'I thought I was prepared for my first baby. But there were 3 crucial things I realised I needed.'

I was so prepared before I had my first baby.

I’m a pretty organised person generally, but I took it up a notch before my first was born. I had read all the parenting books, taken calm birth classes, done comprehensive breastfeeding preparation, made enough evening meals to last us a month without cooking, and made the nursery perfect, plus I’d bought every possible thing you could need to manage the day-to-day activities of a newborn (sleeping, pooping, eating).

And yet, I was still completely and utterly unprepared when my little boy arrived. Even though I understood on an intellectual level I was having a baby and my husband, and I would be his parents, and therefore be required to bring him home and raise him for many a year, I was still utterly shocked when this actually happened. 

I quickly learned that preparing for a baby was very different to what I really needed when the baby arrived. I had all the things to look after my baby, but in that preparation, I had forgotten myself; I didn’t think about the fact that my needs mattered too. 

I was unable to recognise that even though my life now revolved around caring for him, I also had to care for myself. After a few weeks of parenting and getting to a state of near collapse, I slowly realised that prioritising my needs was important for everyone’s survival. 

So, I prioritised the three things I actually needed to keep me sane and relatively happy during that immensely intense time.

1. Time with friends.

My first absolute need was my weekly coffee catchups with my two best mum friends who had babies around the same time as me. 


We would take our little ones for the 'Nursery Rhyme' session at the local library, and afterwards, we’d spend a good hour or two drinking coffee and eating each other’s leftovers and talking about every little thing about our babies and ourselves. 

It kept me sane and made me feel less alone in the motherhood journey.

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2. A shower.

You can’t imagine when you have a new baby that getting time to shower will be an issue, but it is. Some days you have maybe half an hour without a human attached to you, and you must choose whether during that time you eat some food, clean your body, go to the toilet on your own, or maybe just lie on the floor and weep. 

I always chose to clean my body. After a couple of weeks, I realised that having a hot shower and moisturising my body each day was essential for me to get through. 

I’m exaggerating when I say I had to choose between showering or eating because I actually just told my partner every day that I needed 15 minutes to myself to shower—even if the baby screamed the entire time, that 15 minutes to shower and moisturise made me feel 1000 per cent better and became a non-negotiable.


3. Daily walks.

My final need was daily walks with my baby in the pram or the carrier. I had an emergency caesarean with my first baby, so my body was tender in the first couple of weeks, and being unable to walk and exercise was hugely upsetting for me. When my body was up to it, I quickly learned that getting out of the house even for a very short walk was essential for both my mind and my body to feel good.

My three needs were pretty simple, so I asked the Mamamia community for their reflections on what kept them going in those early days, weeks and months, and everyone had a different perspective on what they really needed.

Here's what 10 mums had to say:

1. "I developed a ritual of having a Magnum each evening. I would get the babies down and then even if I just watched the TV for 20 minutes I would savour each bite of that ice cream, it was a moment to myself."

 2. "Walking every day and listening to podcasts – it got me out of the house, moving my body, and my bubba would sleep!"

 3. "Calling my mum each night. My partner would put our daughter to bed, and Mum would listen to me talk through the minutiae of the day. I felt so understood after talking to her each night, and that I was doing a good job."

 4. "I had to get out of the house every day. I became a regular at the local café and would treat myself to one half-strength coffee each day."

 5. "I started doing yoga each day during my son’s naptime, then if he was still asleep, I’d read my book and have a cup of coffee."


 6."I had coffee with my neighbours who were also new Mums every day. Share, troubleshoot, vent. Every. Single. Day.

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 7. "Regular psychologist appointments. I went every 2 weeks for about the first 6 months. It kept me happy and healthy, and I don’t think I could’ve survived without this support."

 8. "I threw away the clock and found peace in the daily rhythm. I would do whatever I felt like and bring baby along on this journey. It helped me go with the flow and surrender to new motherhood."

 9. "Going for a coffee every day. It became my routine to get up as if I was going to work and walk with the pram to the local café, sit for 30 minutes with my ½ strength cappuccino, and then slowly head home. Bliss!"

 10. "Getting help with meals. A few friends gave us some meals when we had the baby, and they were a real help in those first few weeks. So, then I decided to join a food subscription service to get my meals delivered. This saved me, it gave me time, it gave me good food, and it made me so much happier."

Cate Gilpin is a Mum of two, based in Meanjin. By day she works for a not-for-profit, and by night she does freelance writing and watches a lot of British murder mysteries.

Feature Image: Supplied/Canva.