Having a newborn in your house is difficult. No doubt about it. The sleep deprivation and the sore boobs are not even the half of it. Having a newborn in your house with other young children can be nothing short of traumatic.
However as I move closer to the end of my third pregnancy I can’t help but think that some of the most stressful parts of my previous newborn experiences were the result of certain pressures and expectations I placed upon myself.
You see, I like routine. I like rules and lines and black and white. This is the world in which I like to exist. A newborn doesn’t know black and white. Grey is mostly where they exist.
A newborn doesn’t always stay within the regular lines of waking, feeding and sleeping that I set. This alone can be enough to send any sane, control freak over the edge. But it’s not even the attempt to squash a newborn into a routine that is most stressful.
It is the unreal expectations of how a newborn experience is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to feel and when those expectations don’t meet reality, well that can be downright heartbreaking.
It can become the most isolating and loneliest of times.
So with the wisdom of hindsight I have made a decision to make this newborn experience ﬁlled with less. Less stress. Less pressure. Less self-doubt. Less worry. Less expectation. And much less guilt. How exactly?
Well this is what I will not do:
I will not feel guilty or embarrassed after the birth about the way I gave birth. I will not feel like I’ve failed my baby on the second day of life.
I will not become ﬁxated on routine. I will be calm in the world of grey. I will not be concerned if my baby doesn’t sleep, feed and wake according to the Baby Book.
I will not read the Baby Book. I will read this baby to learn about this baby.
I will not move interstate, go camping, renovate a house or attempt to toilet train my toddler within the ﬁrst weeks of my baby’s life. I will not take on any new challenges.
I will know this challenge is big enough.
I will not continually second guess myself. I will not worry about what other people may think about the decisions and choices I make for my baby. I will not feel like I am being judged by everyone, all of the time.
I will not contribute to the isolation of others by omitting information and telling half truths about my baby’s sleep, feeding, development or my ability to cope.
I will yell, ‘I am struggling’ when I am. I will scream, ‘this is f*cking hard’ when it becomes so.
I will be honest.
I will not feel lonely or alone during those middle of the night feeds. I will know there are thousands of other parents doing the same thing.
I will not hate my post pregnancy body. I will not hate my stomach or my body for taking time to return to its pre-pregnancy shape.
I will be prepared for the inevitable, ‘when are you due?’ question. Having been asked after both of my previous pregnancies. I will not be offended. I will not be embarrassed.
I will not compare my body to others. I will not compare my baby’s weight, growth and development to other babies. I will not constantly weigh my baby. I will not constantly weigh myself.
I will not feel guilty in regards to my other children – the lack of time with them, the amount of time in front of the television, the reheated dinners.
I will know any sacriﬁces borne by my older children during this time will be made up 100 fold by a lifetime of companionship and friendship with their newest sibling. I will know that I cannot be everything to everyone all of the time. I will accept help.
When the time comes to stop breastfeeding I will not feel guilty over the decision to stop. Not even for a moment. I will know that my emotional, mental and physical health is just as important as my baby’s.
I will not feel like I’ve failed. I will not have failed.
I will not look back.
I will not regret.
I will not worry.
I will hire a cleaner.
I will not think about work, my career or the promotions that are going to others. I will know that no amount of money can buy this experience and no promotion could provide this reward or personal development.
I will not wish this time away.
I will know that it is but a moment in time.
I will not be afraid of making mistakes. I will know that it will be okay.
And I will not be surprised if by the end of the ﬁrst week of my baby’s life, I have already learnt 100 more lessons about life, love, parenting and motherhood that only this tiny individual could have taught me.
Kate has been a police officer in the AFP for 12 years, having worked mostly in Canberra, Sydney and Darwin. She is currently on extended maternity leave from the AFP and is due to have her third child in July.
What would you NOT do, if you were having another baby?