From patience and resilience to the art of multitasking, motherhood changes us, whether we like it or not

It’s one of the biggest life adjustments you’ll ever make. But what does motherhood really teach you? Louise Pyne finds out

Pick up a baby manual and you’ll get the answers to a range of practical, need-to-know questions that face new mums. How do I swaddle my baby properly? What are the benefits of white noise? Should I invest in a sling or a carrier? But there’s also a whole host of other things you won’t read about in those handbooks. “With motherhood comes the biggest joys in your life and also the greatest challenges – physically, mentally and emotionally. Yes, it will be tough but it will also give you some of the happiest and proudest moments you could ever experience,” says Justina Perry, wellbeing expert and founder of MamaBabyBliss.

This is what we learn with the arrival of our tiny human beings:

Acceptance of your body
You might have been obsessing over your slightly dimply thighs or less-than-perfect tum before you were pregnant, but you’ll probably see your figure in a whole new light now that you’ve had a baby. Your body has done something amazing by carrying that child for nine months, and those stretch marks and scars become an integral part of you. And say goodbye to fad diets: “You’ll be more focused on keeping healthy and energised to look after yourself and your baby,” believes Justina.

Emotional resilience
During those early days you will go through plenty of highs and lows. Dropping levels of oestrogen and progesterone, along with the massive life shift that comes with having a baby can cause overwhelming feelings of sadness and tiredness. But just when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, you’ll probably experience a surge of love and awe just from looking at the little one you’ve created. “Motherhood is a journey with one big difference – the destination is never really what you think it’s going to be,” says Justina. “Dealing with a tiny person that has her own personality will make sure that every day is not the one you expected.” Learn to live in the moment and focus on the big picture rather than the little things.

New skills
You might be taking a career break right now, but you’ll learn a whole host of new skills while on maternity leave. From dealing with the unpredictability that comes with newborn territory (changing a nappy for the third time in 20 minutes, anyone?) to becoming nothing less than a multitasking ninja (think sending a text message while loading the washing machine and singing your baby to sleep at the same time), you’ll be surprised at how you quickly adapt to motherhood. “You’ll also learn to have endless patience and understanding as you navigate challenges you never thought you would encounter, so don’t underestimate the magnitude of who you’ve become,” adds Justina.

Unconditional love
Are you feeling shattered but still get that warm, fuzzy feeling every time you gaze into baby’s eyes? Nothing can prepare you for the love you feel for a child. “It’s all-consuming, and is what will keep you going through tough times. When you want to cry from tiredness or scream with frustration, just a smile from your baby will fill your heart with love and remind you why this is all so worthwhile,” notes Justina.

You’re capable of more than you think
Everyone will tell you that newborn babies wake up all the time, but it’s another thing actually experiencing a debilitating lack of sleep firsthand. One of the hardest adjustments of early motherhood is getting used to fragmented sleep but while you might feel like a walking zombie most of the time, you’ll still push the physical boundaries and get on with being the best mum you can. “And don’t forget the old-fashioned advice of sleeping when your baby is asleep,” adds Justina. “Rather than tidying or filling your time with activities, take some time out. Studies have shown that a 20- to 30-minute nap is all it takes to recharge and leave you mentally more alert and able to cope.”

Want more? The benefits of swimming with your baby

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