The baby stage...

posted on: Wednesday, 21 July 2010

I have a confession. I did not like the baby stage of motherhood. It's taken me a while to be able to say that comfortably. I had my babies when I was, comparatively speaking, quite young. I was not well prepared. Of all my friends, I pioneered the way, being the first. At the age of 26 when I had my daughter, I don't think I had ever changed a nappy or really even cared for a young baby. Yet there I was, discharged from hospital with this tiny bundle.

At that time my husband had taken a new job as an Executive Assistant or 'EA' - in corporate speak this is the guy who is assigned to an Executive to basically be there every minute of the day, learning the ropes, preparing presentations, meeting the right people. A 'bag carrier' if you will. This meant almost constant presence required in the office, which incidentally was located about 50 miles from where we lived. Let's just say he wasn't home as much as he'd have liked.

I was blue. Soon after the joyousness of having a newborn wore off, and everyone returned to their lives, I was there with a new baby, very few friends in the same position, no sleep and in a state of some anxiety. I marvel at how some new mothers sail through this time. For me it was like being on the choppiest of seas; I was no longer comfortable in my own skin, or in my own presence. Everything I ever knew was turned on its head. It's amazing how such a little addition can change so much. Some say that your relationship with your first-born child is the most complex, as that child is the one who changes you. For me and Boo - this might just be true.

Over time I found my feet, but the blue feeling persisted, as all of the hurdles of new motherhood crept up on me. Breastfeeding a disaster. Sleep-pattern non existent. In fact sleep was non-existent. Meeting like-minded mothers...a gradual, awkward, pain-staking process. Completely absorbing and heavy reliance on the medical profession/self-help books for 'how to do it'. Zero self-assurance. Limited instincts that it was all going to be OK. I think I genuinely felt that those early months would define my life forever. I had no concept that it would get easier.

Of course it did...but the experience did mean that it was four years until I had another child. Having your second child is a whole different ball game, and I knew what to expect when Boo 2 came along. Nevertheless, those blues did make an appearance and I got through it, surrounding myself with strong and patient support.

I now see as we emerge completely - all that remains is an attic full of redundant car seats and baby clothes I can't bear to part with - that the baby stage is just a drop in the ocean of motherhood. It's just one little part of a much, much bigger picture. Looking after and nurturing my children is the most wondrous thing I have ever done and will ever do. I love them all the way to the moon and back. Would never change it. But my goodness those baby days were hard for me. And finally now I see, that's OK. I forgive myself.

21 comments:

  1. Love this post, Louise! You are alwasy so candid and honest, and I love that. I have a feeling the baby stage will be hard for me too. I help with my nephew and it is exhausting!

    xo Marcie

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  2. WOW! I experienced a lot of that, except I had a ton of help with my first from my husband and didn't have to deal with the emotions 3 months after birth we found out I was pregnant and my husband got a new job 2 days before my second was born... to which I was to fend for myself with 2 at the same time. What a reality check, diapers was a non issue, the constant touching, the constant attention, the constant feeding, the lack of space, personal time, bathroom visits were no longer my own. -- I finally can close my door again, and I am finding a piece of mind just lately. But I am not a fan of the early baby stage.

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  3. As always Lou, you write with such intelligence and empathy. Motherhood is the most demanding, challenging and responsible role any woman can take on, but the one we have no training for! The rewards are beyond price. You are a born writer.

    x

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  4. It is such a hard time for many new mums. Gone are the days of extended family living close by to help and to give advice. Women need a ton of support at this time. I found a group called "The Parent Child Centre" where mums met while baby was attended and they had discussion groups. You could air your issues and fears and difficulties. It was so wonderful just to hear other women found it difficult.

    Thanks Lou.

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  5. It IS okay to admit this and THANK GOD IN HEAVEN YOU DID!!! I would be exactly like you. Little to no experience w/babies even at my age now for the love of pete! It's not for everyone and that doesn't mean you don't love or want your kid. Gimme one when it's 3 and I think I'd be more aptly prepared...at the rate I'm going it might be my only bet anyway.

    Whatever the case, thank you for being so candid and saying something I think is more common than we think. I have had 4 friends recently admit the exact.same.thing.

    xoxo Louise!
    Carrie

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  6. Hi Lou - as the other lovely ladies have said you are so wonderful at putting your thoughts down - I really do feel as I am there in the room as you talk. That motherhood thing is such a demanding thing! I must say I do love the newborn stage - I have been blessed with three good sleepers and feeders so this just makes that first year just that little less crazy - I am however not so keen on that toddler stage - the stage I am about to hit with number 3 - into everything, falling off everything and generally demanding! Give me a little teeny cuddly baby any day over that! Must say I am however looking forward to the day that day sleeps are over and toilet training is done! Don't they say though bigger kids, bigger problems! Yikes! Hope you are enjoying your summer holidays. Leanne xx

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  7. This is exactly how I felt! You described, beautifully I might add, my exact experience. I love my girls and always have and will, but those early years were so difficult for me.

    Thank you ever so much for sharing.

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  8. Lou, love your writing and your honesty. I have 3 littles and the littlest is 8 months. And this time around has been very hard. I'm trying to enjoy every ounce as I realize this could be my last. I do enjoy babies with my whole heart but sometimes I feel I'm not relaxed enough of a person to fully engage and enjoy. I love how you said you "forgive yourself." I think most of the time that is the hardest person to forgive or have grace with.

    xx Trina

    ps- thanks for your lovely comment and info on my little British list this week. I'm always dreaming of England...even rainy days. I think it is in my blood. I actually have a dear friend that I don't believe is to far from where you are? Worthing. I'm hoping to get back there sometime in the next couple of years.

