Ebony is six months old today. 183 days ago I was a fat pregnant woman with a bad attitude. Now I am a fat woman with a baby with a bad attitude. That is if you consider intensely staring at strangers to be a bad attitude anyway (Ebony that is, not me when I was pregnant).
So much has changed in the past six months, it’s actually quite frightening. I remember when I was pregnant, I felt that life was on hold. I was too exhausted, too miserable and in too much pain to socialise much. I just kept thinking to myself that life would return to normal after the baby arrived. In hindsight I realise that pregnancy was just preparing me for the future.Life slowed down when I was pregnant. I filled my few waking hours with moaning, eating and being petrified. I slept. A lot. The sofa has still not recovered from the me-shaped indent engraved into it during my lazy third trimester. I thought I should make the most of this opportunity to laze, because once the baby arrived I would be rushed off my feet.
Yet in fact, with Ebony at six months I continue to live life at a slow pace. We take things slow. We’re not rushing around over-achieving. We’re enjoying this time together. Physically, it’s lazy. We do a lot of walking, but we only really do one thing each day whether that’s a baby group or meeting a friend. I don’t like to do too much and end up stressed about feeds or naps. I just like to have time, lots of time, to enjoy being a Mum.
Physically my life is slow, but mentally it is exhausting. And it’s not that the things I think about now are complicated, it’s just that there’s so much to think about. And every question has an endless number of potential answers, I’m tired just thinking about how tiring it is to be a Mum. I have to think about everything. All of the decisions are mine to make. I can ask Laurie, but he will half listen and then reply: “Hmmm, yeah. That’s a difficult one. What do you think?”
Ebony has changed so much over the past six months; we all have. It doesn’t feel like an adjustment, it’s not like I had to get used to it, it just happened. One day you become someone’s Mum, and everything else changes. You can read as many parenting books as you like when you’re pregnant, you still won’t be prepared for when the baby actually arrives.
Here are some valuable lessons I have learnt over the past six months:
1. There are some things about parenting that it’s just not possible to explain. Like how much you will love the baby. You try to imagine it when you’re pregnant, and you envisage the amount you love your partner but perhaps doubled. It’s not like that. Any love, any emotion you’ve ever felt before feels insignificant when you have a baby. Nothing can prepare you for the strength of feelings you have towards your baby. It’s not love, it’s more than that. It’s primal maybe, instinct, it’s just there. An unbreakable bond. As soon as you feel it you will understand how women can lift cars to free their baby trapped under the wheel; you would do anything to protect her.
2. I am rubbish at conversation now. I have no hilarious stories, apart from ones about Ebony which are probably only hilarious to me. I forget words, and I forget things. Everything really. Sometimes I find myself sitting with an old friend trying and failing to think of something to say. I hate that, but when your world is filled with babies then this is bound to happen.
3. It’s impossible to explain to friends what you do all day. Maternity leave is amazing, but it’s hard work. I don’t get up till 10am every morning, but I’m still exhausted by the time my head hits the pillow thirteen hours later. How can I be so tired after thirteen short hours of life? Some days I am shattered and all I have done is looked after Ebony, nothing more - no washing, no baby group. Before I had Ebony, I wouldn’t have understood how that could be tiring, or fulfilling. People often ask me what I do all day. It’s annoying really, because it implies that looking after a baby isn’t an activity. Or that it shouldn’t take up much time. It makes me feel that I am expected to do other things, but some days I don’t have time. Keeping Ebony happy, teaching her things, exploring the world with her, this is a full-time job. Please don’t expect me to also have done all the washing, have the house spotless, and have dinner prepared.
4. Your friendship circles will change. Some friends aren’t interested in babies, or pregnant women, you’ll see them less. It’s sad, but it happens. Other friends love babies and you will see them more. Some friends will go out of their way to make life easier for you, offering to come and help, bring food etc when the baby is small. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of some people since Ebony was born, I hope I’ll be able to return the kindness in the future. Not just now though, ok? I’m just too tired.
5. Listen to your gut. Everyone will try to give you advice. Ignore most of it. Do what you think is right. Don’t worry about doing what everyone else is doing, just do what works for you and your baby. I am so much happier since I became confident in my decisions as a Mum. It takes time to gain the confidence to turn round and say to people, “No, we’re not doing that. We’re doing it this way because...” but eventually you will. Be proud of your decisions.
6. Not many people tell Mums they’re doing a good job. It is often taken for granted, and without reassurance you can start to doubt yourself. My Mum has told me on a few occasions that she is proud of how I have taken to be a mother, I think about this when I am having a bad day and they make me feel better.
7. Babies do not stop changing. Every week she develops and grows. It’s amazing, but it’s exhausting. I have usually only just started to get my head round one skill and she develops another. Ebony has suddenly become mobile, which means my job just became a lot harder (for no extra pay, I might add). Make sure you make the most of each stage because it won’t last long.
8. Babies just keep getting better and better. When Ebony was first born, I would look at people with older babies and think that I had the better deal. I was worried about Ebony getting older and becoming harder to look after, now I realise babies just get better with age. The more she can do, the more fun she is. Yes, it’s tiring, but it’s also rewarding. Every cuddle, every kiss is worth a million hours of trying to untangle my hair from her fist, or picking dried snot off my coat.
Those are the main mothering lessons I have learned since becoming a Mum six months ago. It’s hard, it’s tiring, I am an emotional wreck due to hormones still, but it’s worth it, because I’m also the luckiest person in the world. Ebony is really amazing, and I get to be a part of that.
I’m really sorry about this soppy post. It was meant to be funny but I got taken down an emotional path somehow. Blame the hormones, or the tiredness, or the fact that I am suffering complete mental collapse because some idiot bought Ebony a battery powered toy that says, in a hideously upbeat voice, “It’s a pink rabbit.” and “The cat is here.” on repeat for hours at a time.
The photo illustrating this blog is one of my favourite pictures in the world. Ebony is only a few hours old, I am deranged from lack of sleep and physical exhaustion, and I am the happiest I have ever felt. Look how tiny she is!
I must go to sleep now. I wonder what I will dream about tonight. "It's a pink rabbit. It's a pink rabbit. It's a pink rabbit."