The fourth trimester
I have heard an increasing amount about the importance of the fourth trimester for a new mother and baby and I completely get it - all those hormones, a new life and a new being to contend with, along with everything else that life throws at you.
With Mother's Day around the corner, it feels fitting to share some musings from the most incredible first few months in the most incredible new role...
It is possible to spend hours doing nothing - and it is the best.
I'm very much going with the feeling that time is whizzing past right now - this little lady will be grown up and out of my arms in no time, so I am wholeheartedly making the most of every minute I can to gaze at her, smell that dreamy scent on her head, watch those new smiles emerging and on a rare occasion, nap when she naps. The world goes on around us and I am slowly integrating back into it, one cup of tea at a time.
Leaving her has been close to impossible for me...
It seems to differ for everyone, there is certainly no right or wrong, but being away from her feels like a limb has been removed for me.
My first solo outing began at Fortnum and Mason - my haven, so the perfect place to feel a little fragile. The advice given to me mid-tearfest (thanks to the lovely ladies on the Delilah counter for not making me feel a fool!) was to do something completely normal that I hadn't been able to do whilst pregnant, so a hot tea, a Hoisin duck wrap and a brownie in Pret was the instant thought and my next stop - just the job, after a touch up with some fabulous new make-up must-haves from the wonderfully named make-up counter with the loveliest of staff. I have no doubt it will get easier with practice and time - for both our sakes I very much hope so!
Postnatal depression isn't just for women.
My wondrous husband was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder last year, so thankfully mental health is high on our conversation themes. The attention deficit, sexual frustration, the sleep deprivation, the hormones, an expected bond without any of the physical connections a mother has had, it's no wonder men often struggle with newborn life as well as new mothers. When I say he has suffered from baby blues, because he can be known to be somewhat high maintenance at times, it is often received with a bit of a smile, as though it's him being difficult, but if we think about how debilitating postnatal depression can be for women, imagine going back to a time when it was shrugged off? That is how I have found men's PND to be considered a lot of the time, one to sweep under the carpet out of embarrassment. Luckily, the mister is all about being open with this, so we dealt with it head-on.
The Guardian shared a great piece about the increasing awareness for mens postnatal depression and findings in Sweden, where a surprising 28% of a study of Swedish men had symptoms that scored above mild levels of depression. Overall, 4% had moderate depression. Fewer than one in five fathers who were depressed sought help, even though a third of those had thought about harming themselves. Hopefully, by talking about it more it will become as important to support, and as easy to discuss as "mum tums" or tea strength.
The weight does go...
Speaking of mum tums, this was the thing that I have struggled with the most. I'm not sure if it's because of the image-saturated world of social media, or the sheer volume of weight I carried with the little lady, but I have really struggled with not looking or feeling myself immediately after her arrival.
I heard all sorts of stories from different women, some lost it straight away, some have had entirely new bodies ever since. I've still got a huge way to go and still plenty of swelling (I hear this is down to breastfeeding keeping a lot of water retention in place), but getting my hair done made an unthinkable difference to feeling myself again and the amount of dancing and bouncing we do means snacking is a fond, distant memory, so slowly but surely, I'm getting closer to my beloved old wardrobe everyday.
It's a whole new life, so patience is the greatest virtue...
It is an entirely new life. One without a break, with a sense of being thrown into the deep end from the get-go. Luckily, we are part of a team, so the unbelievable challenge of life as a single parent is something we both hugely appreciate not having to contend with. Staying confident about your approach to parenting can be pretty tricky when people share their opinions, or look like they're doing it better. The little lady is creating her own routine and seems to be responding really well to our approach of letting her be the boss for a while... As long as she never misses bathtime at 7pm and John Legend keeps making music to lull her to sleep with, we'll be just fine.
Above everything else, I have found it to be the greatest privilege. Not everyone is able to become a mother as easily and having an easy a baby as we do is something I will be eternally grateful for and will make sure Delilah knows just how magical she has been.
The other day I read this quote from Victoria Beckham OBE that feels wonderfully appropriate to share so early into the role of motherhood:
"Being a mother is simply the greatest achievement of my life. It has taken me on an unexpected journey that can constantly surprise, educate and confuse me."
I can't wait.