17 years ago I was 8 weeks away from becoming a mother for the first time, from meeting my baby and having my life changed forever.
Like most expectant first time mums I had no idea what lay ahead. I knew life was going to change, but I didn’t know how or how much.
Birth was at home, straightforward, uncomplicated and drama free yet its rawness shocked me and I felt vulnerable and damaged.
And then there was this beautiful little baby girl who I had to learn how to feed, to soothe and keep safe and I really did not have a clue how to do that. She needed to cling and I wanted to cling back but I battled with this for the first few weeks – with Contented Little Babies everywhere (or so I thought) I reckoned I was doing it all wrong and it was the loneliest place. I cried a lot, I felt lost, I resented my husband, I was exhausted and I was becoming ill. I would tiredly wander the streets, pushing the pram, trying to get my baby girl to sleep, desperate for just a short break from having to mum. That rarely came, she would only nap on me. And the more anxious I became the more she wanted to cling. Now I know that is normal but back then I just thought I was getting it all wrong.
And then it started to change and I don’t really know why, I think I just got tired of doing what didn’t feel right – I stopped trying to fix my baby, I stopped battling with her and, at 3 months old, she was easier and I knew her better. I loved her and we needed to cling – she settled, I settled. Isolation was still there because I was on my own most days. The exhaustion was still there but my days were a bit easier, manageable and less anxious. When I realised that clinging was ok and that I wasn’t doing anything wrong because she wouldn’t settle or sleep away from me, when I sometimes couldn’t put her down, when she needed to be snuggled next to me all night, I stopped crying and I started to enjoy her.
Being a parent can be the loneliest place because we are constantly making it up and living up to unrealistic expectations. It’s why I do what I do, it’s why I focus on supporting parents – to ease some of that isolation, to provide reassurance, to provide good information and to make a difference a little bit at a time.