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Why you come first (and how I learnt that the hard way)

By March 9, 2016Fourth Trimester, Motherhood5 min read
Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

Last week I went to visit a brand new mama friend of mine whose twins are 12 weeks old. They were born at just 31 weeks, so they are still really teeny and needing their mama 24/7. We had a really good chat and while twin number 1 slept peacefully on my chest (and I tried to keep my ovaries under control) she fed twin number 2.

My little guy is 18 months old now and those hazy newborn days are but a distant memory, but being there with her, in that space for that hour, brought me back to that time and we chatted about what it’s REALLY like during those first few weeks and the things we’ve learnt along the way. I can only imagine how much more of a challenge it must be to have not 1 but 2 little babies, and on top of that, having such an early arrival. All I can say is she’s one hell of an amazing mama.

Friends often ask me if having a baby really is THAT hectic as people make it out to be, THAT life changing, THAT expensive… “like, why don’t you just get a babysitter and come for a drink?” Grrrr. (In case you were wondering, the answer to those questions are yes, yes and f*ck yes.)

What it’s really like…

My first 4 weeks as a Mom felt like someone took me up 40,000 feet in a plane and then through me out the window, and at the end of week 4, I hit the ground. Without a parachute. Haha. (Thank God I can say haha about that now).

It was way tougher than I imagined. Nothing prepared me for the reality of motherhood. I had always been the type of girl to take a long bath with a glass of wine, light candles at dinner time, paint my nails bright red when I felt creative and phone a friend just because and talk about nothing for half an hour. All that went away when baby arrived. It’s like I took that part of my personality and flushed it down the toilet without knowing about it!

I wanted to have everything under control. I wanted to do it all myself, like ‘all the other Moms’ do (their Instagram feeds looked way better than mine did!) I had done the whole pregnancy by myself and I could do this part too. Except I couldn’t. So much so that by 4 weeks old, my little man had become dehydrated and had to be admitted to hospital for 5 nights. Breastfeeding journey over. Tubes of formula stuck into his nose and fed through to his stomach. What a wake up call.

Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

Poor little dude :(

It was at that point that I totally lost it. I hated everyone in that hospital for what they were doing to my baby. I was so out of it at the time that I didn’t realise that they were actually saving him. I was such a mess. On night 2, the ward nurses had had enough of me, they called the head nurse and she gave me a talking to…

She told me that I was out of control and making life difficult for everyone around me and the nurses were getting fed up with my behaviour. She told me that my baby was crying with me because he could feel my energy and it was upsetting him. My only job was to give him love and forget about everything else. She gently took him from my arms and he immediately calmed down. She told me she was taking him up to NICU for the night (where she worked) and that I was to sleep. I cried and cried as she walked away with my baby, feeling like the worst Mom in the world. And then I slept.

At 5am the next morning, she brought him back to me and I was so grateful to see his little face again. Fast asleep all swaddled up. I realised right then and there that if I didn’t take care of myself first, I would not be able to take care of my baby. That nurse will always be my angel, she really switched a light on for me that night.

Mom comes first.

Self care as a Mom is so important. Whether it be sitting under a tree in your garden for 10 minutes and sipping a cup of tea while Dad / sister / friend looks after baby, or lying in a bubble bath once a week while Dad takes baby for a walk.

It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to not have it all together. And it’s okay to feel guilty for sitting under that tree, because let’s face it Mom guilt shows up everywhere! But that too shall pass and just know that you don’t need to feel guilty for taking time for you. Self care is not selfish, it’s loving, to you and everyone in your world.

So mama’s now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below – what are the little things that you do to put yourself first? And if you don’t, what teeny weeny thing could you start doing today?

Ubuntu Baba Baby Carriers | South Africa

Shannon McLaughlin

Shannon is the Founder of Ubuntu Baba baby carriers. She is passionate about helping new parents adjust to 'life with baby' through the art of babywearing and talking about the reality of motherhood in the 21st century.


  • Pakama Mafumo says:

    Wow, this is really refreshing!!! Being able to read only encouragement, kindness and support for mothers, without getting the feeling of being judged for once. Thank you Shannon and to the community of mamas who want to uplift rather than to trod down other mamas.
    I am a mother of three, two boys and a ten month old baby girl. Peace and quite in my household is somewhat alien #smiling so reading this piece on finding some alone time has come at a right time for me. I am realizing, as I type this, that I would definitely be a better mom if I do find the time to just spend on me (and not feel guilty about it) – What’s with the guilty feeling anyway guys? Always crucifying myself that I need to spend every waking minute caring for my babies, either by being permanently on duty to see to their never ending needs which are so many, or figuring out what the runny nose is all about or reading thru the homework book to make sure that I don’t miss out anything important. But after reading this post, I am convinced that I owe it to me and my family to recoup and gather strength so that I can give them a better me. Motherhood is hard but also a journey worth savouring and enjoying. Thanks once again for the upliftment.

