Sanding away

I’m going to be honest with you about how I felt this morning – I was bereft. I sat down outside on the cold concrete floor and wept as I mourned for myself and all that I’ve lost since becoming a mum.

As I write this a few hours later, I know that what I experience is first world problems. I’m not wanting for food, safety, shelter or water – my life is pretty sweet. But in that moment, life felt very bitter and I want to share my experience with you, dear friend.

I cried for not being able to sleep as I used to, for not feeling free to have a late night with friends in case Jenson wakes up to play in the middle of the night (as he has done twice since we’ve been on holiday), for not being free to drink and make merry without compromising my breastfeeding (a choice I’ve made but one which comes with a price), for not being able to have hours writing and reading and dreaming and planning in lovely coffee shops as I used to, for my body not being my own, for my time not being my own, for having to succumb to the wiley needs of a nearly nine month old who wails in consternation if he’s not able to get what he wants. Oh how he wails and how tedious it gets at times.

And for not having the energy to put on the ‘I’m fine, all is good!’ facade when my resources are nearly gone but I’m surrounded by people. A facade that allows me to push on when I’m tired, to be sociable when I need time alone, to push down my needs in order to seem easy and fun when I feel exhausted and drained.

And when I realised this last truth – that I’m not able to pretend to be anything other than I am – I was able to see how this experience of motherhood with Jenson is sanding away my rough edges. It’s holding me accountable for what I want to be, but struggle so much with.

Authentically me.

I want to be able to say ‘I’m exhausted, I’m going to bed‘ even when others are staying up. I want to feel free to curl up in a corner and read even when most around me are enjoying being sociable and chatting. I want to feel free to be nothing other than what I am.

But yet so often I soldier on, follow the crowd, join in even if it’s not what I want. There’s probably a mix of FOMO in there, but more often this behaviour is driven by the part of me that is like a little girl just wanting to be loved and accepted and feels that the only way for this to be the case is for me to be acceptable to other people by mirroring their wants and their desires instead of following my own.

The sad thing is that none of the people I count as friends put this pressure on me. It’s my own pressure I feel. I’m sure they’re glad when I do stay up late or go for walks with them etc., but their world doesn’t revolve around me stepping in line with them and they’re not bereft when I hold back and don’t join in with whatever group activities are going on. They love me for me.

And so while I may have partly cried this morning for the struggles I face as Jenson’s mum – lack of sleep, feeling stretched beyond my limits, being forced to find patience beyond that which I didn’t know I had – I’m also thankful that this experience with him is constantly reminding me what is important.

Finding my voice, accepting myself as I am, living life on my own terms.

And for that, my boy, I’m eternally grateful.

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The witching hour

I have to say, I was a bit smug about my son. Sure, he’s a baby who expresses what he wants and is fairly quick to protest if we don’t respond to him. But if we made sure he was fed, clean and loved, he was fine.

Until yesterday. When I got to experience what the witching hour really means. A time where, no matter what I did, Jenson was inconsolable. Crying louder and louder and unable to be comforted by song, feeding, rocking or any sort of soothing activity Gregg or I could think of.

It went on for about 30 minutes until he fell, exhausted, to sleep but it felt like 2 hours of endless crying. And tonight has brought about the same witchy madness, sending him over the edge and causing him to scream louder and louder with each passing minute.

Gregg took him for a walk, something that always manages to send him to sleep but I’m left a bit shellshocked at my inability to calm my son. I know it’s not my fault but it sort of feels that way.

I think it must be overstimulation, but what triggered the transformation from peaceful sleeping babe one moment to screaming wild-thing the next? Responding to him a second too late perhaps – he wanted to feed and I took a moment to try to attach a pump to express from the other breast? Or would he have just screamed, regardless?

I suppose I’m writing this for no real reason really. To get out my feeling of hopelessness. To not stew in my feelings of inadequacy and to remind myself that it’s not my fault.

Babies sometimes cry and it’s ok for me to find it tough.

It’s also ok for Gregg take Jenson for a walk to soothe him (although sat here I feel helpless and like I’ve done something wrong by not being the one to calm my son down).

Geez, parenthood.

The most beautiful, complicated, challenging, dizzying, joyful, destroying, uplifting experience I’ve ever known. Where I have to let go of control and go with just what is in this moment. Where I’m unable to steer the journey much of the time. Where I have to rely on the help and support of others more than I ever have done in my life.

It helps having this safe space to write down my thoughts and express what’s going on for me. To not keep all this stress, anxiety and worry inside myself. So thanks for being here for me, dear friend.

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Coping with a crying baby

I’ve been bouncing and singing and cuddling and feeding and talking to and loving Jenson for 45 minutes while he cried and cried and cried.

Well tried were the ideas I’ve got written on my ‘things to do when Jenson cries’ list and none were working in calming him down. He would not settle.

It’s so heartbreaking to have your little one in distress and to not be able to comfort them. But dare I say the thing most on my mind this morning? My ultimate truth when Jenson is crying – it’s bloody tiring.

Knowing I’ve done all that I could for him and still nothing was working I felt myself detach from the situation. But this came with the worry that I was the most terrible mother. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t leave him to cry in a room by himself for hours, I just stopped feeling so acutely the sadness of what he was feeling and instead focused on going through the motions of caring for him.

I ask myself, as he’s finally asleep in the sling (Sod’s law, the only thing I hadn’t tried as he usually hates being in his sling indoors and screams like he’s being tortured on previous attempts) what is behind the detachment and whether I’m comfortable with this reality.

And I suppose what comes to mind is this – Jenson is one of the great loves of my life. I’d do anything for him.

But he is also a crying baby and crying babies are tedious, infuriating, very loud and tiring.

And these two things co-exist side by side. The deep love and semi-fatigued annoyance, the perseverance of trying and trying again to calm him whilst thinking to myself ‘I wish he would stop, this is horrible for me’. The investment in caring for his wellbeing and the detachment of going through the motions to just get through it.

Nobody told me this was how I might feel and it is quite a lonely place to co-exist in these two realities of caring whilst going through the motions. Especially when you think that everyone else is somehow coping differently.

So I thought I’d put my thoughts out there. As a way of embracing my experience and also, hopefully, as a way of reaching out to other parents to say:

You’re not alone. Feeling like this is normal and is ok. We’re all doing our best and that’s all we can expect of ourselves. It’s bloody hard to care for a crying baby who will not stop. I’m with you.