Six thoughts from six months of motherhood

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Happy half birthday, Zoey!

February 2nd marked six months since you were born - and six months since I experienced the brutally beautiful shock of becoming a mother.

You’re having your afternoon nap as I type, and there are a thousand things I’d love to do with my short window of ‘me time’.

And yet I find myself here, writing. Hunched over my laptop, slightly uncomfortable in a hard chair, a picture of bad posture. I write because I must. I write because I don’t know how else to process the enormity that is raising a tiny human.

Parenting is so commonplace, it’s everywhere you look, and yet my gosh it’s big and overwhelming and utterly personal.

So here I am, writing. Six thoughts from six months of being your mother. And what a six months it has been…

1. You change overnight

You wake up every morning with a new ‘trick’. Look mum, look what I learned overnight. It might be as small as making a new sound or as big as being able to roll over. Each day you’re a tiny bit different, a little more developed.

I knew babies developed quickly, but seeing it unfold in front of my eyes is something special. It’s amazing to think that just five months ago you could barely crack a smile. Now you are giggling, rolling, gurgling, and nearly sitting up by yourself. Soon you will be crawling, walking, and talking!

When I was pregnant, I was so focussed on the birth that I forgot these milestones were just around the corner.

Speaking of change, dear Zoey, you also change your mind all the time. Just when I think I’ve figured out your preferences (sing and rock to sleep, with a dummy), you decide you only want to be breastfed to sleep and you cry with rage when I offer the dummy. You certainly keep me on my toes!

I love watching you evolve and become more independent, even if it takes me a few days to catch up to your ‘new normal’.

2. Time is weird in baby-land

When you were born, other mothers told me that time would pass quickly, and to enjoy the newborn snuggles while they lasted. I thought they were telling fibs to make me feel better about the lack of sleep. I often joke that the first two months of your life felt like one very long day!

But of course, those mums were right. Your newborn phase was so short-lived. I remember when you used to fall asleep on my chest or in the crook of my arm. Now you’re a wriggly wee thing who’s too interested in the world to doze off on me!

Looking back, I wish I had relaxed more. I wish I’d spent more time on the couch, letting you sleep on me all day. I wish I’d watched more trashy TV and stayed in my pajamas until noon without feeling guilty. I wish I hadn’t strived to be so productive. Isn’t hindsight bittersweet?

But I learned a good lesson. I learned that time passes quickly, even when the days feel long. The saying “the days are long but the years are short” is spot on. Some days feel like they will never end; then I look back and wonder where all the time went.

So, I’m trying really hard to appreciate the present moment for what it is, even when it feels tough. I don’t want to wish the days away. You don’t care much for my anxieties about the past or dreams about the future; you just want me to be fully present with you, right now. Whether you’re being cute and cuddly or pooping through your fourth outfit of the day.

3. Motherhood is both easier AND harder than I thought

Before I became your mum, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what motherhood would be like. But I learned very quickly that being a mum is full of surprises. It’s nothing I imagined, and everything I imagined, all at the same time. It’s both easier AND harder than I thought.

You’re changing all the time, and it’s early days yet, but I’ve noticed that the easy parts - the smiles, the giggles, the LOVE - far outweigh the challenges. As long as I remember to be gentle on myself and keep perspective.

It feels hard when I have high, unrealistic expectations of myself - and of you.

It feels easy when I trust myself, trust you, and give myself space (and grace) to be able to surrender to whatever the day brings.

It feels hard when I watch the clock, consult Google, or read a baby book, instead of watching and listening to you.

It feels easy when I smother your chubby cheeks in kisses, throw you in the air, and make funny faces until you squeal with delight.

It feels hard when it’s 6am and I don’t want to wake up just yet but you’re wide awake and ready to party.

It feels easy when I go to pick you up, and you greet me with pure excitement, joy, and unconditional love.

It feels hard when I try to follow the “rules”.

It feels easy when I say, “screw the rules”, and make my own.

4. I don’t know who “they” are, but they’re annoying

In the first few months of your life, I had this annoying habit of referring to the mysterious “they” whenever I was uncertain about something (which was all the time, every day).

In my mind, “they” were the experts. They had serious, expert-y titles like Sleep Consultant and Baby Practitioner and World Health Organisation.

I’d repeat their advice to my parents and inlaws, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, trying to make intelligent decisions about things that should have been simple - sleep, breastfeeding, playtime - but that felt so hard.

They say not to let your baby sleep for more than three hours at a time during the day.

They say never to wake a sleeping baby.

They say to introduce a bottle as soon as possible so baby gets used to it.

They say to wait at least three months to introduce a bottle so baby doesn’t get nipple confusion.

They say to swaddle your baby so your baby feels safe and protected.

They say not to swaddle your baby so your baby can move freely.

You get my drift…

I can’t believe how long it took me to figure out that “they” all say something different!

And a lot of “them” are trying to sell you a book, a sleep prop, an overpriced toy or some other kind of product.

Or worse, some of “them” are trying to convince you that there is a way all babies should behave. “They” promise to help you unlock the secret to a happy, calm, peaceful baby so you can glide through motherhood feeling like a zen-yogi-mama 24/7.

As a new mum, I was scared of getting it wrong, so “they” were so tempting. I pored over books and trawled internet forums for insight.

It took me a long time to gain enough confidence to put away the books and trust in my intuition and common sense. To trust that (within reason) I knew how to look after you without needing to read ten essays on the topic.

I have no doubt that many of “them” are doing an incredible service to new mamas.

But personally, I try to be very selective about what information I digest, although I still fall into the Google trap every day. But I’ve found myself referring to “them” less and less - much to my family’s relief, I’m sure.

5. Every baby (and every mother) is different

I know, talk about stating the obvious, right? But this is a basic truth I have to remind myself of every time I feel anxious about my parenting decisions.

Zoey, you are as unique as your fingerprints. You are so much more than ‘just a baby’. You are a little person, and there is no one else in the world that’s exactly like you. Just like there is no one else in the world that is exactly like me. Or like your little friends from coffee group, and their mothers.

I’m not trying to imply that your uniqueness is special - quite the opposite. Everyone is different, no one is the same, that’s just a fact of being alive.

But it’s easy to forget that we’re all unique when baby books speak in general terms. When there’s so much literature out there that suggests all babies should be doing the same things, at the same time.

Your uniqueness is another reason I need to put away those baby books for good!

6. I’m still getting to know you - and always will be

Sometimes I catch myself saying things like, “I can’t wait to discover what your personality is like”. Or, “I can’t wait to discover your likes and dislikes.” Or, “I can’t wait to find out what kind of person you are.”

My darling girl, I am so excited to get to know you better, it moves me to tears.

And then I realise that I will feel this way for the rest of my life. Your personality, like everyone’s, will continue to evolve as the years pass. Your likes and dislikes will change like the seasons.

And that means I get to spend my entire life getting to know you. That this joy of discovery - of discovering you - will never stop. When I look to the future, my heart bursts with all of the memories I know we will share. From the highs and the lows, to the mundane beauty of everyday life, I’m excited to walk by your side through it all.

Zoey, I am so privileged to have you in my life. I can’t wait to see what the next six days, let alone six months, will bring.

Thank you for rocking my world.

With love, Your mum x