It’s only 10 am.
You woke up at 2am, then 3.31am, 4.17am, 5.29am... and that’s when you decided to be up for the day. Since I’m your mum, I’m forced to wake up with you however unsociable the hour may be. Thing is, the life I lived before you was one in which I gave the orders, but now I appear to be living in a dictatorship in which I have no say. It’s a hell of a learning curve and I’m not close to getting to grips with it yet.
I stagger downstairs with you grunting away in my arms and lump heavily on the sofa. A muslin is thrown over my shoulder and I shove a cushion under my right arm, positioning you ready for a breast-feed. You fall asleep in my arms before I can get everything in place though. Wonderful. All that time trying to get you to sleep upstairs in perfect conditions meant nothing. The white noise machine, the soft blue nightlight, your bed-side crib with rocking function that cost a small fortune. But down here, in my arms, you sleep with brash white lights above you.
Baby (noun): a little bit of heaven sent down to earth
It takes me a whole hour to decide what to watch on tv before I settle on a comedy I’ve seen at least five times before. I watch about twenty minutes of it before I realise just how much my arm is aching from the ridiculously uncomfortable position I’m stuck in, in an effort not to wake you. I have to do something before it goes totally numb, so I decide to take the gamble and shuffle across a little, grimacing as I go.
You wriggle in your sleep and throw up a little. In deafening silence, I wipe you down but don’t change your sleep suit. I’ll change it next time.
Your eyes pop open. Shit.
I desperately try to shush you but we both know that never works. Your face erupts in purple fury and the screams drown out the TV. I wipe the hot tears that fall from my face off on to yours with the same muslin I used to wipe up your sick a few moments before.
Motherhood is the exquisite inconvenience of being another person’s everything.
The leg of your sleepsuit is wet. I lift your tiny body up and inspect it. I’m confused; it’s not wee. A moment passes before I realise that my nipples are dripping and milk is soaking my bra and pyjama top.
Struggling beneath my pyjamas, fiddling with the maternity bra (that I bought for a small fortune while pregnant and now doesn’t quite fit my swollen boobs since my milk came in), I finally snap the strap and the material cupping my breast falls away. I press your huge screaming mouth to my nipple; my shushing is urgent now, begging you to calm down and to drink. You don’t. So I caress you, and when that doesn’t work I stand up and walk you up and down, up and down the length of the lounge. Your tiny body eventually stops straining and relaxes into my shoulder, the screaming quietens into mewling. Thank god.
I sit down again and tickle your top lip with my nipple. When you finally attach, I bite down hard on my lip. No one prepared me for just how difficult breast feeding would be. I only persevered through sheer damned determination, but by god it fucking hurts. My teat is blistered; every time you go to feed - which is pretty much every other minute of the day - I feel razor blades cutting into me, slicing away. It’s all I can do from shouting out, but I’m so desperate for you to sleep that I keep biting down until the distinctive metallic taste of blood hits my tongue.
A baby fills a place in your heart you never knew was empty.
10.30am I’ve told you this a few times now, but it’s important you understand just how much I wanted you. The five years it took to conceive took me to some very dark places. I spent a great deal of them searching for inspirational infertility quotes and sobbing into the sodden sleeves of my dressing gown in fits of self-pity. Now I look at those posts throughout the day to remind me just how lucky I am. I am so damned lucky. Despite the constant screaming in my ear, the poonamis up your back and down your tiny legs, my pregnancy belly that hangs over the big pants I now wear, the lack of sleep... I was so desperate for this. I am so lucky. I should be grateful.
11am You won’t sleep in the cot. I give up and let you sleep in my arms.
It is the smile of a baby that makes life worth living.
At only three weeks old, you don’t smile yet. I’m not getting anything back from you. Am I just a vessel producing milk to you? Just give me a smile. Something. Please.
Having a child just puts the whole world into perspective. Everything else just disappears.
12.30pm I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss being at work. I’m so envious that my husband got to walk out of the door this morning. He gets to drive to work in peace and have adult conversations. A break to enjoy a coffee that’s still hot. To eat a nice lunch with both hands. Want to know what I had for lunch? Buttered toast and a tomato. It’s the best I could do with one hand as the other was holding you. I’ll follow it with a bar or two of chocolate. I deserve a treat.
A happy baby has shining eyes. It walks open-hearted into the world and spreads magic.
You know, it’s hard not to laugh bitterly when I think of the lovely maternity plans I had before the reality of you hit. I thought I would have time to do so many things. I actually planned to take up crochet over the next nine months. How calming a hobby that would be, and rewarding too, popping a cute hand-made hat with scalloped edging on top of your wrinkled head. Or design an impressive cake in the shape of a unicorn in preparation for your first birthday. Truth is I can’t even manage to get us both dressed most days, let alone hone my baking skills. And I so wanted to learn how to bake a good Victoria sponge.
1.30pm I check my phone. 23 more likes on the photo I took of you sleeping peacefully, doll-like, in my arms. Such an idyllic moment, in the eye of the hurricane.
2pm It’s time for some baby sensory. You’re too young for the classes right now so I had better get in some practice. I want to learn the theme song and understand the reasoning behind why babies learn in the way they do. I’ve read a few scientific studies on newborns and I have timetabled your milestones in a chart. I even colour-coded it just before you were born. It’s important we work towards these standards as much as possible: apparently the work we do now will pay dividends in the future as it will enable you to learn more quickly than your peers. Did you know that the most advances in your brain structure occur in the first three months of your life? 20 minute intervals of organised sensory development sessions will help. Visual stimulation, various textures, scents... I’ve even incorporated baby massage and found some instrumental nursery rhymes to play in the background. Last night, when your daddy was trying to put you to bed, I made a jellyfish from my umbrella to hang off the light fixture. Took me ages, but your development is a high priority. You have to be clever. You just have to be.
Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had... and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.
3pm I still haven’t managed to shower today. There is a faint, sweet whiff of milk sick in my hair that catches in my nostrils every so often. I also forgot to change my massive maternity pad. How do I know this? Realising I was sat in a warm puddle of my own piss on my sofa, that’s how. I would expect a long and painful recovery from a Caesarian section, but who knew that a natural birth could mean tears in my downstairs area? And that in turn would mean stitches and scars and incontinence? The health visitor tells me it is healing well, but I must keep up my pelvic floor exercises. Tough to do when I’m sitting on an ice pack to stop my fanny feeling like it’s been stung by a few dozen hornets.
Sneezing without worry is definitely a thing of the past. I have you to thank for that, all 8lbs 3oz of you when you emerged between forceps on that cold January morning. I haven’t had a chance to recover. I haven’t slept for longer than two hours at a time since then.
4pm Only one more hour before your father gets home.
4.30pm Your dad messaged to say he has to go to a meeting, so he’ll be home a little late. I did my best to sound cheerful, but my voice cracked when I said goodbye. I’ll try and put on a bit of a make up before he gets home so he won’t see the red around my eyes.
I am so lucky. I am so very lucky to be a mum. I should be grateful.