Originally, I’d planned to blog about motherhood on a monthly basis: the first month, second month and so on. But who am I kidding? Finding time to blog properly is but a pipe dream, let alone thinking and writing about something profoundly meaningful and life altering. But it’s been six months and every single day I’m confronted with thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) that compel me to put “pen to paper”, so here I am.
Let me begin by saying that being a mum is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If you think you know how hard it is, trust me, you don’t. You think you understand what friends mean when they say you’ll have no time to yourself, that you’ll have literally no sleep, that when you’re running on empty, you still need to muster the energy to rock a crying, struggling baby, or when you want nothing more than to just sit and be still but yet you need to entertain an energetic infant.
You think you get it. I thought I did, but I didn’t.
It’s lucky then that the rude awakening of motherhood is not only matched but completely obliterated by the utter magic and joy of a baby – your baby – who gurgles and smiles and chatters, and who unconditionally loves you.
But let’s take a step back to the first couple of months.
It hasn’t always been sunshine and happiness. Sam arrived a whole three weeks early, before I’d started maternity leave, before I’d had a chance to spoil myself in self-indulgent nothingness for the last time in my life (well, the next 18 years anyway). The labour (16 hours) and birth is now but a blur, as is the first four days in hospital. Then suddenly we’re home, just me and Panu and this new little person who in an instant became the most significant part of our lives.
My mother came to stay with us for five weeks and boy do I know how blessed I am to have had the help. The house was clean and we had amazing home cooked meals on tap. All I had to do was look after teeny tiny Sam, but even then it wasn’t easy. The repetitive cycle of feed, change, sleep every two to three hours, 24 hours a day is not only mundane but the effort it takes to do it on zero energy is nothing short of heroic. I bow down to every other mother who’s had to do it solo, with no help from anyone.
And then my mother went home. Sam and I (and Panu) had to fend for ourselves. Still waking three hourly throughout the night, zero energy became the norm. Panu did as much as he could to help me, coming home in time to bathe Sam every evening and doing the first night feed with expressed milk so that I could go to bed early and indulge in three hours of unbroken sleep. The days came and went in a hazy cycle of eat-play-sleep (although ‘sleep’ is a stretch, Sam’s not a big napper and so the advice of “nap when the baby naps” didn’t apply to me). At this point, I didn’t find motherhood rewarding in the slightest. I hadn’t felt that all-consuming love people talked about.
When he was two months old, I lost my shit (to put it mildly). One night (strangely, it was after a good day), all the tiredness and frustration and helplessness caught up to me and I just cried. And cried. And bawled. And got all red and puffy. Panu didn’t know what to do but hug me, slobbering mess and all.
(Funnily, when I told my friend about this, she was really impressed I held out two whole months before losing it 😉)
Some days nothing got done. Literally not one thing. I remember Panu saying to me “don’t make the bed, nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t make the bed.” But I always find the 20 seconds it takes to make the bed, because on days when it is 5pm before I realise I hadn’t yet brushed my teeth, achieving just one thing makes all the difference.
I found my groove at around eight or nine weeks.
When you’re home alone with a crying baby, the bad hours seem endless. Some days, I was confronted with a newborn who screamed and cried and could not – would not – be pacified by anything. My sister-in-law prescribed lots of cake to get through these days. Some days there was cake. Some days, KFC. Whatever works!
(I once literally walked around my kitchen island rocking him, fighting against his struggles, singing Twinkle Twinkle with tears streaming down my face. I kid you not.)
Encouraged by my awesome network of mum friends, I gained the courage to venture out with a baby, first to the safety of someone’s home then gradually to the shopping centre, then to cafes, the city, even to mums & bubs movies! Taking Sam out was absolutely my saving grace, not only in the way it managed to soothe him (babies, prams and ambient noise, I don’t know what it is, but it’s a partnership made in heaven) but also gave me back a semblance of a life. And incidentally, crying is somehow not as loud when you’re out and about.
