Advice for My Past Mama Self


unnamed-8Third baby and I thought I was pretty knowledgable about parenting. But 10 days in to Greta and I’m learning stuff everyday day. Motherhood is a constant learning curve. And if there’s one thing I know for sure: the moment that you think to yourself ‘I’ve nailed this parenting malarky’ is the moment your kids morph into different beings and prove that, in fact, we are all winging it all the time!

Anyway, lovely Shelley and Sophie from @hi_mama_letters have copiled a list of everything they wish they could tell their ‘former mama selves’:

  • We are secondary school friends. Our births and early years of being mothers couldn’t have been more different; yet we both felt pressure, we both felt guilt, we both felt lost at times.

  • Motherhood can be (insert choice of expletive) hard at times. As a mum, you hardly ever get time to reflect on how far you’ve come and sometimes it isn’t until you’ve got through the hard times that you look back and realise how kick-ass amazing you really were. In our list, we reflect on our different experiences, talking to our past mama-selves…

  • Sophie – An unplanned home birth. You still can’t believe it happened how it did – that within a couple of hours you went from being sent home at 2-3cm dilated to having a baby in our bedroom. Now you know how lucky it was that your amazing midwife Jane arrived at just the right time to stop the paramedics whisking you off to hospital (and the possibility of a roadside birth) and taking complete control of the situation. She shut all the windows to keep it warm, set up a recovery area in the bathroom without you noticing and instructed Stu to bring in all of the towels we owned – even the good ones.  Fifty three minutes later, she caught Felix as he made his headfirst, super-fast entrance. It feels surreal now; Mum was there making tea for the paramedics, siblings arrived with balloons and a tray of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and my husband’s 93-year-old grandmother held Felix when he was hours old. It was pretty much the best I could ever have hoped for; I know how fortunate it was.

  • Shelley – Wipe those tears, hold those newborn babies close. As you sit there in shock staring into their eyes for the first time, the anaesthesia still leaving your body, you can’t process it. You won’t for a while, both times – a long while. But know this mama, you have not failed! Having them by emergency c-section does not make you a failure. You were strong, you were brave, you were committed. You wanted those perfect births so desperately, but believe me, in years to come, you’ll just be so grateful for those perfect babies.

  • Shelley You did breastfeed your girls, it may not have been for as long as you wanted to, but you did. You won’t say that for years. If anyone asks you, you never give a straight ‘yes’. It’s an answer wrapped in self-deprecation, apology and guilt. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You did the best for you and your babies and I am very proud of you!

  • Sophie – You were bamboozled by the NCT session on breastfeeding. You and a friend always shuddered at the idea of breastfeeding and the NCT session did nothing to dispel that worry. You stood in the hallway and cried when we got home, wondering how you could even be a mother if you found the idea of breastfeeding so overwhelming. But you did it, and breastfed beyond a year. Weaning was where it all started to become challenging. Felix was slow to take to solids and dropped down the centiles. It led to hospital referrals and the label of ‘failure to thrive’. You didn’t know what to do. Now he eats; it’s a very limited diet of oven food, but every waffle, every pizza, every fish finger feels like a victory.unnamed-10

  • Shelley – Once these first few months of hazy sleep deprivation are over you both find your rhythm. Routine works for you. The structured naps may tether you to the house at certain times of the day, but don’t let anyone make you feel silly about this – ignore the eye-rolls you can feel through the phone as you schedule plans around her naps – it’s not them who’ll have to get up with her in the night. Continue to do what works for you with confidence, she’s sleeping, no one should judge you for that. 

  • Sophie – The four-month sleep regression changes your life. Felix woke up every hour of every night for five weeks. You have lows that you have never experienced before and had thoughts that you would never believed you were capable of. The first year was one long sleep regression. It was brutal. You weren’t expecting motherhood to challenge you in such a dark, numbing way. Now he sleeps in between you and Stu every night and I think that’s all he wanted. It was such a game changer to realise it, and to just accept it.

  • Shelley – You’re the first of your friends to have a baby, you’ve just hit 25. Life up until this point has been about pushing your boobs up in whatever outfit you’d chosen to dance the night away in with your friends, not getting them out in front of them to silence the piercing cries of a newborn baby. Life has changed. You feel lonely at the moment, somewhat removed from the conversation. But new friends will come into your life, ones with babies who you relate to more right now. Your older friendships will remain, they’ll always be there, you’re just dancing in different clubs right now – they’re in Pacha; you’re in the bump and babes club in the local children’s centre. At least the sick on your shoe is from your baby!

  • Sophie – You end up being one of the last in the friendship group to have a baby, which was a huge benefit. Asking a million questions about everything made your pregnancy so much more reassuring and your friends’ wisdom and guidance was such a source of strength. The old adage about it taking a village to raise a baby is so true; it extends beyond a village now, it’s the other side of the country or the world via social media, it’s the blogger behind a computer sharing her thoughts, it’s the brilliant midwife publishing a book. You took on advice like water, and still do. 

  • Sophie – You loved your job and worked with an amazing team who gave you incredible support throughout your pregnancy. But the day you were supposed to go back to work, you didn’t go, as you literally couldn’t bring yourself to do it. You lied and said Felix was ill. You weren’t ready mentally and it was no surprise that you left after the obligatory post-maternity-leave three months. With hindsight now I regret that decision. Having the understanding of long-established colleagues when you’re a parent of a young child is a really privileged position and I gave that up all too easily. 

  • Shelley – Your firstborn is ten weeks old and you are sitting on your laptop putting the finishing touches to your freelance marketing services website. Seriously women, I want to high-five you and shake you in equal measures. You fell pregnant whilst you were both living and working in Australia and returned to no statutory maternity pay due to Australia not being a ‘reciprocal agreement’ country – who knew that? Not you! Your work out there did not count. There is no maternity leave. Oh, and that strong desire to be equal is driving you (insane) too, to contribute, to be a strong women who can do it all. Half of me wants to tell you to slow down, there is time for a career – enjoy your newborn, worry about what episode of The Hills to binge watch during nap time instead of trying to seek out projects. But, on the other hand, well done you! It’s over 7 years later and you are still successfully freelancing – that drive and initiative has allowed you to work around your children all this time – you did that!

  • Throughout these challenges we searched and searched for answers online. The snippets we read in forums weren’t enough. We shared our struggles with each other, but had completely different experiences.

  • ** Sophie and Shelley wanted to create a space that had as many voices of motherhood as possible; to give the writer time to reflect, honestly and openly with no judgement and to create a resource for other mamas going through the same challenges now. hi mama is a digital library of letters from mamas to themselves, was the result. More than 50 mamas have written a letter to themselves since we launched in September, and tens of thousands of women have read those letters, telling us how they have brought them comfort and reassurance. If you’d like to write your letter, follow us on Insta or visit our website () for everything you need to know. **


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