I have often wondered when this blog was just a distant twinkle in my mind, what I would write about and how I would get started. Recently as my little lady has hit some of her 4 month milestones and I’ve started to relax a little bit more into motherhood, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learnt about her, and about being and mother. I realised that there are a lot of things that I know now that I wish I knew when she first arrived, and so I wanted to share some of these with other mummys and mummys to be in the hope that they resonate and offer an insight, but also so I don’t forget about the journey we’ve had so far. Here are a few of the things that I’ve learnt over the last four months:
It will be hard. But not for all the reasons you think. No matter how much you try to prepare yourself for becoming a parent, you cannot anticipate all the things involved in actually being a parent. The husband and I had a fair few discussions before our little lady arrived, things like “the baby is probably going to cry all the time”, “the nights are probably going to be hard”, “we’ll probably be tired all the time” so we need to stick together. We need to be a team. If we work together we should be ok. Plus, it should get easier after about the first 3 months, right?.. Oh how naive we were. All the above was true, but we hadn’t anticipated things like how difficult it was to get the hang of burping a baby, how hard and how long it took to get a baby to sleep, how difficult it was to get a routine going, how difficult it was to get our baby to take expressed milk, how some things worked one day but not on others and about a million other things that it takes to look after a baby day in, day out. All the things that we anticipated would be difficult were, but it was all the things we overlooked or just assumed would happen that were the hardest.
There is no point blowing your own, or rather your childs trumpet too soon, or actually at all. Because things change with babies, and they change quickly. I remember in those very early days when I used to be able to put the little lady down when she was tired and she would nod off to sleep. I remember commenting to both my sister-in-law and mother-in-law rather happily how good she was at getting herself off to sleep. In the naivety of new motherhood I didn’t realise that it was probably because the little lady was still in her newborn stupor, because not long after that we could not get her to sleep without simultaneously holding, rocking and shushing her to sleep. On the bad days/nights the pushchair or car would only do for rocking our little princess to sleep. In desperation I’ve tried many things – controlled crying for all of 6 minutes, I didn’t have the heart for it. A musical mobile and projector, it worked for one night before the little madam decided that actually, she didn’t really like it anymore. Going out for walks. Going out in the car. Sitting with her in this position. Sitting with her in that position. Singing to her. Not singing to her. Taking her to an Osteopath. Giving her a dummy. Its only now, at 4 months old does she seem ready, willing and able to learn how to get herself off to sleep, with some help from mummy and a few friends. Things are looking good, but I daren’t hold my breath, and that’s ok because I know now that things don’t stay the same for long with these little ones so I’ll just appreciate the now.
I never anticipated just how hard it would be to establish good habits and “start as you mean to go on”. Everyone wants a baby who sleeps, or who settles easily or who self soothes. But unless you are one of the lucky ones who gets a baby like that, you actually have to help them learn how to do all those things. Which means putting them down in the cot when they are tired or drowsy but not asleep and other things like that which sound theoretically easy, but in practice I have found emotionally difficult. It is now only after four months, that I have started to be able to put her down in her cot and walk away. She is happy and settled, but seeing her little face look at me when I walk away just makes me want to pick her back up again and hold her till she falls asleep. Yet I know that this will do neither of us any favours, and so it is with a big inner sigh that I am able to walk away from her cot each time. I wasnt prepared for this. I did not expect to be so emotionally attached. After all, I am not a particularly emotional person. My husband would fairly tell you so. Yet I want to be able to teach my daughter good sleep habits, but I also want her to know that mummy will always be there so we’re learning to find the balance to this dilemma slowly and together, one day at a time. It may mean that my daughter is slower to learn these things, but it will hopefully also mean that she feels more secure and loved and that my conscience and my heart are a little lighter.
