This is the other side of my baby memories post. Hopefully it doesn’t sound too much like a moan or a rant, I have mainly tried to be honest. It’s a huge privilege to get to know and raise our daughter. It’s a cliche but I think my overarching experience of motherhood has been that it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done combined with the happiest times of my life. I don’t think there are many ‘meh’ moments as a new parent. You are either full of joy or despairing, nothing in between!
– The sleep deprivation is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I realise if I moan any more about how little sleep I’m getting I am in danger of becoming tiresome. At six months she still doesn’t go down for naps unless rocked a lot in the pram, in the car or on me. At night a three hour stretch is considered good at the moment, with lots of wake ups during the rest of the night. After a lot of questioning of people whose babies do sleep, I’m fairly convinced it is luck whether you get a sleeper or not. There are definitely things you can do to help a baby sleep well, but really it’s up to the baby and you just have to work with that and survive as best you can.
– I have never felt as judged and as guilty since I’ve become a mother. I still half feel that Felicity’s lack of sleepiness is somehow my fault. Logically I know people whose first babies have slept wonderfully and then the second has not, so parenting has nothing to do with it really. But then you hear about other babies who sleep through and whose parents can put them down for naps and you want to cry. Or you get emails from Johnson & Johnson saying about how important it is to put down your baby ‘sleepy but awake’ and in my sleep deprived state I feel like a massive failure if it’s such a simple thing. Note: I’ve obviously tried sleepy but awake many times, generally Felicity immediately gets furious and starts trying to shift about in her cot and then sometimes bangs her head on the bars and bursts into tears (that didn’t happen at about ten o’clock last night, no no no). There are few things I can think of other than motherhood where people outright judge you as much and so obviously. In fairness I should probably widen this out to include parenthood more generally as Will has had his fair share of childless people criticising our ‘spoiling’ of Felicity. If anyone who is about to have a baby were to ask me advice the most important and sanity saving thing I would say is – don’t be afraid to ignore the advice and trust your instincts, even if you don’t think you have instincts yet. Don’t listen to anyone who criticises as there are a million ways to do everything, and your child will respond to some and not others. And that’s fine. Also don’t buy Johnson & Johnson products as clearly they’re judgey <insert swear word of choice here>.
– Motherhood has also thrown me down the rabbit hole of the dizzying array of parenting methods out there. You’re a baby wearer, or a co-sleeper, or you’re determined to get your child into a routine. You do baby-led weaning, or crying it out. You can’t just parent. I loved this article in the Guardian about how all this is just making parenting less enjoyable and parents more anxious. The article made me cheer in recognition as I see yet another post on Facebook about people who never use a buggy or a pram as if they’re some kind of baby torture, compared to slings; or that slings are hippy nonsense. It’s yet another way that mothers can judge each other rather than just having a chat, some cake and some solidarity. I’ve found some lovely mum friends and we’re all muddling along together and taking silly photos of our babies along the way. This is much more preferable than obsessing over extreme parenting philosophies, whichever end of the spectrum they may be.
– Breastfeeding can be one of the most lonely ways to feed your baby. I was very lucky in that breastfeeding was fairly easy to establish (and it absolutely was luck, again let’s not get into a judgey debate about bottle vs. breast here). It is a wonderful way to bond and it is easier to just undo my top rather than sterilise a bottle. But it also means I am unable to have a night off whilst Will does the night feeds, or a night away, unless I’m happy to let her cry herself to sleep, which I’m most definitely not. Due to Felicity’s reflux problems I’ve had to limit my intake of tea, coffee (an added cruelty with the sleepless nights), booze and chocolate; most of my clothes no longer work as they aren’t suitable for feeding. Basically it is like a different version of being pregnant in that your body is not a 100% your own. Sometimes the idea of drinking a G&T, sleeping a whole night in a hotel on my own with a real cup of tea in the morning whilst wearing a normal bra without wet leaky milk patches sounds like heaven.
– I have had more squabbles with Will than ever before since having Felicity. Sleep deprivation and no time to do basic housework and still vaguely have time to do the odd thing for ourselves has had its impact. Yet in most ways I’ve never felt more like he’s got my back than since we became parents, he’s my co-parent and my sanity-saver. He has kept me afloat numerous times by sitting up all night comforting our daughter when needed, then going to work the next day, so I can get some sleep. Or having to rush to get to the office on time because I need to do this and that thing before I’m on my own for the day again. Basically it feels like Pam from The Office can sum up my feelings about my marriage perfectly right now:
– We have already talked about having another baby, and at this point in time, I’m not sure if we want to add to our little family. I realise I may well change my mind, but I wanted to record it here, we have talked about it already thanks to the question of ‘do we put the tiny baby clothes away for another or get rid of them?’, that pops up fairly quickly as they start outgrowing things. At the moment, I’m not sure I could go through all the pregnancy sickness again, as well as a caesarian (which I’m told would be advised next time), with Felicity running about and needing attention along with a newborn. I’m an only child so it doesn’t automatically seem like a bad thing to me, and I find the idea of sibling arguments quite upsetting. The appeal of more money and time, and less impact on the environment, is floating there tantalisingly at the idea of having only one. Also I can’t imagine not being able to concentrate all my attention on her, or loving anyone as much as her either. At the same time I already miss my tiny baby and the idea of never seeing another little person grow and develop seems sad to me. We might not be lucky enough to be able to have another of course and I’m sure this decision will feel very different as Felicity grows up. Let’s just say at this point I’m keeping my favourite baby bits, but getting rid of quite a lot too.
– At the same time as all these challenges, motherhood is a marvel. There is such joy in being one of the two people Felicity relies on utterly. When she smiles at me it is the feeling of the purest, most uncomplicated happiness I’ve ever known. I have never tried or wanted to do something as much as being a good mother to my daughter. It’s a miracle Will and I have created this perfect little person with her own strong feelings and personality. I don’t even mind that much when she throws up, poos or wees all over me – surely that’s the ultimate sign of love?! I can’t wait to experience more of being a Mama as Felicity grows and develops even more.
If you’ve made it this far with this self indulgent post then thank you!