The first year of motherhood is tough – a rollercoaster full of highs and lows. I always knew it would be a massive adjustment, but nothing prepared me for the first few months. At times it felt like I was trying to run up a hill but an unknown force was pushing me down. And then other times made me feel so elated, happy and lucky.
When I think back to those first few months, it sounds like a cliché but some of it I can’t even remember and just the other day I actually thought I was a year younger than I am because my birthday was during this time. So as the haze of the sleep deprivation is starting to clear (but not totally disappear, obviously), I’ve been having a think about that all important first year.
The First Few Months were a blurry haze of self doubt…
It started off with sheer amazement that this tiny person was now here. Sometimes I would look at her wondrously (usually when she was sleeping). But soon enough, all I could think about was how tiredness had overtaken my entire being, so much so that asking for help was almost impossible because I was winging it every second of the day. The crying that I am now numb to, was so overwhelming and made me feel inadequate as Emma’s mum, as the noise filled the entire flat. Then there was breastfeeding. Was breastfeeding supposed to be this hard? According to the NHS leaflet, it was a serene and calm time with your baby as you kick back and watch Countdown with a cup of tea. But for us, I would be wincing as Emma sucks bloody hard for more milk.
The Health Visitor told me that at 6 weeks I would start to feel myself again, but that feeling didn’t come until several months later. At the time, I kind of wished she hadn’t mentioned that date in particular as it came and went with me eagerly sitting on the edge of my sofa anticipating the hormonal change.
I wish I knew that the good times were right around the corner, but my mind was filled with judgemental comments about not breastfeeding, which kick-started stubbornness on my part to not use the health visitor’s support. I wish I knew that everyone was winging it really, and it wasn’t just me feeling like I’m not meant to be a mum.
New phases, New frustrations…
The 6-month mark was an amazing milestone for us all. We’d managed to get through half a year with so little sleep and I genuinely learnt that sleep deprivation is a very effective form of torture. But even though we were up several times a night, it was an exciting time….time for weaning. But very quickly I realised that I never appreciated how simple it was when it was just milk bottles to make. Yes, this new phase was exciting, but frustrating as well as Emma wasn’t too happy about trying something new, and refused to eat anywhere apart from her bouncer chair.
Just as I was starting to feel in serious trouble in the food department, I discovered Annabel Karmel’s bible. It transformed my life and at last Emma started to enjoy eating.
We made it to one year…and we’re still winging it
As 12 months approached, time for Emma’s developmental review. The prospect filled me with dread, given our disastrous 6 week check up. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so nervous as I always knew Emma was happy and healthy, but it was inevitably scheduled at the worst possible time when she normally took a nap. I also had to fill out a questionnaire with tests on Emma’s progress – is she standing up? Does she stand up and reach down to pick up a toy? Does she try to find a raisin in a plastic bottle?
But round the corner was that all important milestone – she turned 1 years old and I still can’t believe it. I’m still am filled with pride and might just sit here and cry (again).
As I write this closing paragraph, Emma is now almost 17 months old and has changed so much since her first birthday. But all those memories, from the dark days of trying so very hard with breastfeeding, to the first smile, laugh and even the first step, are so clear in my mind. It’s been a rollercoaster for sure, but it’s been our rollercoaster. Our highs and lows and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.