*This post was first published on my old site on November 20, 2016*
Our boys turned 5 today. The fast passage of time is surreal sometimes. How years seem to pass in the blink of an eye. I’m not sure if this feeling is stronger now I’m a parent or just as Im getting older. Whenever it gets close to the boy’s birthday I get that little bit more emotional thinking back to when they were born six weeks early and how small and vulnerable they were. So yesterday I started been thinking about the main things that I’ve learnt as a parent and in keeping with the 5 theme, here they are:
1. You will love more intensely than you ever thought possible
For me it didn’t come straight away. The boys had to go to the neonatal unit for a few days. I never got that rush of love as soon as they were born. We had to get to know each other slowly. Days were dark for the first three months and my mood was low, but after that 12 week mark a cloud seemed to lift and I started to go out to groups and meet other mums. I got slowly more confident and actually started to enjoy being a mum. Now even when they drive me absolutely crazy I just couldn’t love them more. They amaze me every day. Sometimes I still can’t quite believe they’re mine, I’m so proud to be their mum.
2. Trust your instincts
Being a first time parent is about finding your way, taking bits of information and advice and choosing/learning your own style of parenting, what works for your family. I had a few moments, especially in the first year where I was really unsure about what I was doing and needed reassurance. The first person I always go to is my Mum. I don’t always listen and follow her advice but I like to know her thoughts on things. The next person is Matteo who has always praised me for being a good mum but I still like to have his input even if I’m the one who will make the final decision on things! There was one instance after the boys had been weaned for a while, maybe just after their first birthday when I called the health visitor to ask for her opinion on something. She told me that I shouldn’t do what I was thinking of doing and was very negative about my decision. As soon as I got off the phone I thought “Why did I even ask you?” I was going to do it anyway because it made sense for our family and I should have trusted my instincts from the beginning. From then on I have become more confident in my parenting choices.
3. Mum guilt is unavoidable
As The Unmumsy Mum said in her book, feeling guilty goes hand in hand with being a mum. I have felt guilty about so many things over the last five years. The biggest thing was around my feeding experience. I felt like I didn’t try hard enough to breastfeed exclusively. Having premature babies with breathing issues from day one and up to about 18 months ago where every winter we have struggled with viral wheeze and inhalers, I told myself would they have had less problems if they hadn’t had all that formula. I’ve felt guilt over spending too much time on my phone, letting them spend too much time watching TV, studying and not spending enough quality time with them and the list goes on. In the end you just have to try your best and if you can accept you’ve done that, then it’s ok. Feeling guilt shows we love our children.
4. Don’t compare your children to anybody else’s
I spent so much time over the past five years worrying to myself about the boys development and comparing them with my friend’s children. We’re bringing up our boys bilingual so they had a slight speech delay. Couple that with them being 6 weeks premature and twins – also factors for developmental delays. When you go to baby or toddler groups and spend time with others mums the main topic of conversation is what your little one has been up to in the past few days. All mums want to share their baby’s developmental milestones. It’s only natural to be proud when your little one does something for the first time. I would wonder, “Why haven’t Ethan and Oliver done that yet?” “Is it normal?” “When should they be doing that?” We had to wait 12 weeks for our first proper smiles and that first year pretty much every milestone was 6 weeks later than when it “should” have been. After a while I stopped worrying. I knew they were healthy and happy and that they would develop in their own time. Every baby is an individual and develops at his or her own pace.
5. Accept help especially in the early weeks, we can’t all be Supermum
I was so lucky after I gave birth to the boys. I didn’t actually spend a whole day on my own with them until they were three months old. My Mum helped, sometimes staying over to help in the night, friends came round and brought food and my neighbour camera came over too. I’m so grateful for all their support. Recovering after a c-section, coming to terms with having premature babies and overwhelming new parent emotions was tough. I feel like there’s so much pressure to be happy and back to “normal” after you have a baby and it just wasn’t a like that for me. I thought I would be so happy and everything would be all perfect but in reality it was no sleep, relentless feeding, changing and expressing. I think the main thing about this is that it’s important to look after yourself as a parent because we get so wrapped up in looking after the little humans that depend on us for their survival that we forget that we need some looking after too.