In my experience when it comes to parenting the answer to this is almost always yes. In the 10 and a half weeks since Arthur was born I’ve learned a lot very quickly, but the biggest thing I’ve learned wasn’t about Arthur at all; it was about myself.
We’re led to believe that when we have a baby it’s all lovely and perfect. Maybe for some families it is, but for me it wasn’t that instant. Those first few days you’re so exhausted and hormonal that its all a bit of a blur really, and then you just go on a never ending roller coaster of emotions that challenge you in ways you never even knew possible. It’s only now, that I feel like we’re understanding each other. Now it’s starting to get a bit easier.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat crying and wondering if what I was feeling was normal. Is it normal to not like your baby very much some days? Is it normal to seriously contemplate leaving and never coming back? Is it normal to be so sick of being vomited on that you just want to scream? Is it normal to be so tired that you can’t think straight? Is it normal to 100% believe that you’re a terrible mother?
In my case the answer to all of these questions was a resounding yes! Thankfully, I have some mum friends who verified that yes, that’s all normal, and yes they’ve felt the same thing (and that list isn’t exhaustive by any stretch by the way) and you know what? That made me feel better. Sleep deprivation is no joke and really can make you feel like you’re losing the plot. Couple that lack of sleep with a constantly screaming/puking/feeding baby and it’s little wonder you feel frazzled.
I’m extremely lucky to have a very supportive fiancé and family and that has been a huge help, but it doesn’t stop you being hard on yourself or beating yourself up.
The biggest thing I’ve learned so far in this motherhood lark is that it’s really bloody hard. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? You go in to it knowing it’s going to be hard, and yet somehow it still doesn’t prepare you. I think because “hard” is an abstract concept. Motherhood is 100% harder than you think it will be. It’s still totally worth it, but when it’s so much harder than you expected you do then find yourself thinking it must be you. You must be a crap mother, you must not be able to cope with the sleep deprivation. Let me tell you something; all of us feel the exact same way.
There’s also a lot of pressure on mothers. Pressure to lose the baby weight, pressure to breastfeed, pressure to have a clean home and look nice all the time. Those pressures don’t necessarily come from outside sources though. Nobody puts more pressure on me to lose weight or keep a clean home than myself. People kindly say “go easy on yourself, you’ve JUST had a baby” and although that’s true, I do not like being this big and no amount of kind words from supportive friends and family will change that. Equally I don’t like having a messy home, so whether you as a visitor to my home expect it to be messy or not, I want it to be clean and tidy.
The breastfeeding issue though I do feel comes from other people. I’m still breastfeeding Arthur, and it’s really hard. I can’t say I especially enjoy it, I do it because I think it’s what’s best for him; something that’s reinforced by every person who tells me how great it is that I’m breastfeeding. But when the sleep deprivation peaked at about 9 weeks during another growth spurt, and I started to come down with the lurgy a few days later I was all set to give up. I cried A LOT. Paul was, and always is, loving and supportive of whatever I decided but I felt torn that if I quit breastfeeding then I was a bad mother, and if I continued breastfeeding I’d be a bad mother because I was so frazzled and ratty. What nobody tells you about breastfed babies is that they don’t sleep through the night like formula fed babies do, and at 9 weeks Arthur was still waking every 2 hours or so for feeds. It was killing me. Eventually by 10 weeks we decided we had to try something different, so we started giving Arthur one bottle of formula at night. The 1am feed that Paul’s always done with expressed milk has now become a formula feed…the result is that Arthur now wakes every 4 hours for feeds. I feel like a new woman, and Arthur is still predominantly breastfed and still a happy little dude. I am however, terrified to admit this to my health visitor. Why? Because breastfeeding is pushed on pregnant women so much and the health visitor always tells me how great it is that I’m breastfeeding, and how well Arthur is coming along.
At the end of the day though, a happy mother makes for a happy baby and this mother is so much happier with a little more sleep!
So the thing I’ve learned is that I’m not a bad mother, I’m just human. It is sometimes really hard, it’s sometimes frustrating, but it’s also worth it all when you see your little one giggling and smiling back at you.