My dearest friends and acquaintances who don’t have any children,
I feel I should write you this letter to explain a few things from my point of view, not because they necessarily need explaining or that I owe you an explanation of any sort, but because I feel like getting it out of my system.
You know how I keep saying “I’m sorry I can’t make it because (insert something related to having a child)? Well, I’m writing you this to tell you I’m not, I’m not sorry at all.
I should just stop saying it.
I’m not sorry my life has changed because I have a son, I’m not sorry I can’t party like I think I’m 25. I’m not sorry I’m busy between 4.30 and 7.30 every single day. I’m not sorry I have to consider nap times or the constant wants and needs of a little one. I’m not sorry I can’t stay out all night. I’m not sorry I can’t do whatever I want when I want. I’m not sorry that my concerns these days revolve around having a stack of teeny tiny clean pyjamas, teaching my son the difference between seeing something and hearing something, or reading books about sheep. I’m not sorry I have to deal with temper tantrums or dirty nappies. I’m not even sorry I haven’t had a full nights sleep in… I don’t know how long.
I’m not sorry.
I’ve never been happier.
While most of you have been wonderful and welcoming of this gorgeous new addition to our family, some of you, although very few, have perhaps had a more difficult time adjusting to the new me. Which is fair enough. I’m not writing this to say you have to love my son because I do or that you should in any way feel guilty. But if you think for a second that I am missing out on anything, or that my life, or that I personally somehow have less to offer now that I am a mother, you are sadly mistaken.
Sure, I don’t watch the news much anymore. I simply don’t have the time or energy for it, so I’ll fall off the wagon in any such conversation. I was never that into news and current affairs anyway, I’m more of the art and culture type. I don’t go out partying on weekends, hell, I don’t even make it down to the pub very often. And yes, I do spend a lot of time talking about my kid, or recent research into children’s sleep patterns or why I don’t let my son watch tv because these things are important to me. I understand that this may not always be of interest to you. And sometimes I complain that I’m tired or that I haven’t had much sleep, or that I haven’t had any “me time” for ages. Saying things like “If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen” really doesn’t help, and tells me not only do you not understand, but you just don’t care. I’d never say that to you when you complain about your life and your job, and let’s be fair, you do complain, we all do. But ask me if I’d change a thing and the answer would be no. Because I’m not sorry.
I know some people thought I was having a walk in the park when I was a full-time student being paid by the university to study, and some even continued to think so when I added full-time mother to that. “So what do you do all day?” Really? You have to ask? To the very few of you this applies I really have nothing but pity because you clearly don’t understand what either of those things entail. I’m always on call, I never clock off. When I’m not with my son I have to work on my degree. There is no such thing as a holiday or proper time off. (Actually, the last time I had a proper holiday was in 2009). But I’m not sorry about any of that either.
To those of you who have taken the time to come visit over the past 16 months despite me rarely if ever returning the favour, or just dropped an email to say hi, or accommodated the time and place of things so that we could come to whatever is happening, I love you even more for it. When you’ve gone with us to the zoo or offered to watch Anakin while I have a shower, when you’ve spent all night here alone on a Friday or Saturday so that we could go out and have dinner, it makes me want to squeeze you so tight and shout how much I love you. Because it’s people like you who are true friends. And let’s not forget when you gave me Dida-day. That still brings a tear to my eye and makes my heart burst in the very best way.
So when you ask me to come to something and I say no because my son still breastfeeds and needs to be put to bed at a certain time, or because I’m simply too tired and life after 9 doesn’t really exist anymore, it’s unfortunate but I don’t feel it needs an apology. I occasionally wish I could accommodate both of you at the same time and in some cases I feel bad that I can’t, but I’m never sorry for what I have to do instead. I am right where I need to be. What I can say I’m sorry about is if I’ve made you feel like you don’t matter as much as you used to, or that I don’t have any time for you. Because you do matter and I do have time, just not when or as much as I used to.
Much love and no apologies, Dida
Alright, before anyone thinks my life as a mum is The Sound of Music, let me just stop you right there. It’s not. I hate musicals. Too much singing and dancing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother. Most of the time. I think my son is absolutely divine, I love him more than I can ever possibly explain. I adore our little family and I have a fantastic partner of 7.5 years (who probably doesn’t get credit for being great half of the time). And I’m going through a very sentimental stage at the moment, the “my baby’s growing up so fast” one, so I understand if things read a bit like the sound of music right now.
But it’s not all glamorous or always hunky dory. Most days I look like I’ve just walked through a wind tunnel. I haven’t had a haircut in ages. It takes me half a day to get in the shower. I wear my pj’s for most of the day. I haven’t finished an artwork in a year (YIKES!!). I used to consider myself quite intelligent and good at what I do. Since I became pregnant my brain has not been at its sharpest. Today I found myself washing dishes from the dishwasher that were already clean. At one point in my pregnancy I couldn’t remember how many days were in a year. I guessed 252, convinced it had to have 52 in it and there was no way there were over 300. I was stumped when Steinar told me it had 365 days. Whenever I attempt to do any form of research my brain refuses to compute what I am doing. Everything baby sticks, everything else does not. My website, the one thing out there that informs the world of my work, isn’t even up and running at the moment. I just haven’t had the time to get it back up. (Shame..shame..shame!!)