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  9. I know it's a fact of life but I can't help but be amazed at the fact they just send you off home from the hospital with your little bundle of joy and absolutely no idea how to look after it. Surely you should have a certificate or something!
    I was so fortunate that I made a group of mummy friends with children the same age. Many of whom I met at our antenatal classes and we are all still friends now. It really was and still is such a support to have people going through the same things as you. I love them all to bits and think motherhood would have been a totally different experience without them.

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  10. Oh, I could've written this post, except I'm still in the baby years. I didn't have any knowledge of babies beforehand, even though I was 32 with my first - thankfully I found a group of new moms like me to help me through. I don't know what I would've done without them. My little one just turned one, and I find myself celebrating milestones (sleeping through the night! no more bottles! i can get rid of this high chair!) for perhaps the wrong reasons. I have to remind myself to fully appreciate and enjoy the fun parts of these early years - lots of cuddles, no talking back... I know it won't necessarily be easier as they get older - the challenges will just be different - but I'm looking forward to it just the same.

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  11. Lou this is such a beautifully written honest piece and I loved every word. You have described something so personal in such a way that others not in your position can relate to.

    It sounds odd but this is one of the reasons I am hesitant to have my own kids one day. I feel like for me, it maybe would be too much? For you, I am so happy to hear how this experience has changed you for the better as a woman and mother. This is honestly a very fabulous piece and you're so brave :)

    Miss you lots and hope you are having fun with the boos at home now! Get some rest for yourself somewhere in there xoxox Rhi

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  12. Nothing can prepare you for that first little bundle and it is a wonder we all make it through unscathed. My first born was the first child in the whole family, both sides. Thank you for your honesty. I work with pregnant Mums-to-be with a medical condition and I make a really strong point of talking about impending motherhood and coping strategies.

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  13. Beautifully written, Lou (I know I always say this but it's true of all your posts), and so very brave of you to write about this topic, but I think it's great that you did as there are people out there who can take comfort in knowing that they are not the only one.

    Hope you are enjoying the school holidays. Take care. xo

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  14. LouBou.

    It's definitely taboo to declare difficulty or even dislike for stages or aspects of motherhood, so your bravery in writing this post is impressive. Good for you! I'm sure lots of people can share your story and were helped by reading it.

    Babies scare me and I am sure if I have them I will go through the blues and anxiety you describe here. The important thing to know will be that I'm not alone. I'm not a bad mom. I hope if that time comes, I will fine blogs and bloggers like you that can help me get through it.

    -Ashley

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  15. such an honest post. i always fear that "wearing off" thing. wishing to have someone to give the baby back to. gosh i'll probably never have a child with my attitude!

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  16. Oh Louise,
    Yu mustn't be so hard on yourself. It is a very hard time when you have a baby and none of us know exactly what to do. It is a journey into the unknown and we just have to jog along, working things out as we go. It is very refreshing to hear someone being so honest and it has done nothing to hurt your relationship with your children.
    I'm so sorry that I'm rather eratic with my comments at the moment..... I just can't seem to get back on track !! Hopefully, I can get back to normal soon. XXXX

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  17. So lovely to be reminded of the power of absolute honesty, especially when it comes to our imperfect selves. You always sound so wonderful when you talk about your small people, even when it is about your own doubts. I think they are lucky to have you.

    Do you know Donald Winnicott's notion of the 'good enough' mother? It is very reassuring.

    Beautiful photograph, too.

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  18. It was so nice to hear this honest point of view. I'm far from babies, and partly because I am really afraid of the change in my life, my relationship with my fiance, etc. I know it will be different, but as you say here, it's okay to struggle and it will all pass and be worth it a hundred times.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  19. oh how i wish we were neighbors...I would have loved to have had a friend like you to go through the SAME thing with...then I might not of felt so bad.. misery loves company... I was the first of my friends for 5 whole years before they had children...my husbad was gone ALOT working like crazy...
    breast feeding defeated me and I am still scared of it...as a result i was terrified to have a second child...but four years later I did...and I'm so glad I jumped back it that frightful ocean! much love...thanks for your story;)
    Tina

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  20. Dear Lou, what a wonderful and honest post. Having a young baby on your own must be very hard. I can only imagine.

    I've never really wanted children, although I've had plenty of opportunities. I'm very happy with The Actor and he has decided now he would like one. I have had my freedom and my sleep for so long it's a frightening choice to make!! Plus I'm 41, not the best age to start! I think it's great that you've written this because people seem to only remember the good bits. I hope you're having a fantastic weekend. C xx

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  21. A beautifully written and honest account of what can be a difficult time. Good on you for acknowledging how hard you found it. Sharing our stories help others and women should do more of this with honesty. I also had my first at the age of 26 and have to say I loved every minute of it. Having said that I had a perfect child. Good health, good sleep, no tantrums and she did not get into mischief. The change was still huge and I found my husband and I living pretty seperate lives. Me at the park, him at home. He just didn't seem to want to participate in our lives, and I found this very hard and very heartbreaking.

    When my twins came along (8 years later and my 2nd marriage) it was much harder. I did not want to say outloud how hard it was because in my mind I equated this to not being a great mother and not loving them as much as my first (oh the jumbled mind of a mother with newborn babies!). My god it was hard and at 4.5years old it is only just starting to get easier. The baby stage for my twins is like a blur, it was so mechanical. Just get through the next feed, the next nappy change, the next sleep, the next tantrum, the next mess to clean!! It was breaking point when I dissolved into a crying wreck and just said to my husband 'this is so hard'. And to that he said of course it is and that's OK. We are in this together, it will be OK.

    I love how you put the baby stage in perspective at the end of your post. We need that perspective in tough times and I find that I need it still.. Lise xx

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