A few weeks after having Zach I decided, on the spur of the moment, to drive us to the beach. We were living on the South Coast at the time, it was twenty minutes away; I could do this. I remember gazing out to sea whilst holding my newborn, feeling proud and overwhelmed. Those early days felt like we were wading through treacle and we wouldn’t not be tired ever again. But that day, I was determined to do something ‘normal’. It was an achievement. ‘Yes,’ I muttered to myself, ‘I’ve got this.’
The next day was a disaster. I’d exhausted myself with that beach jaunt on the back of seemingly endless sleepless nights. I’d forgotten to eat properly and in turn Zach wouldn’t feed properly and both of us spent the day in tears. Days like those felt a little bit hopeless.
Thankfully though, there are more good days than bad ones. The joy of being Zach’s mum never wears thin, though my patience, memory and ability to stay awake past 9pm often does.
Two years into motherhood, I still veer between thinking I’ve cracked it and FFS, why is everything so hard? This is directly related to a good night’s sleep (rare) and those nights of teething, illness, bad dreams and my tendency to snap awake at 3am, crying baby or not (too common, alas). But after these two years – two years of immeasurable delight and love and fun, combined with sleepiness, forgetfulness and grumpiness – the five main things I want to remember, if we’re lucky enough for there to be a next time, are:
There is Life after Becoming a Mum. When you have sick in your hair and pyjamas feel like your only outfit, Life before Becoming a Mum seems a distant dream. Whole afternoons in the pub, cocktails and dancing, lie-ins (LIE-INS?!), the cinema, restaurants, holidays spent drinking G&Ts by a pool. It all happened. Didn’t it? It really did. And it will happen again. In moderation – and ‘holidays’ are a whole different ball game – but you will be you again. And it will feel amazing.
Don’t compare (so much easier said than done)
I became freelance to spend more time with my little boy. I love it. It has been hard to adjust, but I know I did the right thing for me. I am sometimes struck with thoughts like ‘Was I not ambitious enough?’ or ‘What’s wrong with me, why couldn’t I manage a full-time job and motherhood?’, but it’s really simple. It wasn’t for me. Like no two babies are the same, no mums are either. Ages ago, someone commented to me ‘You’re much more maternal than I am.’ I’m not even sure what this means. I’m being the only mum I know how to be. Aren’t we all?
Accept all help
If your family and friends want to help, just say yes. Yes to cups of tea, meals, taking the baby for a walk. Yes, yes, yes please. We don’t have help nearby. So to start with, if I went home or my parents visited, I’d go to say ‘No it’s fine thank you, I can manage’ out of habit. I learned to stop being so British about things. There’s no time for a stiff upper lip when you’re busy biting it to stop from crying, because no sleep makes you feel ever-so-slightly mad.
Give yourself a break
I take things very literally, and in the early days of pregnancy I read somewhere that when the baby sleeps, forget cleaning and laundry, you must rest too. Well. I have definitely taken this to heart. Even now, when our house looks like a mini-Tasmanian devil has ripped through it (because he has), if I’m not on a deadline, then Zach’s naptime is my time too. Hello to a pot of fresh coffee and/or reading a book/scrolling Twitter. Toys everywhere, laundry in the machine, dishes in the sink. You can wait. All the books say so. I imagine this is do-able with one. Less so with two or more.
This too shall pass
The best advice I was given. Thank you, Jo. Again, I took it so literally. Not a day has passed without me remembering they aren’t little for long. Looking back on photos and videos of my tiny baby, now a toddler, I’m stunned by how quickly time goes. A cliché. Because it’s true. So on the good days, when I think I’ve totally got this, I know something around the corner will floor me again. A screaming tantrum, heartbreak at the nursery door as he clings to me and I must leave for work, yet another interrupted night’s sleep, a bowl of dinner thrown on the floor. On the bad days, I am glad to have recently rediscovered these words by E.E. Cummings. They mean everything to me, when I think of motherhood, the kind of mum I am, and how happy being my boy’s mum makes me.
[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
By E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)