I’ve recently celebrated my son’s first birthday. It’s not something that he’s going to remember, so it was a good excuse to meet up with a few friends from mothers group to celebrate that we have made it through a year of parenthood. Babies alive and relationships intact!
It also made me stop and reflect on the rollercoaster of the first year. I went into motherhood thinking that the first year would be linear, and that it just got easier with time. It reality it has gotten easier overall, but there were definitely some troughs along the way.
0 – 3 months
Expectation. There’s a reason why they use sleep deprivation as torture. I was prepared to know a tiredness I have never known before.
Reality. I was definitely tired, and at the end of the day when I would lay the baby in the cot I would sigh with relief as he would continue to sleep. I would think to myself, I just need two hours sleep before I can do it again. If you cry now, I’m going to hide in the corner and cry too. And with that I would crawl into bed at 8pm, absolutely exhausted.
Expectation. There’s nothing natural about one of the most natural things in the world. I was expecting cracked and bloody nipples, and gritting my teeth in pain every time I had to feed.
Reality. If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong. Well, if it still hurts after 30 seconds then you’re doing it wrong.
I was lucky that I had one great midwife that showed me a latching technique that worked for me. Even though I was super tired, I was super vigilant in unlatching and trying again if it still hurt after 30 seconds.
Expectation. I could still go out. Not partying, but to the shops and for walks.
Reality. Going to the supermarket or to the park was like navigating a minefield between feeds, sleeps, cleaning vomit, moods and nappy changes. And then once out the door, I felt like I would be carrying a ticking time bomb waiting to explode with inconsolable cries.
4 – 6 months
Expectation. From about six weeks I had a baby that would sleep from 10pm – 3am, giving me hope that in a few months I would be one of those people who had a baby who would sleep through the night.
Reality. It got worse. It was the first time that I’ve clicked to the second page of google results trying to find the answer. I’m not sure how many times I desperately googled the four month sleep regression (though it was enough to be greeted with a front page covered in purple links).
And the front page of google was right again, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear after getting woken up with cries every hour or two during the night: Just ride it out. This too shall pass.
Expectation. Would start to slowly introduce homemade, wholesome pureed food.
Reality. Would cook batches of pureed apple, pumpkin and sweet potato. The son would outright refuse, and still had the tongue thrust reflex. Decided he wasn’t ready and to start introducing solids at 6 months.
Expectation. Would go for lovely long pram walks.
Reality. Went for lovely long walks pushing an empty pram (and carrying the baby in the carrier).
6 – 9 months
Expectation. You’re never going to get more than 3 hours straight sleep again.
Reality. I never had more than 3 hours of straight sleep.
Expectation. Would introduce homemade, wholesome pureed food.
Reality. I would plan, cook and make my vegetable and fruit purees. I would then offer them to the baby hot and cold, on my feet and up-side-down. The baby still was not interested.
I bought pouched purees from the supermarket. I opened them and then threw them out after they had been open for more than 48 hours. I tried Baby Led Weaning and realised it was just a fancy name for offering finger food that he was also not interested in.
I started to think that I would have to send the child to school and duck in at lunchtime for his feed. And then magically and for no apparent reason he started showing a bit of interest in Baby Led Weaning at 8 months old.
Expectation. Resigned to the fact that I would be a baby-carrying mother.
Reality. He started to like the pram!
9 – 12 months
Expectation. Maybe I’ll sleep again when he’s six?
Reality. Started sleeping better during the night and dropped his nighttime feed at around 11 months.
Settled into a dependable daytime nap routine: Slept for 45 minutes if I wanted to do things to do around the house and 2.5hours if I had somewhere to be.
Expectation. I would feed my pure baby nothing but pure, organic and wholesome food.
Reality. Once he had his first bit of sugar, the floodgates were open. Nutella crepes for breakfast. Nutella brioche for afternoon snacks.
Suddenly around 11 months he became keenly aware what everyone else was eating. He would sit in his high chair and survey our plates. No longer could we give him steamed broccoli whilst we ate potato chips. We started calling him The Taxman as he now demands 50% of your food, and then wastes most of it (classic government).
Expectation. I still need to have an oversized nappy bag just in case.
Reality. I’ve realised that he’s not a newborn and I can clear out half the things in my nappy bag.
It’s easier to leave the house, so we’ve decided to make it difficult again with adventurous weekend day drips (and plenty of opportunities to eat sand).
It’s definitely been a whirlwind of a first year, and I’ve realised that with babies you just have to make hay while the sun shines. Looking forward to his second year and making the most of the fun patches!