Our daily routine is often speckled – and sometimes flooded – with difficult moments, days when I need to hold him and be on my feet (seriously, how do they know?) all day. But I learned to roll with the punches, to tackle one day at a time and have faith that around the corner is a happy, glowing angel of a baby who is learning about life as much as I am.
Somewhere along the way, my baby started to grow up.
When he was three months old, Sam turned a corner. He started sleeping better at night, waking only once or twice for feeds (note that we didn’t follow any sleep training guides, but we did start letting him ‘cry it out’ a little more) and during the day, he became better at self-entertainment, able to lie on his play mat alone for up to 10 minutes at a time. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff I can now get done in 10 minutes.
When he turned four months old, he slept through the night! I jumped for joy as much as my impossibly engorged and painful breasts (sorry if TMI!) allowed. Still fully breast fed at this point, sleeping 12 hours through the night seemed like nothing short of a miracle and I’m eternally grateful to my little baby boy. I felt my sanity slowly creeping back, and it was great.
(With a good rest, a bad day is bearable. With no sleep, even a good day is shit. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve really ‘slept’ since he was born. The tiniest sound he makes wakes me so I don’t think I’m ever in a deep sleep any more.)
At five months we started on solids. And did the boy like to eat, not that that’s any surprise considering his pedigree 😉
Today Sam is six months old.
The ratio of good days vs bad days is definitely increasing but don’t get me wrong, there are still many painful hours, bad days and even the occasional endless night. Some days, I just want to throw him against a wall (just kidding, leaving him in a Red Cross donation bin is much more humane – JUST KIDDING!) and it feels like a miracle that the clock isn’t ticking backwards. Some how some way, we manage to get to bed time and when that little face falls asleep in my arms, nothing else in this world matters.
I would do anything for this child, literally anything. People talk about sacrifices. Sure you make a bunch of sacrifices: I’ve given up my sleep, my spare time, any semblance of me time really (I haven’t had a long shower in six months, I barely wash my hair these days), and you might not believe this but I haven’t been out for dinner once since Sam was born. In fact, I haven’t been outside of my house at night for the past six months. But these sacrifices are nothing. It’s when they’re hurt and it’s beyond your control (like when Sam woke one day with spots on him or when he struggled with teething pains)… wow, you would not believe the maternal instincts that kick in. Words don’t do justice to the intense, overwhelming need you have for your child to be well, and the fact that you would literally do anything to make them well again.
Back to that ‘not feeling the all-consuming love’ thing? I think the above paragraph pretty much sums up what it feels like now.
Sometimes I think that motherhood isn’t actually getting easier. It’s my perspective that’s evolving and I truly see this marvel of a little human person who needs me so badly. And the bad days? They are but a speck in the life span of my little baby, a flicker of time when he actually needs me, just me. Soon enough he won’t and I’ll bet you anything that when that time comes, I’ll be longing for the days when he would cling to me with his chubby little hands and cry, because all he wants is his mummy to rock him to sleep, because he trusts me, he loves me, he knows only me.
(I really had to remind myself of this just yesterday. I’ve been sick with a cough and cold all week. I’d pretty much been up all of Monday night coughing and spluttering away and just when my cough seemed to ease in the early hours of the morning, Sam wakes at 5am and I’m up for the day. So what did I do? I cried. Yep, I cried. And then I got on with it.)
To all the new mums out there who feel like they haven’t achieved anything because the bed isn’t made? I say this: you are achieving something. You’re being the best mum you can and the only mum your baby needs. And that is all that matters.
All I can say is thank goodness for the wisdom and endless support of my precious mum friends. You know who you are.
ps. I could go on and on in detail about the birth, sleeping, feeding, anything. But I’d fall asleep reading it myself, so if you have any questions or want to talk about anything, leave a comment or email me.
pps. A little motivation goes a long way. If you’re feeling down about motherhood, read this post and this post and then there’s this one, which always brings a tear to my eye. Not only will they have you clambering to cuddle and love your baby like nothing else, they’ll even make you appreciate those midnight feeds.
ppps. this post took me one whole month to write.