Preconceptions and parenting.
I don't have many regrets as a mother, barely a handful. But if I had to choose one it would absolutely be the perceptions I placed upon myself of who I would be as a mother. So much aggravation would have been saved, of that I am positive, had I just shunned the pre-judgements and preconceptions, took them off, sealed them up and shoved them under the bed like last summer's clothes. I would not have been so unbelievably tired. It is hard trying to recover from birth, sleep with healing stiches, breastfeed on demand, keep yourself fed and watered, all while holding yourself to some unattainable standard you yourself created when brewing a small human.
The last weeks of pregnancy I essentially turned into a Stepford Wife with added circumference. Dinner would be on the table when Toby got home, the house was spotless, the nest was perfect. Every night before bed I would stand over the moses basket, rubbing stretched skin over baby inside, imagining my day, house tidy and dinner cooked, all with a baby in a bouncer by my feet or attached by sling. We would not co-sleep, no, no, and she would be sleeping through by six months, come hell or high water. We would be at a different baby group everyday, food shopping would be a piece of cake, and a dummy? Not on your nelly.
Oh how the reality was different. Anyone relate? Of the above statements, the only that rang true was my baby in a moses basket, that we did (that fear of co-sleeping was well and truly wedged within my mind by every professional I encountered). I fully exhausted myself, carrying washing baskets two weeks post c-section, attempting to cook the sort of dinners I would have before, cleaning the house instead of cuddling my tiny babe. When we gave into the dummy the guilt was terrible. I kept telling myself only until six months, then eight, then a year. She still has it now.
Confession: I tried some form of sleep training at four months. Spoiler: It was quickly abandoned. The four month sleep regression was killer, and my preconceptions took over and Gina Ford landed on my doorstep. She went sailing out the window the next day. I then turned to Google, compulsively. I would spend all nap times rocking her until 'sleepy but awake', singing the same song over and over as a sleep cue, putting her down softly and creeping from the room, routine set and in place. In and out, in and out, in and out, every thirty seconds I would go to settle and cuddle and kiss before putting her down again. It always ended in an overtired baby and me, throwing my hands up in the air, strapping her to me and going for a walk until she konked out. I gave up and settled for boobs, and car, and pram, and sling and whichever way instead. She now naps, of her own accord, in her own bed, and all at her own pace and for longer than the 45 minute on the dot mark... There are now nights when she points at her cot and closes the book, asking to be curled up with bunnies and waves me out the door. It truly made me believe in the power of child-led.
I am not the mother I imagined. There are days we rush out the house late, snacks forgotten and nap time a car bound affair. There are the nights still now I spend rocking her at 1 am, willing sleep to come, and eventually crawling back into my own at 4 am. We breastfeed, morning, noon and night, whenever and wherever. Eilish has “slept through” a grand total of twice. We love home days, and actively seek out days of nothing but are full of everything, Pottering, baking, playing, reading books, all in the comfort of our own home. I am the antithesis of the parent I thought I would be and I love it.
For the longest time I felt judged, judged by others for the things I was doing, how I parented, the choices I had made that brought me to writing this today. I would defend any innocent question with ferocity, ready to battle off all comments that never came. It turns out that I was actually my worst examiner. The one who judged and scrutinised me the most, was the mother who sat there with baby inside. The past and pregnant me prosecuting the present one for not amounting to decisions that didn't feel right for her, that didn't work or feel true to who she was, is and will be as a mother. Imagine that.