If I’m honest, I thought I would adapt to motherhood fairly easily. In comparison to working full-time and being out of the house for 12 hours a day Monday-Friday, I was actually looking forward to having a bit more free time. I had visions of finally doing all of those things that I never had time for – clearing out the cupboards, starting an exercise regime and trying out that recipe I pulled out of BBC Good Food over three years ago. After all, babies sleep a lot of the time, right?
WRONG! Parenting is hard work. Not only is it a ‘full-time job’, but it’s the type of full-time job that would have you running to the HR department if there was one – expected to work 20 hour shifts on under four hours of sleep, getting screamed at if you don’t stand to attention quick enough, and absolutely no prior training provided to ensure that you’re fit for the job.
Now, don’t get me wrong, being a mum is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but why the hell didn’t anyone think to warn me about the first few weeks??
At first, we thought that perhaps we had a challenging baby. Taylor takes at least an hour and a half to settle to sleep after a feed and quite often doesn’t go to sleep between them, so waking up at 3am for a feed can mean that we’re still awake by the time the 6am feed comes around and then it’s hello to another day. Surely this isn’t normal? SOMEONE WOULD’VE WARNED US…
We attributed her restlessness to reflux (she screams after feeds), colic (she cries a lot), constipation (she poos very little), too much sleep in the day (yes she does sleep in the day), spoiling her (she just wants to be held all the time)…until finally accepting that she is just a NORMAL baby.
So here is my warning to you, since other parents may not be completely honest. Following the first couple of days out of hospital thinking that you have a little angel, things get pretty tough. Forget that you just went though the pain and exhaustion of labour and just want a good night’s sleep – your baby does not care.
In addition to the lack of sleep, the part I found particularly difficult to accept was the passing of days and not getting a single ‘productive’ task complete. Again, I caveat this by saying that I love spending my days with Taylor – feeding her, changing her, cleaning her, bathing her, playing with her. But I was kind of hoping (fully expecting) to be able to fit Taylor Time in between my other tasks (maintaining a spotless house, visiting friends, walking Max, cooking wholesome meals…)
The old me wrote To Do lists for fun, so realising that these are now redundant in my new life was difficult for me to come to terms with – getting to 5pm and realising that the house was still a mess and I hadn’t even bothered to put a bra on that day made me feel like a bit of a failure. Mr M would return from work and I was certain I’d see a glimmer of disappointment on his face as he critically assessed ‘what I had done all day’ (he assures me this was not the case). I even ignored the midwife’s advice to ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ and instead adopted the ‘do as much as possible when baby sleeps’ approach, but still couldn’t get 10 minutes to myself.
However, the very fact that I’m writing this post, is evidence that it DOES GET BETTER. Taylor is five weeks old tomorrow, and I do feel that we are starting to turn a bit of a corner. We’ve got more accustomed to her wants and needs and understand her better. Her night-time demands for feeding are gradually stretching past the three-hour mark, and we ourselves have accepted that we do actually need to be in bed for 9pm if we’re to get anything near a functional amount of sleep.
I’m sure I will look back fondly on these days in months to come and wish for my little oh-so-cute-when-not-crying newborn again. But for now, roll on week six.