*A piece I wrote back in 2014, when my first baby was 10 months old.
Nothing shook my world more than becoming a parent. Everyone tells you, or should I say warns you, of the changes and upheaval you are about to experience. Somehow the anticipation, excitement and anxiety for the big day inhabits your thinking space, leaving no room to contemplate further than the almighty event of giving birth.
The situation is that, despite knowing that a baby changes everything, as soon as your baby enters your world you gradually experience the weight of your decision. As each hour passes, new situations, problems, conundrums, challenges are thrown at you relentlessly. If like me, you are lucky enough to have a strong partner to experience it with, together you face the biggest emotional and physical challenge you have ever faced.
As my one year maternity leave draws to a close and this short, but life changing chapter comes to an end, I reflect on 8 things that have shocked me about becoming a mother.
1. Real tiredness is torture and can do scary things to your mind
Pregnancy makes you tired but motherhood makes you all kinds of crazy exhausted. I feared for my sanity in the first three months of my baby's life. He was born at 10pm and that night I did not sleep; a combination of fear, trauma, pain and being in a dreamy baby bubble. This was foolish and a rookie mistake. I got home the following evening and as my final guests left my little bubble I could feel tingles of excitement as my first nights sleep as a mother, at home, approached. That sleep never came and I still haven't caught up 10 months down the line.
2. Time has never moved so fast
When I was told that my baby had colic and that it would probably last for the first three months, I wailed. Three months is a long time right!? Wrong. Time flies when you have a child - you don’t have time to even think about how it is passing. All of a sudden you see your child crawl for the first time and you are entering the real world again. You need to come up with a plan of how to merge your old life with your new one, quickly and successfully.
3. The amount you can get done before 10am is incredible
Quite often I will look at the clock and I have already achieved so much; breakfast - done, nap - complete, bottle - tick. You and baby are both washed, dressed and at your local coffee morning before you can say "poo poo". It is incredible to think of how much time I wasted (and enjoyed doing so) before having a baby.
4. Breastfeeding and not breastfeeding are the hardest things in the world
If breastfeeding, it literally sucks the energy out of you, yes I know it sounds brutal, but it’s true. As the baby feeds you can feel it sapping your energy, no amount of water can replenish your thirst. That along with sore nipples, boobs the size of bowling balls and underwear that looks fit for your nan, it is far from glamorous. Not breastfeeding or deciding to stop breastfeeding is equally as difficult. The judgement (from yourself and others) can make it an extremely painful choice. Just remember that whether it's a bottle or boob, you are keeping your baby alive. It is a beautiful thing and something we should all feel proud of!
5. Relationship tensions build quickly
The two weeks following my first birth my partner and I were on a learning journey together. How much nappy cream does he need? What is that funny sound he is making between each breath? Why is there a bit of green in his poo? We didn’t have the faintest idea but it was ok, we were on the same page; it was stressful but heartwarming. After your partner goes back to work following two weeks in baby bubble you continue to learn all about this new little person in your life and the other person falls further and further behind. You know the answers and they get annoyed that they don't; it creates all kinds of tension in your relationship.
6. A baby doesn’t know how to do anything that babies do
Everyone revises throughout the duration of their pregnancy; reading a thousand books, blogs, papers trying to find answers - what is it I am supposed to do when they arrive!? In the midst of this crazed, caffeine free, revision fest you forget that the baby doesn’t really know what he needs either! I didn’t even contemplate that a baby isn’t born knowing how to be a baby! He didn’t know how to feed, that he feels uncomfortable because he needs his nappy changed (and so cried throughout the entire process) and he didn’t really know who we were either! The learning process is made extremely difficult by the fact that all three of you haven't the faintest idea as to what is going on for at least three months.
7. Everyone wants to give you advice
As you can see, I have continued this tradition despite knowing how annoying it can be. When you manage to get your baby to sleep for the first time, work out a pattern in their feeding or make them smile with a particular toy or game you want to share it with the world and us parents make no excuses for doing so! You now know the secret, you are part of the club and you want to save those who are about to sign up. As someone listening to the advice; you learn to do one of two things - take it or smile politely, say thank you and ignore it!
8. Slowly each day you manage to reinstate part of your old life
They are adjusted somewhat but most elements do make a return. Imagine that your life is an infinite amount of dominoes standing in a line, becoming a parent knocks every single one of them down and it’s about learning how to stand each one up again - it takes time, energy and patience. Every time you manage to do something that slightly reflects the ‘old you’ it results in a self congratulating smile and even better, this time you get to share it all with an extra person; someone you love unconditionally.