Dear New Mama,
As the battle rages between me and my small (but freakishly strong) toddler I see her. She is moving ever so cautiously and ever so slowly. Her head jerks at any tiny sound, her body tensed for action. As she passes me, I let go of the cheese slices (to the delight of my little girl) and look at her more closely. There are the dark circles I remember so well and the slightly crazy eyes of a new mother. I glance into her pram as she stops next to me, the tiny bundle of pink skin and large blue eyes giving me a strange feeling of envy mixed with sympathy. I feel like hugging this woman and telling her it will all be okay. I feel like skipping with joy that I am passed that stage! A very small part of me wishes that gorgeous infant was mine. As she moves off I look at my own little scrap. She is trying to lift a carton of milk into the basket, her face screwed up with concentration, miniature muscles bulging! I realise how much more comfortable I am as a mother to a toddler than a mother to a newborn. Perhaps it’s a case of familiarity, perhaps I needed to grow into my role but I sense it’s something more than that.
I admit it I find newborn babies quite hard work and…yes sometimes they can be very boring too! Oh the horror of admitting it but oh the relief! Yes they are very, very cute and very, very delicious to hold and snuggle and smell. But when you’ve done all this, what do you do with the other twenty three hours and nineteen minutes of the day? Sleep? Not a chance, the minute you close your eyes the mewling will begin. Chores? But you are just too tired to deal with the mountain of puke ridden clothes (yours and the baby’s) and surely it won’t kill you to eat frozen pizza for dinner again? Day time TV it is, you don’t even have the energy to concentrate on a book or magazine. When you do venture outside you feel like you have escaped from prison, only it’s a prison you would really rather stay confined to as bringing this precious cargo out by yourself is lots harder than it seemed with your own mother in tow. There’s the (very) slow drive to the shop, the arranging of the car-seat in the pram (careful, careful don’t wake her) and the struggle to fit all the groceries in the cramped under-carriage of the pram (forget trying to juggle a basket while pushing your stroller, its not gonna happen!). It feels like an expedition and you don’t dare stay out too long.
Yes I remember those early days so well and yet they remain a blur in my mind, a tangle of anxiety filled moments broken every so often with an intense burst of love. New mums I applaud you, I know exactly how you feel behind the smiles and polite responses to the well-meaning – “sleep when she sleeps” or “forget about chores for a few weeks” while the dump that used to be your house becomes stinkier, stickier and ickier and you would cheerily kill the next person who tells you how tired you look.
Take it from someone who knows – this will pass. It seems an endless hell of feeding, changing and burping (I never knew I would be so pleased when someone burped) but it will pass! Trust me. And sooner than you think. For me it was when my daughter started to smile and interact with us that things started to feel more normal again. I felt like I was beginning to get a handle on things.
The new mum disappears up the aisle filled with diapers, wipes and dummies. Though I catch her glance longingly at the make-up aisle as she passes. I catch my daughter’s hand and stave off a meltdown with the well-timed offering of a rice cake. Toddlers I can do (most of the time) but to the mothers of newborns everywhere you have my admiration, respect and empathy.
Everything will be okay.