My baby boy is almost 10 months old. I know how cliche it is and that every mum in the world says that, but I really can’t believe how fasts it all had gone by, and that this little person is the same one I brought home from the hospital, he’s changes so much I wouldn’t recognised him from his first photos. I want to go back to the beginning, to those first, beautiful but also incredibly hard months and reflect on how this new reality had hit us and how we survived. I hope that my experience will help other new parents out there, and that you find something you can relate to in this post.
I remember myself sitting at work, pregnant and dreaming about upcoming maternity leave, I honestly thought I would have all the time in the world, which I was so lacking working full time, to finally do all the stuff that I wanted and planned for years but never actually had these extra hours to dedicate fully to my hobbies. I was smiling imagining myself in the kitchen cooking delicious meals, exercising, reading and everything else from my ever so long wish list. So I remember myself from that couple of months ago and I am laughing out loud. How naive one can be is beyond comprehension. If I was having a baby for a first time I could be forgiven this ridiculous utopic visions, but really, second time round? I can’t just believe how stupid I was. In my fantasy maternity dream my baby was sitting in a bouncer playing and cheerfully babbling for hours and I was making sashimi maks and California rolls (I love sushi) right after I’d put Ferrero Rocher cake in the oven (which I added to notes on my phone as ‘to do’ in 2012). When he gets bored with bouncer I’ll put him on playmat, surely he’ll like pulling all those tigers and monkeys by the tails. And when he gets tired with all that playing it’s time for a nap, let’s say 2 hours. Or more, babies need a lot of sleep. To say that this vision was a bit different from reality will be a massive understatement. Let’s just say this: as of yet there was no homemade sushi, hardly ever there was even any dinner made by me. Little munchkin took away every moment of my day, I could only manage to brush my teeth, wash my creased face or take a shower (total luxury) at 12 pm, when he was napping. Always in a hurry, always longing for these couple of extra minutes. To my unpleasent surprise and disappointment there was no time to make omlettes for breakfast, with finely chopped onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese, just how I love it. Instead I had couple of toasts with jam or nutella, which I hardly ever had before. And so there I was, high from massive palm oil and sugar injection and generous caffeine portion from a coffee that was never drank in one go and always reheated countless times (if I was lucky enough to find my cup I’d abandoned suddenly somewhere in the house). Also breastfeeding brought a wave of chocolate cravings strong as hurricane against which I was powerless. I was always quite serious sugar addict, but the amount I was allowing myself after giving birth was nothing but obscene. It was impossible to resist. Once I saw chocolate I was like an animal following its instinct – I would kill to have it (well almost). So yeah, chocolate for breakfast was a new thing, I was biting it as if it was sandwich. Then after a while I had ice cream, snickers and so on, I was topping up my sugar levels all day long. I felt terrible about it, and I sort of managed to control it a bit after couple of weeks. I guess it was tiredness, sleep deprivation, stress and increased demand for calories that made me eat week’s worth of sweet supply in one day, with a ferociousness of a bear that woken up mad hungry after winter sleep.
So I was a bit dumbstruck with this new reality and my jaws (and mood) were dropping lower and lower at this total, lawless robbery of my time, and I was laughing at my idyllic visions. For some irrational reasons I thought that because my first baby was high maintainace screamer, now it’s karma time and I’ll have quiet little angel. “Boys are lovely” everyone around was telling me. Well karma is a bitch and the first 3 months were a hard test for us. Joseph had colics and troubles with digesting lactose and was vomitting a lot. I know it’s very common, but I wasn’t coping well with it, however stupid it sounds – I didn’t prepare mentally for it. I also didn’t want time to pass by in a blur, where days are impossible to tell apart, but it was hard to avoid in among repetitive cries, feeds, carrying, an hour of putting to sleep and singing lullabies for a 15 minutes nap 🙂 Joseph also preferred sleeping on people rather than anywhere else, so I found myself confined to the sofa with this little coala clinging onto my chest pretty much all day long.
I was immersing myself in a warm wave this tiny body oozed, I could look at his face, trying to figure out what it all is in a series of heartmelting pouts, for hours. I sniffed his neck and wanted to eat him like some kind of vampire mother, honestly where are all these weird urges from?
7, 9, 10 am, 3, 5pm… wait, what? Where the whole day had gone? Time was always racing like mad, but this was just unbelievable, I could swear it was a trick or something. As another day slipped through my fingers I felt frustrated that I’ve done practically nothing, house was a dump, nothing edible in the fridge, mount everest of washing to do, mind and body neglected. Month after Joseph was born we moved to the new house and we didn’t even have beds or furniture, so first few months was a constant obstacle course around the house in a desperate attempt to find things in boxes covering literally every square cm of the house. I really don’t do well in such disorganised space, it increases cortisol and adrenaline in my blood to a dangerous levels, so I wanted to finish everything off asap, which of course wasn’t doable with a newborn needing me 24/7 (life hack: don’t ever move house and have a baby at the same time:)
So for first 3 months I was bathing myself in a coktail of tenderness and anger, peace and guilt about doing nothing (especially not having time for my older daughter), of all day long cuddles, cueings and kisses and a desperate need to be alone. I never would have thought I can experience such ambivalent feelings all at the same time!
