Be prepared……..to be completely unprepared!
Honestly, no matter how much people tell you and the advice they give, I can pretty much say with 100% certainty that you will never know exactly what to expect.
It appears that not many people really openly and honestly talk about their experiences in the first year. Possibly because it goes in such a blur that something which seems like a huge deal one week, is completely forgotten about the next. I myself find it hard to reflect on every single part of the first 8 months, both good and bad, even though I know that at different stages there has always been something causing me worry and anxiety. Whether it be what I’m doing in terms of raising Charlie; his routine, his feeding, his sleeping, his interaction – or lack of – with other children etc etc. Or things that I personally went through (insomnia, feeling isolated, loss of confidence). These are just some of the issues which were all consuming at some points over the last 8 months.
But as time goes on I have learnt that Charlie is doing his own thing, he’s developing at his own rate, he’s happy, he’s healthy and he clearly adores his family as much as we adore him.
So why couldn’t I have seen this months ago? I don’t really know the answer, whether it be the hormones, the sleep deprivation, the loss of freedom to a certain extent, something in the first 8 months completely broke me. I suffered insomnia for a few weeks, literally I would sob during the night because I couldn’t get to sleep even though I so desperately needed it. I went through a phase of not wanting to go out of the house because I didn’t feel like I had the strength to pack everything up and step out in to the world with my baby. I thought I looked terrible, I felt like I had no confidence, I felt like Charlie needed someone better than me to look after him – someone who knows what they are doing. I was conscious that Charlie wasn’t getting any integration with other babies – my friends’ children are mostly grown up now, yet I lacked the confidence to go to any baby groups for fear of being judged or compared.
Social media has been a big help during the first 8 months, I interact with many new mums on Instagram and we share information on what our babies are doing. However, social media also has it’s negatives. It’s human nature to look at others and compare yourself to them, and I’ve been guilty of this. “That baby’s the same age as Charlie and is eating finger foods”, “that baby’s the same age as Charlie and is standing up” “that baby has a nap in his cot no problem but Charlie won’t”. Then suddenly I would try and get Charlie to do exactly the same as the other babies, I would try to rush him basically, and I would get myself all worked up, Charlie would get upset and it was just a horrible way to be.
Finally, I have realised that babies cannot and should not be rushed in their development. If they are happy and healthy then what does it matter at what age they crawl or feed themselves. We as adults are all different and the same applies to babies. And the funny thing is, once I stopped putting so much pressure on myself Charlie started to do all of the things that I’d been worrying about him not doing! And I am a lot happier mummy with a very happy and content baby.
Each day brings a new challenge – feed him, change him, interact with him, get him to have a nap, comfort him, put him to bed. All things which sound easy enough but when they are put in to normal everyday life along with housekeeping, cooking, cleaning, washing pots, washing clothes, making time for yourself….they can become exhausting.
All I can say is enjoy your baby for who he/she is, keep things relaxed otherwise they will pick up on your stress vibes. Take things a step at a time, if you are feeling low or having a bad day, embrace those feelings and allow yourself to feel that way. Sit back and think to yourself “ok, I feel negative about things today, I’m really struggling”. Accept that you feel that way and know that it won’t last forever, take each thing a step at a time and don’t try to force yourself to feel a certain way. If you don’t feel good, that’s allowed. Then when you are feeling good again you can look back and realise how strong you have been to get through the bad days. Accept that there will be more bad/negative days ahead, but you’ve got through it once so you can get through it again.
As I mentioned earlier, at times over the last 8 months I felt like I was completely broken, but what that allowed me to do was to fix myself and to become a stronger, happier mother, and Charlie has started to come on leaps and bounds. Now, don’t worry whether the pots are done immediately after they’ve been used, I don’t worry that the washing has been hung up drying for 2 weeks and all our wardrobes are empty etc etc. I’ve learnt to prioritise the essential tasks and allow more time to focus on Charlie, my husband and myself; and I think that we are all feeling happier for it.