Thursday, 30 August 2012

A letter to Sharon

I went to university with a girl called Sharon.  Sharon is excellent.  In fact, I didn't realise just how great a friend she was until we didn't live in the same country anymore.

Anyway, Sharon is about to have a baby.  Her first baby.  A little boy.  And even though I haven't seen Sharon in around 10 years, I wish I was there.  I wish I was there to spend the last of her non-mummy days together.  And I really wish I was there when the baby comes.

But I won't be.  So I thought I'd write her a letter instead.  And then I thought, well, this is really a letter that applies to anyone who's about to have a baby, so why not put it out there, and maybe it'll help someone else too.

Hi Sharon

Before Kalani was born, so many people gave me advice.  "Oh, you'll never get a good night's sleep once the baby comes, so get lots now", "Make the most of this time before the baby comes because you won't have anytime to yourself for a long long time" etc. etc.

And I ignored all of it.

I smugly thought that my baby would be the best, sleepiest baby in the whole world, and I would handle this motherhood thing without raising a sweat.  What a joke.  Now I really wish I'd listened, really listened to some of what people said.

So this is a mixture of advice I did receive, and some I didn't, and you definitely don't have to even read this or take it to heart or anything, but I really want to pass it on, so just humour me, okay?

1. It's going to hurt.  Quite a lot.  Take the drugs when you're in labour and then DEFINITELY take the drugs afterwards as well.  They (those medical people) know what they're doing.  They don't want you to be in pain either.  So take everything you're offered.

2. Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps, and instead you'll try to do stuff - like washing or cooking or having a shower.  Don't.  The beginning is hard, and you'll feel like your insides are about to fall out of your 'bits' (and if you have a c-section, then your abdomen is in all sort of pain and coughing is the least fun thing to do in the world).  This is one of the ONLY times as a mother that lots of people will offer to do stuff for you.  So let them.  Let them do everything they can to help, and try to have at least 1 nap a day.  Because that little bundle of gorgeousness probably won't let you sleep at night.

3. (This was the thing I found the hardest) If you breastfeed then you spend a LOT of time just sitting around.  This can be so hard, particularly if you're used to being up and doing things.  Try really really really hard to enjoy it.  Seriously.  Just be happy to sit and not have to do anything other than just be (and feed your baby obviously).  Watch TV.  Watch lots and lots of TV, because when he gets older (with K it was around 4 months), he's going to start to realise that there's a lot of bright lights and loud sounds coming from over there, and you're going to have to stop watching tv whilst breastfeeding (though the good news is that later on Dora and the Backyardigans will become your best friends when you realise they cause all noise and movement to stop in your otherwise crazy toddler).

4. Don't worry about your weight.  You won't be thin again directly afterwards, and you might not be for a while. This sucks.  A lot.  But one day you'll get there.  The mental and physical energy that you expend in worrying/doing something about this is NOT worth it.  You have way too many other things that are sucking up your energy at the moment - why add something else to the list?

5. Another thing that everyone says is to enjoy them when they're small.  All I could think was "Are you f-ing serious?  This sucks - I'm not getting any sleep and everytime I cough I wet myself and he just won't stop crying.".  BUT - they are so sweet when they're small.  And they don't talk back.  Or move.  You can put them down and just leave them there without worrying that they're going to get into the cleaning cupboard and poison themselves.  They're so innocent and beautiful and wonderful.  Really enjoy his newborn charm.

6. Join mummy/baby groups.  They're not for him, they're for you.  So when you're having a really bad day, you can say to another mum "I'm about to lose the plot - I only slept for 2 hours last night", and she'll reply "Me too".  And that Sharon, is a wonderful moment.  When you realise that it's not just you.  That you're not in this alone.  That when you're up at 2am nursing or changing his diaper, there are a million other mum's who are doing the exact same thing.  Seriously - please do this.  It will save your sanity more and more as he gets older.

7. This is almost my last point and it's maybe the most important.  Don't be too hard on yourself.  It'll probably be really tough but it really does get better and you're going to do an amazing job.  Yes you'll have bad days, but you'll have good ones too.  Really good ones.  The kind of day where you just think "Holy crap - did I CREATE this adorable little human being?". 

8. When people give you advice just let them (*cough* - I guess this kind of includes me!!).  People LOVE to give advice to expecting/new mum's.  It makes them feel like they're really helping you (yup - this totally includes me).  Let them.  You don't have to listen to anything they say, but you'll make their day - maybe even their week - by letting them think that in some small way, they're there to help you deal with the chaos that is a new baby.

9.  And finally, please take lots of pictures and send them to me.  I cannot wait to see him and I hope that one day I'll get to meet him too.

Good luck Sharon.  I really do wish I was there with you because you're about to have the most amazing wonderful adventure ever.  Tough but awesome.  Enjoy it.

All my love


  1. Totally agree Liffey! And Sharon, every baby is different, so take on board all advice given to you, but don't think all will work. Trial things and use what will suit you and your baby. You cannot fail as a mother. It is impossible. It doesn't matter whether you give birth vaginally or have a c-section. It doesn't matter whether you breast or bottle feed. It doesn't matter whether your baby meets milestones early or takes his sweet time about it. Providing you give him love and your time, you have succeeded as a mother. Best of luck on this amazing, exhausting and rewarding journey that will last for the rest of your life.
    Sharon (mother of three girls)

  2. Can I just add that don't expect it to be easy. The first 6 weeks (or so) sucks! As Liffey has said there is not as much sleep, crazy hormones etc etc and surprisingly there is no 'this is how to be a mother hormone' and there is no 'this is what this cry means' gene either - well, if there was I missed it bigtime! I can recommend Patricia Dunstan - about listening to cries and what they mean. Not for everyone, but think it is good. That is all from me. Good luck. There are days where all you want to do is smile at how amazing they are, then there are days and all you do is think - where the hell did you come from????? It is great. Nothing else more rewarding in the whole world.

  3. For perhaps the first time in my life, I'm really at a loss for how to express my appreciation for the wonderful people I have in my life - even if I haven't seen some of them in 10 years (seriously, it's really been that long?!?!?). Liffey, this letter has to be one of the most thoughtful things anyone has done for me, ever. I thank every last cell in your body :)
    Your advice sounds smart - I will try to put it in to practice. I say 'try' as I feel I'll be in a sleep-deprived haze for quite a while and think I'll be just reacting to gut instinct. I do have to go back to work part time after my 6 weeks mat leave, but it's only Monday & Tuesday afternoons, so hopefully I'll be able to function. Any advice on that front is v appreciated, too!
    I also agree with the mummy group thing, but I don't know how much I want to involve myself in our small town - it's soo high school-like :) One (quite unusual) thing I have on my side is that a good friend and colleague - who I happen to rent a room from in Ithaca - is due a week after me, so we'll both have screaming bundles to deal with. She's also in the same boat in that she lives 3ish hrs from Ithaca, so we both head home on weekends. We may be able to pool our efforts in making our weird situations work for us :)
    Ok, I'll stop here ... but again, thank you so much for your thoughts. I don't care that it's been 10 years since we've caught up face to face, you are an invaluable friend, and have been for a long time now. I hope we can catch up one day and our boys can play together - don't go moving back to Aus too quickly :)
    Lots of love and hugs
    Sharon xxx