Having a baby can do all sorts of things to you. It can quite literally (and almost certainly will, one way or another), change your life. It will probably make you examine yourself and your choices and priorities, and the way you’re living your life, because now you are Setting An Example. On top of that though, it will also highlight both your strengths and weaknesses like nothing else. I love that Liz has really stepped back and looked at what she’s learnt about herself in her nearly a year of motherhood – it makes me want to sit back and do the same.
So, I have nearly been a mum for year; just the thought of that blows my mind. I still look at T and can’t quite comprehend that she is mine and that her mum isn’t going to come and collect her soon!
The past year hasn’t been easy, far from it – at times I’ve been literally on my knees at the overwhelmingness of it all. However, it has been absolutely amazing and I have had some of the best moments of my life during the those months. I think that it has all taught me a lot about me, probably things that I already knew but this year has put a magnifying glass over everything.
Self Image – Self image is something I struggle with; whilst I have days where I think I’m looking pretty decent as a generality I really find it hard to believe that I am actually attractive. But now, everyday I look at this beautiful little girl, and listen to endless compliments about her eyes and I know when I look at her I can see myself looking straight back at me. If she looks so like me and is beautiful then maybe I might just be beautiful myself?
Stubbornness – I think I have always known that I am stubborn. When you are ‘just’ looking after yourself then whilst can be a flaw it isn’t necessarily a problem. When you are looking after a baby stubbornness takes on a whole new meaning. I think it has probably been my downfall and my strength.
I have stubbornly wanted everyone to think I am holding it together, when behind closed doors I’ve been in pieces. I should have admitted to myself and everyone else that I needed to ask for help a bit more often, I think if I’d opened up a little bit more a little more often then the bad times might not have been quite so bad.
On the flip side, it is my stubbornness and refusal to feel like I had failed (in my own mind anyway) which means I am still breastfeeding almost a year down the line. Its been bloody hard, and at times I’ve wondered why on earth I have been putting myself through it, but in end I have refused to let it beat me! I thought previously that I was the type of person who gave up when the going gets tough, turns out I’m not.
Patience – Oh patience…I have learnt to have more patience than I ever believed I would be capable of. But, it seems, only with the baby rather than other people! The baby takes as long as she takes to do everything; there isn’t really a way to change this so my patience lasts as long as she needs it to (even when I am screaming with frustration inside!). However, I’ve found being a mum makes you do everything about 10 times quicker than previous and when other people don’t act with this same haste I get very annoyed! What takes so long? Why on earth are they doing it that way? It’s made me realise that this lack of patience is more like my usual self, and the extra baby patience is my new learnt skill. Now how to apply that to the rest of life…
Instinct – I guess everyone has an image of how they will be as a mother before their babies come. Maybe for some this turns out to be exactly the case. For me it is not. In my head I was going to be tougher, I was going to implement routines from the start – ha ha, so far from how I actually am! Every instinct I had told me that I needed to have my baby close to me at pretty much all times and do what she needs of me, when she needs it. So I have followed those instincts, and ended up towards the yoghurt weaving earth mother end of the parenting style spectrum; and you know what, I am pretty sure both me and little T have been happier for it. Following my instincts works. This has however necessitated a lot of blocking out the “rod for your own back” type comments!
The Importance of Talking - I could never have comprehended the impact having a baby would have on our marriage. We have bickered and argued like never before, and its been quite a shock to the system. We have never really argued much previously, the odd sharp word but generally we just gave each other some space until we’d got what ever it was out of our system. I think we shied away from properly talking through issues that we had with each other.
We’ve found that when you are chronically exhausted this approach doesn’t really work; ignoring things doesn’t make them go away anymore (maybe it never really did), and the little problems fester and get joined by the next little problem until there is a whole big thing to deal with.
It’s taken us a while, but we are now a whole lot better at talking about things early on and getting them sorted. We are trying to not assume that we know what the other is thinking and feeling, trying to not think we each have got the roughest deal, and are trying to come up with solutions to make things better. We’ve realised we have voice our worries, because the worries are not just about us anymore they are about a very important little person!
This need to talk more is perhaps the biggest thing I have learnt from being a parent. If we act as a team then actually things do get easier to deal with, and the fun is more fun as a whole little family.
Having had a year of maternity leave, I am now about to start work again (with mixed feelings it has to be said). I feel like I am going to have to emerge from this baby bubble, which has been a lovely cake-filled place to exist, and start properly engaging in the big wide world again. I think the way I approach work is going to be a bit different now; hopefully I can start to put these new skills and lessons into practice at work and just through life in general.