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 To the mum struggling through 'the fourth trimester - Theresa Ashley


Second to that was probably confusion. You see, I’m a really bad liar. Always have been. So when people asked me how I was enjoying motherhood I froze. I either presented a sarcastic “Yeah it’s GREAT” response to which I got some very judgmental, and sometimes worried looks. Or I went for a softer “It’s wonderful, she’s amazing. But it’s very hard in these early days” approach and tried to stop myself from crying and telling my life story to a complete stranger.


The thing is, I had no socially acceptable answer for them. I had gone from being a twenty something woman in a relationship, just embarking on a nursing career to a twenty something single mum who had to move back home practically overnight. The responsibility of knowing I would have to single handedly emotionally, physically and financially provide for my daughter was huge. Truthfully, this little baby came into my life and I had NO idea what to do with her. I had spent so long soldiering through the emotional and physical obstacles of my pregnancy I didn’t actually prepare myself for life after her arrival, not that you actually can as a first time mum. My head was fried.


Don’t get me wrong I loved her, I remember crying to my mum two weeks after she had been born telling her how scared I was of my love for her, petrified something might happen to her and I would never survive it (hello baby blues). She amazed me, I couldn’t possibly believe I had grown something so incredible. But that love didn’t take away from the blunt reality of how difficult it was for me. Being her mother didn’t come naturally, at least I didn’t feel like it did at the time. I didn’t instantly know how to breastfeed, or recognise when she was tired, or what the reason for her crying was and honestly I was drained in every sense of the word. The struggles with breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, colic, reflux, constant differing advice about what was best for her coupled with the fact I was living at home whilst trying to be as independent as possible with my daughter completely overwhelmed me.


I knew of ‘The Fourth Trimester’. Every woman that has a pregnancy app or reads a baby book will have probably heard of it. Those first three months of your babies life, a period of immense development as they physically and mentally adjust themselves to the world. But you also adjust to them being in your world. I underestimated how hard that would be for me. You become a mother, and sometimes the weight of that word can be a lot to bear. People told me this time would end and it would get easier, of course I didn’t believe them. I remember dreading her waking up from a nap because I didn’t think I could handle the crying again. She woke up crying one time in the middle of the night and I just started crying with her. There was no consistency to anything. I was scared to cook, to shower or to leave the house because what if she woke up, what if people judged me when I couldn’t stop her crying? I spent days on the sofa disheveled, breast milk everywhere, sobbing because we still couldn’t get it right. I remember sitting down and asking myself why on earth I had a baby because I just couldn’t do it. I thought there was something wrong with me, like I was the only person in the world who felt that way.


But I wasn’t. It’s normal. Seriously, it is. It’s just that no one says it out loud.


Having a baby is hard work, being a first time mum is hard work, being a single mum is hard work. Whatever way you’re doing this, please don’t beat yourself up if you don’t absolutely love this time. Of course you love your baby and of course you’re going to have pockets of overwhelming joy. A lot of people love the newborn phase but some people don’t and that is perfectly okay. Do not feel guilty for that. I’m not going to tell you to soak it up because it goes so fast, yes it’s true that you may come to miss this time with them but those are the last words you want to hear when you just feel like you’re surviving through the day (and night). You’re allowed to have bad days, to feel anxious. You are sleep deprived, you’re recovering from giving birth and you’re getting used to this new...you. This you who is someone’s lifeline.


That responsibility takes some getting used too. Don’t worry if it takes longer than expected, don’t worry if you drive around for an hour or two just so it gets your baby to sleep and you can hear yourself think. I will tell you it gets better, because regardless of how many times people may say it to you, you still need to hear it. It gets better. For me, we didn’t hit three months and life became perfect again. But the moment I got her into an established routine the fog started to lift. That and the fact I truly started listening to my mothers intuition with confidence (don’t underestimate it). Now we have structure to our day, we sleep at a reasonable time and we wake at a reasonable time. Her naps are now predictable, I know how long I have to get all the things done and get myself ready. Her personality is starting to shine, and I can see she knows who I am. I promise you seeing your baby smile and knowing they’re smiling at you can lighten even the darkest of days. One day that baby is going to reach out and call for you, because you can comfort them in only the way a mama can and this time will fade.


So if you’re in the midst of the newborn phase wondering when your world is going to turn right side up again, hating yourself for what you just said or thought... please forgive yourself. Don’t feel guilty for not loving this time. Lean on your family and friends and take the help when it’s offered. Go take a time out if you can, go for a walk or get some rest. I promise you everything is more manageable after a good sleep. It gets better, but until that time comes be kind to yourself mama.


You are doing an amazing job. You’ve got this.