If you’re struggling, you’re not alone and there is support available. The following are good places to start:

While we’re on the topic, Snezana Markoski opens up about how she keeps her energy levels up after the birth of her daughter, Willow. Plus, the workouts you can do with a baby.

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Fitness | body+soul