My firstborn Arabella starts school next week. I’m sad, of course. I’ll probably cry. But I wouldn’t do it all over again. I wouldn’t go back in time and start from the beginning. I know many women who wish they could go back to the baby stage. The minute they’re around a newborn, their ovaries start dancing.
My ovaries just feel anxious and awkward around newborns. Don’t get me wrong – there were moments I loved. Many, many moments I’ll treasure forever, but for me, motherhood gets better as they get older. Gosh, it gets so much better.
The moments I treasure? I adored breastfeeding both my girls. After difficult births – both girls were premature – it was a joy to discover that I could feed without any major issues other than ending up a shaky mess in a medical centre one Sunday morning with a bout of mastitis. I loved the closeness I felt to them. The squeaky mouse noises they made. The way they stroked my chest with their precious, little hands. The floppy milk drunk state that feeding left them in.
I loved the smiles. The way their faces would light up when our eyes met. I’d never experienced such an intense love. Suddenly, my life had meaning. I adored the sound of them breathing at night. When I went back to work for VOGUE when Arabella was seven months old, I’d often get home to find her sleeping. I’d lie next to her cot and listen to the sound of her sweet breath.
These were just some of the moments I’ll savour. The moments that still make my heart melt. But I still wouldn’t go back and do it all again.
No way. You see, those early days of motherhood shook me. They made me anxious, scared, tired, vulnerable and at times, angry. Both our girls, born 17 months apart, were shocking sleepers. Night after night for months on end, they cried.
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Being premature, they both had reflux and vomited for over a year each. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t smell of vomit. I became immune to it. There were nights (and days), where I felt like I’d lost the plot. Usually, this would happen around 4am.
The hours between 2-5am were always the worst. I could handle it up until then. I’d shoosh my babies. I’d bounce. I’d rock. And then around 2am, my patience would wear thin. Thank god, my husband stayed strong. He never once lost it. I felt guilty for not being able to cope. I’m the mother! I should be able to cope. And I felt even more guilty because I had healthy babies after difficult births – things could have been so much worse.
With Arabella, I’d spend my days as a new mother roaming the streets with the pram. I remember trying to stop for a coffee. I’ll order it in a glass and take a seat. The baby was sleeping, so this would be my moment to sit down and stop. STOP?! Not a chance. Arabella needed motion to sleep. The minute I stopped, she’d wake, so I kept walking. I didn’t stop walking. She loved the pram, but hated the car. She’d scream and scream in the car. I remember once driving and almost stopping in the middle of the highway because her screaming was so unbearable.
I’d turn up to mother’s group weary. We’d all try and act like things were fine. No one wants to break down in public or admit they’re not coping. Not in front of strangers. We’d act like getting to the meeting was a breeze, when actually it was harder than anything we’d ever done before.