Welcome back to Meet the Parents, my weekly blog series where a blogger and parent shares their advice for first-time and expectant parents. This week we welcome Hayley, who blogs at Devon Mama.
Tell me a bit about you, your blog and your family.
Hi, I’m Hayley, a 30 year old new mum living in Devon with my husband, baby boy and the world’s bounciest dog. I set up Devon Mama whilst on maternity leave in 2016 as a way to document the highs, lows and hilarities of parent life alongside sharing the products, recipes and days out that we genuinely love as a family of three. I returned to work part-time in January and juggle my role as a Content Marketing Director with learning how to parent, attempting to tackle our house that has ‘a lot of potential’ and blogging/tackling my social media addiction. It’s always crazily busy, there’s rarely a dull moment!
What one essential item would you insist on putting in your hospital bag (for you)?
Before I gave birth, I would have said a fan. I HATE being too hot and was completely convinced that a small handheld fan would be the only thing to get me through. My labour was really quick so the official hospital bag actually stayed in the car. The only thing that made it in was my husband’s camera. THAT would be my essential item. You can make it through labour with hospital equipment but you only get one chance to capture those first memories – it’s 100% worth taking a proper camera in with you and getting some better quality shots of those first few moments. Especially because, as a mama, they blur a little in amongst the whole labour thing so as a mum the camera was priceless.
I so wish I’d got hubby to take more photos while I was still in hospital!
Was there anything unexpected that happened during labour, that you think first-time mums should be prepared for?
I didn’t realise that your waters could break twice. I honestly thought I’d just wet myself which was embarrassing but with a baby coming out, you lose all inhibition. Not so, you actually have fore and hind waters so you may find you get two water-breaking moments. Other than that I think the biggest shock was how terrifying the blood can be. I had a water birth and got a second degree tear in the process – the water literally went completely red within a couple of seconds. I was terrified but the midwives weren’t worried at all. Just remember that everything looks worse than it is when blood is concerned.
What would be your one essential product for a newborn that no new parent should live without?
A good baby carrier. Find one that you find comfy and easy to put on (practice with a teddy or a rolled up jumper before hand – totally the same… not!) and use it. Our little boy absolutely hated being put down, he suffered reflux and just wanted to be held. Our carriers saved our sanity. We’d pop him in there whether we were out and about or just at home. It kept him quiet, sent him off to sleep within seconds and allowed us to get some fresh air at the same time. Plus, I hear great things over and over about how useful they are for your second/third/fourth…
Little M hated being in a sling so I’m glad we borrowed one from a friend to try out before buying our own!
What’s the best piece of advice you were given before your first child was born?
That it’s okay not to feel okay. When you have a baby it’s literally the BIGGEST and most life-changing thing that’s ever happened to you and to top it off, you’re probably completely overrun with hormones. There are going to be days when you hate every second, there are going to be times when you just haven’t felt the love kick in yet, there are going to be days when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s okay to feel like that. It doesn’t make you a failure or a bad parent. It makes you normal. One day that fuzz will lift and you’ll realise that it’s just part of parenting. Don’t be hard on yourself about it.
What’s the worst piece of advice you were given?
So many options. Honestly, I think most advice is well-meant but awful. Every child and every parent is different. The one that I hate the most though is the ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ one. My baby did NOT sleep; day or night unless we were bouncing or walking with him. On the rare occasions that he did, I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to sit on my phone and watch crappy TV or shower in peace or (glamorously) tidy our pit of a house. The reality was though that even that didn’t happen, he only ever slept on me for the first few months, thankfully that’s in the past and he sleeps well now – in your face ‘you can cuddle your child too much’ advice givers.
What would be your top tip for a first time parent-to-be?
Get out of the house. Whatever it takes to get you out and about do it. Force yourself to go to a baby group or two until you find one where you click. You need a support network and as good as your current friends and family are, there’s nothing quite like having friends whose babies are a similar age. Some of my closest friends now are ones I met when I dragged myself out of the house a couple weeks in to go to a baby group. I had to pep-talk myself (under the pretence of pep-talking the baby) in the car, outside the venue and when we hid in the toilets for the first few minutes but it was worth it. They understand that brand new parent feeling and are at all the same stages as you. You can’t put a price on having someone to text at 3am to complain about your sore nipples or an explosive nappy mid night-feed. You just can’t.
What’s the hardest thing about being a new parent?
HA! The exhaustion. It is all encompassing at times. I think it actually feels worse when you start to come out the other side and your child starts to sleep. It’s like your body realises quite what it’s been missing. At the beginning, adrenaline just gets you through then you start to learn to cope with barely any sleep.
Yes, this is so true! I remember hubby and I feeling like zombies after the first night Little M slept through; we couldn’t make sense of it at all!
What’s the best thing about being a new parent?
The knowledge that you made this incredible, awe inspiring, hilarious, exhausting, time-consuming, adorable creature. When they look at you and their face lights up or they cuddle in to you when they’re tired or when they do something new, it’s just… indescribable. There’s no better feeling in the world.