The newborn days are intense. Long, hard and drawn out- often with little room to breathe, to exhale and to truly appreciate what you have. The days are filled with nappies, endless feeds, laundry loads and missed sleep. Some days are better than others, but mostly- at first- you are completely and utterly tethered to that little person. That little person needs you. That little person relies on you. That little person is your reason for existing. And sometimes, that’s so hard to accept. So hard to place this new life alongside your old life, and move on without hiccups. Without regrets. Without a yearning for those free and easy days of being responsible for just yourself. Those magical days of freedom and fun and feeling like a person rather than a machine.
And then, like that, it’s over. And they are sitting up, crawling, walking. They’re no longer babies, but toddlers instead- and who’s to say your life is any less of a devotion to that tiny person? Of course you’re just as committed, just as besotted and just as determined to show love, affection and care. But it’s different. It has to be. Because nobody can cope with the intensity of caring for a newborn for longer than the newborn period.
It’s really hard!
At no other time in your life are you expected to give up basic necessities such as sleep and food, just so that you can be on hand 24/7 to keep someone else alive. You feed even though your nipples are red raw, bleeding, and cracked. You feed because you provide nourishment and comfort and those are two priorities in life right now. You wake at the drop of the hat because your baby might need you, regardless of whether or not you’ve only had 20 minutes yourself all night. You change nappy after nappy after nappy after nappy. And you get very little in return.
Newborns can’t give back. No smile, no hug, no thank you and I love you. Just wailing, screaming, scratching and hair pulling. You don’t wash your hair for days because every time you try to get in the shower your baby needs either a feed, or a change, or YOU. You resent your partner going out of the house each day to work, just because you’d like to do something without a person attached to your body for once. Life feels eternal. Never ending. A cycle that cannot break.
But it does break.
And that newborn who needed you so much, suddenly doesn’t. The arms and legs uncurl, the eyes start to open and the world shifts sideways. Not quite so easy to soothe to sleep with a breast. Not quite so happy to sit in a chair and watch the world go by. Not quite so content to simply stare at the wonder that is your face. And yes, your life still revolves around them, because what else can you do? Your duty, for the rest of your life, is to care for this person.
That’s pretty overwhelming sometimes.
The enormity of the realisation, whether its a newborn or it’s a toddler, that you will always be responsible for that person can be pretty scary. Knowing that no matter how old your baby is, and how easy the next stage seems to be from the distance, there is never really any difference in the level of commitment and patience required. You may not be changing dirty nappies forever, but you will be tending something in it’s place.
So on the days where you think to yourself that you just can’t go on, you want your life back and you need a break… that’s ok. My goodness that’s more than ok. That’s normal! That’s good. That means that YOU are still in there, somewhere. Your time will come. You may not be first anymore, but your time will come around again. Just hang in there, and you’ll see.