She has toast in her hair.
We’re both up, we’ve started our day, the curtains are open and I'm almost dressed, and she has toast in her hair.
Mum warned me from a young age about newborns. About the crying, the sleepless nights, about how much she resented me and regretted having a child. The twilight hours when she delivered me back into my cot with such frustration from my screams that I bounced back up. The horrors of colic. The intense loneliness I had led her to feel. And mum is amazing – nothing but a support to me now; she says she loved me from when I could talk, when I gave her something back. But I was desperate to give my baby a different start, to make up for mine. A small part of me knew I needed to prove that it could be done. I needed to cope and to be seen coping by those around me.
I couldn’t fail.
So I did what I have always done, and read. I read about attachment, I read about routines, I read about swaddling. I read about feeding, colic, and napping. I read blogs and message boards, and I asked everyone I knew – my colleagues, friends, family, women I met in the street. I did my research.
I would cope.
But here I am, seven weeks in, and I’ve been so determined to cope, so determined to be seen coping, I haven’t known which way is up. My back is sore from carrying her, and my legs ache from rocking her to sleep. I’m trying it all, and I'm doubting myself constantly. She screams as I try to pretend life is normal. I’ve been for coffee, I’ve visited friends and family, I’ve taken long walks, I’ve been out to dinner. I need to be seen coping. Life can’t just.....stop.
I can’t fail; for me, motherhood has to be different.
I’ve applied my theories and sobbed frustrated tears when my husband doesn’t truly understand the parenting technique I’m trying this week…this day…this hour. The things that worked and soothed my baby’s cries on Monday are forgotten by Wednesday with the next article I read or book I buy.
And just now I’m starting to blink through the chaos, the routines, the sobs. I’ve started to understand that sometimes babies cry, not as a reflection on you, not as a reflection on the parenting technique you’re trying today, but because they’re too tiny to know how to do otherwise.
Sometimes my little girl stops crying, or sleeps well at night. Then Mum says that I have it easy; it’s the baby. "She’s an easy baby." Not like I was.
Life can stop. It should have stopped. I missed my chance to hide in our house, at least for a few weeks to get to know my baby – those chaotic weeks when I pretended to carry on with my life and tried to be seen coping are now lost forever. I won’t get them back.
So instead I’m looking forward.
I’m thinking just maybe it’s that I was told about all the regret, the resentment, the loneliness, that left me with this hole, this insecurity and intense need to find a way to make early motherhood work. So I’ve decided to never tell my baby about how desperate I’ve felt, the pressure I put on myself, and the guilt. It’s my secret. Her smiles, sweet moments, and the love I feel for her need to be what I take away.
Today, she’s close to my chest, sleeping soundly, with toast in her hair. My books are put away, and I’m taking it hour by hour.
We’re not perfect, but we are actually just starting to cope.