I never intended to be a young mother. Well, that’s not entirely true.
I was certainly in an inexplicable hurry to kick each of the life goals
on my list faster, sooner, better. I fell pregnant at 25, less than a
year after meeting my partner, although I didn’t feel terribly young at
the time. Newly installed in a high-responsibility job with a
high-responsibility mortgage, let’s just say I didn’t have to make too
many lifestyle changes to accommodate my pregnancy. It was actually a
relief to have a legitimate excuse to stay home and watch TV instead of
partying with my peers.
After my son was born, things got harder. Without siblings or friends
remotely in the parenthood stage of their lives, it was a lonely,
bewildering road. I didn’t realise it at the time, of course.
The best thing about being young and clueless about motherhood is that
you have no expectations. I literally had no idea what I was doing but
was blissfully ignorant about my blissful ignorance.
My mother (who had her first child at 18 and her second at 25) had forgotten pretty much everything baby-related which was mostly wonderful because I didn’t have to deal with any pushy back-seat parenting advice. The only time it wasn’t wonderful is when I really needed her to tell me what to do. My partner, while wonderful and ever-present, was as clueless as me. The first baby he’d ever held was our son. In fact he’d never even seen a newborn before Luca arrived. So in that first year, we just rolled with the punches, read far too many contradictory books and called the Karitane help line in emergencies.
Me: “Uh, my son is four months old and he seems to be crying rather a lot.”
Karitane Lady: “How often is he sleeping?”
Me: “Oh, well, um, I’m not sure. Whenever he kind of crashes on the floor or in his bouncy chair.”
Karitane Lady: (patiently) “A baby of that age should only be awake for an hour and a half at a time. The rest of the day, he should be sleeping in his cot.”
Really? Somewhere (probably in book #215), we’d reached the misguided understanding that a baby should associate its cot solely with long nighttime sleeps. During the day, we just played with him on the floor until the poor little guy started crying or passed out from exhaustion, no doubt dreaming of imaginary parents who knew what the hell they were doing.
By the time some of my friends finally started having babies in their thirties, my son was getting ready to start school. As they became immersed in the sleep-deprived world of nipples and nappies, I’d been paroled. Luca was becoming dramatically more independent and self-sufficient. He was at an age where we could discuss our respective days over dinner. When we got Foxtel digital, he showed me how to use the remote. He could articulate his wants, needs and emotions and his strong bond with his father, grandparents and friends returned to me many pre-baby freedoms.