If you’re about to become a mother for the first time, you’re in for one of the biggest changes you will ever experience. So take a deep breath, buckle up, and strap on your big girl panties (they ain’t nearly as big as the mesh ones you’ll get at the hospital anyways).

Here’s what I wish I knew before I became a new Mum…

Ditch the Great Expectations

Basically, the less smug you go into this whole parenting gig, the better. Most of the very worst, lowest moments in my journey as a Mum have come when I have free-fallen from some crazy high expectations onto the cold, hard ground of reality. Here are some expectations that deserve a swift kick out the door: expecting a certain kind of birth experience, expecting a certain kind of baby with a certain temperament, expecting to bounce back quickly (emotionally, mentally and physically), expecting breastfeeding to be easy (or having strong feelings about bottles or boobs either way), expecting your relationship with your partner to not change or only grow stronger after a kid, and expecting your little cherub to sleep through the night (ever).

Here are some more realistic expectations to stick up on your fridge: expect to become more acquainted with gross bodily fluids than a junior nurse working a double-shift. Expect to be pushed to your absolute psychological and emotional limits (through interrupted sleep and a small human who instinctively knows exactly when to push you over the edge when your toes are already sticking off the proverbial cliff). Expect to learn and grow and change as much as your baby in the next few years. Expect ever-moving milestones – just as you’ve got breastfeeding down, it’s time to enter the messy world of solids. Then just as your toddler has learnt to toddle, expect those sweet, soft feet to begin stomping down a little more willfully and getting into all sorts of places they shouldn’t. And in those early days, expect more than a few poonamis – a cataclysmic event in which a newborn poo explodes right out of the nappy, onto their back, before cresting at the nape of their cute little neck.

Quit Comparing

Do you know what’s worse than a poonami though? Constantly living under the guillotine of comparison. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to find out what other people think, what other kids your kid’s age are doing, and to scroll through endless feeds of other families making it all look so easy and fun.

The biggest problem with giving in to comparison is that it creates an invisible yet powerful ladder in our minds. Without really knowing it, we begin to place people on our pecking order – some might be way ahead of us or our child (leading to feelings of insecurity, envy and self-loathing), others might be below us on our ladder (making us feel just a tad self righteous and good about ourselves for all the wrong reasons).

But the truth is, there is no ladder. None of us fit the textbook cases on every chapter and page. What your child finds easy to do, another might struggle with. What you might battle with, another Mum might breeze through. Does this make you better or worse? No, it just makes you, you. And you my friend, warts and all, are the best Mum for your baby. For real.

Know that this too, shall pass

It all passes. It really, really does. Those scary, sacred newborn days when you’re so tired you rock the trolley and feed the pillow instead of your baby. The growth spurts. Their first time falling ill. Those crazy, testing toddler moments when you’re pretty sure you’re raising a terrorist or Africa’s next dictator. The dark nights when you feel like you did it all wrong that day. It all will pass. Even the poonamis.

And when you look back, you’ll realise that all those annoying gogos, grannies and tannies were right: it does go much quicker than you thought it would.

So my biggest advice? Let yourself enjoy it all. Let go of all your expectations and the crippling curse of comparison.

Your best life is right in front of you – waiting for you to simply be present to it. And in the end, the big moments and milestones don’t count as much as we thought, feared or hoped. It’s all the ordinary, in-between, non-instagram-worthy moments, when you turned your back on comparison and expectations and faced your life and the people in it, with gratitude, love and grace – even (especially) for yourself.

And you? If you’re a new Mum,we’d love for you to join in on our Mumversation below and let us know how it’s going! We’re all rooting for you. And if you’re a not-so-new Mum, what do you wish you had known as a new Mum?

Stop check! Why the first thousand days are so important…If you’re a new or expecting Mum, or know one, this podcast with Nokokhanya is a must-listen.

Written by Julie Williams – Lifestyle Editor

Join the Mumversation!