We’re spun a lot of platitudes from the second we get pregnant. A lot of white lies based on the assumption that what is true for one person is true for everyone; which, now I think about it, is a massive issue in the world in general.
Let’s consider a few of them, shall we?
“Oh, it’s just morning sickness. It’ll go by 12 weeks.”
Try telling this one to someone who’s suffered HG for the whole nine months.
“It gets easier when baby is six months old; they start sleeping through the night and you can stop breastfeeding.”
No, no and no.
“They start sleeping through the night when they’re less hungry and getting solid food.”
Do they really? Hmmm. Mine must be broken in that case.
“You’ll get your mojo back and be able to start going out without the baby when he turns one!”
The fact is that for most of us, those of us with the babies who didn’t get the memo about ‘sleeping through’, those of us who have babies with allergies, illness, special needs and low immune systems, those of us whose “toddlers” are still absolutely, resolutely babies, those of use who are still struggling to get through the day and night well over a year after our babies are born for whatever reason, this all begins to sound like the nonsense it is. That magic baby who does all of these things our well-meaning acquaintances claim to have known doesn’t really exist. So here’s my take.
I had naively thought that by this time (16 months) I’d be seeing friends for the occasional night out. Perhaps going out to the cinema with my husband whilst my baby blissfully said “night night” and settled himself to sleep, a babysitter watching telly downstairs. I thought I’d have stopped breastfeeding months ago, and that my son would be chowing his way through fish fingers, steak tartar, beef wellington and lasagne whilst I smiled at his robust appetite and served him another portion. I thought he’d be fine going to nursery whilst I got on with some work, or had some of that much-fabled “me time™” that we’re all supposed to be getting.
I had no idea that I’d still be spending my days and nights in much the same way I did during the newborn days, with the addition of having to chase my now Usain Bolt-worthy baby around the house, stopping him from getting into scrapes.
I now understand the advice of a friend of mine who said when my son was a few months old “Just go on the holiday you want to have. Don’t worry about the baby; he’s really portable right now.” The reality is that my husband and I are still living mostly on ready meals, things we can shove in the oven. We’re still zombies, we’re still just existing. Most of the time, though, we’re existing really happily in the baby bubble with our little sleep thief. We marvel at how brilliant and clever and cute he is, murmuring our love into his hair as he wriggles around, watches Hey Duggee, chants his new words and plays with his toy cars. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
I had no idea. But then none of us do, right?
It doesn’t get easier. You get better at coping. You build resources, you have a learning curve along with your baby. You adapt to their needs, you accept that there will be days when getting dressed is a huge win. I know that a lot of my peers with children the same age are back at work now, forging their careers as their kids do brilliantly well at nursery or the childminder and that’s awesome. I’m lucky enough to have had a choice and I chose to become a stay at home parent. I’m so glad I did. Although I know it’s a sacrifice for me and my career, I genuinely don’t know how I could have worked this winter. My son has been ill for at least 70% of it. We would have been royally screwed. I have no idea how single parents cope; our tag-teaming has become a way of life.
There will come a time when he is ready. When he starts to move away from breastfeeding, when he can reliably be left with other people to care for him. When me and his Dad don’t have anxiety attacks about his health roughly 347 times in a 24 hour period. Right now, though, it is still a hard physical and mental slog, and although I’m trying to make the most of him being little and adorable it can be incredibly difficult.
So here’s to the others who feel the same way. Those who have found out that once the cards and gifts stop arriving and the newborn days are done that your baby is still, in fact, a baby. One who needs you as much as before. I salute you. May you be able to find the positives and make the most of these early days.