That first year post-baby is a strange new world, one at times beautiful, at times bleak and at times brilliant says Sophie White
My second child just turned one. I bustled about on the morning of the day getting everything in order for the party. This is the second first birthday party I've thrown, my older son is three years old now and while I have definitely cracked a few logistical things on the whole parenting front (I invited about 40 people to his first birthday party and was way too ambitious with the menu, this time it was bagels and bubbles and a bit of cake for about half that number) I have in no way nailed this parenting gig. Whatsoever.
Having a second baby did serve to highlight just how hard I found having my first baby. A combination of being a complete novice coupled with, frankly, insane expectations meant I was a woman on the verge for the entirety of my first year as a mother. Here are the hard lessons in parenting, that I'm pretty sure can only be learned the hard way.
There Was a Veritable Reservoir Of Salt Water Inside My Body
Who knew? Before, I kinda thought I was a bit of a crier, then I had a baby and realised I didn't even know the full extent of how much tears one woman contained. "What was I crying about?" you may ask. What wasn't I crying about? Loneliness. Exhaustion. Joy. Mindhunter (don't ask). How perfect their little wrinkly bottoms are. Hormones. The unending, multiplying-in-its-unguarded-moments pile of laundry. The baby's first smile. Sleep deprivation. What a sh*tfest your relationship has become. How weird your body feels ever since an infant rampaged its way out of it. How fast time flies.
How Lonely It Is To Have a Tiny Helpless Infant Attached To You 24/7
It's bizarre that you are never alone and yet can feel so desperately lonely. I'm sure people tried to warn me pre-baby but it's hard to take on board just how much the landscape of your life changes utterly. After the first few weeks of pacing the floors of my house at night, I could recite the RTE Radio 1 night schedule from memory. I willed it to be morning, yet somehow the days were no better. I roamed the parks, cafés and libraries trawling for other mothers to talk to. "You look normal, how do you look so normal," might be my opener as I white-knuckle gripped the pram and implored her with wild, nochturnal eyes. "Are you so lonely right now? I feel like I might actually die from loneliness. Is this normal? Please tell me it's normal." It's normal.
Everything Is Terrifying, Danger Is Everywhere
Is *insert random, totally innocuous baby product name here* tantamount to giving my child arsenic? How come everyone uses it and it's still being sold if it's supposedly lethal? What did it mean a minute ago there when he yawned and farted at the same time? Should I look it up? Is it reinforcing gender stereotyping if I call my baby "little man"? Will he grow up to be a sociopath if I listen to my headphones while pushing the pram? How do I obey everything I read on the internet when it's all so damn contradictory? The Fear is real.
The Wind Is Real
How the hell have we put man on the moon and perfected organ transplants but not addressed the wind issue. Before kids you may have heard about wind. You may have noticed it's a bit of an issue for babies but what you didn't realise is that it is, in fact, NOT an issue for babies but for their parents. Wind will swiftly become the BANE OF YOUR EXISTENCE (closely followed by complete strangers telling you what your baby needs).
Tummy Time Doesn't Effing Matter
Tummy Time never figured in your life before and then suddenly it consumes your every thought. "He doesn't seem to like that," my husband commented as our 10-week-old lay sobbing into the carpet during another hell-session of the dreaded Tummy Time. Our generation didn't have Tummy Time and we mostly seemed to have mastered head control (just don't look at me when I'm a few wines in, the head does loll somewhat I admit). I ditched tummy time on the second baby and if, in the future, he wants to blame stuff on my neglecting this crucial training then so be it.
Your Baby Does Weird stuff
Sometimes in the early weeks the child would become transfixed by apparently nothing just beyond my right shoulder. What was he looking at? The damp stain on the ceiling? The ghosts of the spinster sisters who lived in the house before us? It really freaked me out, was he plotting to kill me in my sleep with a hammer in 16 years time? Trying to do a poo? I really needed a full night's sleep at this point.
Your Body Does Weird Stuff
The sweating all night, the crying at old episodes of Grand Designs – "they just wanted the cantilevered mezzanine dammit", the leaking from, well, everywhere... Your whole body is going bananas and it's all completely beyond your control. It eventually settles down, wearing pyjamas round the clock until then definitely helps.
You Do Weird Stuff
I seem to remember Googling the phrase "4 week old baby doesn't love me".
Sh*t Just Doesn't Faze You Anymore
And by this I do mean literal sh*t – during a recent nappy change, I caught a poo barehanded and I didn't even flinch.
There's A New Normal
I spent a good chunk of the first year in a haze of crying jags, occasional euphoria and endlessly wondering when things would get back to normal? At some stage, you resurface from this tumult of new motherhood and find that the world has carried on as if nothing has happened and gradually you carry on as well and you genuinely can't really remember what it was like before barehanded poo-catching and gummy smiles.