I remember vividly, the first time I left my then baby daughter. Somewhere in her fifth week, I went to a movie with a pregnant friend and had three hours on my own. My husband and I had talked about it before she was born, that I’d want some time on my own and five weeks was as good a time as any to start. So I expressed a bottle, and with some anxiety stepped out. What I remember most is the feeling of triumph, and fear and relief that I had managed it.
I share this with you because in the first few months, after you’ve had the baby, it can seem as if you’ve become invisible, at a time when your self-perception is changing. You focus so entirely on this tiny person, that you forget that this is a time of milestones for you too, milestones worth celebrating.
The first time you go out without baby
It doesn’t have to be a long time. It could be to the shop, for a walk, but often it’s for the first beauty treatment after birth. It might be that wax, pedicure, hair cut, or threading. What ever it is savour it. Plan for it, so that you can enjoy it. Having a plan will remove some of the anxiety of leaving him. Leaving your baby in trusted hands as you have time for you is good for you, for baby and for your relationship. This is the only way to keep your batteries charged.
Eating those foods forbidden in pregnancy and drinking again
Ah! That taste of alcohol after almost a year! It could just as well be blue cheese, raw fish or even that runny soft-boiled egg. What ever it is, remember that now that your sense of taste and smell have changed and as your post-birth hormones settle, that you may not enjoy it. With alcohol remember that your tolerance will have dropped so you’ll feel ‘happy’ quite quickly. Nonetheless make a small event of it, try and plan your treat for when baby sleeps the longest, and feel the thrill of reclaiming a small part of life as it was before your bundle of joy arrived.
The first time you have sex
This one can be tricky; especially with a sore and healing vagina. A Caesarean wound, a new body shape and the inability to summon the energy to initiate or reciprocate sex. If after the medically recommended time of abstinence (generally six weeks) you feel aroused and feel like you want to have sex, go gently. It’ll be a new experience both for your partner and for you, so as ever it’s a good idea to approach sex with a bit of sense of humour. An exploration rather than a destination. Start slowly, and re-explore each other. And be honest. If it doesn’t feel good, then say so. It may happen spontaneously, but like many things now, you may have to set time aside to reignite that sex life. I can recommend Saturday afternoons during baby’s nap times!
The first time you begin to feel as if you are a good mum
This can be such a fleeting but overwhelming first. That first time when you automatically pick baby up to wind her without hesitation, or rock her tummy down on your knees because you know that she/he likes it. For me it was in the fourth month, carrying my daughter in a baby sling around the house so that I could do some chores and suddenly thinking, “Yes, I have found a solution!’ The feeling didn’t last forever but I suddenly had the tiniest, extra proof that I could do, and was doing a good job as mother, and that even if I didn’t know all the challenges ahead, I was going to be able to figure it out… eventually.
The first time your baby cries and you finally understand that cry
I have to confess that cry-language baffled me. I read it in the books, that there was a different cry for different needs. Let me tell you that in the first three months, all I felt was anxious when I heard her cry. What could it be? Hot, cold, tired, hungry, moody, angry, wet, a poopy nappy, a life threatening situation? What exactly was she trying to tell me? Eventually I understood that a sharp cry was probably a warning of something, that sometimes she would cry almost half heartedly and that was her way of saying ‘Is anyone there?’
But it took me a while to figure it out, and when I did of course I felt invincible - something akin to cracking the Morse code.
The first time you go out with the girls
This is a big one. You get together with the girls like old times, to right the world, usually with some food, a glass of wine or cocktails, and a back catalogue of gossip that only you understand. It can be tough to miss out on your regular doses of support in the early weeks especially if you are the first to have children. I have found that it’s best to gently set the agenda. What limitations will you have? Will you need to leave early? Will you only be able to do some or all of the things you usually did? Might you be able to join for dinner but not drinks and definitely not the night on the town?
I’ve also found that it’s best to have enough milk expressed or made up for the night out and the morning after. And if you can, then call in some extra support for when you are extra tired that morning after.
The first time you can wear you pre-maternity clothes
Let me say this upfront. That it may take a long while. Like a year or two… and maybe never. I know some women focus on tummy bands and post birth surgery. I did neither of those, and let me say that it took two years for me to feel like my body was mine again. It wasn’t just the issue of weight, or even the belly that looked like trifle for a long time after my daughter was born. It was the fact that my breasts grew, shrank, adjusted, and shrank again. This was tough and I was critical, but it wasn’t helpful. In the end, I just looked for what was clean, and didn’t need ironing, and what flattered me at that particular time. Looking the best I could with what I had, that was a tough lesson to learn, but it took the pressure off me.
These are just a few firsts that I remember, but motherhood is an individual journey.