How do you sum up six months of the biggest adventure of your life? Over and over I’ve started this piece, trying to sum up the sunshine and the rain of being a mum for the last six months. But it’s too much to summarise. So I’ll just start with where I’m at right now.
Right now, what does being a mum look like for me?
I don’t know how much I’ll sleep tonight
And I don’t get to choose what time I go to bed or wake up. I’m the only one who can do the ‘night shift’ so I constantly get less sleep than I need and nightly spending more time than I’d like putting my daughter to bed. But, while Nala’s sleep has deteriorated and she can wake up 3-4 times in the night, I’m grateful that she’s easy to settle and she falls back asleep, next to us, straight after a feed. And I’m amazed that most of the time I’m not feeling tired during the days.
Every time I think ‘I’ve got this’, something changes
There was a period of time between 6 weeks-4 months when not much changed. I thought I had it all together. Feeding was going well, my daughter was sleeping through the night and she was immobile so I knew she was safe wherever I put her down.
But as soon as I think I have something figured it out it changes. She started on solids with enthusiasm two months ago. Then last week she refused to eat from a spoon. At first I thought she must not be hungry, or in the mood, so I kept offering solids but didn’t worry that she wasn’t eating most of her meals. Then I worried I was starving her. Now she’s only eating finger food. And she is so good at feeding herself. She’s also rolling and moving and so close to crawling. I’ve been looking around our tiled house at all the hazards and wondering how to keep her safe. I need a few ideas, which brings me to my next point.
Too much advice is better than no advice.
I’ve been trying to work out what type of mother I am and feeling confused about a lot of things – what to feed her and when, how to set up the house so it’s safe for a crawler, whether or not to start a routine. My facebook feed is full of blogs by mummies who are sick of so much unwanted advice. But in my case I think too much advice might be better than no advice. When my daughter was 11 weeks old I moved countries and left behind my mother’s group, my maternal and child health nurse and my own mum. From then on I just started making everything up. I found myself relying only on my instincts and google. But google will tell you anything you want it to…
Most days I feel unproductive. And that frustrates me.
As a busy person I start each day with a mental list of things to do. When I’m the one caring for Nala very few of them get done. And, while I know that being present for my daughter is more important than my to do list, I find this constantly challenging. I keep reminding myself that productivity looks different now. And that’s ok. As she’s grown older I’ve found I am able to get less done, which is the opposite to what I expected before I became a mum. But I didn’t know anything then.
I recently read a blog by a mother with the same frustration – constantly doing housework, nappies etc and needing to do them all again and hour later. She suggested each day to do one thing that doesn’t have to be redone. Writing this blog is a good example of that. Except it’s taken me nearly two weeks….
If I leave my daughter for more than three hours I need to pump milk
One thing that makes me feel productive is working. Sometimes my husband brings my daughter to my office for a lunch time feed and cuddle. And when she can’t come I lock the office door and close the curtains and pump milk. As a breastfeeding mum, I am always on a time limit. Everywhere I go I rush to do what I need to do and get home. And if it takes me longer than 3 hours I have to take my pump. Having battled with mastitis, blocked ducts and an oversupply I am very conscious of keeping my rhythm going and not going too long between feeds. I do freelance work and I’m not always in an office, so I’ve found myself pumping in public bathrooms or the car. It’s not ideal, and I don’t enjoy doing it. But it gives me the freedom to be a working mum and it means my daughter has milk. It’s not glamerous, but this is what being a mum looks like.
The magic hasn’t changed, but sometimes I need to escape from it
Actually often I need to escape from it. Almost every day. I need to find time for myself. I still need to do the things I enjoyed before I became a mum because they rejuvenate me. Right now, that means sitting at a café and writing this blog. Other times it means going for a run with my husband. How things change in six months! I still remember the first time I left Nala, a few weeks after she was born, while I popped to the shops without her. I felt like I had left my arm behind. Now I crave the time away. Because I am still a person separate from her.
But mostly being a mum looks like a collection of small moments that really light up my life – The “Hello” song we’ve started singing every morning as a family. The giggles, that go on and on and on at the smallest thing, like a game of peek-a-boo. The contentment of her peacefully sleeping. The pride of seeing how good she is at feeding herself watermelon. The time I spend combing her hair while she plays with her ducky in the bath. The days filled with gummy smiles.
These small moments are what it is really looks like to be a mum. They may be small moments, but really they paint a big picture. A big picture of milk and toys and tired eyes.