May 28th 2020: Learning To Stop

May 28th 2020: Learning To Stop

Dear Edith,

You’re six weeks old! Yesterday we had a big milestone: you and I went somewhere on our own. Granted it was the hospital for a hip screening ultrasound, because being ten days overdue put you into into a higher risk category, but even so.

I was pretty nervous about it because I had visions of you needing your nappy changed or a bottle and having to try and juggle a screaming, uncomfortable baby in a public place completely by myself, but you behaved impeccably, your hips are fine and we all left happy.

(Incidentally, the Dreaded Dirty Nappy occurred and was dealt with in the car park of Asda on the way. Stripping and changing a baby in the back seat of a Honda Civic for the first time was another surprise milestone.)

It wasn’t a hugely enjoyable experience for either of us.

I knew in some part of my brain that babies grew and changed quickly, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how different you’d be every single day. You sleep a bit longer at night. You make a slightly different noise when you’re lying on the changing mat kicking your legs. There’s a little less of your fluffy baby hair.

We’re getting into a rhythm. You don’t sleep particularly heavily during the day, so from the time I get up until the late evening it’s a blur of bottles, nappies and walking around the room singing whatever comes into my head. In between those there’s laundry to do, bottles to wash, things to tidy that I’ve thrown down in a hurry because you need changed or fed or another round of Row Row Row Your Boat.

I’ve really surprised myself with how much I enjoy it. I’ll be filling the kettle to make you a bottle and I’ll suddenly think wow, this is great.

Around 10pm you fall asleep and I can gingerly put you into the pram, where you stay for a good two or three hours until you wake up hungry. And, as much as I enjoy being a mum, I really, really enjoy those two or three hours too, because I can just sit. I write these letters. I turn the Playstation on and zone out. I read, I scroll through social media. Sometimes I don’t do anything at all.

The days are everyone else’s – yours because you need me, your dad’s because he works here at the moment and needs to be able to do it in (relative) peace, other people because I feel like I need the housework to be done in case people think we’re lazy or a bunch of slobs. But the nights are mine, and I relish them.

For that past couple of nights, though, I’ve been tired. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve hit a point where I can’t be replenished after a full day with three hours of video games. I sat on the sofa tonight after you’d eventually dropped off and thought about tomorrow and my entire body completely rejected the idea of getting up in a few hours and starting again.

I’ll feel better once I’ve had a sleep, but right now I am fatigued and tomorrow seems like an impossibly large mountain to scale.

We took you for a walk today. It was a hot, cloudless day and you slept from the moment the fresh air hit you. When we got back, I wheeled the pram into Granny’s back garden and parked it on the patio, expecting you to wake up and start squirming as soon as I stopped. But you didn’t. In fact you didn’t even twitch.

Delighted, I considered the possibilities. If all it took for you to settle was to be outside, if you slept in your pram in our front garden, I could weed! I could paint the fence! All those things I thought I’d do at some point whenever I looked out of the front window, perhaps they’d finally get done.

I mentioned this to Granny, and she said “you don’t always have to be doing something” and as stupid as it sounds, it was a revelation.

I realised that every time you’re peaceful, whether it’s in the Mamaroo or sitting with Dad for a moment, I’m looking for something to fix, as if you’re a little tornado ripping through the house rather than an infant. It’s like I’ve geared myself up for how much work babies are so whenever I’m NOT busy it feels wrong. I feel lazy.

I think what I keep forgetting is that even if I’m not constantly moving, having a baby IS hard work. I’m not even talking about physical effort – you pour everything you have mentally and emotionally into every waking moment. You’re awake quite a bit so there’s a lot of singing and bouncing you on my knee and reading the Gruffalo while you wriggle about like a fish and desperately trying to think of things to amuse you. By the end of the day I’m pretty sure when I try to talk a Windows shutdown noise from the 90s comes out of my mouth instead.

Currently there’s cat hair on the side tables, I haven’t used the hoover for at least a week and I don’t even know what’s at the bottom of the pile of stuff on the dining table, but maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s OK to sit and read a couple of chapters of a book or play a game on my phone for a little while. Maybe I should finish that cup of coffee that sits permanently cooling on the table.

Maybe I work give myself credit for, and it’s OK to slow down.

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