I had my first daughter, Braianna, when I was 15 and just about to start my last year of secondary school. We’ve both come a long way since then — I’m now 21 and a successful career woman, and Brai is now a free-spirited 5-year-old who’s looking forward to finally being a big sister in July!
It’s not all been plain sailing, but here are 5 things I wish I’d known before embarking on my parenting journey:
1. Breastfeeding is hard!
I was never told that breastfeeding can and will be painful and tiring. When Brai was born, she wanted feeding every half an hour – day and night.
After a week of this I was exhausted and by week three I was done; we switched to bottle feeding. I’m glad I managed for the first three weeks but a bit of warning would have been nice!
2. But it gets easier.
About two years after Brai was born I was told that the first three weeks of breastfeeding are the hardest and after this, your body adjusts. Had I known this the first time, I might have been less inclined to throw in the towel!
At the time I thought that, as long as I breastfed, my nipples were going to feel like they were being sliced off with glass, and I was going to be permanently shattered. Thankfully this isn’t the case, and next time I’ll be giving it another go if I can.
3. However, parenting itself does not.
I remember telling myself when Brai was younger ‘it will be easier when she can move around herself’, ‘it will be easier when she can communicate with me’, ‘it will be easier when she can entertain herself a bit’, etc. I came to find that this was not the case!
In fact, with each new milestone came a whole new set of problems to navigate – with walking came more accidents, with talking came arguments and with her independence came the feeling that she was growing up and slipping out of my grasp. Mum guilt forever!
4. It is absolutely okay to ask for help!
When Brai was small, I felt like I had to do everything myself, and that asking for help was akin to admitting I’d failed — I thought I had something more to prove because I was so young.
As we’ve grown, I’ve realised that the expression ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is true! Through the years, I’ve had help from grandparents, friends, teachers, step-parents, and all manner of other people, and I never would have done it without them; there’s no shame in asking for help.
5. Things don’t always go to plan… but that’s okay too!
This time around I have fewer expectations — we’re just going to go with the flow and see what happens.
I have good intentions to breastfeed and cloth nappy and sleep when baby sleeps (haha), but I know that kids are great for not doing what you want them to, so I’ve decided to shed the expectations, take every moment as it comes and just enjoy raising my children as best I can.
Read more about Rebecca and Brai’s adventures at her blog, Raising Brai.
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