Some good friends of ours had a brand-new baby this week. There's nothing like the arrival of a new baby, such excitement and emotion, especially if it's yours. It makes me sad that I'm not in Sydney to give the new bundle a squishy cuddle.
It has sent me back to the early days, all the memories and emotions of having a baby, especially your first baby.
Lil arrived at 11.30pm on a Saturday night, after cuddles and phone calls, I remember being taken to my room at about 2am. Skip was pushed out the door, Lil was wheeled next to me and the nurse switched off the light and said: "See you in the morning!"
"What?!!" I thought. You can't leave me here alone with the baby. Surely she needs a monitor or something? At one stage in the early hours she started whimpering and I pressed the buzzer, the baby now asleep and quiet when the midwife came in, I said: "She was crying!" The midwife looked at me and said: "She's your first isn't she?"
Oh yes, indeed. The next few days were a blur of excitement. Visitors came and when I was surrounded by fragrant blooms and pink teddy bears. The night before I went home, I sobbed. Full of hormones and anxiety and baby blues.
I remember going home and attempting to go up the street. I looked at everyone sitting in cafes, doing their grocery shopping and wondered if I'd ever feel normal and carefree again? I couldn't believe that life around me was going on as always when my life had been turned upside down.
Dinners were eaten with a baby in my arms, I slept with a baby in my arms. I watched hours of Law & Order as I fed on the couch. My eyes hung out of my head and I felt like I was in a weird bubble.
Lil was a beautiful baby and I loved her overwhelmingly. I felt clueless, exhausted and fearful. Everyone wanted me, nay expected me, to be bursting at the seams with happiness. Deep down I wondered why people did this at all. Especially on those days when she cried every minute she wasn't feeding and I thought I'd go insane.
When she was three weeks old, I remember looking at her and feeling an overwhelming sense of failure. I'd broken her and it had only taken three weeks. A world record, surely. She wasn't doing anything she was supposed to be doing or that the books told me she'd be doing or that the other baby's were doing. It must have been my fault, who else's could it be?I knew I'd stuff up somewhere along the line, I just didn't think it would be so soon.
Poor Lil, so much pressure on a little baby to teach her clueless parents how to be parents. I remember just wanting answers, there must have been the 'right' way to do things, I just had to find out how. A simple plan to put in place that would make life feel, well, a little normal.
Before I had kids, I worked on a parenting magazine. I sub-edited and wrote stories about babies and how to care for them. I thought that if anyone had the knowledge behind them to have a baby it was me. But explaining to someone what it's like to have a baby is impossible. I guess it's like trying to explain what it's like to go to the moon, you can tell people about it but until you actually do it you have no idea what it's really like.
It's more than simply looking after a baby. It's all your emotions and feelings and energy in a little bundle. It's never being able to switch off, ever. It's being a mum 24/7. It's second guessing yourself. It's fear times 100. It's love times 100.
I wish I could go back in time and tell myself: "You haven't broken her (just yet). Frustratingly there are no right answers. There are no answers at all. You'll just have to muddle along and it will be alright. I promise, it will be alright."
The best piece of parenting advice I was given was when Lil was about 8 weeks old, a family member said: "You just keep trying things until whatever it is is fixed or they started doing something else. And then you'll wonder, 'what was that all about?' and move on to the next thing". The one thing that is true is there's always a next thing, there's always something, no matter how old they get.
At least now, I can yell at the girls "Go to sleep!" instead of endless rocking and patting and shushing. So things do get better, well they just get different. And now when Lil's eyes light up with excitement and pride as she tells me about finishing and acing her maths test, I realise that maybe I didn't break her after all.