Motherhood is a personal journey and whoever you ask, you’ll get a different response, view, feeling and story. 

I wish I had waited until my baby was here before pre-empting and telling myself what my motherhood journey would be like – you cannot plan this stuff!

I had a friend who had her baby exactly a year before I did and when I found out I was pregnant, she said to me ‘There’s so much people don’t tell you,’ which is so true. But there is also a significant amount of information that people do tell you…. Whether you like it or not. 

The first lesson I learned on motherhood began at the beginning of my pregnancy, as soon as you announce you are going to become a mother – the world and his wife take that as a green light to share their own journeys, pass on their own opinions, horror stories, old wives tales, ‘facts’ – even if you don’t ask them to. 

Similarly, everyone becomes a baby expert; what worked for them will work for you (it won’t), your baby will be textbook and follow all the ‘normal rules’ (it won’t.) 

So whilst I write this and reflect on my own motherhood journey, I want to stress to you, it is exactly that; my journey, my baby, my experience. 

Yours will be different. No two journeys/experiences or even children will be the same. If I can tell you anything I’ve learned since I became a mother, it’s no-one can prepare you for it, because no-one is you, and your baby is completely and utterly unique. 

This post is not meant to be informative, advisory or condescending in any way – just one mother’s experience and journey put into words. 

For someone with an extensive background in Early Years and childcare, I had expected to be the most clued up, regimented but responsive mother who would know what to do and how to respond to each and every one of my baby’s needs. This was absolutely not the case. 

Nothing can prepare you for the sheer fear, responsibility and overwhelm that engulfs you when that tiny brand new person is placed on you – your whole life changes forever in that moment, and you will never be the same person again. 

It’s important to mention too that the ‘sudden rush of love’ when you see your tiny human – doesn’t happen immediately for everyone; you instantly feel protective and utterly in awe of your new baby, but please don’t feel like you are broken or that something is wrong if you don’t get that rush immediately after birth – that is normal! It will come, perhaps after a few hours, or even a few days – whenever it happens, it’s okay and will not affect the bond you have with your baby. 

A huge bone of contention for me as an expectant mother was society’s assumption on how I should parent and raise my baby – the first being my reluctance to attend ‘Parenting Classes’ – you are informed enough to make that decision for yourself, you do not need to tell countless professionals, friends and relatives why you don’t want to attend – no class will prepare you adequately enough for a new baby. 

Secondly, the breast vs bottle debate. This is something that everyone will ask you about – stand firm on whatever decision you make; I never intended to breastfeed (personal choice, my own reasons, and one I stuck to.) but I had to argue this point with approximately 4 health visitors who said ‘You should change your mind – breast is best.’ In my experience, fed is best – your baby needs you, love and food, in whatever way that comes and you shouldn’t have to feel stressed or pressured when telling people your decision. 

My baby was a whopping 9lb 1oz lump of love at birth and was bottle fed from the outset – and lost only a tiny percentage of her birth weight and her growth, development and overall wellbeing has been normal and consistent throughout – how you choose to feed your baby is entirely up to you and whatever suits the both of you best. Do your own research, speak to health professionals, but whatever your informed decision is, make sure it’s for you and your baby and not the people that won’t be raising your baby. 

As I’ve mentioned before, I had huge expectations of my myself as a mother prior to the birth of my daughter – I’ve never been particularly maternal, despite a career in childcare, and this was something that worried me before my daughter arrived – would this change? Would I develop those maternal skills? Would I be able to bond with my baby – the answer to all of those questions was yes.  

Once you become a mother, you genuinely learn something new every day; about your baby, about yourself and about parenting. In my experience, anything you think you won’t know or are worried about ‘learning’ how to do – your baby will teach you. 

Like surviving on 1 hours sleep and keeping a small human alive; pre-baby you think that’s impossible – it’s not, and it happens. A lot. 

The best piece of advice I received and wish I had listened to more rather than throwing myself back into work was ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ –  I can count on one hand the amount of times I did this in the first 6 weeks and I so wish I’d done it more. In the early days, most babies sleep for up to 2-3 hours at a time – this is the perfect opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep – the housework and everything else can wait, you will never get those broken nights and hours back so catch up when you can!  

Before my daughter was born, I had big bold plans and ideas on how strict I would be with routine, how I would not ‘make a rod for my own back’ (you’ll hear that a lot too!) by rocking her, soothing her to sleep, picking her up each time she cries. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I did all of those things; and then some. Nothing prepares you for the emotional responses to having a baby and the sound of their cries will trigger something in you that makes it near-on impossible not to respond and do whatever you can to ease their pain and stop the tears. 

In my profession, we are all too familiar to children ‘crying it out’ to get to sleep and those who are able to self-settle with the support of some white noise or a soft toy. Prior to my daughter’s birth I was convinced by the time she was 6 months old, she’d self-settle to sleep and if she didn’t’ I would adopt the ‘controlled crying’ sleep training method – again, how wrong I was. 

As it turns out, my daughter has never self-soothed, is still held to sleep at 16 months, and we tried leaving her to cry for approximately 1 minute 25 seconds, and never tried it again. Again, one of those things that is individual to you, your baby and your circumstance. I know of many children who cry it out, self-soothe and need little support to get to sleep – but I was foolish to think my daughter would be the same! 

But that’s the fun part of motherhood; finding your way together. Every baby is different, develops at a different rate, has its own personality, responds differently to different things – and you won’t know any of that until they are here with you and you spend time getting to know them, learning about them and finding what works for you both and your family. 

So instead of the hours I spent on forums, reading books, Facebook threads, Netmums accounts – I started to spend getting to know my baby and what worked for her, and lo and behold, we still managed to get a routine in place, but it’s a routine that suited her and her needs, and that’s changed and developed as she’s gotten older – that’s the thing with babies, you just get over one hurdle…..then it’s onto the next!

Instead of thinking about all of the stuff she ‘should’ be doing as per the books and opinion threads, I started thinking about why she was doing things and how I could help her/make it better for the both of us, and we’ve been in a gorgeous rhythm and routine for almost a year now, and we worked it out together. 

Trial and error is your best friend, and your baby will forgive you if you get it wrong the first time! If you change their nappy before they feed, instead of the other way around when they are at their hungriest, they will survive! And so will you, even on those nights when nothing will settle them, or they’ve developed a new cry that you haven’t quite figured out yet. At the end of the day, all your baby needs is you. 

There are so many things you learn along the way as a parent, but the most valuable and the only thing that I now hold as the key piece of motherhood and parenting information is; ‘Be the parent your child needs you to be, not the parent you thought you would be.’ I couldn’t be any further from the parent I thought I would be, but I know now that I am exactly the parent my daughter needs me to be, throughout all of the different stages and phases she needs to go through, and I learn, adapt and go through these with her. That’s the thing about phases, they just keep on coming!