Hi my name is Fe,
I’m 32. I’ve got a bung eye, wonky teeth and I’m a size 16. Definitely no thigh gap here. I’m a first time Mum, muddling my way through becoming a parent. A bit like a crazy goosebumps pick a page adventure book, except I can’t go back and choose a different ending when I get it wrong, or don’t like how it turns out.
This is Real life.
My baby is turning 1 next week. My son, my miracle boy we never dreamed we would have, will be 1, I’ll be heading back to work soon… and I am SHOOK.
What a year it’s been. The twists and turns. The sheer joy and and the irrevocable love.
The first year – a series of milestones that flick you like a yo-yo. Just when you think you’re at the end of the rope as low as it will go, something good happens and your propelled back up again – but – you’re coiled tight ready for the next drop.
A friend of mine recently asked me, is it what you expected, motherhood? I replied; The highs are higher than I ever imagined – the emotional bond and hardwired instincts you never knew you had are very strong. The intimate moments you share with your child, just the two of you, full of warmth and tenderness, are unlike anything else in this world. But, the lows are low, and frequent, and unexpected. I didn’t actually think it would be this hard.
The pregnancy and birth, jaundice. Breastfeeding, cluster feeding, sleep, no sleep. Pooping, not-pooping, tummy trouble, teething, solids, rolling, crawling, still no sleep… it’s all a series of milestones and developments, each with its own challenges and rewards.
Although we are almost through his first year, there are many things that haven’t quite gone to plan or expectation…
I am still breastfeeding
I still feed to sleep
He will only sleep in my arms during the day, or not at all
He still wakes 3-4 times a night MINIMUM
He is still in his cot in our room – we haven’t even used the nursery (I have to laugh at this!)
He won’t take a dummy
He still won’t take a bottle
No one else can get him to sleep, not even his Dad
I know many experts say you should be able to put your baby down drowsy but awake… sorry, (I know it works for some children who were sent down from the school of sleepy sleep angels, and their bloody lucky parents) but seriously? Are you actually delusional? You haven’t met my child. If I put him down anything other than completely out to it, it’s a scream fest baby – for as long as he might fancy, all night even. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried and tried. At this stage, his stamina is greater than mine – and it’s as simple as that. I’ve tried to persevere and follow all the sleep advice I can possibly ingest, but after several nights which saw up to a 6 hour dance party instead of sleep, I’ve given up trying to “do it this way or that way” and just accepted the fact that feeding to sleep is easier for us, and then at least we all get some! I will continue to do it until it doesn’t work anymore. Every child is different, and guys, hey-guys, we have GOT to stop comparing, or it might actually destroy us. It has nearly destroyed me on more than one occasion.
I look back on the past year, and realise a couple of other things too. I’m pretty sure I grappled with mild Agoraphobia there for a while. I was scared to leave the house. I got anxious even thinking about it. I imagined everything would go wrong, I was obsessed with naps times, obsessed with a routine, and you know what – fair enough if it was working – but it didn’t bloody help us one bit, and now I wish I’d worried a bit less, and got out a bit more. Especially as my maternity leave is quickly coming to an end. To a degree, sometimes I can still feel a bit like this, and it just seems easier to stay home. These days I swing between that, and GET ME OUT OF THIS HOUSE IM LOSING MY MIND – sorry kiddo you’re coming with me, nap or no nap. Maybe that just comes with time and experience?
To other new Mums I would say; go have that coffee with a friend, go to that Mums and Bubs movie session. Take the opportunity to have some alone time if Dad or a family member can watch the baby. The worst that can happen is you have to come home, but at least you got out, got some practice, and real-life, ‘out of the baby bubble’ social interaction can be a lifeline you don’t even know that you need.
I’ve also realised that old cliche “it takes a village – or find your tribe” is true. I’m lucky enough to have my Mum live with us full time, and although that has its own challenges, I couldn’t have done this year without her. I’m also very lucky to have met an amazing group of Mums at ante natal class. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them either. Being able to share with them, and my other close friends with babies and older children is INVALUABLE and they truly don’t know how AMAZING they are, and how much they kept me sane and able to keep going.
I also have to acknowledge that I am mean when I’m tired.
I am really, really, mean when I’m tired, and my husband should basically be Knighted “He of unlimited patience, that deals with looney, psycho, mean, tired Fe”
I also – just quietly – feel I’ve become a little Judgey Judy. What’s that about? I’ve got to remember to keep that shit in check. It’s kind of like I can’t help but compare myself to other Mums… are they doing it right, am I doing it right – I don’t know why I feel compelled to even measure things against other Mums but I do (always internally – I can’t stand a Judy Judgey McJudger who tells everyone how to do things) Becoming a Mum has made me opinionated on things I never knew I had an opinion on, and I guess I just have to peg that as caring too much…? So while I’m starting to feel fierce and more self confident in some ways – I’m still really not in others. It’s really hard not to let that comparison eat you up.
However, I am slowly regaining my sense of self. I feel mentally stronger now than I have in a long time. I feel a sense of purpose I have never felt, and some new silent resilience and conviction. My decisiveness is slowly returning. I do care less about what people think of me, my appearance, possessions, career, decision making, and parenting style. I don’t think I’m doing anything differently, I think it’s just taken time to adjust to my new – real life.
Take hope Mama’s, it finally feels like the swirl of foggy mist is rising… until the next milestone at least!