I am visiting my friend Lucy today. She had a baby exactly one week ago and I am so excited to finally meet him. Lucy is ten years younger than me and this is her first baby. She opens the door and for a minute I think I have the wrong house. She looks as if she’s just returned from a long spa weekend. She’s wearing actual clothes and her hair looks clean and far better than mine, and I’ve just returned from the hair salon. The house is calm and tidy and I am sure there is jazz playing in the background. Actual jazz! The baby is perfectly sleeping in his cot and Lucy offers me tea with a piece of homemade cake.
Cut to nearly five years ago. My husband and I have just returned from the hospital with our first born, baby girl, Bella. We start by thinking ‘how hard can this be?’ and go for a laid back approach, thinking ‘things will just fall into place’. We are so relaxed that we don’t even bother reading any baby or parenting books before she is born, so when we arrive home we are completely clueless.
It takes us exactly three hours to realise that we are idiots. The house is a mess, there is baby stuff we later discover we don’t actually need, lying around everywhere and we don’t even know what most of the things do anyway. I am struggling to breastfeed and the lack of sleep is already starting to take its toll as we find ourselves fighting over anything. I blame my husband for everything of course. It’s his fault we got the wrong nappies, it’s his fault the baby won’t settle, it’s his fault I’m so fat and it’s his fault that nothing I do makes me feel any better.
Bella’s first bath is bit of disaster. The midwife in the hospital showed us how to do it, but we barely take any of it in, and here we are, about to dip this little thing into a tub full of water, and we are totally improvising. But we decide to go for it and hope for the best. Just then, my sweet husband, who always loves a good photo opportunity, decides to take a picture, and in a moment of enthusiasm starts to splash the baby, in an attempt to create an ‘action shot’, making her burst into tears.
I am devastated and paralysed with fear. Not just because we basically nearly drowned our new born and probably traumatized her for life, but also because it is so obvious that we have no idea what we are doing.
Getting her to sleep at night seems to be the hardest task. We try anything we can think of from rocking, swaying, dancing, jumping up and down to singing, shushing and even begging, we do it all! When she is finally asleep our mission is not to wake her so we become experts at walking down the hallway without stepping on any of the noisy floor boards. I find I am able to sleep anywhere these days, and I even fall asleep standing up one time. Another time I walk into the pantry thinking it’s the toilet and just stand there for a few minutes trying to figure out what the hell I am doing there.
But the truth is we are both feeling the stress and for the first few days we drift in and out of insanity as we try to find our feet in this totally weird, wonderful and petrifying world of parenthood. I am feeling overwhelmed, tired, hormonal, my hair stinks cos who the hell has time to wash it, I haven’t brushed my teeth in days, I’m still wearing the same sweat pants I wore last week and if anyone says anything about how I am still ‘eating for two’, I swear I will shoot them.
I’ve also noticed that everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, is making me cry. I cry over the most stupid things like forgetting to buy milk, finding a hole in my sock, Scott and Kourtney breaking up in ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, and I can’t stop. I mean, why is Scott so immature? Why can’t he just get his act together already?!
I must admit that I used to think the whole ‘hormonal’ thing was made up or at least totally exaggerated. I thought it’s a great excuse I could use when I’m being a bitch if I needed to, and I never in a million years thought it was an actual thing until now. But I feel sad and heavy and all I want to do is sleep and recover from my C Section.
I can see that my people around me don’t get it either. They thinks it’s cute and that I being am ‘emotional’, which makes me want to kill them because there is nothing cute about me right now. In their minds I have gone from a super strong, no bullshit, big mouthed person to a mushy, crying over anything, emotional mummy and some of my closest friends find this funny.
I think to myself that surely something must be wrong with me cos I’ve just had a baby and this is supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I don’t understand how is it possible that I don’t know what to do to make my baby stop crying or settle her to sleep. I feel like I have failed and it’s horrible to think I have failed at what so many books and people say is the “most natural thing in the world”.
Luckily I bond with Bella almost immediately and it’s an amazing feeling. It blows me away how much I love this little person I have literally just met. We are snuggling in bed and she looks up at me and in that moment I know that life will never be the same again. Obviously this makes me cry, but at least this time it’s tears of joy.
Two weeks in and my husband goes back to work. I’m alone in the house with the baby watching too much daytime TV which is not helping and I actually feel like I am becoming stupid!
I look online and order all the baby books I can find, and I do mean ALL of them. In one weekend I read at least three books and they give me some advice and ideas of what to do with my new born. I start to feel like maybe I can do this after all.
It also helps talking about how I feel, especially with other mums who feel the same, and I don’t feel so crazy anymore. That horrid feeling goes away with time, and although my husband and I are still totally improvising most of the time making new mistakes every day, it does feel like we are finally on the right track and things start to get better.
Fast forward nearly five years, and as a mum of three happy girls, and after being pregnant twice, I can honestly say that giving birth and coping with everything it involves, before and after, is such an unpredictable, scary, amazing and challenging rollercoaster of an experience.
So as I sit in Lucy’s kitchen, I am in awe of her and of how well she is doing and I could not be happier for her. I hope motherhood brings her joy and happiness always and forever as it has for me, and I also hope she knows that IF the ‘baby blues’ kicks in, I am here for her and that she is not alone.
Dedicated to my friend Lucy x
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