A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    Not the perfect mum

    I’ve had a lovely weekend. A good friend of mine took Jenson for a few hours and this allowed Gregg and I to have an afternoon to ourselves. Time to reconnect, which is so important. It used to be a given. We could go out on dates, spend time together late into the night (not worrying about a certain someone who might wake up at 5am), have impromptu weekends away and spend so much time together.

    It was wonderful to have time together, but as a result, I don’t feel like I’ve spent loads of time with Jenson.

    And I’ve got the guilts about it.

    I don’t want to be the ‘perfect mum’ but I find myself judging my choice to make lunch for Gregg and I for the week instead of rushing to spend hours watching and playing with Jenson. I feel less than adequate because I asked Gregg to get into the bath with Jenson tonight so that I could have a few moments alone, not doing any tasks, to write this.

    And as I’m reflecting on all this self-judgement, here’s what comes up for me:

    • I am someone who needs time alone to process and reflect and breathe. And that didn’t stop when Jenson came into this world. So it’s natural that sometimes I’m going to want some time alone.
    • We went to a birthday party today – our first of many baby parties – and it was lovely. But it involved a lot of small talk with people I don’t know and that tires me out. I’m reminded that needing extra time alone hasn’t been a need in isolation. It’s partly because of the surrounding circumstances, needing a bit of time to boost up my energy and resilience after spending 3 hours with lots of people I don’t know.
    • The ‘perfect mum’ doesn’t exist. She doesn’t have to deal with tiredness or full-time work. And so she’s not someone I want to judge myself against.
    • I don’t have to find each and every experience with Jenson fascinating. I love the boy – he is my world and I’d be adrift without him. But watching him play with a plastic ride-on toy is sometimes (ok, mostly) boring. I don’t have to be in rapture at everything he does and it’s ok if I’d rather watch a film or read a book instead sometimes.

    Just getting all this out in the open is enough to shelves the guilt. It reinforces that I don’t want to be the perfect mum and reminds me that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t be her.

    So I’m going to enjoy the remaining time of peace whilst Gregg and Jenson are in the bath together.

    No judgement whatsoever.

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    Tender

    I shared with you recently about a lot going on in my life. Connecting so strongly with the grief in my heart, feeling the call to more, returning to work after the life changing event of becoming a mum, learning all the lessons in store for me about mothering my beautiful, spirited son.

    I was lying next to him tonight, feeding him and missing Great British Bake Off (thanks, my little joker. You knew I was wanting to watch it, I’m sure!) and once I accepted the reality that I was going to miss it, I stopped fighting the frustration and tapped into what I was feeling.

    And here’s what I felt – a tenderness inside me like a bruise.

    Being bashed around so much with exponential personal growth, changes to everything I know and the uncertainty and unpredictability of being a mother and not knowing what the future holds for me.

    I am tender and a bit battered and a bit bruised.

    There’s no denying how I feel – if just is. And there’s no real changing what’s going on for me – it’s my journey.

    What I do know is that I need to show myself kindness and gentleness. I need everyone around me to show me the same gentleness and kindness too as I live this season of my life.

    I know if won’t always be this way. But it’s this way at the moment.

    There’s no great reveal or revelation about what I can do about where I am. But just expressing it – sharing it with you, dear friend – lightens the load and helps me walk the path that I’m on right now.

    It’s not the easiest of roads but I’m sure it’ll lead to somewhere great.

    Internalising

    I’ve been on a path for a while to find acceptance with who I am. Acceptance of my body, acceptance of those parts of my personality that I often think are ‘too much‘ or ‘not enough’. Too sensitive, too emotional, too bossy, too strong-minded, not funny enough, not extroverted enough, not laid-back enough.

    I have long periods of peace with who I am and have made great strides forward in gaining love and acceptance of myself – I know that my body does not define who I am inside, I’ve learnt to find beauty in my strong body instead of berating it for not being waif-like and I’ve also gained a great respect for my body after being pregnant and giving birth to my beautiful baby boy. It is so much more than flesh that should bend to my will – it is precious.

    Yet I’ve noticed my mean girl voice come back into my head of late. Judging my body that has not and may never return to its pre-pregnancy form. And commenting on all the ways that I’m not enough and too much in each situation. Doubting that I’ll find acceptance from those I hold dear. Fearing they’ll find me lacking in some way.

