The baby chronicles #23: Expectation vs reality vs expectation

Weeks old: 23
I like: Hey Duggee, playing with my feet, boobs… but only at home when nothing else exciting is happening

When I was pregnant I told myself all I wanted to achieve in the first 6 months of Little O’s life was that he, Mr O and I came out of it alive. I told myself I was not going to put pressure on myself to be perfect. I wouldn’t care if I had a messy house or how I fed my baby or where or how much he slept. I was just going to wing it. I never looked at all those mummy Instagram feeds and thought, “I want to be the perfect mum”. I figured I’d approach motherhood with a “this’ll do” attitude

There were two things I had completely forgotten to consider in deciding on this approach.

The first thing was my actual personality. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, more of a pragmatist. My whole job rests on being able to weigh up “must haves” versus “cool but not worth the time or money” and I’d like to think I am pretty good at it. However what I am is extremely organised. I like to plan for all eventualities. I have always been able to overcome my own shortcomings by planning the fuck out of everything. It turns out babies are completely unplannable and unpredictable. Getting next to no sleep is really hard but what is even harder is having no idea how your baby is going to sleep on any particular night. Going out further than ten minutes from home with a baby is hard. Having no idea when and why the baby is going to meltdown or for how long is even harder. Sure you can plan by bringing out toys, nappies, wipes, working around naps, etc but almost every moment of the day feels out of control. Control freaks are not comfortable with winging it. Even if they tell themselves they will be.

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The second thing I didn’t understand until I actually had a baby was exactly how much I was going to love the baby. I want to be an amazing mum because I want the best for him. Being exhausted, impatient and vacant from sheer lack of energy makes me feel like he is not getting the best of me and that absolutely kills me. Although I miss having time to myself, sleeping for more than 2 hours in one go and shaving my legs, what I find the most challenging is the idea that there is more that I could be doing. I want the house to be clean because he shouldn’t grow up in a mess. I want to always be calm and collected because he shouldn’t feel like his mother is impatient with him for just being a baby. I want to be rolling on the floor playing with him at 6am not lying on the sofa crying while he watches Hey Dugee so he can be constantly learning and developing.

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This last week has brought the perfect storm of the ongoing 4/5 month sleep regression and a horrible cold that Little O and I now both have. (Pretty much inevitable when your constant companion delights in putting his hand in his mouth and then yours). There was a night he woke up thirteen times. There was more than one night where he was up for two hours in the middle of the night. There was a night where he refused to eat and screamed himself to sleep, followed by twice projectile vomiting all over us. During the day the fact that Little O obviously feels awful, based on how awful I feel, means that he has whined every hour that he is conscious and wanted me to stand rocking him for all of those hours. I have never felt so ill-equipped and inadequate in my life.

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As much as mums of older children keep telling me everyone feels like this, I feel like I should be able to cope, that I should and can do better and that I am failing hopelessly. With just over two weeks to go before Little O is 6 months old, I am very likely to meet my original goal of us all being alive but it just doesn’t feel good enough anymore. I hope one day with hindsight I will be able to look back at this time and realise I was enough and I was doing my best and even maybe that I am a good (or at least a good enough) mum but right now it’s going to continue to be a challenge.

10 Comments

  1. One thing I was told that helped me is this: if you are worrying about whether you are doing it right while trying to always do better, that means you are doing it right. (ie. it’s the clueless mums that don’t know the difference and aren’t always trying to do better that are messing it up)

    Hang in there, Mum, you got this.

    1. I suppose in my head I feel like I am doing the absolute bear minimum but I suppose there must be people doing less and not caring at all. It’s such a strange job being a mum because you have no idea really if what you did worked until much later and even if you are totally engaged in doing the best possible job your child could still turn out to be a complete rotter.

  2. My step-daughter has said much the same things for the last two years, including as recently as the middle of November. We spent Saturday at her son’s second birthday party, and as I watched him cope with all the new toys, a house full of people, and some other toddlers he had never met, I realised that it all works out in the end.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I guess the only way to get there is through the storm. I am feeling a lot better this week as the germs are on their way out and we’ve had better sleep. The relentlessness can be crushing at times though.

  3. MIB

    Abbie, you are doing fine. I know I’m not a parent myself but I do have a nephew who will be 14 next year. I can still recall being around him as a baby and the first couple of years are where you worry and fret about him and yourself the most. Teething, illnesses, sleepless nights, bumps and bangs from learning to walk, they are all trails to overcome and I’ve no doubt both you and Little O will do so with flying colours.

    The photos show Little O is a happy and healthy baby and the fact you are so concerned means you care, so from where I’m sitting you have are in control but don’t be afraid to ask for some help from Mr. O or whoever as Mum needs some TLC too! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I think the first year is such rapid change it’s hard to keep pace and we don’t have that “village” environment we used to in earlier generations. Mr O has been working a lot but I’m very fortunate that Mrs O Senior has been happy to come around on a few mornings so I can take a long bath and even just sit down for a while. It does make a huge difference.

  4. You are fine, Abbi. I remember my own and now my daughter has my grand and she’s fretful and wants to be perfect, too. What you need is another baby! It’s amazing how much the second one is easier, you are relaxed, the “winging it” is good, the first kid has a playmate–sounds impossible to consider doubling your anxieties/responsibilities, with more than one, doesn’t it? Also, it sucks that they can’t communicate other than screaming at you. Milly, my grand, was always sick in the nose and ears for the first two years and it drove me nuts that we couldn’t help her be less fussy. Now she is almost 4 and tells us how she feels; it’s a great relief. What I mean to say is, you will never solve the mystery sometimes, why they act the way they do, why the fuss, why so irritable, they just roll into the next phase. Hang in there and take the pressure off yourself. You are wonderful.

    1. I do often think “just tell me what you need!” Because I’d do whatever it was. I’m very undecided on a second baby largely because I’m likely to be unwell again in pregnancy and because of my age… and finances. I do think I’d probably be more relaxed. I already look at the newborn period and laugh at some things I was worried about. I guess time will tell. Mr O and I said we’d bring it up as a discussion topic when he’s 1.

  5. Debbie

    I could have written this myself! We are at exactly the same stage as you and dealing with all the same battles. All my mum friends tell me it does get better and I’m sure in a couple of years we will be giving other new mums exactly the same advice. As long as we are trying our hardest despite feeling like the walking dead, I think we’re doing just fine.
    Hang in there, we will sleep again one day!

    1. Thanks Debbie! I’m already feeling so much better this week as the sleep regression seems to have finally broken and we’re getting longer stretches of sleep. Plus the cold is almost gone so we’re both much less grumpy. It’s such a rollercoaster! Nice to know I’m not alone though. We’ll get there one way or another!

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