The first 1000 days of motherhood run from when you first become pregnant to your child’s second birthday.
My first thousand days have been one heck of a journey, and I’m sure the majority of mothers will tell you the same thing. Here are some of my highlights:
- Laying in bed in the evenings, reading The Cat In The Hat to my bump as I watched S kick me from the inside
- The moment she was born… and she was ok.
- Being introduced to Kangaroo Care and spending as much time as possible with her laying on my top beneath my shirt – she was so tiny people often didn’t realise she was there!
- Being given a sling by a friend; it gave me the freedom to get out of the house with S, but it also helped us to form a really close bond. We used a sling daily until she was big enough to walk places, and we still have one now for tiredness emergencies.
- The day she was four months old and I walked away from her father as he shouted down the street after me that I wasn’t a fit mother. In that moment, for the first time, I knew I was a good mother, and that I was doing the right thing.
- Her first word: duck!
- Sharing a bed: when she was tiny she would sleep on my chest… now she sleeps next to me, and wakes in the night to tap me on the shoulder and say “mummy, I need a tuddle.” Then she falls asleep on my shoulder, and I am happy.
- The little ritual we have at bed time and before nursery every day where I say “Mummy loves you…” and S replies, “Sooooo much!”
- When I’m dozing early in the mornings, and wake to find S has put her cuddly unicorn next to me and is quietly reading a book.
- The early days when she came literally everywhere with me. She would sit in her bouncy chair in the bathroom doorway while I had a bath in the mornings, or in the kitchen while I made lunch. I would carry her in the sling as I cleaned the kitchen or took the rubbish out. I believe it’s this closeness that has allowed her to become her own person now. Much as I miss holding her so close, so often, I enjoy seeing her taking her first independent steps with confidence and happiness.
The NCT and Pampers have just concluded a study into the first 1000 days of parenthood, following 1000 parents. Unsurprisingly, sleep issues were one of the main topics of conversation. When you have a baby, people joke that you should “say goodbye to sleep!” or “you’ll never sleep properly again.” I do sometimes sleep through the night – but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I still remember the night S first slept through; she was just over a year old, and I was so worried I couldn’t sleep, and kept checking to make sure she was still breathing! The thing about “sleep struggles” is, if you call it a struggle, it will be. If you just sort of take a deep breath and think “ok, another night of Baby Jake on repeat while you’re unsettled” it makes things a lot easier to deal with.
80% of the women who took part in the study had returned to full or part-time employment, which is a sign of the times, I suppose. If this study had been conducted when I was a child, you would probably have been more likely to find that 80% of mothers were staying home to care for the children. It’s good that women have more options now, but I worry that more mothers are being pushed out to work when they would rather care for their children, and more children are being pushed into childcare for the same reason.
The study is interesting, as it shows how different people’s experiences are – but also how universal they are. We all deal with sleepless nights, night feeds, teething. Our experiences are different but the same – and we all need support. Once you become a parent, it’s never just you again. You can split with your partner, change your job, move house, whatever – but you’re never just thinking for yourself. There will always be another person’s welfare to take into account in any decision. Besides the more practical aspect of sleep deprivation and changing nappies, the larger picture is a massive mental shift.
To coincide with the release of the research, Pampers has released its newborn journey of firsts film on You Tube:
Now though, I have a beautiful, confident and happy toddler. My pregnancy was not ideal, and the first few months of her life were a little rocky – but the rest of those thousand days, we made them count. And I am proud of both of us. So many new mothers feel lost at sea, like they’ve no clue what they should be doing, as if this knowledge should have come to them automatically or else they’re not a good mother. It’s not true. I believe that those of us who worry whether we’re good parents are the ones who are doing ok. When they tell you about the nappies and the sleepless nights, what they should tell you about is the worry. You worry about every decision, terrified that this might be the one that ruins your child’s life beyond all retrieval. But it’s the worrying that keeps us all on our toes, and striving to do our best.
This post has been written in collaboration with Pampers.