Hi all and especially mums out there today,
I have been prompted recently to give a full, non-airbrushed, un-sugar coated account on what it is to be a mum, in particular the Biz’ mum. I’m not saying this is every mums account of being a mum, just mine. Sometimes I will sound bitter, but that is real for me because some of the time in the last 15 months of my life I have been bitter. For me this is a post about being real and being imperfect and saying it like it is. I love the Biz more than I could ever have imagined but that doesn’t mean the road was easy.
Big Sis and I have always wanted to write a book which I want to call “Shit people wont tell you about being pregnant/childbirth/being a mum”. This post is basically the theme of what the book would be about ha ha. I was lucky enough to have been told or seen most of this first hand from Big Sis before I had the Biz. Big Sis had one heck of a tough baby for her first and while it was heart breaking to see her struggle, it was a good preparation for me. I still could never have imagined just how tough it would be until it happened.
A bit of a note: I wanted to use swear words to emphasis some points but it kept highlighting them so I don’t want to get in trouble in blog land (not yet sure if you can use profanities). So there are tamed down swear words. You are warned. You are also warned this is a very long post. Sorry but it’s a therapeutic exercise for me so deal with it, HA.
As mums, so much of the time we feel like we need to be perfect. We feel the pressure to sugar coat everything and make it sound like we are super mums. Every question people ask you about your child makes you feel like you need to measure up to some sort of perfect standard. Does she sleep through the night? (No actually she wakes 6 f-ing times a night thank you). Does she say mum yet? (No she says everything else but mum, thanks for kicking me while I’m down). Is she crawling yet? (No she can’t lift her bloody weight off the floor let alone crawl). I felt all this, and still do but I think there needs to be more mums out there telling the truth. What it is actually like to do this because hell people, we deserve the recognition.
In the beginning. It is safe to say that in the real beginning I don’t really remember much. After a troublesome birth (and quite a hectic cocktail of drugs being needed to be given to me) I was pretty much baked for the first day and a half. My ears were ringing, I was itching all over like a junkie and there were people coming in and out and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I think the first night the Biz slept as normal waking for feeds when she needed them. I don’t remember sleeping but I’m sure I got snatches in there.
When the drugs started wearing off, I started becoming more aware of what was going on. It was about now I started feeling fear creeping in. I loved the Biz with all my heart but I had the horrible feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing. I had an absolute gripping fear of “what would I do if I couldn’t get her to sleep?”. It made me sick to the stomach thinking of what people would think if I couldn’t get my own baby to sleep. I don’t know why the sleep was such a big deal to me but I guess I fell into the trap of caring what people thought and that was the only question they would ask, does she sleep well.
This fear was realised on the second night when despite all that we tried to do, The Biz would not stop screaming. Give her a full feed they said. She had just had one. Wrap her tightly they said. She was wrapped so tight even Houdini couldn’t escape. Rock her back and forth they said. We had been doing it for about half an hour. The most experienced midwife came in to help. She was the sleep master. Babies would fall asleep under her iron hand. She came in and watched me give her another full feed. The she wrapped her tight. Then she rocked her. The screaming remained. She bought in a sound machine. Like absolute heaven it worked, we all sighed a breath of relief. And then the screaming started again. “This baby isn’t going to sleep” she said and commanded me to go to sleep (I hadn’t had a proper sleep in three days) while she took her into their sleeping room. She said they would bring her back in for a feed in three hours. I gave PB a huge hug, we settled into our beds (his on the floor of the hospital room) and I turned over and cried silent tears. My first test as a mum and I had failed miserably. I was her mum, I was meant to be what would comfort her to sleep and I wasn’t able to do it. What was wrong with me.
I got my first kick in the guts when they bought her back into my room 6 hours later (she was a big baby so I don’t think they were concerned about her feeding regularly). They told me she went to sleep in one of their bouncy hammocks and slept soundly there the whole time. Lovely, she didn’t need her mum, she needed a bouncy hammock.
At home – I would love to say that when we got home The Biz’ sleep improved but it didn’t. She was a screamer and did not like being put in her bassinette or pram or any other sleep inducing device. I began to dread her sleep time like I used to dread exams. I would start getting edgy when I knew it was getting near. I would feel absolutely sick to the stomach. What would I do, what would work this time, how long would she scream before she fell asleep and most importantly what was wrong with me. Why didn’t I know exactly what she needed. I would lie in bed at night just waiting for her to wake up. I couldn’t relax because I knew it was inevitable. I remember one night pushing her basinette up and down the house of the bumps in the tiles and getting to my absolute wits end and having no idea what to do. For some reason Jack Johnson came into my head. I put Angel (our wedding song) on my iPhone and placed it next to her tiny little head. Immediate silence. I sat down on the couch and sobbed.
Somewhere in there I was admitted into hospital with a wound breakdown. I think it was stress induced, I don’t think my body could cope with healing, while I was permanently living in fear.
