October 10th 2020: Look What You Can Do!

October 10th 2020: Look What You Can Do!

Dear Edith,

We’ve hit two major milestones in the past week. First of all, you can sit! Mostly unaided!

It struck me as we got towards your six month birthday that I had no idea how you can tell if babies can sit up unaided. It’s not like you were going to go from lying on your back to upright and balancing. One of my friends suggested putting you on the sofa (it’s soft all round and there’s support at your back), so we did and you basically managed it right from the off.

Okay, so it’s a bit hit and miss. I think your balance is the issue more than strength because you can sit on my knee for ages quite happily, but if I let you sit on the couch without propping you up at the back you tend to topple sideways or forwards after a minute or two. It’s a start though, and since you’ve always been happier when you can look around and see what’s going on being able to sit up and play instead of lying down will hopefully make you much more content.

As you’re nearly six months old, we also took our first tentative steps into weaning.

We started with some incredibly runny baby rice and baby porridge (they’re basically just powders you thicken to whatever consistency you like) to make sure you’d lost your tongue thrust reflex.

We looked for other things we could give you. In the absence of a blender, we were limited to things that were either soft to begin with or that we could reasonably mash with a fork. Weetabix (goes like mush when you add milk), banana (attacked with a fork until it was a vaguely lumpy kind of paste) and steamed carrots (which you mostly licked).

Tonight you had an Ella’s Kitchen Lentil and Vegetable pouch – with cumin, which is maybe a brave choice, but it went down with a few interesting facial expressions – and a tomato and basil Melty Stick. Dad’s trousers got quite a lot of sticky hands all over them, but he doesn’t mind.

You’ve yet to refuse something, so that’s a positive sign. Hopefully you’ll end up a lover of most things like me and I’ll have someone to go to restaurants with. Dad is so picky!

I can’t wait to see what you do next. You’re turning into a little person with a personality (and a temper) rather than just a baby. It’s terrifying and brilliant. I hope I’m doing you justice as a mum.

October 2nd 2020: Road Trip!

October 2nd 2020: Road Trip!

Dear Edith,

We just got back from your first ever holiday! Off we went to Derby to stay with your great-nana and great-grandad for a few days. A bit of a nerve-wracking prospect given a) the current climate and b) the fact that it’s nearly five hours away in the car, and that’s without stopping. We’ve never been in the car with you for that long.

You didn’t like it much. I had to sit in the car with you on the way back.

You had a great time on holiday – Granny Leigh and Grandad bought you a Jumparoo, and you LOVE it. You’re getting fed up of lying down because you can’t see what’s going on, so the moment you found out you were upright AND you could hop about you were grinning and shouting HEEEE.

You weren’t daft on the travel cot, which is weird because you’ve slept in it at Granny’s house before. At one point you were sleeping on Dad’s side of the bed while he was lying horizontally across the bottom of the bed. We tried putting blankets under a tablecloth to make it comfier, leaving a light on, white noise…I still don’t think you slept more than two hours at once on any of the nights.

You probably know you’re named after your great-great-nana, Edith May. (We didn’t know her middle name was May until she told us. Your middle name comes from your great-granny, and it was a brilliant coincidence when we found out.)

It was her 100th birthday this month, and there was a party. We love a party.

It was a chance for us to show you off to the family you hadn’t met. We were originally planning a visit in July while we were in England anyway for a Magic: the Gathering event, but obviously because of the pandemic that was called off. I’m glad we got a chance to visit while you were still tiny.

You behaved impeccably, even though the room was warm and busy and overwhelming. You sat on everyone’s knee and smiled, and ripped up the tablecloth after a bit of encouragement from great-uncle Nigel.

The highlight, though, was seeing you sitting on your great-great-nana’s knee. As the Derby Telegraph said, four generations and 100 years between you, but you’re united by a name. And having seen her doing the cancan in the hallway on the way to her birthday party, I can’t imagine a better person for you to take after.

The weekend proved one thing as well: you are loved, universally, by everyone that meets you.

It was my birthday last week as well. I spent my 28th last year in the throes of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and my 29th with PND and the anxiety of COVID-19 case numbers rising again in Scotland. I don’t think anyone envisaged spending their birthday like this last year, but at least we can still see family, we can

I feel that another lockdown is looming. There are already some new restrictions in place: hospitality venues must close at 10pm, people aren’t allowed to meet in houses any more. Schools all over the place are reporting cases and closing and sending whole year groups home to self-isolate.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay positive. Not knowing when we’re going to come out of this is the most difficult bit. I can’t look forward to Christmas, your first birthday, any other milestones because I don’t know if we’re going to be able to celebrate them with our family or what the state of the world is going to be.

I’m glad that we’ve made friends and there are Facebook and WhatsApp groups this time. It makes the thought of another lockdown feel a bit less lonely.

18th September 2020: The Black Dog

18th September 2020: The Black Dog

Dear Edith,

It’s been a while since I’ve written something. I wanted to write regularly and document every tiny moment of your early life, every little adventure we went on so you could look back and have a little storybook of your first few months.

Unfortunately, the black dog has reared its head.

If I could spare you one thing as you get older, it’s this. I’ve struggled with my mental health before but usually I can stave it off by identifying it and recognising that how I feel isn’t real. This time it seems harder. The pandemic is raging on, and Scotland has just introduced some new restrictions that say you can’t meet more than six people from two households. I can still see your Granny and Granda, but the little group of mums and babies that met twice a week is a no-go. It was my anchor, the one moment of normality that made me forget that absolutely nothing is normal.

