I've been debating about whether or not to write this post and then once I had written it whether or not to hit publish.
Just like it can be really unhelpful when people share their birth horror stories, I wonder if sharing about how hard new motherhood can be might be discouraging.
And then there's the issue of social media and how perfect everything can appear in these pixels and pictures. But a picture is just that - a picture.
I've shared this picture before. This was taken about three weeks after my son was born. I've managed to wash my hair, put on a bit of make-up and get out of the house for a day out - winning!
What you don't see is that I was suffering serious trauma from my birth experience. I was sore, tired and an emotional wreck. People kept telling me that 'at least you have a healthy baby'. I believed them and felt like I should get on with it so that's what I did, pretending everything was ok.
I was not prepared for the fact that becoming a mum could be like this.
That it could be this awful. That I would find it this hard.
The more I think about my own experience of the early days and talk to other mums about theirs, the stronger I feel that we need to be honest and talk about it.
No one tells you it's hard. And if they do tell you, you don't necessarily hear them because you've got your eye on the prize - preparing for labour and birth.
That's exactly what I did.
I read all the books, did antenatal classes and felt as prepared as I could about the big event. I was going to rock labour and birth and I couldn't wait to meet my baby.
But aside from buying all the baby stuff I thought I needed, I did zero prep for life after birth.
What I failed to realise was this:
Labour lasts a relatively short time compared to the rest of your life as a mother.
Becoming a mother can be amazing and heart bursting, life-changing and the best thing you've ever done. But it can also be overwhelming and confusing and hard. Really, really hard. Sometimes the hardest thing you've ever done, especially in the early days and weeks.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, leaking milk and feeling like my body wasn't my own.
I remember desperately wanting my baby to stop crying, feeling like he never would and having no idea how I was going to make him stop.
I remember being so bone achingly tired sometimes that my eye lashes hurt.
I remember trying to go back to sleep after feeding my baby and being kept awake by my husbands breathing. I was so crazed and irrational from the lack of sleep that I woke him up to tell him to stop breathing so I could go back to sleep. Thankfully he ignored my ridiculous request!
Just like with labour and birth, it was hard to imagine what something is going to be like when having never been through it before, what I was going to find easy, what I was going to find hard and what was going to help.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted to do things differently this time. So I started preparing for life after birth the same way I had prepared for labour the first time around.
I read up on what to expect of my post-birth body and emotions and ways to nurture and look after myself. I learnt about new babies, what they might be feeling about life outside the womb and how to help them adjust to life earthside in a gentle way.
Just like it's important to have a birth plan,
it's just as important to have a postnatal plan.
I made a postnatal plan and had what I now call a 'mothermoon'. For the first few weeks after she was born I slowed right down and simplified life as much as possible. I focused on resting, nourishing myself and getting to know my new baby and I felt so much better for it.
Her early days weren't without their challenges. I had a postpartum haemorrhage and was anaemic as a result and struggled with blocked ducts and a painful milk let-down on top of all of the other 'glamorous' things that happen to your body and emotions after birth.
Just like having a birth plan doesn't guarantee that labour will be breeze, having a postnatal plan didn't guarantee that those early days and weeks would be a breeze but it did mean that when I was finding things hard, it helped me cope.
I now run workshops to help women plan their mothermoon because I am so passionate about helping other women to not struggle the same way I did. I want all new mums to know what to expect and how to look after themselves so they have the start to motherhood that they deserve.
The next workshop is Sunday 18 March at Space@61. Click here to learn more and book your spot.