    I experience this mean girl voice as an uncomfortable niggle, like a bruise I can’t stop touching. Sometimes I can say “thank you for your thoughts but I don’t need to hear them” to my inner mean girl and other times her words stay in my head and make me feel paranoid and self-conscious, wondering if everyone else is bored by me or thinking how much I’ve let myself go.

    Luckily I’m able to do the former a lot more than before but it’s still exhausting to deal with.

    But when I ask myself what my mean girl is truly about, I know it is an internalisation of tiredness, of being overwhelmed by this new experience of being a mother, of things being too much in life, of feeling that I’ve lost myself to then find myself and then feel lost all over again.

    There are people I know who deal with these feelings by externalising them – talking about it, crying or raging. But with me, I’ve always internalised what’s going on for me.

    I don’t know why this is, although I do think a lot of pressure is put on girls to be happy and that being sad or angry or grumpy is seen as unacceptable.

    Perhaps it’s not the ‘why’ that is important though. The key is what I do now that I’m aware of the internalisation. Because I know it’s not healthy for me.

    Thank the mean girl

    I could continue to fight this voice or I could treat her as what she is – a prompt that something is out of kilter in my life and needs addressing. So I could thank her and deal with the underlying issues. It’s exhausting to do this, especially as the mean girl voice raises its ugly self when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable. But if I start to look at what is going on underneath, I think it can only get easier.

    Put myself first

    Over the past few weeks my husband has taken Jenson for a few hours to give me the space and time to do things for myself. And it has been what I’ve needed to reconnect to myself and feel back to my normal self. It’s what I’ve needed to keep my mean girl at bay. So I think I need to keep on having this time to keep my sanity. For me, it’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity.

    I’ve also found myself being ‘rude’ over the past few weeks as I’ve prioritised my needs over other people. I already feel torn in so many ways since Jenson came on the scene and I can’t split myself anymore to accommodate other people. So I’ve turned people down, I’ve asked people to visit at a different time that suits me or said no altogether to seeing them, I’ve not gone along to things I didn’t want to. Because if it’s a choice between being seen as rude or going crazy, I’m going to opt for rudeness.

    Share away

    I have written before about how I find it hard to share what’s going on with me face-to-face. There are a few good friends who I feel safe sharing with – those who have earned my trust, are good at asking the right questions that open me up and have been as vulnerable with me as I am with them. And to be honest with you, I think it’s fine to be like this – to have a select few people who are trusted to hear my stories as I’m trusted to hear theirs. But I need to find time to connect with them around the time constraints of motherhood.

    Externalise

    I know that pushing down what I’m feeling is a one-way street to comfort eating and people pleasing. The two things I’m proud to have stepped away from for the most part. So to not push down my feelings, I need to find a way to externalise what’s going on for me in a healthy way. This blog is a huge part of that – sharing my experiences and expressing what I’m going through with you, dear friend. But I also think that there are other places where I can externalise my feelings. And I’m taking some steps to get there by arranging some coaching for myself to deal with the perfectionism which says ‘it’s not ok to not be ok’ and holds up an ideal of what I should be – funnier, easy-breezier, more extroverted.

    I know that this is going to be a journey I take over the rest of my life – that of tuning into my intuition and learning to listen myself and what I need. It feels hard to be here, but it also feels honest and truthful and like things can only get better from this point onwards.

    Allowed to be me

    I stood in the kitchen 3 nights ago and, half-crying, said to my husband “it’s not that I don’t love Jenson – I love him so strongly – but I’d just like a few hours to be me again. To not have my constant companion by my side or be called away from the passions I have to feed or cuddle or hold him. I miss being me.”

    Motherhood has been the best thing to happen to me. I can’t express how much I love this little, wonderful being. My love is a force that keeps me smiling when I’ve been up half the night with him or had to sing songs to him for hours to calm him down.

    But I miss being me.

    I miss just going to a coffee shop and reading or blogging for hours. I miss spending untethered time in the kitchen whipping up cakes and cooking batches of food for the week. I miss going out without being tied down with a backpack full of baby stuff.

    The freedom, the focus on me, the ability to do exactly what I want to do.

    And here’s where I hear Jenson’s voice of the future – saying “but you chose to have me”. A sentiment I had as a child when I didn’t get my way or the few times my wishes didn’t come first for my parents. And now I get it.

