Monday 11 February 2013

Breaking babies

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.


  1. It's a funny thing motherhood. I was the opposite. In fact, thank goodness I had my children when I was young and just did things head on without much thought or contemplation. I simply followed my heart back then, innocent and naive.
    Sure, I made mistakes in my immaturity, but in these later days of my 30's I worry more, contemplate more, and stress over whether I did right and my kids will turn out ok.

    You are a fab mum and those 3 are beyond lucky to have you. As am I!


    1. Oh yeah, we're all different. I coped much better as a mum when they can talk and tell me what's wrong. I'm a much better toddler/child mum than a baby mum.Who knows how I'll feel when they become teens! Xx

  2. I think it comes down to the fact that it is impossible to actually tell anyone else what being a mother is like, because no two people are the same and no two mothering experiences are the same. I was only thinking about this today Corinne. I struggled with being a Mum incredibly. Those first 3 weeks were also insane for me. I had no idea what Scott and I had done to our lives. No idea how to handle breastfeeding or sleep deprivation or even preparing a meal anymore. I really struggled. A friend of mine had a baby at the end of last year. It was a surprise pregnancy, at a time when she was in no way ready to start a family. I worried about her and how she would go with the mammoth change that having a baby brings. She took to it like a duck to water. Ironic! I was planned and ready and desperately wanting to be a Mum, my friend was kind of thrown into the whole experience. Yet I was the one who battled. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though, I also wish I could go back to those early days and tell myself "it's going to be ok". So easy to get yourself into a pickle when life as you knew it has been derailed. And I totally agree about things not getting easier, just different. I am careful not to ever say to new Mum's that things will get easier. Because they don't, they just change and we probably become more expert at handling change.
    Sorry about the novel Corinne ;) xo

  3. When I look back on the time I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted to know everything, even the midwife who ran our ante-natal classes reminded me after the baby was born 'you were the one who wanted all the knowledge'. When I think back though, not much of the theory was much use, it was really trial and error! I think nothing can really prepare you as a first time mum for the shock that is a newborn baby and all the ways they change your world, both now and in the future with new challenges!


Thank you so much for your comments! I'm always thrilled to hear from you.

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