One of the inevitable truths of babies is that they rarely do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it. Take napping, for example. Last week I could really have done with my baby girl taking regular, predictable naps in her cot. But, like all good babies, she refused to comply with convenience and ended up spending a week of only napping on me, on the sofa. And here we come to the post-newborn phase of babydom. Or, as I like to call it, the “I Have So Much To Do and No Longer Have The Excuse of a Newborn Baby” phase.
You see, when your baby is a newborn, no one expects much of you. It’s taken as a given that you will live in the same pair of pyjamas for two weeks’ straight, eating only food that can be shovelled into your tired, ravenous mouth with one hand. Achieve anything beyond getting out of bed and you can pretty much call your day a success.
But slowly, silently, the newborn days ebb away, along with your excuse for sloth-like behaviour. People no longer tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. It’s no longer acceptable to live in a house that resembles a crime scene. Somewhere around the 3 month mark, you’re expected to have got to grips with this whole baby thing and start rejoining normal society and all that goes with it.
Recently, I’ve been mourning the newborn stage. I miss wearing pyjamas all day, not having to respond to emails and having a To Do list that consists of “eat toast”. With a baby that is very nearly five months old I know I’m practically a baby veteran compared to all the current newborn mums out there. My baby no longer needs to be weighed every few days, she can almost sit up on her own, she can roll both ways and is hurtling towards the weaning stage. But I don’t feel like I’m developing at her pace, mum-wise.
At this point, lots of my mum friends are starting to talk about “getting back into shape”. They’re signing up to exercise classes, going back for the odd day at work, even enjoying the occasional evening out with their other half. Their babies are sleeping reliably at night and they are emerging radiant, like butterflies, from the hazy blur of newborn baby life.
And then there’s me.
My baby appeared to miss the sleep memo. Rather than getting better at sleeping, if anything, she’s getting worse. Although to say she is suddenly waking me multiple times every night would imply that she slept through for long chunks before, which she never did.
Because I’m self-employed I have been doing the odd feature here and there for the past couple of months. So I’m trying to juggle working from home with a baby who doesn’t sleep, unless on me, and being mum to a four year old. I’m tired. Very, very tired.
But I also feel like a bit of a failure. I have this constant nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten something, as my soupy sleep-deprived brain tries to keep up with the ever-updating To Do list. I find myself typing emails while breastfeeding, doing mental checklists of chores on the school run and being torn between moments of intense love and intense frustration as I sit under a napping baby and survey the piles of washing and work that taunt me from the corner of the room.
I was trying to describe the feeling to my husband the other day and likened it to being made to run a race where, for every ten strides forward you have to take two back. “Why can’t you just put her in the sling and crack on?” he said. And of course, on days when she won’t settle in her cot, I do put her in the sling. But then it’s like trying to get the washing done, or unstack the dishwasher, or sit typing, while pregnant with a five month old baby. You try lugging around over a stone of baby while getting stuff done, and then tell me it’s “simple, no problem” afterwards. It’s not.
And then I feel the inevitable mother guilt, because experience and the benefit of hindsight tells me I need to enjoy these days rather than waste them feeling frustrated. Soon she’ll be eighteen and she won’t want to know me, blah blah blah. Of course that’s all true, and I am trying my very best to remain relaxed about not being super woman, going to bed with jobs only half done every day. But, for a perfectionist who likes to be on top of things, this is HARD.
Ultimately though, I guess I have two options: give in to babydom when I need to and ignore the pile of stuff to do, or wind myself up with lists and lists of lists.
Or there’s always a third: get a nanny.
Obviously I’m only kidding! Kind of…