    Yes, I did choose to have him. With all my heart and much time spent thinking about whether I did want to become a mother. It was an active choice. But this choice doesn’t take away who I am. My passions. My dreams. Things I just like doing because I just like doing them.

    And I’m ok 80% of the time that I’m not where I was anymore. I’m a mum and that means that I am no longer my own. I’m his as much as he is mine. But it doesn’t stop the fact that I’m allowed to be me. I’m allowed to still have my desires and wishes and dreams. I’m allowed to take time for myself.

    I’m also incredibly lucky to have a husband who is in this with me 100% and is able to hear me and my needs. He gives me the space to be me, just as I give him the space to be him.

    What does this look like?

    Gregg gets Wednesday evenings to play football with colleagues at work. I support him to have this time, even if it means that I have to take care of Jenson well into the evening by myself. I’ve also been up for him having nights out with friends and other evenings out to do things he enjoys even if it leaves me alone with a baby who can, as much as he’s adorable, be a challenging little so-and-so.

    And Gregg allows me to follow my passion for coaching people who struggle with comfort eating, binge drinking and people pleasing. He takes Jenson out of the house when I have my sessions scheduled with the people I love to work with so I can focus 100% on this work that I feel called to do.

    But I know I need more time to just be me without relying on the squeezed little chunks of time I grab for myself. Yes, I get time to coach, but I need time for me. It’s not selfish to take this time. And even if it is selfish, it’s time I need so that I can be a good, patient, loving, kind and generous parent to my son and a good, patient, loving, kind and generous wife to my husband.

    So tomorrow (well, today – I’m writing this at 4am now that Jenson has gone to sleep after being up for an hour), I’ve been given a pass by Gregg. The promise that he’ll take Jenson for a good two or three hours so I can just be me. I can get my hair cut, sit in a cafe and read a book or write another blog, post or wander the streets of Brighton without a nappy bag and papoose.

    And I think we need to make a regular event of this. Giving each other time so we can be ourselves and have a bit of space to claim back who we are.

    I’m allowed to be me. It doesn’t mean that I love my son any less. It means that I’m human with needs of my own. And that’s ok.

    The end of the fourth trimester

    Tomorrow my son turns 12 weeks old – I can’t quite believe it. He’s been with us for such a short amount of time but it also seems like he has always existed.

    I’ve loved these first twelve weeks because I’ve been following the school of thought that the first three months are the fourth trimester. A continuation of the baby’s time in the womb where the most important thing is bonding with Jenson and helping his transition into the world to be as gentle and smooth as possible.

    To do this, I’ve found myself wearing him in a sling for the majority of our trips out of the house, spending restful hours in the bath with him on my chest, co-sleeping and have focused on what makes him seem happy and content. Lots of walking so he can be rocked to sleep close to me in the sling, lots of singing and dancing around the house and lots of feeding at his pace and at his demand.

    This style of parenting wasn’t one that I thought I would take. And, for sure, it’s one that focuses more on Jenson and less on my marriage. Even though my husband sleeps in the same bed as us and is 100% present with us when he’s not at work, I miss the closeness we had pre-becoming parents. I’m sure our relationship will get back to where it was over time but I didn’t expect to have less resources, less patience and less energy to show my love to Gregg.

    But let’s get back to talking about the fourth trimester! These thoughts about relationships with a baby are probably for another time and another blog post!

    As I sit here writing my thoughts about the fourth trimester you, dear friend, I find myself slightly sad that it is coming to an end. I know that this gentle way of being doesn’t have to end but somehow I feel the permission to take things extra slowly and gently diminish as his 12 week anniversary arrives.

    I know that 12 weeks is an arbitrary number and am aware that I can continue doing the same thing over the next few months but somehow it doesn’t feel the same.

    Because Jenson is going to change. He’s already coming out of his womb-like haze and is interacting more with the world around him. He’s smiling so much, recognises songs I regularly sing to him and can now be distracted by the world around him or even can be stopped crying with a book or something new that I show him.

    He’s not going to need as much of the slow and gentle pace that I’ve grown to love.

    And I’m aware that I need to prepare him for my return to work in July when his dad will take over as the main carer. I feel an anxiety about having to push Jenson to do things before he’s ready to fit in with my desire to get back to work and his dad’s desire to spend quality time with him.

