My second baby Ben is approaching his first birthday. For me it feels a bit like I deserve a graduation ceremony for passing the baby phase for the second and almost certainly final time. For me, year one for each of my babies were probably the hardest of life. Neither were particularly difficult babies and there were no significant dramas – this is definitely a case of it’s not them, it’s me. I am now more than happy to admit that my cute, blue eyed little hair bears just terrified me to my very core.
I can’t count the number of times a mum has advised me to enjoy the baby bit; “because before you know it they’ll be running around”. I’ve always nodded enthusiastically whilst secretly thinking how much I REALLY want to get to that running around bit. In my mind if they can run then all I really have to do is catch them and I’m darn sure I’ll be able to run faster (for the next 10 years at least).
I’ve thought so much about why it has been so hard for me. It’s certainly not a bonding issue. I was head over heels in love with both the little monkeys the second I knew they were in my belly. Both of them have been nothing short of utterly mesmerising to me from the minute they arrived. I look back at photos of them pretty much on a daily basis. Cumulatively in both their first years we’ve had 5 professional photo shoots, I have their foot and handprints in silver, clay and on Christmas baubles. Each of them has a fully completed “Baby’s First Year” book and each has enough blogs and magazine articles written about them to embarrass them throughout their teens.
Was it the major life upheaval? Was it lack of sleep? Hormones? Am I just not maternal? I know so many mums who just rock the baby phase. They love every second and mourn its passing. I’m in awe of them. For me though, the whole thing was just, well, enormous.
Firstly, you realise when you become a mum that all the adverts, book covers and packaging photography of babies are actually not “baby babies” at all. When you see an image of a podgy little cherub in a high chair wielding a spoon, sprouting a couple of little bottom teeth and giving you a cheeky wink, it’s likely that baby is approaching its first birthday. A real live actual baby is about the size of THAT baby’s left leg. It can’t see, it can’t digest, let alone hold food, it can’t smile and it doesn’t even know it has arms!
Then, there’s the responsibility of protecting something that helpless, coupled with the unfeasibly ridiculous amount that you instantly love them. It rendered me almost incapable of breathing. I barely slept for the first years of each of my baby’s lives. Ironically, they did! I remember describing one of my nights to a friend; “yeah finally got to sleep at 11, woke at 2, then 3.30, then woke up for good at 5”, they looked at me sympathetically and told me the baby would start sleeping through soon enough. The baby had been sleeping through for the past 3 months.
For me though, the clichés were all true. It did get easier. There is a point in time when my mummying mojo arrives and that is somewhere around the 10 months mark. I remember the moment with Holly. She turned that age just as it turned summer and I distinctly remember coming back to life. I remember giggling our heads off at rhyme time at the local library, playing on swings, feeding ducks, taking her to her first friend’s birthday party and just loving every second. No fear, definitely not all perfect but mostly just joyful.
Only this last week, I had my turning point moment with my little Ben. We were sat in a coffee shop waiting for Holly to finish her gymnastics class (look how far SHE’S come!). We were playing mock battles with plastic coffee stirrers and both laughing our heads off. I lifted him out of the high chair and held him up in front of me, he stared right at me and moved in for what might have been a kiss, a bite or simply to soothe his teething gums on my cheek, but he looked me straight in the eye, held my gaze and didn’t stop smiling. At that moment the whole world melted away. It was just me and my gorgeous, perfect little boy. I realised I wasn’t scared anymore.
And so now, my baby phases are near enough complete. I know there may be trouble ahead – another round of terrible twos (threes and a couple of fours), school, teen rebellion etc. but bring it on. I’m not scared, just up for it and ready. So go on my little munchkins, you run.. and I’ll catch you. Always.
Contributed by our guest blogger Jackie Wilson. Jackie has worked extensively in marketing for brands including Twinings, Del Monte, Kingsmill and Cathedral City. She is now living the ex-pat dream in Malaysia. She’s mum to two lovely children and is combining looking after them with some freelance writing, most recently for Bonda, the magazine for Malaysia’s equivalent of the NCT and ABWM Mag (Association of British Women in Malaysia). Her Malaysian journey is chronicled in her blog at http://firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’d like to get in touch she can be found at Jackie.email@example.com.