My oldest child has just had his 18th birthday. My baby has grown to be a young man.

The younger children are growing up too. When I meet brand new mums I always feel I want to pour my heart out to them. To tell them of all the ups and downs ahead and to reassure them that, come what may, they’re not alone.

Here’s a letter I’d love to hand out to every brand new mum I meet, the letter I needed to read 18 years ago when I was that brand new mum…

Dear Tired and Very Beautiful New Mum,

Well done, mum! You’ve endured, survived, perhaps even enjoyed giving birth to your sweet tiny baby. Whatever way that baby came into the world does not matter, your child is here now.

You have brought into the world a beautiful, perfect baby. Your son or daughter has been alive within your body for many months but today has been handed over from your sole care into this wide world.

Your baby has been born, but what you don’t realise is that you have been born too, or reborn perhaps, as a mother.

Your son or daughter has been growing within you and that growing body has been making your body and mind grow too.

Today both of you are brand new in this world, he as a baby and you as his mum.

This bright, new day, you believe that it’s your job to look after and to love this baby.

You probably don’t realise at all that it’s also your job to look after yourself.

The responsibility to nurture and parent yourself is as vital as your responsibility to your baby.

You will find that you cannot look after your child (and the other children who are miles away from your thoughts today) unless you look after yourself first.

Both of you will crash and burn at times until you learn the skills of maternal self care.

You will learn that you need to stop caring so much for others and focus more on you.

You will learn the delicate balancing act that caring for yourself whilst you are the main carer for a family requires.

This clear, fresh day sees you feeling deeply connected to your child’s father. You are astounded at what the two of you have managed to create. You think that nothing can ever come between you.

But in the months and years to come, there will be many, many times when you cannot stand the sight of each other. There will be fires that the two of you pass through, may you be stronger for them. Try to be kind to each other.

On this most dazzling and glorious of days, you are holding that bonny baby in your arms and you know that he or she is perfect.

If one day you should find that this beautiful child has some differences or difficulties, try not to panic.

There may be terrible times when you feel scared, alone and panic stricken. Time soothes these pains. Whatever your child’s problems in the future, know that each person has their own perfection.

So, as you breathe in the scent of this brand new baby, enjoy and savour each moment of this day.

The world is all new for you and for your baby. Your child’s first in this world is your first day as a mother.

Please try not to worry, things do work out and life rolls on. Your life together will be as you make it. Come what may.

There are so many trials and troubles ahead, but if you can live and breathe in each moment as it presents itself, you will find great peace and joy.

And once you can look after yourself as well as you look after other people, you and your tiny new family will be happy and well.

Learn to live in the moment and to thrive within each passing second. Then your baby will become a child and one far day, an adult just like you. You will feel faint with pride.

And know this one final thing from a mum whose children are now huge giants, there will be a LOT of washing and folding along the way… always!