Well, this is harder than you imagined isn’t it? I know you feel like you’ve been sawn in half and that you are buckling under the strain of being needed every waking moment, not to mention the sleeping moments too. I know you feel as though you are flailing around, getting everything wrong, and that all you really want to do is sleep, to feel like you again.
But you’re not really you any more, are you?
You’re consumed by the being needed and the worry. Every little sound he makes, every big sound he makes, the silent moments too. The feeding, the winding, the cuddling, the puking, the changing, then starting the cycle all over again after 20 minutes of strained sleep. You lay there in the bath, clouding the water with leaking breast-milk as your baby wails, bringing your brief rest to an end. Even when you hold your baby in your arms, you don’t really feel like you’re a proper mum; it’s all too new, too surreal.
Although the being needed is overwhelming, it feels impossible to hand over responsibility. You are everything to this new, small person. You are food, safety, warmth and love. And while he isn’t inside your body any more, you are still bonded together, inseparable. Even when you’re desperate to be alone for a short time, you’re hard-wired to need to be near him. Just to be sure.
You aren’t just you any more.
For all your fear, and exhaustion and worry, you are doing exactly what you need to do. You are learning how to be a mother. You are worried, because you care so deeply. You want to get things right. You want to protect this fragile human life and to give him everything he needs, and more. That instinct to protect is so powerful. You have never been needed this way before, so of course it feels like too much. It will do again, on many occasions. The overwhelm never really goes away, it just takes a different shape and teaches you something new.
The sleep will come, eventually, for both of you.
You will feel more rested, and sane, you will have whole hours when you’re apart. At night, this will feel amazing, when it finally does happen. But when you’re back at your desk being old-you again, that invisible bond which kept you together in those tricky early days, will leave you yearning to be close again.
Life becomes a whirlwind, the days spin by so fast and you will just want to grab hold of something to slow it all down. But on it races. Your baby won’t be a baby any more, but a strong-willed, independent-minded young boy who loves you fiercely but also fights you.
One day, you’ll be baking a birthday cake, or picking up pants, or swearing at Lego, or holding a little hand, or pushing a swing, or filling up a sack for Santa and you’ll realise that you have become a mother, a real mother, and that it happened not just on the day your baby was born, but in the thousands of other tiny acts that followed.
Image credit: Alison McGarragh-Murphy