    Making him sleep out of my arms, feed just for nourishment instead of a way of dozing off, get used to me not being around.

    So I’m allowing myself to take a moment to feel sad about him growing up and all that this means. But I also remind myself that I can’t control the future and that the best thing I can do to reduce my anxiety is to be present with my son in the moments I have with him now.

    And I think of all the moments to look forward to in the future – where I’ll get to hear him giggling for the first time, witness him playing with toys and interacting even more with the world around him.

    He’ll soon be sitting up, tasting his first foods, clapping his hands and chances are that he’ll be less reliant on me when July comes around. And if he is still reliant on me when July comes around, I know that we’ll manage.

    Double standards

    I’ve been having a bit of an issue with breastfeeding. Sorry if this is TMI but it’s true.

    I’ve loved the experience of providing sustenance for Jenson and have no problem whipping my breasts out in public to do so. That’s not the issue. It’s that I’m not producing quite enough milk for him and so he’s been slow to put on weight.

    I don’t know where the issue stems from, although there are a number of potential reasons why my supply isn’t quite enough for him. The blood loss I experienced just after giving birth that left me anaemic, that Jenson was tongue-tied for the first 3 weeks and perhaps didn’t feed strongly enough to bring my milk in fully, my genetics, my diet (although I don’t think that being vegan has any impact on milk production)…

    Regardless of where the issue stems from, I’m potentially not providing enough milk or Jenson isn’t getting quite enough and, although my health visitor isn’t overly worried, there’s a chance that we may need to top him up with formula.

    I’m not the only person I know who has been having feeding issues. A few people in my anti-natal class have had to move fully onto formula and others are doing a mix of bottle and breastfeeding. And when they shared their sadness at not being able to fully breastfeed their baby, I was understanding about how they were feeling, but also had a real conviction that as long as the baby was getting sustenance (through formula or breastmilk) and was loved, there was no shame in switching to formula.

    That is, I felt this strong conviction until I was faced with potentially having to use some formula myself.

    What double standards!

    That other people can be human but I need to be perfect, that good enough is enough for others on this journey of motherhood but that I need to get everything ‘right’.

    I started writing this post feeling sad and a bit ashamed but now I just feel pissed off at the bar of perfection I find myself yet again trying to vault over – a bar that is never achievable because it’s too high.

    Because if I was perfect with my ability to produce milk, I would fall short in how I’m playing with him. Or if I did both those things perfectly, I’d worry about how he’s sleeping compared to others. Or how he’s developing or interacting or what clothes I’m dressing him in…and the list of self-judgement could go on and on.

    I’m so glad I started to write this post because I see how far I’ve progressed. Yes, that bar of perfection may still be in my life and I may still start to measure myself against it, but I’m able to step back and see it for the unrealistic, cold, unhelpful measure it is.

    It doesn’t take into account how I rock my son when he is crying for the 100th time in the day, or how my days are planned around what will bring him peace, or how I cradle myself around him at night so he can sleep soundly. It doesn’t measure the depth of my love for him or the effort I put in to be the best Mum I can be. Not a perfect Mum, but as good a Mum as I can be.

    So what if I can’t produce exactly the right amount of milk. I’m doing my best – my body is doing its best – and that is good enough.

    His best interest

    I’m just leaving Derbyshire after a long weekend of family celebrations and time with friends. If I’m honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the time up here before we came because it was my first big trip away from home with our son and it was quite a busy time with lots of plans in the diary.

    We would being seeing people who would be so excited to see my little newborn son that they would want to hold and cuddle and cherish him. It’s normal for them to want to do this and, as a baby, it’s normal for Jenson to sometimes be happy to get their attention and to sometimes be in a bit of a cranky mood and just want to be left alone or to be nestled close to me or his dad.

    I think of myself as a kind person – generally happy to oblige others and go with the flow. But when it comes to my son, it isn’t a case of obliging others and making exceptions. I have to act in his best interests. And this makes for a different dynamic, one that I was slightly apprehensive about:

    • Saying ‘you can’t hold him at the moment‘ to those who I usually would make exceptions for and sitting with the discomfort of having disappointed them
    • Leaving dinner halfway through with friends to comfort a cantankerous baby
    • Turning down offers of help to rock a crying baby because I’m trying to learn Jenson’s language to respond to what he needs when he’s upset (different temperature, nappy change, food, time alone, cuddles, being played with…)

    And with the slight apprehension I felt, I also wanted to be able to cuddle him and hold him close if I wanted to without feeling obliged to always pass him around to other people when he was in a good mood.