I have been constantly surprised by how long it takes to do even the littlest things. Everything has to be prioritised, and therefore some things just don’t get done or take a lot longer than they used to. It’s often a toss-up between doing the washing or the ironing, plucking my eyebrows or doing my make up, making a call or catching up on the iPad, watching TV or sleeping and so on and so forth. I realised the other day that it now takes me between 5 – 7 days to get round to painting my nails from the moment that I decide I want to. Although usually these days its more a case of need to rather than want, and when I say paint, I mean a quick file and some base coat. None of that luxurious two coats of paint and a glossy top coat that I was so accustomed to pre-child.
It also surprises me, that even though we are reasonably financially comfortable, since the little lady came along I hate, absolutely hate the idea of wasting an ounce of money. I will shop around and compare costs for all the household and baby amenities, hunt out every single voucher code and free delivery code I can find, have signed up to QuidCo, tried comping and changed energy suppliers to save the odd pound here and there. If there is money to be saved somewhere these days im all over it.
Now I don’t want to sound stupid here, but another thing that has really surprised me is how babies don’t just do what you want them to. What I mean when I say that is that things don’t always go as you imagine or want them to. I have been quite lucky that breastfeeding has worked really well for us. It took a lot of work for us to find our groove – 6 painful, tough weeks to be specific, but once we did neither of us have looked back. However, three of my friends had babies within a week or two of me and none of them have had much success with breastfeeding, and that is not for lack of want or trying. For some people it just not physically possible, or it doesn’t work for mum and/or baby. Sometimes things just don’t work out as we imagined when it comes to parenting and motherhood and we have to accept that and move past it, and sometimes come back to it at a later date. I really appreciate now the things that do work for us, and accept the things that don’t. Up until very recently my daughter refused to take a dummy to help her sleep, even though to my frustration I knew it would really soothe and help her fall asleep. Its only at 4 months old, after months of long and trying days and nights has she started to use one to help her sleep. But she still refuses to take expressed milk, something that I assumed would just happen as easily as breathing air. However I am hopeful that when she is ready to she will, because that’s all I can do.
Which leads me on to my other point about how you just cant compare babies, because I have learnt that what works for one baby does not necessarily work for another. I just wish I knew that before I bought some of those parenting books that are now sitting gathering dust on my shelves. It would have saved me a lot of stress and frustration if I just took the time to observe and get to know my daughter, her likes and dislikes, her quirks, her personality and trusted my new mothering instincts rather than trying to follow advice from books. Luckily im not a stickler for following instructions and rules so once I know something isn’t working I abandon it pretty quickly, so no damage done. But I guess my point is that I shouldn’t be afraid to trust my instincts and try things out, no matter how new I am to being a mum. No one is a greater expert on your child than you. It really is true.
Finally,..and everyone tells you this and you read it everywhere but nothing can prepare you for the indescribable love and affection that you feel for your child. Whether it’s the moment you first set eyes or them, or it happens gradually, the love eventually creeps up on you, grabs you and overwhelms you. What has astounded me is that despite the late nights and early mornings, the crying, the tiredness, the exhaustion, the days when it feels like groundhog day, the days when you think you might be missing out on something, the days when you wonder if you are cut out for it all, the times when you think they might break you, the days when you just want, need some time out…never will you so quickly forgive and forget all that stuff that doesn’t really matter anymore. Whether it’s seeing that amazing smile first thing in the morning, or watching their chest rise and fall as they sleep in the evening, there will be a moment when you suddenly realise that you are completely, utterly and hopelessly in love with this little being that has taken over, commandeered and stuck a flag in your heart. Totally indescribable.
So the biggest thing I have learnt, and the thing that I wish the most I knew then, is that being a parent is about taking it one day at a time. Every day is different. There are good days, there are bad days, there are great days, there are awful days. Almost every day is like starting a brand new page. Nothing stays the same for very long, so you have to celebrate and enjoy the great days and learn to write off the awful days. Be gentle with yourself. Be good to yourself. You are a parent from day one, but it takes time to find your groove.