I have been a mum to this little lady for just over one year now. I’m quite a reflective person anyway but Zara turning one has made me think back a lot over the last year. Before having a baby I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t really have any close friends or nearby family with babies. I’d never really been part of a babies life before. I had no idea how much having a baby would change me.
For the first couple of weeks after Zara was born I couldn’t really understand what was supposed to be hard about having a baby. My husband was off work, people kept coming round with food and lovely presents, we ate a lot of chocolate biscuits and Zara slept a lot. Then one evening she started screaming and didn’t really stop. I remember having read about colic and naively hoping that Zara would never do that again. She proceeded to scream every night from about 7-10pm for about 6 weeks. It was Christmas and there was so much going on. People kept telling us how easy it is just to take babies with you when they are so small. We tried. Zara screamed. I cried. I was embarrassed. I was confused. I had no idea what was making my tiny girl scream so hard every evening.
On Christmas Day Zara was 5 weeks old and she decided she couldn’t possibly nap with all that excitement. She then didn’t really nap in the day for more than 20-30 mins at a time until she was nearly 7 months old. She lived in a permanent state of being over tired. There was a point when I was convinced she was the unhappiest baby in the world. She screamed if anyone else held her and she constantly seemed to want milk. I used to worry about taking her out because I worried about how she would be. I was so worried she would scream in public and people would stare. I was worried she would want feeding again when she had just been fed and people would judge. I was just constantly worrying about what people would think of me and of her.
Sadly, I have realised this year how much people judge each other. I know I do it too. The hardest thing this year has not been the sleep deprivation (which has been flipping hard) or missing out on things when we can’t get a babysitter or anything else I thought would be hard before Zara was born. The hardest thing has been dealing with other people’s judgements and comparing myself to other mums. I’m not even just talking about feeling like people are staring or saying things behind my back. Yes, those things are hard but I’m talking about direct comments. I’ve written a post before about how complete strangers feel like it’s ok to comment on something I am doing in the street for example telling me not to pick her up when she’s crying in the buggy because ‘she just wants her own way’ or do the straps up in her car seat (when she was very small and I’d been carrying her in a shop and put her down to pay). I’ve been told to leave Zara to cry when she wakes up at night. I’ve been told she cries a lot. I’ve been told that other babies are much more content. I’ve been told she shouldn’t feed at night. I’ve been constantly asked if she is sleeping through yet and then offered various advice on how to achieve this magical goal.
Luckily in the last few months I’ve met other like minded mums and I’m slowly learning that I can do this my way. I’ve learnt that contrary to what I led and still do sometimes lead myself to believe, I am not useless at this. In the days when Zara cried a lot, I struggled so much. I barely had 20 minutes to myself as she didn’t nap. Her crying was exhausting and she was up several times a night. I spent hours scouring the internet looking for reasons for her lack of sleep and her crying. I still don’t really know what it was. We went on holiday to Majorca when Zara was about 6.5 months old and she suddenly started having long naps and was happier. We didn’t really do anything differently.
I’ve learnt that babies are incredibly different and their personalities matter. Zara is not a very relaxed baby and that’s ok. She only sits still if she is ill. She doesn’t really grizzle. If she’s upset about something, she yells and then gets over it again quickly. I can’t really complain. She’s definitely inherited all this from me! There are so many theories about babies, especially related to sleep. We tried a few different things but I truly believe that Zara does things when she is ready. I’m sure I have made lots of mistakes and maybe they did contribute to her being unsettled. Who knows!
I’ve also learnt that everything with babies is a phase. Zara had a phase of being very unsettled and it was incredibly difficult. Between 7 months to a year she was an absolute dream (ok, she still didn’t sleep well at night but aside from that). At the moment she’s great…unless she thinks I’m leaving and then she has a major melt down. I have to tell myself. This too shall pass.
I saw a video on Facebook yesterday about how mum’s feel loneliness and realised I had felt exactly like the people in the video. I can completely relate to everything they said. You can watch it here if you are interested. Whilst on maternity leave I always managed to keep my days busy but I rarely met with people I could truly be honest with. It seemed like everyone else’s baby was so content and it made me feel isolated. This quote really stuck out
“It’s not a difficult thing, to love someone else, but it’s difficult to love yourself when you’re giving so much.”
This post has turned into a bit of a ramble and I realise how negative I sound. This year has been harder than I ever could have imagined but more amazing than I ever could have hoped. I don’t want to start listing the things Zara can do and boasting about how wonderful she is so I’ll just say that she is. She is the best thing in the world and my heart explodes with love for her.
I am going to try harder not to judge and compare. I am going to try harder not to care when other people judge because people always will…even without meaning to. It’s easy to know that I am good mum when she is giggling and chatting away but I’ve learnt that I’m a good mum when I’m holding her and cannot get to stop crying.
I just want to end by thanking the people who have been supportive. The people who have been honest about their babies melt downs. The people who I have brought a screaming baby too when I don’t what else to do. The people who have made me lunch even when they are crazily busy. The people who have always seen how amazing Zara is and reassured me. The people who have gently given advice when asked. Those people know who they are. Thank you.