I had an incredibly clear picture of the kind of mother I was going to be, sorted out well and truly before becoming pregnant with my son at age 34.
I was going to be all relaxed and earth-mother, wearing and taking our baby everywhere. Our baby was just going to seamlessly slot into our lives. I would wear floaty maxi dresses, and breastfeed comfortably anywhere. I would see friends and family regularly - yes, the types of catch ups would change (I wasn’t a total fool) - but I would stay connected with everyone. At some point I would return to work, in an effort to achieve balance between time with my angelic yet-to-be-conceived child, and feeling like myself again.
I mean, I don’t even own a maxi dress.
I had been so fixated on this idealistic vision of parenthood, that I hadn’t actually done any reading about what happens when a baby arrives. I read loads about pregnancy, sure. But from birth onwards, I really was as clueless as they come, preferring to think that my mothering instincts would just ‘kick in’ #denial.
Instead, I became a different kind of mother. The kind who puts a note on the front door, asking visitors to knock quietly as the baby is sleeping. Who becomes obsessed with cot sleeps, cancelling plans and scheduling days around getting home, because naps in the pram are fleeting and a melting down child = hell. Breastfeeding was pretty much a disaster from the get-go, with supply issues and a lazy latcher, but I persisted obsessively for several months, with round-the-clock expressing and rapidly rising stress levels. I tried desperately to exercise control and routine, with a tiny baby who had other ideas.
Eventually I sought the help I needed, and the tide slowly began to turn.
Other things began to happen that I hadn’t expected either. I spent entire afternoons on the couch, in the quiet and the stillness as my son slept, snuggled deep into my shoulder. I began to repeat the mantra, Be in the moment, to try to be mindful, realising that this time would end. Before long, he was sleeping in his own room, and I was packing away clothes that were already too small with tears streaming down my face.
He grew bigger. We laughed a lot. I discovered formula. He slept. We danced to House of Pain - Jump Around. I read a book. A whole book! He projectile vomited avocado straight onto the freshly cleaned floors. Wore his first pair of Converse. Rolled, then crawled, then stood.
And then one day, as the three of us stood in front of the mirror pulling funny faces, a big smile of recognition slowly appeared on my son’s face. He knew us. He loved us. I realised then, that whatever we were doing was working. There was no right way, or best way. But there was our way.
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