I was thinking about writing this piece around 3am this morning when I couldn’t get back to sleep again. Thinking about how April 1st last year, how it was (and will always be), my little brother’s birthday, but last year it was always Luna’s due date. She didn’t actually make an appearance for another 8 days, but during this week I shall be reflecting on the past year a lot, thinking about what changed, what didn’t and what I learnt through becoming a mother and living through the first insane, intense and overwhelming year. So what did I learn?
· That my body can survive on little to no sleep for a VERY LONG TIME. Let’s be truthful about it. I haven’t really slept for a year. Luna has never, ever slept through the night (even when you use the true meaning of sleeping through the night which actually means 6 hours straight). And while not completely typical she is definitely is not alone. Some kids’ sleep is affected more than others by a multitude of things (growth spurts, teething etc), and no amount of sleep training or trying to fill them up more at night or trying to replace the boob with water is ever going to change this. Sleep training is not for us, I refuse to leave Luna to cry, because she won’t put herself to sleep, she will just cry until she vomits. Not that it had ever been an option anyway. We just figured out a way to make it work for all of us, and my body functions fine on an interrupted sleep. And I’m not one to complain either, she is growing well and thriving, so we must be doing something right!
· I never imagined the depths of love that open up the moment you hear your child’s first cry. The amount of time I have spent just staring at Luna in amazement at the fact that Cesar and I created this beautiful little being! The times I have not been able to go to sleep because I’m content listening to the sound of her breathing right next to me, ready to anticipate when she will wake up next to make sure that she doesn’t cry. Watching her go from rolling over to crawling to standing up to practically walking. That first time that she looked at me and said “MAMA!” and wanting to tell everyone in the world how it made me cry and laugh at the same time. And there is so much more to come!!!
· That sometimes you will get thrown a curveball that you never saw coming, and that it will hit you right in the face, but with that you keep on moving, keep going forward and continue to fight the fight. I would never, ever want anyone to have to go through finding out your child has a congenital birth issue, in Luna’s case her heart, but it is really difficult to understand if you haven’t been through something similar yourself. It’s like you have a ticking time bomb continuously going on in the back of your mind. You check your child’s breathing rhythm more often, her skin colour, her temperature. When she stops gaining weight but is eating every couple of hours you start worrying if it is her heart. Will she need her operation earlier? How are we going to keep her still during the next echocardiogram? Why is she not sleeping properly anymore? You don’t make a big deal out of it because your child is going to live life like any other child, but it’s always there in your thoughts.
· That you don’t need to listen or follow everyone’s advice, especially when you didn’t ask for it in the first place. We have instincts for a reason and they should be followed in my opinion. You know your child better than anyone else, so you should know what is best for him or her! If I had listened to one OB that I saw before choosing another back in January I would have had to stop breastfeeding under the sole reason that I was pregnant again and you can’t breastfeed while pregnant. Well I knew that was absolute BS and now have a doctor who totally supports the fact that I will not be weaning my daughter when it poses absolutely no risk to my pregnant self or baby. I’m also a big proponent of following what YOU feel is best. If my child is crying I tend to her needs, even if it means she just wants to cuddle and nurse all day; but at the same time I let her figure things out by herself too. Sometimes they fall, but it is all part of learning, you just try to make sure that any fall isn’t going to be too bad. Sometimes they pick up dirt from the ground and put it in their mouths, so you just try and make sure that you vacuum once a day. Germs aren’t all bad, we need them to build up a strong immune system. And you know what? Your house is not going to be clean and tidy every day anymore, and you learn to be OK with that. Somewhat anyway!
· That it is OK to want or need a break now and again. This is one of my main issues in all parts of my life: I refuse to acknowledge that I sometimes need a break from things, until I get so overwhelmed I don’t know what to do with myself. And being the mother of a high needs infant really teaches you that it’s OK to need a moment alone here and there, a moment to write, to read, to shower alone without a little monkey standing at the end of the tub babbling to you. It’s actually pretty necessary sometimes! When we decided I wouldn’t go back to work full-time, but that I would stay at home and freelance I knew that I would most likely need a break here and there, but I didn’t realize how necessary it would be until Luna was about 3 months old. Even just a 10 minute walk does the trick. It’s important to remember that you are still you, and you need to look after you, mainly because if you look after you, you are also looking after those you love.
· And then, the main thing is that I never knew such happiness could really exist. I learnt that even with the sleep deprivation, the moments of sheer panic, the tough moments and the moments of real joy, that life before being a mother was wonderful, but nowhere near as wonderful as it is now. To have found that great balance which comes with being with someone who you not only love but who is also the perfect partner and companion for you, and then both of you bringing a child into this world to love and nurture is something so special. And we love it so much that we are crazy enough to do it again!