When we came home from the hospital, I was thankful that the car ride was over. The entire time I had been gripping on to my daughter’s car seat, terrified that something might happen to her.
We climbed up the three flights of stairs to our crummy apartment, said goodbye and thank you to the family members who had driven us home, and sat ourselves on the living room floor, next to our 2 days old baby, still sleeping in her car seat.
We looked at each other and said; “What now?”
Since then, we have struggled with the newborn stage, or what is commonly described as the ‘fourth trimester’. We have cried, argued, laughed, smiled and barely slept. We have been there for her non-stop.
Our daughter is now seventeen weeks old. She’s learning to grab, play, roll over and babble. It’s amazing to watch and I love every moment of it.
That said, sometimes I put here in her bouncer or her swinging musical chair to give myself a break. Sometimes I sit next to her whilst she’s on her play mat, but not interacting with her much. Sometimes I just need that moment to myself.
There is a part of me that feels incredible, overwhelming guilt when I have stuck her in the bouncer for half an hour in front of the TV. I call myself a lazy mother, an unloving mother, an incapable human being.
I feel like I need to be entertaining her, teaching her or comforting her 24 hours a day, and that is simply impossible. I need my me-time, even if that is just fifteen minutes of having a cup of tea and eating a snack.
There’s so much pressure for mums to be doing everything with their children (alongside looking after the house, cooking, laundry, working… you name it). There are play groups to attend, baby classes, toddler classes, parenting books to read. There’s a lot of pressure to do things perfectly and to be there, soaking up every possible moment.
From what I have seen, during my 4am desperate scrolling through parenting forums, is that yes, lots of parents have similar problems; sleep regression, colic, etc; but not many of them talk about how they are really feeling. Not many parents discuss how they wish for time to speed up, for their child to become more independent, for time to be their own again.
Ever since we brought her home, we have been counting down the days until the next milestone. When she was a newborn, three months was our big goal – we simply couldn’t wait until the ‘fourth trimester’ was over and done with. We naively were expecting lots of big changes – there were some but we expected a lot more. Now that she is approaching four months, we can’t wait for her six month milestone. We are desperate for her to be able to sit up and properly engage with her toys, just so that we can use that opportunity to have a break or even, dare I say it, do something for ourselves.
Each time we talk to each other about how we can’t wait for her to be older, we feel like shit parents, even shit human beings. We are wishing away time with her, wishing away these early days and weeks and months because they feel so damn hard.
On several occasions, we have been told; “the days are long but the years are short.” And damn right, the days are long. The first few weeks felt like one long, incredibly hard day. But holy shit, I can’t wait for her first birthday. I imagine a blossoming one year old, wobbling around, playing by herself and with her parents, happy to sit or investigate, whatever takes her fancy. It may be incredibly naïve of me (I’m sure most of what I am saying is), but a one year old sounds like heaven to me, compared to my somewhat lump of a 4 month old, who is desperate to move but can’t.
And yes, I know she’ll only be a baby once, and that I should “enjoy it while it lasts”, but what exactly am I supposed to be enjoying? Yes, she smiles and laughs and her face lights up and she gets excited, but that is only 25% of the time. The other 75% is spent needing to feed, needing to be held, pooping, fighting sleep, and sleeping.
I admit that I do want to speed up time. Sometimes I want to skip this part altogether and get to the part where she’s old enough to share a bottle of wine with me, but equally I feel guilty, and have a fear of missing out. Though most of the time (that 75%) I am imagining the future, I don’t want to get to that point and regret not being present in the past, in this moment.
So as a new mum of a four month old, all I can do is my best without burning myself out. Like any job, breaks are necessary and I can’t do every single damn thing that society expects from a mother. Some days no chores will be done, some days frozen food for dinner will suffice. Other days I won’t have the energy for play groups, and when we are stuck inside due to bad weather, sticking a film on isn’t the worst thing in the world.
The future will come eventually – I just need to give myself permission to enjoy the now, as much as I can.