Pregnancy was a shock

DISCOVERING I was pregnant was a shock in itself – not because it wasn’t planned – but because of the sheer enormity of the situation.

Bringing a new life into the world is a big deal and for me, the shock almost certainly stemmed from the realisation that life was about to change dramatically.

There was nothing that truly prepared me for the early weeks of motherhood. I’d heard it was hard of course, but like anything, it means little until you’re actually living it.

After a reasonably straightforward birth, and an adrenaline-packed 48 hours, I was back home staring motherhood straight between the eyes.

My previous contact with infant children barely scrapes minimum. I held my niece for two and a half minutes and remember thinking how heavy she was for a day-old baby. That was it.

So to be faced with the responsibility of caring for my own baby daughter was a daunting prospect.

I had elected to breastfeed – and struggled for many weeks through this as the baby’s hunger reached epic proportions and did not begin to slow down until she was more than three months old.

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Though I’m pleased I stuck with it – not least because of its soothing effects on the baby – it did not come naturally and was physically draining.

But perhaps the biggest challenge was adjusting to the change in lifestyle.

The transition from a professionally and socially busy life to becoming a stay-at-home mum was a difficult one, particularly mentally.

For me, this hit home two weeks after the birth once my mother had gone home, my husband had returned to work and it was just me and the baby. Typically, she cried all day long unless she was feeding, I was exhausted from a night-time of feedings and I couldn’t leave her alone for a second to do simple tasks such as shower, eat, drink, let alone any chores.

So while my previous ‘busy’ life was on hold, that didn’t mean my new life was any less demanding. As most mums will tell you, it is something of a skill to sneak a shower or cup of coffee into your day. Cooking a meal and putting the washing on the line suddenly became a luxury.

I started to experience some semblance of normality when I forced myself to go out every day, even if it was a walk through the park. And then I discovered that there was a network of support in St Albans and Harpenden, helping women in the same position.

From the children’s centres offering free services and information sessions to local NCT (National Childbirth Trust) groups, and baby massage courses to swimming lessons; the facilities for new mums is extensive.

At the very least, it is the perfect way to bring some routine to your days while engaging in an activity that both you and your baby can enjoy.

There are also numerous breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding caf�s and gatherings for mums looking for some like-minded company.

And during the long and frequent feeding sessions, there is plenty of baby-related discussion to join online on Twitter and Facebook, and on the many forums that are in existence.

I’m now four and a half months into motherhood and to look back on those early days brings a massive sense of achievement.

In retrospect, I had mentally prepared so much for the birth that the prospect of parenting was an afterthought. But perhaps that’s the way it should be?

The important thing is that this area has so much support that there is no reason to struggle on alone, when there is something and someone to turn to.