Monday, 14 January 2013

One Year On

It's hard to believe that a little over a year ago, Ron and I drove to Ashford hospital nervously awaiting a surgical procedure to remove my son from my belly and would finally get to meet this little person who would change my life forever. A little person I had been so desperate to meet for almost 10 months.

We arrived having been booked in the evening before after it turned out my little man had done an about turn in the last week and attempts to physically turn him back in to a good birth giving position from the outside (my eyes water still just thinking about this awful experience) had failed and waited about an hour before being taken in to the operating theatre. I was petrified. Would he be OK? Would I be OK?

One year on, I have the courage to tell you what my very first thoughts were when my son was presented to me around the side of the dividing theatre divider-type thing. Not, as I would perhaps like to share with you, thoughts of extreme joy that he was alive and well and apparently in one piece. My very first thoughts were, "Oh my God, what enormous ears and OH MY GOD, he's ginger!" Years of playfully taunting my ginger friends was clearly coming back at me, but the ears? I had never made fun of anyone with big ears. Where was the justice?

The very first picture ever taken of my little boy
My initial concerns about the colour of his hair and the size of his ears very quickly subsided and I was almost immediately overcome by feelings of relief and shock and happiness and love and a whole load of things really. Actually, as I look at that picture above, I barely recognise myself. Whilst it seems like only yesterday that Dalton arrived, it also seems so long ago that I can barely remember my life pre-Dalton. I'm not sure I want to remember it with enormous clarity as there was always something missing. He was missing.

I remember when Dalton was about 6 weeks old and I was finding it incredibly tough being a new Mummy that I kept thinking, by the time he is 6 months old, it will be so much easier, he'll be sleeping through the night, I'll be a confident Mummy, we'll have a stable routine and a whole load of other things that didn't end up being the case when he was 6 months old. And then I thought, OK, OK, so when he is a 1 year old, things will be so much easier because of a whole load of things I thought would be the case when he was 6 months old and some new ones I expected to be the case. So, what can I tell you one year on about being Dalton's Mummy? Well, I can tell you the following.

Generally, yes, on the whole, life is much, much easier than it was when he was a newborn and even up to about 6 months old. It is clear to me now that Dalton was far from an easy baby and I had a personality that was far from ideal for becoming a new Mum (perfectionist, control freak and all those other personality traits I have talked about over the past year) but little by little we are, and mostly, I, am getting there.

From about 10 months old, Dalton has been at a stage where unless he is very poorly or teething badly, he sleeps through the night - from 7 - 7 almost without a peep. This is an amazing step forward from where we were prior to that and makes ALL the difference to how good I feel about the world and how well I cope in the world. He still has bad phases and we are currently having another toothy phase which has made the nights go a little to pot but I am able to understand that these phases pass better now that I have experienced them and they did indeed pass and actually, in those moments where I am holding my little boy at 3 in the morning and he is squeezing me tight, I take a moment to really appreciate him and enjoy the opportunity to have an extra cuddle. The night time cuddles are the best cuddles he ever gives me and no matter how tired I am, I will never be ungrateful for an opportunity to hold him in my arms, squeeze him tight and try to remind him that he is safe and loved.

He is very interactive and absolutely fascinating and learns something new every single day and I am in awe of what his little brain can take in (one of the reasons I feel a little sad about being back at work and missing the daily new tricks). I could watch him for hours and be totally entertained.

He is, on the whole, eating well and finally eating what Mummy prepares rather than what Mummy pours out of a pouch. This makes me feel good. In fact, he essentially eats what we do now and this makes life much easier too.

We are on to cow's milk. Hoorah. This is a real treat as, frankly, making up bottles every day and having to remember them everywhere we went was a real faff and something I am happy to say goodbye to. The boy seems to prefer the taste of the liquid that comes from a big hairy beast anyway and who wouldn't? Formula milk tastes so disgusting I'm surprised any bubbas are prepared to drink it at all.

I am finally getting to grips with being a Mummy and, importantly, being prepared to lose my grip on being in control. As mentioned in my last blog post, I have been working really hard over the last couple of months to let go of my need to be in control and my frustration at not being in control and have been generally just going with the flow. Any Mummy will tell you, even those that have good eating and good sleeping babies, some days, they just don't seem to want to eat and some days they just don't seem to want to nap when you can see they need to and my philosophy now is, well OK then. I will always give you the opportunity to eat and sleep well and if you choose not to take it, so be it. Perhaps you just aren't hungry. Perhaps you will just make up the sleep tomorrow. Perhaps it isn't the end of the world if you are a little tired and grumpy today. Tomorrow is another day and we will try all over again. This has made a striking difference to how I feel daily and to how nice it is to be around me. Ron (I hope) can vouch for this.