And so it turned out they were telling the truth in women magazines, and those first months really are tough, especially if there is no family to help out, like in our case. Grandma who can take baby for a long walk is absolutely priceless!
I know it’s easier said than done, but try to find some time just for yourself, do stuff you enjoyed before baby, read a book or watch few minutes of box set you were looking forward to (few minutes was all we managed until we’d fallen asleep). Those little me moments can really reset your mind and charge your batteries. If you think you can’t do it anymore, pop in to your friend for a cuppa, maybe in the evening when baby sleeps, it helps to put things back into right proportions. Talking about nothing and change of surroundings is so mentally refreshing. I used to sneak out to my friend M, who lives nearby, I was taking Joseph sometimes and to my surprise he let me live and wasn’t crying at all. He was just looking around with mouth open, curious about new place and faces. M was laughing that he’s got enough of us, that’s why he screams at home 🙂
I remember when I first went for a swim, which I used to do regularly before. So after those weeks of being mostly at home, sleep deprivation and being high with the new baby pheromones, on a cold November night I sat in a warm, dim lighted sauna and then in the jacuzzi, it felt so surreal, I thought I was dreaming. I was shocked that world hasn’t stopped and it’s only me who got out and now live in some different dimension.
In my case it was resuming phisical activity, especially running, which I love and did regularly before and during pregnancy, that helped me to find myself again and keep it all together. I bought running stroller and am so happy with it; I can continue my hobby even though I have a baby 🙂 I think it’s incredibly important to have something that is only yours, that reconnect you with your old self and makes you feel happy and fulfilled, somewhere where you’re not only mum, but a person with dreams and needs that are cherished and met. I’m 100x better mum when I come back to my kids from ‘me zone’ 🙂
Also it’s important to realise there are going to be unproductive, lazy days, when you can really achieve nothing more than lying on the sofa and wishing you could just bury yourself in bed and not come out for the next month. That’s ok. That’s what those first weeks are all about, giving all the time to your baby and your body to recover. Especially very active women, whose calendar was fully packed, need to prepare mentally for this scenario, or it might be a bit of a shock to their system. That was exactly my case, instead of embracing I was fighting it all, because I wanted to do hundreds other things as well and all it can cause is frustration and feeling down. Turn on baby mode, doing nothing is ok, throw the guilt out of the window, just relax, rest and enjoy your new baby. Now I know it’s the only way 🙂
As for the colics and tummy problems – doctors assured us it usually goes away after first 3 months, and much to our relief that’s exactly what happened. Babies need this time to develop their digestive system, enzyms and microflora. I’ve tried colief drops and gaviscon powder dissolvable in water, but impossibility of giving medicine to a breastfed newborn is a whole separate topic, at least mine wouldn’t accept any other thing than breast and any other taste than milk in is mouth. You can only imagine how much of my sweat and nerves these fruitless attempts took. I know that baby crying in pain and turning beetroot purple is a heartbreaking image, but you need to be patient, remember it happens to majority of babies and it will pass. I was so overwhelmed by these constant screams I was hearing baby cries all the time, everywhere, even in a complete silence, and I was running upstairs to check on Joseph, cause I was sure I heard him:). If there is one thing that helps, it’s white noises. Lots of them is available on apps or you tube, I also have whisbear (a humming teddy bear), but I like the apps more as there is more to choose from, like rain, river, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, old car – whole package of amazing soundtracks 🙂 Or just try to put the baby near tumble dryer – ours loved it:)
It’s June and summer is so gorgeous this year. I thought it will never come. I am looking at the sun and think about the difficult beginnings, when during long, dark, wet and gloomy autumn months I was too exhausted to appreciate wonderfullness of what we’ve been experiencing. My baby is turning into a boy, his once bald head is now covered in spiky blond hair that makes smile everyone who sees him. He loves birds, adores his big sister, laughs at her funny faces, waves, screams and giggles at the same time, as if he wanted to show off all skills he mastered at once, repeats what we say, wants to walk and run all day long despite not knowig how yet, but using me as supporting machine. Soon he’ll let go of me and one day he’ll leave to start his own life, and I’ll be standing and watching him walk away. But until this moment we’ve got many years to go. In those years my ‘to do’ and ‘books to read’ list will get a mile long, I won’t make ferrero rocher cake, I won’t climb Machu Picchu and won’t see Angkor Wat and Tanah Lot as soon as I would like. I won’t watch the movie, I won’t wear make up, I won’t go to hairdresser whenever I want, I won’t stay in bed whole morning and drink coffee that wasn’t reheated at least 5 times. But for all this time I won’t be doing these things, in every passing minute that they won’t be happening, I will have you. And for all these infectious laughs, heartmelts, kisses and cuddles, giggles, amazement at everything you do, and pride and fulfillment that comes with raising a whole new wonderful human being, I put my pleasures on hold. Now we’re just going to be together because it’s your time. Our time.