    It felt a bit rude sometimes and it felt a bit uncomfortable but I think that these feelings were a remnant from my people pleasing days. And my role as his mum isn’t to be polite and put the needs of others before Jenson, it’s to, as his mum, put him first.

    I know there will come a time when I need to model sharing and generosity and kindness to him. But at 6 weeks old, this was not the time. This was the time to put him first and that’s exactly what I did.

    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.

    What the hell?!

    If there’s anything I’ve learnt in the almost 3 weeks of being a mum, it’s that there are so many unknowns and things you just have to improvise and roll with.

    Before I had Jenson, I had so many ideas about what I would be like as a parent…unfortunately this didn’t account for what he would be like as a baby and what I would be like as a Mum with the stark reality of him distressed and screaming in front of me. The strength of my urge to want to calm him down and take away his discomfort at any cost is unreal.

    Here are some of my ‘what the hell?!’ moments from my first moments as a mum.

    Sleep

    My good friend Jess gently told me during my pregnancy that perhaps my ideas about how I’d like my son to sleep (or how I’d like to parent him around sleeping) were not ones I’d have once he was in my arms. And she was right.

    For one thing, a newborn baby doesn’t understand or rationalise sleeping. They just do what they do and sleep when they sleep.

    For the first nights at home, I sat up awake until 4am with Jenson in my arms – the only way he would settle – and then I’d rouse Gregg who would take over for a few hours before waking me for a feed. It was brutal and I felt like a wreck. It was only when I started co-sleeping (following some great online resources about how to do it as safely as possible) that I was able to get some sleep and start to feel like a normal-ish person again.

    I hope that Jenson will move into his own bed but am aware that it may take time and I’m ok with that.

    Everyone struggles

    Every parent I’ve spoken to has had a struggle of their own with their baby. For me, Gregg and Jenson, it was having his tongue-tie go untreated until he was almost 3 weeks old. Tongue-tie is a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion and it meant that Jenson was not getting enough milk when he was feeding and so was. I imagine, constantly hungry. This meant that he was a bit grouchy and wanted to feed whenever he wasn’t sleeping.

    He’s also not the most contented of babies and cries a fair bit, especially when having his nappy changed and when he’s in his car seat – how he hates his car seat and car journeys! My visions of him lying contentedly in his own bed and being generally peaceful have not yet come to pass.

    But then again, he’s a baby and is finding his feet in the world after 9 months of amniotic floating. So I think it’s normal.

    It would be easy to think that we’re doing something wrong (I mean, maybe we are!) but actually, the most important thing I’ve found is to not compare myself with other parents, to focus instead on my son and to remember that everyone has their own difficulties with their baby. The tongue-tie and his crying are our difficulties and that’s ok.

    Surprising things

    Ok, Jenson is going to be mortified one day if he comes across this blog post, but there are so many things I wasn’t aware of with a baby that completely confound me or make me laugh…things I sort of wish I had known in advance (but am also happy that I had no clue about!).

    Like how loud baby farts are – seriously, one was so loud it made Gregg jump.

    Like how many times a day a baby poos. You just change him and then he goes and does another whopper. Where do they store it?!

    Like all the strange names we call him – snufflepug, milky chops, grumbletumskin, Peanut, little babbitt…and the list goes on!

    Like the strange things that will calm them down. For Jenson, you can stop a hysterical crying fit by putting the hairdryer on and pointing it in his direction (thanks Bekki for that recommendation!)

    Like the things we find ourselves doing to calm him down – Gregg’s favourite move is lifting him into the air, Lion King style.

    Like how we were willing to buy anything in the hope that it will make him calm in the car, willing to settle by himself for just 5 minutes.

    Like how I am willing to whip my boobs out in public to feed Jenson without a second thought after being a prude for much of my life.

    There have been so many ‘what the hell?!?’ moments in these first few weeks of Jenson’s life. But also so many moments of wonder and happiness. I wouldn’t give this experience up, regardless of all the ‘what the hell’ moments I find myself in.