The first weeks with a newborn are brutal – exactly like they say. Brutal in ways not even thought possible. It’s just everything rolled up together – emotion, hormones, recovery from birth, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, learning to keep a small creature alive, him learning how to be alive, and just coming to terms with the fact that you’re now stuck with this guy forever.
When Sam was between 2-3 months, it got a little easier. There was a noticeable shift. And again it was a combination of a lot of stuff; both of us were better and faster at feeding, so despite the 2 hour nightly wakings, there was more time between to sleep; we were both learning how to survive so could just cope better; he was still sleeping a lot during the day, so I had more time and flexibility to myself.
So if you just look at the physical at this point, things aren’t at all bad. If you’re like me, and you’ve only got one child to look after, and he’s relatively easy-going, and you have a supportive partner who doesn’t expect you to be looking after the house and looking after a child, then it’s certainly not as bad as the disaster I was anticipating. My only job is to look after this baby. I am under no pressure to cook or clean or get washing done – that can all happen later when there’s someone to help me. So essentially, babe and I can stay in bed all day if we want to. I can cuddle him to sleep and chill out. We can play and read and sing and just enjoy ourselves. But still, the days are long – I’m wishing for lengthy naps to have some quiet time and a cup of tea. I’m hoping for extended stretches between feeds at night. It’s a little mundane, and I certainly don’t wish for a crying baby to break that up!
Yet as calm as life is at the moment, I still find myself struggling far more often than I feel like I should be. I’m irritated when he won’t go down easily, I’m quietly cursing under my breath when his face scrunches up and I don’t know what he wants, I’m having a cry in the night while he’s calmly sleeping. It’s the mental load of looking after a baby all day – the relentless of it all – for the last 4 months. Of being on call even when he’s sleeping. It’s the anxiety of wanting him to sleep longer, and then worrying that something is wrong because he’s still asleep. It’s almost impossible to relax!
So even though I have what people would call an easy baby I still feel like I’m drowning sometimes. When my husband comes home from work, I still breathe a sigh of relief when he takes the baby from me and I can just go upstairs and… let go. I am ecstatic to go out on my own, even if it’s just to get eggs from the egg farm.
I have no idea how single parents do it. I have no idea how people without family support do it. I have no idea how people survive with a Velcro baby that cries all the time. I salute you.
So I’m taking my time. If hubby takes baby for a walk or to Oma and Opa’s, I don’t need to spend that time mopping the floor or checking off my list. I can have a cup of tea, or spend some time with a jigsaw puzzle. Because even though I feel guilty sometimes that I have it easier than some, keeping myself sane and cultivating those brief moments of joy are hugely important. That’s what I draw on in the hard times when I feel overwhelmed. And then like all the other mothers out there, I dry my tears, take a breath, and move forwards.