All of a sudden I look like the cliché mum, vomit stains all over, hair in every direction and like I have no time to tend to myself, which I don’t. I think I used to look at least half decent. These days I leave the house not noticing that my crotch is full of regurgitated food and that I look more like a middle aged scarecrow than an early thirties mum. There is usually no time to put the yummy in my mummy, and it sometimes makes me feel pretty shit.
I haven’t waxed my legs since… i don’t even remember. I wear clothes for their practical function for breastfeeding, not for their style or great look. (I miss my wardrobe so much!) Because I share my body with my baby all day I have (a lot of) days where I am probably the least pleasant partner to be around because I just want to be left alone. I miss me time. I also miss us time.
I’d love to have more time to read… something other than “Where is the green sheep?”. I’d love to have a day where I didn’t have to be on a schedule and always three steps ahead of what needs to be done.
I’m tired. Pretty much all the time. And let’s not forget to complain about how I haven’t had a good nights sleep in… forever. I don’t even know what that means anymore.
There. I just had to get that out. Now I can go back to being sentimental, doting and in love with my son. Because some days it really is like the sound of music. (Yes, even with the singing and the dancing.)
“Are you getting any sleep?” “Is he a good sleeper?” “Is he sleeping through yet?” “Does he nap well?”
Sleep, or lack thereof, is apparently a hot topic when it comes to parenting. Didn’t take long to figure that one out. It’s frequently talked about and debated, and features in most peoples first questions to new parents. When we first had Anakin nothing could have prepared me for the months of sleep deprivation I had ahead of me. I didn’t sleep well during most of my pregnancy, but at least I had time to stay in bed. Neither did I know that you had to teach a baby to sleep, or at least we had to teach this one to.
I didn’t know much about baby sleep cycles, cat napping or anything of the sorts in the beginning. Babies slept a lot, that was all I knew. And he did, at first. But he would sleep mostly in our arms and we were only too happy to hold him for as long as we could. If we were downstairs in our house it was out of the question to put him down anywhere we couldn’t see him, particularly upstairs. It took many weeks before I even managed to sleep with the lights off. It was a bad case of first time parent paranoia. I would sleep in my pj’s (because he just woke so often) and with my glasses on the mattress above my pillow to make it easy for me to see him whenever I woke up, if I ever had time to fall asleep. The bedside table was too far away, I guess. I did everything a new, paranoid, doting parent would, I checked his breathing regularly, I held him at every chance I had and I probably tortured myself needlessly. I was horrible at taking care of myself.
It got to a point where I dreaded nights so bad they made me cry. Steinar slept in another room for a bit to make sure he wasn’t completely beat for work and I would sit in my chair in the bedroom pretty much all night holding Anakin, nursing, rocking, crying, doing whatever I could to get the little man to sleep. And he would, but as soon as I put him down in his cot he would wake back up. For a while I averaged about 4 hours sleep per 24, broken up into small catnaps here and there and I was going bat crazy.
Anakin was a big catnapper. Unless we held him or let him sleep on us he would do a 20 minute sleep at most during daytime. And 20 minutes is just not enough for a tiny baby. I tried to educate myself as best I could on sleep and routines, and we ended up going to a settling session with the amazing Helen Stevens (Safe Sleep Space). But as much as I loved the session, the issue with Anakin wasn’t the settling during the day, it was his inability to fall asleep and to transition between sleep cycles. He’s never been much of a crier in general, and resettling someone for more sleep who is happy as larry to be awake is a tough nut to crack.
As for getting him to fall asleep it turned out we were just keeping him up far too long. I didn’t recognise his tired signs for a long time. By the time he yawned or started to cry he was way past his window of going down easily. Our household was a bit chaotic in the start and I think it was too easy to think he could manage more awake time than he could simply because there were people there who wanted to see him all the time.
Once things calmed down his sleep started changing. As opposed to taking forever to get to sleep at night (due to being overstimulated and overtired) he started to fall asleep faster and on his own. We stuck to our bedtime routine and put him down while still awake and it worked a charm. Naps were still a struggle, but I was able to help him transition between cycles if I was already in the room when he stirred and acted immediately. This involved good timing, a lot of crawling around out of sight, stroking his head and giving him a dummy, then waiting for him to go back to sleep before exiting the room. And on a good day he’d do one 1,5 hour nap and then 45 minute naps for the rest. Fair enough.
At around 4 months we moved Anakin to his own room. He started waking every time we went to bed and would wake 8-10 times overnight for a feed or his dummy, and I was getting to the end of my tether. Anakin loves his room and sleeps very well on his own. And for a couple of months we were in putting baby to bed heaven. He would have his bath, his bedtime feed, a cuddle and then we could simply wrap him, put him in his bed with his white noise cd on and leave. And he’d mostly stay asleep until my night shift started.
But that’s a whole other story.