Now that I’m ten months into mamahood and getting a smidgen more sleep than during the newborn days, I’ve had time to reflect on my journey so far. While there are many things I wouldn’t change, from my decision to breastfeed to co-sleeping at night, there are some decisions I’d make differently if I could rewind the clock. Here are five of them…
I would… hire a doula.
If you are expecting your first baby and, specifically, if you are expats living miles away from family, it’s probably a good idea to get a doula in place to help with the birth. When I was pregnant, I didn’t really consider this a viable option – the concept of a doula is distinctly American to us Brits, who are used to having an NHS midwife on hand to help with the birth. When my husband and I were in the delivery room with no idea what to expect and overwhelmed with the options, I could’ve used an extra cheerleader on my side to help us navigate the process. Even if the end result, medically speaking, was the same, it would have been comforting to have an experienced birthing coach to call on for support and guide us through the emotional journey of bringing our little bundle into the world.
I wouldn’t… hold the baby while he sleeps (all the time).
My baby was super clingy until around six months old and I quickly fell into the trap of holding him while he slept. At first, I was doing this around the clock, as if I tried to put him down he’d wake up and cry. As a knackered new mum, it felt natural to hold him – if not at least to get some peace and quiet! It also meant, however, that I was totally sleep deprived and the baby got used to being cuddled 24/7.
I still believe that, if you have a baby who is very clingy, it’s nice to be able to tend to their needs, but you have to be careful not to neglect yourself in the process. I was skipping meals, letting the housework pile up and felt like the ground was moving beneath my feet half the time as I was so tired. In turn, this made me super grumpy and off the boil when it came to playtime.
Essentially the overall benefits of holding him were starting to be outweighed by the negatives and as I slowly learnt to let go and try putting him down to sleep, I felt like I could get a bit more rest and feel more refreshed for when his little eyes popped open again. Of course, it took him a while to get used to being put down, but being persistent did pay off – despite the wailing (from both of us). And while he still likes a sucky cuddle to this day, he quickly got used to going in his cot for naps.
I would… accept all the help I could get.
When relatives flew over to help us out with the baby when he was born, I was adamant that I wouldn’t cause them too much stress. So when MIL offered to change nappies I’d politely decline, thinking that it was too much work for her. When my dad said he’d hold the baby while I ate, I’d refuse and encourage him and my husband to eat first. All I can say now is… what was I thinking? If I could go back, I‘d be taking every last drop of help I was offered as it really does make a difference to your energy levels, mood and overall experience of early motherhood.
I wouldn’t… buy everything new.
Many new parents only want the best for baby and boy, we definitely stretched our budget getting X-Man the latest gear. Since becoming a mum and joining various community groups online however, I’ve been astonished at the absolute bargains you can pick up for a fraction of the ticket price. From buggies and car seats to toys and highchairs… us Dubai mums have some great pre-loved items up for grabs. What’s more, many are flawless or never used and if you keep a beady eye on the adverts and are quick off the mark, you can collect some fantastic stuff and still have enough cash left over for baby’s college fund.
I would… approach family life like running a business.
One of the things I’m most frustrated about is the amount of time it took for us to “get with the programme” and figure out how to channel our energies into running a happy, efficient household with a baby in tow. Of course, as the baby’s schedule changes we’re adapting as we go, but there are many things I’d recommend to couples in the same situation that we could’ve easily applied to ourselves if we’d got our act together more quickly.
The first is managing the division of labour, by which I mean housework. Until recently, it felt like our entire evenings and weekend have been spent doing household chores. Employing a cleaner feels like a luxury but, if you have the budget for it, then it makes sense to “outsource” this task so you can spend some quality time together as a family.
Make your evenings work for you. We tried swapping tasks around so no-one got bored, but as we were a bit disorganised, we often found ourselves sitting down to dinner at 10pm. In reality, the ‘power hour’ works for us. This involves giving a freshly bathed bub to hubster between 7pm and 8pm so I can clean up the house, put dinner on, make tomorrow’s sandwiches, sterilise the sippy cup and make the baby’s meals. I only allow myself an hour to achieve this but, more often than not, it works! I can take the baby up to bed knowing that the hubster will soon be serving dinner and we have the rest of the evening to unwind.