It’s true, motherhood/parenthood truly is not what I expected.
It took me months after the birth of our son to admit out loud (and even in my head really) that perhaps I did not feel that initial “rush of love” that all mothers speak of. You know the one? Where “as soon as you hold your baby, the pain of labour melts away and you are instantly so in love”. Well guess what? I had every intention of (water) birthing him into my own hands, lifting him up to my chest, gazing upon him and falling so, so giddily in love that the world would spin and we would be the only two people in it. Yeah right. I ended up squatting on the floor, he plopped out and I looked down and could not move let alone grab him from sheer exhaustion. I don’t think I even smiled or had any kind of reaction for God knows how long. I remember asking the nurses to pass him to me and we sat and snuggled. I know that I loved him, that is not what I am doubting here. But the rush. The elusive rush. I didn’t get it. The pain of labour was still there, even while I was gazing, while I was nursing, while I took in every tiny feature of his squishy newborn face, I can tell you my vagina hurt. A lot.
Ah, but I digress. This is not my birth story! I guess that just kind of sets the scene and gives you (and me) a heads up that hey, this journey you spent 9 months mapping out ever so meticulously, with all those books and articles you read, and with all the babysitting that you’ve done, kids you’ve been around and mums you have spoken to cannot in any way even come close to preparing you for the real deal. The second that baby plopped out beneath me all that prep work and the idea of what I thought motherhood was went to shit. Big time.
Being a mum is hard. It is really fucking hard. I have worked full time for years in a variety of jobs and I can tell you now, you do not know what full time is until you literally work 24/7 without a lunch break or a pee break most days. Forget a shower and shave break, those are luxuries of a life once lived and long since forgotten.
The first few weeks were cruisey I suppose. I mean obviously I was awake non-stop while figuring out a breastfeeding routine and going to his check-ups and weigh-ins etc, (not to mention entertaining countless visitors that I wish I had told to fuck off) but really, newborns have basic needs. Meet them and they sleep. Loads. You get used to the sleep routine and BAM! They change it up on you. They start to wake for longer and need entertaining. That is where the fun begins.
Fast forward almost 6 months and here we are. I no longer have a sleepy little newborn. I have an almost crawling, tantrum throwing infant that has likes and dislikes (and he makes them very known). He is clingy as all hell, refuses to sleep anywhere except on me or beside me. He wakes more than he did as a newborn and enjoys teething on my nipple. Yes, just the one. My milk only came in on on side, so I have a DD and B cup at the same time. I walk with a limp and my scoliosis has probably rectified itself from the weight of one boob uncurving my spine.
I find myself doing all the things I said I wouldn’t; God it was easy to judge mums before I was one. I co-sleep, I do attachment parenting, I don’t let him cry it out, I won’t put him in his nursery during the day or happily leave him with sitters to have time to myself. I also will put a towel down over any wet spot in my bed instead of washing the sheets, be it vomit, pee, shit, milk or any other fluid the little bugger manages to spurt out with more force than Linda Blair. This week I had a friend come over so I could wash my hair for the first time in over a week (the mum bun is a real thing).
Oakland has reflux which means my house and every surface in it is permanently destroyed and emanates a sour, pungent stank. I will check my clothing, if the stain is barely visible and the smell can be concealed with perfume I will wear those vomit covered tights again. Sweaty, smelly baby and visitors heading over that want to hug him and get high on ‘new baby smell’? No problem that some talc on his belly and a little baby body lotion in his hair won’t fix. Can I also add that thank Christ in those first few weeks while finding myself forced to sit and feed him every couple of hours (and more while he was cluster feeding) I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials on how to apply concealer to bags under the eyes?
Today I managed to get him to sleep in his cot. It took block out curtains, a Baby Shusher, baby lullabies mixed with rain and storm sounds that play on a constant 8 hour loop, his armless sleeping bag, his Lamby that I have expressed breastmilk on, several dummies in his cot so he can find them easily and this magical trick I have discovered of making the room as cold as Helsinki. After 15 minutes of all of this, plus the jiggle/pat/shush/rock mix we mums are pro at, he went down. I silently high fived myself then decided to treat myself to a shower. Catch is the ensuite is obviously off our bedroom, where Oakie was sleeping. I waited until I felt it was safe enough and he was in a deep enough slumber to not wake. I ran the shower; sweet. I got in, shut the door, immersed myself and there it was, hysterical screaming. No lead up, no soft grizzling. Just instant hysteria. Being the super new-age mother I am who believes every article I read on Facebook, I am terrified of allowing my child to cry and potentially ruin the bond and attachment-attunement cycle we’ve both worked so hard to form, so I guesstimated I had less than 2 minutes before his love and trust in me was irreparably destroyed forever. I had just enough time to wash and rinse the ‘crucial’ areas of my body that could not last another day without cleansing (I already missed yesterday’s shower). I rinsed, jumped out and then stood there with a towel over my chest, creating puddles on the carpet, freezing my wet and naked ass off in pitch black Helsinki, being blasted by air con on one side, pedestal fan on the other, while shushing my baby back to sleep.It is days like this I remind myself to invest in one of those baby wraps that you can use in water. I am 99.9999% sure this is so not what they are intended for and that if I ever used it for a shower and admitted to that on a baby wearing Facebook group I would be forever shunned, but at least my arm pit hair might stop drag racing my pubes in a race to my feet. At the moment there is no clear leader in case you were wondering.
It’s days like this, where I admit defeat and give him (and myself) a baby wipe bath, maybe leave his nappy unchanged a few hours longer than I should, perhaps feed him a pouch of pre-made puree instead of cooking my own, cover the vomit stain on yesterday’s tights with a slightly longer shirt and then feel confident to wear them again, don’t brush my teeth til midday, eat my breakfast at 3pm, have Coke Zero at 8am, wear him while I go to the toilet and do all I can to get him to sleep as early as possible so I can finally sit and login to Facebook to post the one photo I managed to snap of him where he wasn’t covered in poop/vomit/puree and where the lighting was good enough that the bags under my eyes are only slightly visible and you can’t see the milk stains on my shirt. This way the world will think “wow, this mum has her shit together!” and other mums will be in awe of my ability to parent a clingy child and still manage to get all my housework done and cook a roast dinner for the family. If only they all knew the reality of the situation. That’s why I decided to blog. Why do I feel the need to be Supermum? Why do I give a crap what the other mothers all think of my skills? Shouldn’t we all be supporting one another through this journey together?
After talking to other real mums I began to realise we are all in the same boat here. We all have days where that boat sinking is as inevitable as the Titanic and trust me, that boat doesn’t have enough life rafts either. So mums, let’s be real. Let’s embrace our daily wins and our daily failures. Let’s own our fuck ups with pride because this is all a learning curve. Shit, writing this one blog has already taken me 4 days. I even sacrificed shower time for it.