    • Ag Pakama, thank you for your comment! I love it when I get comments on older posts I’ve written because it reminds me what I wrote and that I too need to take some of my own advice at times! Thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad that it has inspired you to take a moment or two here and there for you. You most definitely deserve it. Big love. xxx

  • Shan says:

    Oh my gosh, I cried while reading this…..
    I have 2 babas both under a year (what was I thinking – never do this). I feel so out of my league here, barely keeping my head above water. But they are both so darn beautiful and I couldn’t possibly love them any more even if I tried….. your post is so relatable. So there is hope!!! It will get better. I honestly don’t even have time to shower or fix myself for the day!!!
    But this whole process is beautiful and we become stronger through it. So I’m trying to enjoy it… while it lasts.

    • Wow! That must be super hard work, I can imagine there is no time for you. I’m sure by the time they are around 3 years old you will be patting yourself on the back for all the hard work, as they will be best friends and entertain each other all day long. My 3.5 year old is an only child and requires CONSTANT attention when he isn’t around friends – sometimes I wish he was a twin, haha, but only at this age ;) Big love to you and your babies.

  • Michele Minnaar says:

    Recently did a Mommies night out while daddy babysat. First since birth of my son at 16 months now. What an awesome evening to sit and chat real grown up talk between us without the kids being with us for a change. Need to make it more regular! ;-) Also really enjoyed the picnic on the the beach recently with same moms…this time with babies and dads and the dads surprised us by running after the kids while we sat and chilled! Also trying to get back into reading. Haven’t picked up a girly book since before pregnancy (pregnancy revolved around parenting & hypnobirthing books) and last week pulled one out from my old stash. Only a few chapters in, but realised straight away how much I’d missed it. Love the article. Thanks Shan! Xoxo

  • Candace says:

    Wow, I cannot agree more! Just like you needed your me time to reset when you were single and basically care free ” oh those candle lit baths…. Load shedding is the closest I get to those these days” (now you have a little life in your, as you mentioned, total 24/7 care, which feels like a good couple of weeks before you can actually feel yourself just breath again and climb off autopilot ) so personally I think you need it that much more. And Im not talking about a spa day or an entire care free night out with the girls (Although those would work to if your lucky enough :-) ). Im talking about just a cup of tea where you actually boil the kettle, steep the tea, add the milk and drink while in your OWN space, no interruptions. A shower (not the 5 second brush your teeth with your right hand, while washing your face with the left hand as the shampoo washes out your hair as you watch baby in his chair crying because you are not holding him, but it got to the point that you could not stand your own smell and that might also be the reason baby was crying kinda shower) The real kind, the leave the mask in your hair while the water massages your back and you literally think of nothing for those minutes kinda shower. Its those couple of minutes that i believe can reset your chaotic brain, put things into perspective and help you deal with the next hurdle with a clear mind. Which is better for you and baby!
    I cannot be more grateful to “my village” for letting me as a mom have those couple of minutes to reset.

  • Alex says:

    wow, thank you. i think, with my son turning 3 last year, ive only JUST realised how self care is important and that i should probably ad it to my routine… i was exactly the same as you describe in the beginning, wanting to do everything for my baby myself, i would barely let others hold him before it was time to nurse, or bath, or do tummy time, or sleep… I would not go to the toilet without strapping him into the car seat so he wouldnt be out of my sight. i wouldnt let anyone help if he was upset. because i thought i was the one who had to be able to calm him and if i couldnt then no one could.and what that nurse told you, i wish someone had told me. i wish i had realised how my bad energy and stress over wanting to be perfect for him was actually causing more harm than good. how after 2 years it had taken over my body to the point that i could barely cope with life and drove my body into chronic fatigue. I really hope your beautifully written message reaches new moms in time for them to realise how important self care is, especially when you are a mother.

    • Aaah Alex, thank you for your comment. I’m so glad you can relate and I’m also so happy that you are looking after yourself now. That saying ‘it takes a village’ comes to mind – except we don’t all have a village anymore, so it’s that much harder to find time for ourselves. Us Mom’s need to make sure we keep caring for one another. Lots of love to you!

  • Simone says:

    Goosebumps! And so true, we can’t be there for them if we aren’t there for ourselves, even though it takes most of us AGES to work that out! The thing I try do every day for myself is a hot shower. It’s not a big thing pre-baby, but now it’s the 5 minutes I need to recharge and settle myself so that I can settle my little one.

  • Candice says:

    Thank you for sharing and being vulnerable. This is so helpful as a new mom

  • Cara says:

    Awesome post and so well written! x

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