My first born, my little girl, turns 14 next week and I have survived this far! She is an amazing, beautiful, clever child who has always been determined, inquisitive and slightly challenging. She is beautiful and brilliant and she made me a mother.
I have learnt and grown with her – as my first baby she has made the happiest I have ever been, as well as the most lost and frustrated.
The terror I felt when I realised I had to look after this brand new human being, that she was mine and that she was my responsibility, was overwhelming – I felt like there had been a mistake, that someone was going to knock on the door, apologise and tell me this baby was meant for someone else. But that knock didn’t come and I had to grit my teeth and get on with it.
When it’s your first baby, every day is a learning curve because everything is confusing, we think we are doing everything wrong especially with all the conflicting information from books, magazines, midwives, health visitors, friends and family. Everyone has an opinion on how to raise our baby and, often, we just haven’t got a clue.
It took me atleast three months to get to know my baby, to be able to read her and to trust my instincts. It took me three months to grow stronger and to feel less afraid of my baby and of being a mum. It took me three months to start to enjoy her.
Breastfeeding had been awful and it had taken a while to work but we did it and I was surprised at the strength of my desire to be able to feed her. By three months I was enjoying it, I threw away my preconceived ideas of what a baby should do and, instead, I focused on her and what she needed from me.
I stopped battling with her at bedtimes and with her sleep and I threw away the books. She slept on me for her naps, we co-slept and she went to bed in the evening when she was ready, not when I wanted her to be ready. I became a happy mum and I had a happy baby.
Everyone I knew was following Gina Ford to have a contented baby – it didn’t work for me, it made me feel like a failure, it made me feel like I was doing everything wrong. So to breastfeed and to cuddle on demand, to co-sleep and to have no routine at all seemed like madness to many but I embraced it and got on with being a (tired) mum.
That tired old saying ‘you’ll make a rod for your own back’ is still being trotted out today and implying that parents are fools for comforting and soothing their baby is just rude and very wrong. I heard it a lot!
Many years on I am happy to say that, after meeting my baby’s (and then child’s) needs, my back is still completely rodless. My ‘needy’ baby has grown into an independent and happy teenager.
Over the years I have come to realise that every stage brings unchartered territory and fresh challenges and that being a parent is about making it up as we go along while trying our best to get it right.
Long ago I also learned to remember all the little things – those cuddles and baby kisses, sploshing in puddles, watching a Disney movie AGAIN and loving the joy on her face, bedtime snuggles with stories, seeing her love of life, loving her so much it hurts and just laughing.
Sometimes we all need to stop worrying about whether we are getting it right, how tired we are or how much there is to do and just enjoy all those little moments.
Janine Rudin | birthandbabycompany.com