Looking back now, I think that she had reflux or colic I just wouldn’t admit it at the time. Being a dietitian I kind of thought that colic was a bit of a touchy feely excuse for cranky babies. Now I know that it is definitely real! There were so many things that we would discover would get her to sleep and we would be so relieved but they would all only last for a week maximum before she would decide it wasn’t for her. I felt really bad because I was becoming “one of those bitter mums”. People would say “aren’t you just loving being a mum” or “isn’t this just the best job in the world” and my answers most of the time would be “no actually it’s absolute hell”. Then I would feel bad because it sounded like I didn’t love the Biz. I did. So much it hurt sometimes. But every day I felt like I wasn’t good enough for her, I wasn’t doing the right things and I didn’t know what she needed.
Now please don’t think that I was all alone in this. I’m not that tough. I have wonderful, amazing support. PB was an absolute hero in my life. He was the calming force in the house and would make everything better every time. Big Sis is a seasoned mum and the most supportive, best advice giving person I had (and my sanity constantly reminding me that I would get through it). Mum is also a midwife and a wealth of knowledge (most times and as long as it doesn’t concern nutrition ha ha). I have a huge network of mummy friends too, good friends, cousins, cousin’s wives, and PB’s cousins. All of which have given me support, help and advice throughout this time. Unfortunately (and I know this sounds so very weak and selfish) despite all this support, I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water.
Sanity came by way of the Baby Bjorn. From about 2 months onwards Issy lived in it. I started to feel like I was regaining control and that I could start to get small parts of my life back. The Biz would drop off to sleep in it while I was doing housework and would stay asleep for a whole 45 minutes. I was in heaven. The downside was that I was constantly standing. By the end of each day I was wrecked.
The Biz was a mummies girl (finally) from then onwards. She would scream if given to other people (save for PB). She would last about a minute with close family and would never have a bar of mother-in-law and especially not Oma (poor thing). Certain people wouldn’t believe me, that she would only stay happy in the Bjorn. I would happily hand her over, watch their smug faces when she was quiet and then apply a smug look to my own face when 30 seconds later she would scream louder and louder until she was given back to me and put back into the Bjorn. PB loved getting his Bjorn on and having Biz cuddle up and sleep on him while he went around the house doing housework (I was crashed out on the couch of course).
If there was one thing going for the Biz it was that she was an amazing feeder. We had difficulty with her latching on as I had super-amazing amounts of milk (Big Sis and mum had many a joke about me donating to a milk bank) but after working out I just needed to express before latching her on (and expressing after too, dear god!!) we had no troubles. I on the other hand would end up covered in milk due to huge flow but we started feeding with a flannel tucked in everywhere and that also got easier. I seemed to produce full cream milk (no seriously it was that full of fat) and the Biz put on weight at a rate of knots. I lost weight fast. The stress, constant feeding, the fat content of my milk, the fact that I was carrying the Biz around 24-7 and that I couldn’t fathom feeding myself meant that I ended up lighter than before I became pregnant. Not trying to brag, just trying to get across the craziness of life at that point.
Things got easier but I still wanted to scratch the eyes out of friends who has kids who just dropped off to sleep un-aided and slept all night. The Biz was bounced to sleep in our arms on a fit ball from about 6 months till about 1-year-old and was still waking a few times a night. Both mine and PBs backs started giving up and I wasn’t coping with being awake all night and being back at work. Something had to give. We decided to give controlled crying a go. I was extremely apprehensive. Mum was flat-out opposed and I felt again like such a failure and a selfish b$#ch resorting to it. Prepped for a tough time with the first go I sent PB out (he wouldn’t cope with her crying to sleep and I couldn’t stand to have him think I was cruel by sticking through her crying so we decided it was best I did it on my own). Much to my absolute relief the Biz only cried for 5 mins the first time when I was allowed to go in, then another 5 and dropped off to sleep. Since then she grizzles most times, cries for a few minutes sometimes and blissfully sometimes goes to sleep without a peep.
The sleeping improved but then as she has gotten older, the Biz has opened a whole new can of worms. Princess bossy-boots is what I’m calling this latest stage and I get worried all the time that things we have done as parents have caused her to not share, chuck tanties and hit. No is her favourite word of course. She also had a whole winter of ear infections which hasn’t helped her mood either.
Big Sis, the lovely workers at her childcare and every other mum I talk to say this is just a stage and just what kids this age do but I constantly get sucked into wondering. I wonder if I was at home with her full-time would she still do this or I wonder if the controlled crying has hardened her into a bitter little girl? I guess thats what being a mum is all about, second-guessing yourself and always feeling guilty! 95% of the time these days I know I’m doing a good job which is much better than the flip side it felt like earlier on.
So thats the end of my blog-horrea. I have emptied my thoughts on this one. The Biz is the most amazing miracle to have ever graced our lives. While the road has been tougher than I could ever have imagined, she is also way more hilarious, gorgeous and loving than I could have imagined. The good far outweighs the bad, that’s for sure, but just thought that if I had have read a post like this back when I was in struggle-town it would have made me feel like I wasn’t the only one and that someone else was scared and self doubting too. If you’ve gotten this far you must be a mum, or wanting to be a mum (or did want to until you read this post).
Comment back if you have your own struggle story, or non-struggle story. Being a mum is different for everyone and different with each new child. Would love to hear your experiences….