It’s about seven in the evening and we’re thirty minutes into the dreaded witching hour. Not my newborn son’s, but my own.
It’s been a hard day, a hard week, the goddamn toughest month of my life. I never thought I would look at my own child, little and downy soft, and question what I’d done.
But I’m staring him in his blue eyes and – in my mind only – I am headlong into a diatribe of swear words flung directly at him. Peppered with internalised screaming; white noise among the thoughts of “I hate this” and “I want to get in my car and run away”.
Of the last 72 hours, I have slept for approximately 30 minutes. Nobody told me that babies still scream for fear of being eaten by bears or, I don’t know, trod on by a woolly mammoth – if put into their cushy $300 bassinet for longer than five minutes.
Should’ve bought the Snoo.
Why won’t he take a bottle?
I just. want. to. sleep.
These words are rhythmic in my mind.
Three months later, I can safely confirm that I’ve made it through the fourth trimester, dignity somewhat intact, and have in doing so battled out of the proverbial cocoon into Full Blown Motherhood. I have never been so deliriously happy.
Before this particular eureka moment, my eyes bubble over when my jeans won’t button and I obsess over the fact I once had leisurely hours for doing makeup and hair. I desperately clutch at last vestiges of my old life – fruitlessly, of course.
This kid doesn’t care about that. I still care a little. I always told myself I wouldn’t be one of “those” mums. That naive presumptuousness, so surely always going to bite me in the ass. And it has.
Before I could open his pram one handed and breeze into Baby Rhyme Time, I had mornings where I wanted the sky to fall in and was unfolding the pram all wrong, I couldn’t figure out how to make the Picasso of a person in the mirror look like me and holy god, I just wanted to sleep for more than an hour.
Before I could decline visitors, I would sit feeling grotty in Monday’s pyjamas on Friday and mentally beg the person to leave so I could get back to folding the eighteen loads of washing that needed to get done. Give. Me. Back. My. Baby.
Before I was done bleeding for ten weeks, a shower was an out of body experience as my belly was jelly and my thighs took up more space than before. And somehow being able to get clean after a day of vomit and wee is being marketed to me as self care, rather than a basic human right.
I don’t know then that I will eventually re-learn how to relax.
Now, I sit him on my knee and feel my heart fit to burst. Back then, I rock him desperately and ask my partner if he thinks the baby needs another dose of Infacol and if I need a lobotomy.
Sometimes my son sleeps through the night and I wake up with breasts that have their own orbit, sometimes he doesn’t. It’s fine. He curls his hand reflexively around my fingertips in his palm as he wakes and we grin at each other like idiots. We lie in bed together for a little while before I take him out of our room and into his own to play, to chat and listen to music. I butter some toast and sip a coffee while he learns to roll. We’ve found a routine. It’s just not the type people ask about.
I am so much happier in letting him lead the way and I meet him where he is. If he needs comfort, we feed and cuddle. If he wants to be alone in the confines of his wooden play gym for a while, he averts my gaze and I leave him to learn and grow in solitude. I sit nearby, a quiet observer.
It’s about seven in the morning. And I am amazed.
The original version of this article was posted in April 2021.