Such a lot has changed in a year. Our baby boy has grown so much. So have his Mummy and Daddy. Not in height sadly, as we’re both a pair of short-arses and could do with sprouting an inch or two! But certainly in just about every other way imaginable. (That includes you, my long lost friend – slim waistline! RIP. I hope to be reunited with you one day!)
A year ago, it was just Hubs and I. We’d not so much as changed a nappy between us in each of our 30 years on this planet. We didn’t know a fat lot about being parents.
I’d spent hours and hours reading books and blogs and scanning all the top hits Google had to offer on the many things I’d searched over the course of my pregnancy.
We’d bought all the baby gear. We’d spent an unfathomable amount of time trying to get our heads around how some of it worked.
I’d nearly had a heart attack when I heard a feature on the radio about parents literally sucking the snot from babies noses with a straw. Driving to work that morning, massive pregnancy belly fighting for space with the steering wheel, thoughts of ‘Oh God, what have I let myself in for!’ circled through my head. (After hearing me recount this to him a wonderful friend bought me one of these though, and I was eternally thankful for an alternative method that meant my mouth would not have to go anywhere near my offspring’s mucus!)
We’d been to the antenatal class, I’d devoured other women’s birth stories whenever they had been offered up to me and I’d been an avid watcher of One Born Every Minute for years. We were probably about as prepared as we’d ever be.
We just didn’t realise quite how true the phrase ‘nothing can prepare you’ is when it comes to becoming parents. Literally, NOTHING can prepare you.
After weeks of wishing and hoping and eventually starting to think baby was NEVER going to come out, it was a Thursday evening when the twinges started. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was really happening. After so long of nothing happening and an unsuccessful sweep I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But they continued through the evening and by the time the 10 o’clock news came on I was pretty certain this was it – my contractions had started! Naively I thought to myself, ‘My baby will be here by this time tomorrow!’ In reality though there would be almost another 48 hours to go before our little one finally entered the world. What was to come in between was more physically gruelling and mentally draining than I had ever imagined, but we got there in the end and we were all fine!
So that Saturday evening our family went from 2 to 3. It was surreal. Here he was, the baby I had carried round in my tummy since the year before, now finally in our arms. He was so beautiful. So small. At 7lb 14 oz he wasn’t technically small, but still he felt like the most delicate thing I’d ever held.
The next day we were discharged from hospital so little man came home with us. Were they mad, we wondered? Should they really be letting us out into the world with this tiny baby? We don’t know what to do with him! What do we do now?
Somehow we fastened our tiny baby into his big car seat and drove home in a bit of a daze. (Hubs has never driven so slowly before or since that day! Precious cargo!)
In the beginning there was this beautiful baby that really didn’t do very much. He was gorgeous and precious and we could hardly believe he was ours. How had we made such a beautiful little human? People came and visited and said he was lovely. He really was.
But he was also a challenge. The first couple of days he was somewhat of a dream, then day 3 came and BAM – crying and no sleep. Crying and no sleep. So much crying and so little sleep. It was hard.
In a moment of desperation I called a friend (already a mother herself) and through lots and lots of sobs I told her how he cries ALL night and does not sleep at all and I think I just hoped she’d have some kind of miracle to tell me about that would make everything better, because in that particular moment I just didn’t know how we were going to cope. She was very patient listening to what must have been my barely audible wailing/rambling. (Despite being on a nice family day out at a National Trust property at the time!) Amongst other things she recommended Infacol, which went on to become like the Holy Grail in our house for several months to come. There was at least one bottle of the stuff in our household at ALL times!
I found myself feeling anxious quite a lot. At first there was the baby blues that everybody tells you about, but a while after I suspected they should have gone I would still find myself having my anxious moments. It’s so difficult because all you keep thinking to yourself is, ‘Why does nobody else find it this hard?’ In reality a lot of people must, they just don’t shout it from the rooftops. That is far too logical a thought when you are in the thick of it though. I panicked that I wasn’t good enough for the role of mother. That I found it harder than I should do. That other women were naturals and I wasn’t. That I would never get my shit together and actually be able to get up, dressed and leave the house before midday ever again.
When Hubs went on night shifts I found it the hardest. In those first weeks and months the 5pm to 9am stint stretched out in front of me, just me and baby, felt like an unconquerable mountain that I had no choice but to climb.
What makes it all worse is you don’t want to admit to anybody that you feel this way in case- shock horror – they think you are a bad mother for struggling at all. You imagine they would think, ‘She doesn’t know how lucky she is! How dare she be anything other than utterly grateful!‘
In time though, things got easier. A lot easier. I found my feet. Occasionally we even managed to leave the house at a time that could be classed as morning! Sometimes, we even got a bit of sleep!
We made new friends. We went to baby groups and outings and that helped my confidence grow.
Then as the months passed my little baby started doing things (Giggling! Babbling! Moving!) and it was an absolute joy to watch him develop. The first smile, the first laugh, the first time he rolled over, the first time he sat up. One milestone after another, he started to grow into a proper little person with a big personality shining through. The newborn days were lovely in their way of course, but for me the real joy of motherhood has been everything that’s followed those first few months. Watching my baby grow into a cheeky little boy. Starting to see a glimmer of who he is going to become.
He has his Daddy’s fair hair (with – we suspect – Mummy’s curls coming through!), his Mummy’s eyes, and a wilful personality that is all his own. Nursery produced a little report recently which said ‘He is very determined when he wants to do something. He will try to do things independently, he does not want an adult to help him. If he can’t manage it alone he get’s very frustrated.’ That is my boy! An absolute handful but an absolute delight at the same time. He does not do things by anybody’s timetable but his own. (I have learnt that there is no pushing him to do anything – he’ll get there in his own time and on his own terms! To expect or to hope otherwise is pointless!) He is inquisitive, bold, playful, strong and so funny.
Our first year as a family feels, in some ways, as though it has gone in the blink of an eye. As if it was just a short time ago that I was pregnant and we were planning our future, decorating a nursery, imagining what our baby would be like. On the other hand though it’s almost hard to remember life before our boy was in it. As though he’s been part of our lives for so long that the pre-baby days are a distant memory now.
Our lives have changed in every way possible. Of course there are days when we would love a lie in, when we envy our friends being able to socialise without constraint, when we wish we weren’t spending a small fortune on childcare and when we would rather not have to deal with a teething toddler. But the majority of the time we are so in love with the little family unit we’ve become. Our gorgeous boy makes us laugh every day. (Even the horrendous teething, nap-avoiding, tantrum type days!) When he smiles it makes me so happy, even if I was feeling rubbish before. It goes without saying of course, but we wouldn’t be without him now. What a wonderful little thing he is.
When we threw a party for the Big First Birthday one of my friends turned up with a bunch of flowers as well as a birthday present. She handed the flowers to me and said, ‘These are for you, for surviving the first year!’ It was the loveliest gesture. And it made me think – everybody should get a little pat on the back (and maybe some beautiful sunflowers too!) for making it through that first year. It is as much a challenge for us as parents growing into our new roles and keeping everyone alive and happy as it is for those little babies growing and developing into little people! It’s no mean feat!
One year in and I’m pleased to say Hubs and I have grown into our roles as Mummy and Daddy, but we’re still not experts by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve just become pros at winging it, and we’ve learnt not to stress the small stuff too much!
Now I can’t wait to see what the next year holds. First steps, first words, and everything else that is still to come following our baby boy’s first birthday. Here’s to another crazy year!