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Good enough: Confessions of a less-than-perfect mum.

It was during a phone conversation with a GP recently that I realised how little I know about my second-born daughter, Ivy.

“How much does she weigh?” the doctor asked me as I stood clutching my phone and staring at my ten-month-old like a deer stuck in headlights. “Er, honestly? I have no idea.” I replied. “Ballpark figure?” she pressed on, her voice surprisingly clear of judgement. “Hmm, I couldn’t even tell you that, sorry.” I said, sheepishly. Yet, still the GP was determined. “Okay, what about her height?” “Nope! Couldn’t tell you that either…”

You can imagine how the rest of the conversation went. Suffice to say, by the time I hung up, I realised not only did I not know how much my baby weighed or measured, I also didn’t know if her sleep schedule was considered “normal”, what other babies her age were up to, or even if Ivy had met any of the milestones for her age group. The most remarkable thing about this? I also, didn’t care.

Dilvin

My laissez-faire approach to parenting might seem surprising to some, but it’s an even greater shock to me considering I was the exactly opposite with my firstborn Cella.

A classic Type-A personality, it wouldn’t be untrue to say I approached pregnancy and motherhood like it was an Olympic event and God how I wanted that gold medal!

I didn’t just want to be a good mother – I was determined to be The Best Mother In The World and to that end, read all the baby guides I could get my hands on (underlining the important passages in yellow if you really must know). I bought designer clothes, washed and ironed them and hung them not only by size, but by type and colour (Did I mention I was also a Virgo?).

I bought the right “stuff”, read the right “words” and bought into the dream that motherhood would be like one big J&J commercial. And then baby Cella was born and everything Went. To. Shit.

She emerged from the womb screaming and continued to do exactly that 24/7 for the next year. Cella was diagnosed with severe reflux around the time I was diagnosed with severe maternal disillusionment disorder (symptoms include a general feeling of being overwhelmed and under-prepared, and walking around with a general WTF??? demeanour).

How could I parent a ‘broken baby’ when she clearly didn’t tick any of the boxes I’d read about? At first I gave it a good go; I watched the clock anxiously making sure she followed the routines. I pureed only organic meat and vegetables, changed her wardrobe from 000 to 00 the second she turned six months, and worked like a psycho to encourage her to meet the physical milestones the other babies in my mother’s group were meeting.

During the day I smiled through gritted teeth when others beamed about their seemingly perfect babies sleeping through the night and as soon as I got home I’d be on the phone to Tresillian.

“I’m sure my baby has autism” I’d cry. “She’s not doing any of the things the other babies are doing.”

“How could I parent a ‘broken baby’ when she clearly didn’t tick any of the boxes I’d read about?”

“Dilvin, you can’t diagnose a three-week old baby with autism, she’s probably just being a baby,” they’d reply.

Sleep studies and schools followed but they didn’t make a difference. Cella, it seemed, was just a live wire who was determined to go about things in her own way. And me? I wasn’t used to being so out of control and I was utterly miserable. “I don’t want to have any more children” I told my husband and I meant it. Cella became resigned to the idea of being an only child – until she reached 3 and a half and I changed my mind. I got pregnant.

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Perspective, when it comes, is rarely gentle in its delivery, often crashing into your life in a torrent of violence and cruelty. At least that’s how it came to me. I lost our son in my second trimester, immediately followed by another pregnancy and loss several months later.

I grieved (and still grieve) those two babies with every atom of my being, convinced they were taken from me because the universe somehow knew I didn’t enjoy the “motherhood experience” quite like I should. I clearly didn’t deserve to have any more. Logic alone could tell me I had no part to play in their deaths, that it was just ‘one of those things’ but I could find no satisfaction in those answers. There’s none to be had when the only way you can hold your babies is through a cold, hard box.

Perhaps it was a the exhaustion of looking after a busy four year old, writing a book and holding down a full time job, or simply a self-preservation mechanism (never quite believing my pregnancy would result in a live baby), but when I got pregnant with Ivy in 2012, I just stopped.

I stopped planning, stopped reading, stopped looking at the diary, the clock, other babies. There’s a lot of talk about the top regrets of the dying, but regret can also be found when gazing upon your newborn’s face for the first time.

Dilvin’s book

As I held baby Ivy in the hospital last year, I thought about all the stupid things I wasted energy on with Cella, all the tears, the fears, the sentences where I wrote fears directly after tears, and how much I’d missed and I made a conscious effort to let go and opt out of the ‘parenting race’. Good enough, I decided, would sometimes have to be exactly that; good enough.

Ivy today is almost eleven months old and I still haven’t picked up a baby manual. She wears second-hand clothes, eats versions of whatever the rest of the family are eating, and sleeps whenever she shows signs of tiredness.

To say I’m relaxed with her would be quite the understatement. I know she’s healthy and growing normally (don’t worry, they do weigh and measure her at the doctors even if I don’t retain the information) but I still couldn’t tell you whether she’s more advanced than her peers or meeting enough milestones – I don’t know, don’t care.

What I can tell you is this; she is the happiest baby you’ll ever meet and she has a mother who is present, in-tune with her and just so very thankful to have the opportunity to do this again. And this time? Free of all the noise that says I should be doing things a particular way, I’m loving every minute of it.

 

Dilvin Yasa is the author of Things My Daughter Needs to Know, features director at Cosmo Pregnancy and Cosmo Bride magazines, freelance writer, media commentator, wife and mum. Permanently exhausted. Her new book, Good Enough: Confessions of a less-than-perfect mum, $29.99 (Pan Macmillan) is out July 1st.

What about you? Did your parenting styles change between children?

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