The other important thing I have been doing, also as referenced in my last blog post and inspired by Mummy blog Hands Free Mama, is making sure I don't miss his childhood. For many months, I was trying to keep on top of everything, just like I always had that I ended up doing everything half-heartedly, including spending time with him and it is something I vowed to change that day a couple of months ago when I realised what I had been doing and something I vow to never do again. It was rare for me to be spending time with him without my right arm extension in my hand - my iPhone - and whilst tentatively interacting with him, I would be ordering groceries, ordering the next new wonder miracle that was going to save my sanity and get everyone sleeping better, responding to mails, keeping a grip on the 'outside world' through facebook and just generally not really achieving anything effectively as I kept getting distracted. And how terrible is that? I was unable to keep on top of the household chores or respond to emails in the timely fashion I was used to responding to them in because I was distracted. I was distracted by my son growing up! Anyway, from that day forward I decided to impose an iPhone ban on myself (and iPad and any other device that would distract me from my son growing up) and swore that any time I had the fortunate opportunity to spend time with my son I would be 100% focused on doing just that. Sometimes that means playing with him and sometimes, when he is learning to explore the world on his own, that means watching him. Just taking it all in and making sure I don't miss a second of it.

Two amazing things have happened since I started doing this. Firstly, I appreciate everything about him and being a Mummy, even the bad times, as they are all just part of him growing up and the bad times only serve to make me appreciate the good times even more. Secondly, he has been much happier and, as a knock on effect, much easier to be around. And the only real negative is that friends have to wait a little longer sometimes for a response to their message and *sharp intake of breath* occasionally I miss a facebook status update. I'm so glad my virtual slap in the face happened early enough for me to not regret too much.

So, what else has happened? Well, I went back to work. I am only in my second week and this has been a harder transition than I could have imagined (again!). Being back at work itself is fine. In fact it's good. I like working and I like using my brain and the childminder we have found is absolutely amazing, I really couldn't ask for more so although Dalton still cries every morning when I leave him, he always stops when I close the door and always does some amazing things with childminder lady - much more exciting things than he would do with me, and he loves it. He loves the other children and I love all the new things he learns every day BUT, I really bloody miss him so much.

Going from spending 7 days a week with your little person and focusing on nothing but being a Mummy to spending less than half your week with them and having to wear two hats, your Mummy hat and your professional work hat is not an easy transition to make and quite a shock to the system. I quite enjoyed my first week of returning to work as I think it was such a novelty to not have anyone attached to me even though every night when I got home from work, I sat and stared at the baby monitor for hours just looking at this:


and fighting my overwhelming urge to go in to his nursery, pick him up and give him big squeezy cuddles. That was tough, but overall, work was better than expected. People were nicer to me than expected.

And then, as the weekend ended this weekend, and I realised I was about to do it all over again, it hit me like a wet herring to the cheek that that was it. The opportunity to spend 7 days a week with my little man was over and would never again be there and I felt absolutely gutted. I was speaking to the childminder about it this morning and she rightly said to me that it was like grieving and I was currently going through the grieving process and she is right. I always understood that at some point, you have to learn to let your children go but I wasn't expecting it to happen quite so soon! He is 1 year old and I feel like I am losing him already! Still, it is what it is and I know in my heart of hearts that Dalton is having a much rounder experience in life by spending time with lots of different people and children and experiencing so many wonderful things and that ultimately, my loss is his gain and I have to try to be selfless enough to let him have those experiences. Even if it makes Mummy's heart ache every time we're not together.

So, being back at work is far from all bad and there are some real pluses to being at work, as well as the obvious ones of drinking a hot cup of tea and going to the toilet all by yourself and here are some of the things that I am enjoying right now about being back at work:

  1. Having some control over what I do and how I do it
  2. Being an expert in something again (no Mummy will ever feel like an expert at being a mummy. Little people make sure of that!) and being able to share my knowledge with new members of the team
  3. Fucking about with Excel (one of my favourite hobbies in the whole of the world)
  4. Getting dressed properly every day and wearing make up (for the days I am in the office anyway) - what a difference a bit of concealer and mascara does to my self-confidence
  5. Slowly selecting my lunch and eating it with two hands in a leisurely manner
  6. Going to the supermarket in my lunch hour without a little person accompanying, making it almost a stress free experience
  7. Buying chocolate from the vending machine - there is something very special about buying chocolate from a vending machine that you just don't experience when you buy it from a shop. I don't know if it's the potential disappointment at the chocolate getting stuck in the metal turny thing and the ensuing delight when it doesn't but it's special. I like it.
  8. Talking to people about things that are not baby-related
  9. Appreciating the time I spend with him even more because sometimes I don't have it
  10. Earning my own money again!
And probably many other things that I have already forgotten about but the point is, on the whole, it's good for everyone, it will just take time to adjust to my new life, which is a bit like the old pre-Dalton one, only different.

As I was publicly grieving recently on facebook (you know I never like to have a meltdown in private), a friend commented that it sounded like it was time to think about having number 2. I agreed, and made sure I put an exclamation mark just so that Ron didn't realise the seriousness of my agreement but the point I am getting at here is that it has taken me until now to even contemplate putting myself and me and Ron through having another baby and whilst I am in no rush to conceive just yet, I would dearly like to try to have another baby one day - a little brother or sister for Dalton and I'm finally looking forward to it with excitement rather than with dread.

So, one year on, that is how far we have come and long may it all continue.