It goes without saying that all mums of small children feel perma-knackered. Night after night of broken sleep leaves you wading through fugs of tiredness. A tiredness that can actually hurt – you feel achey in the very marrow of your bones.
But lack of sleep isn’t the real reason that mums are so exhausted. Oh no. It’s the rest of it that tires you out…
1. There’s no time to recover
Who was it that compared labour to a marathon? We want to shake their hand.
But when exactly do we get our medals? And that silver cape thingy? And do marathon runners then have to keep a really small person alive afterwards, with someone waking you up every few minutes for weeks afterwards? Oh, and maybe look after another small but slightly bigger person at the same time who wants to go out and do things all the time? And also wishes the baby could be sent back?
No, we didn’t think so
What makes a difference: Come and help us. Now please. Don’t bring babygros and arrive wanting cuddles then to disappear off again. Come, tuck me into bed, and do stuff. Anything. Just lots of it. So I don’t have to. Thank you.
2. The overwhelming sense of responsibility
As soon as your tiny newborn is placed in your arms, the overwhelming sense of responsibility hits you. This little baby is entirely dependent on you. It’s you who has to provide them with everything they need.
If you’ve been through it before you’re exhausted at just the thought. And if you haven’t, your exhausted at just the thought. It’s big and it’s scary and big and scary things require LOTS of effort.
What makes a difference: Be there, please. And say nice things, please. Remind us it’s just about taking one step at a time, please. Thank you.
3. You’re on the biggest, ever, learning curve
Everything is new. Even if you’ve been a mum before, you’ve never been a mum to this person before.
You have to quickly figure out and get to grips with the big (like feeding and learning how best to soothe your baby when she cries) and the small (like how to wrestle fragile, bendy little legs into sleepsuits with a million poppers and how to put a buggy up when you’ve got a wriggly baby in one arm) and everything in between.
The day that was once familiar is now a series of things to learn from scratch. When all you really want to do is lie down and start again tomorrow.
What makes a difference: Please understand that all I want to do right now is get to know my new little person. I don’t have the time, head space or energy for anything else. Thank you.
4. You’re all on your own
It started in pregnancy but was really brought home in labour. The realisation that, however much support you have, only you can do it: only you can give birth. Only you can breastfeed. Only you can be Mummy.
What makes a difference: Be kind. I’m a bit scared. Thank you.
5. There’s so much to hold in your head
There’s so much stuff you need to remember. Midwife visits, feeding schedules, things to remember to pack on a day out, stuff you need to buy and replenish, what time the next feed’s due, which boob to use. Wait: what day is it again?!
What makes a difference Forgive me if I forget things. Did I say, thank you?
6. Your own needs come last
Each day you are at the back of the queue when it comes to your own needs, let alone wants.
You might be hungry but your baby needs to be fed first. You’re thirsty but your baby needs her drink first and your glass of water is JUST out of reach. You may be falling over with tiredness, but your baby needs to be rocked to sleep first.
What makes a difference: Please don’t comment if I’m in my pyjamas when you knock on the door at lunchtime. Thank you.
7. It doesn’t stop
You’re exhausted and overwhelmed but it can seem like there’s no end in sight. Days bleed into nights and back into days. Whenever you grab just five minutes to rest your baby cries and needs you again.
There’s no lunchbreak as a new mum. Dammit – some days there’s not even a tea break.
What makes a difference: Stick the kettle on, will you? Thank you.