It’s hard. I’m struggling. I’m trying to motivate myself, but it’s difficult when every day there’s signs that the virus is creeping back again. The schools and nurseries have reopened and every day it seems like there’s a different primary school or nursery that’s had to close to kids because they’ve had an outbreak.

I’m sorry there’s such a gap in your story. There’s so much I could have written about. The way you’ve discovered your tongue and you used it to make a whole load of new noises. The way you’ve discovered how to alter the pitch of your voice so you can make increasingly high-pitched sounds. The way you can nearly roll over, if you could only figure out what to do with the arm that gets in your way. Your new game is shouting “ah!” and looking absolutely thrilled when I do it back. You had your first tummy bug – not serious, fortunately, but it did lead to me having to wipe sick my jeans with a soapy cloth in the toilets of a service station in Lancaster. I optimistically booked a spot at Santa’s Grotto in December, because I was devastated that, on top of everything else we’ve missed out on, I might not get to take you to see Santa for your first Christmas.

We’ll get through this, because we have to. I’m grateful for WhatsApp groups and social media for helping us maintain connections – it’s the only thing that’s stopping me from having a complete breakdown as the prospect of another lockdown starts to become a real possibility.

And we have you. You make everything better.

5th August 2020: The Future

5th August 2020: The Future

Dear Edith,

Nearly sixteen weeks old! The health visitor came round and measured you – you now weigh 14lbs 3oz and you’re pretty much bang on in terms of your growth and development. Last week you started giggling, although you’ve only done it a couple of times and we have to work really hard to get you to do it.

Dad’s currently tickling you on the changing mat, and you’re chortling away to him.

You’re also really into his crisp packets.

We also started thinking about the future a little this week. There hasn’t been a huge amount of time to think about it – we live hour to hour at the moment, trying to work out what you need at any given time. It’s usually either “food” or “sleep”, which makes the guessing game much easier.

I have a rough timescale for when I’d like to move out of our little terrace house, which I’m starting to think might be cursed, given that every time we fix something a completely new thing breaks. Dad managed to snap the bedroom door handle the other day and we had to sellotape it back on until we can get a new one.

Anyway, in the next couple of years we’re going to be moving to the next town over, where I grew up and where your Granny and Granda still live. It’s quiet and full of playparks and big green spaces and right next to the sea. It’s also where I went to primary school, and while my high school experiences weren’t fantastic, I really enjoyed primary school. I’d like you to go to the same one.

This was my fifth birthday, so it must have been just after I started school.

Your Dad works in the town, but he hasn’t seen much of it outside of the office and Granny and Granda’s house, so we went for a walk recently to pick out some streets we’d ideally like to move to. We stumbled upon the (open) gate to the school playground. It’s the summer holidays and aside from a couple of boys kicking a football around on the playing field there was nobody there, and being intensely nosy we went in for a look around.

It’s similar enough to when I was there to be slightly surreal, but different enough that it’s like an entirely different place. I can point out the gym hall and the headteacher’s office and the door I walked out of on my last day while the teachers played our Class Song.

(Can’t Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers)

I’m looking forward to watching you grow up. It’s strange to imagine, as you’re strapped to my chest in the baby carrier, that one day you’ll be a five year old lining up outside a classroom and pulling homework out of a schoolbag. I wonder what you’ll like to do, what your friends will be like, whether you’ll want to run around outside or if you’ll want to stay indoors, making up stories.

Usually these would be the only questions, but the future is uncertain. It’s been months since COVID-19 first made an appearance and there’s no vaccine, no cure, no sign of anything that will snap everything back to how it was. I don’t even know if that’s possible any more.

People have been saying that we’ll be living with this virus for years. I hope, for your sake, that something miraculous happens in the world of science (which is a little bit of an oxymoron) and we get past it.

Your childhood will be different from mine in a lot of ways. You’re born into an age of technology that was still in its infancy when I was younger, and you’ll almost certainly look back on my schooling like it’s “the olden days”. I think that, as much as the outside of the school looks familiar to me, the lessons and teaching methods and general community will be completely unrecognisable compared to how life and school were when I was younger.

It’ll all be normal for you, the same way mine was for me. But god, I hope every single day that the fear of the virus isn’t normal as well.

30th July 2020: Hello Armstrongs!

30th July 2020: Hello Armstrongs!

Dear Edith,

Happy (belated) three month birthday!

We’ve been busy for the past few days, hence my disorganisation. The lifting of some of the strictest lockdown restrictions means that people can visit us in the house, which means we can finally start introducing you to some more of our family.

First your grandad came up from Plymouth, and we went back to the village where we’d hung out with some new mum pals the previous week for a walk and some coffee. I’m still a little bit anxious about taking you out places because we’ve done it so infrequently. What do I do if you scream uncontrollably and I can’t get you to stop? What if you do an enormous poo in the middle of the street?

Fortunately by now we’ve worked out that you only really cry when you’re hungry or tired, both of which are easily remedied. You decided to wait until we were at the furthest away point from the cafe before you decided you wanted a bottle, so we had to trot back through the village (with Dad carrying you part of the way) so we could feed you.

We did not, however, feed you this scone.

Then your Great-Nanna and Great-Grandad drove up from Derby in their motorhome for two weeks! They had originally planned to come almost immediately after you were born, but lockdown scuppered that plan, so they’d been waiting for the campsites in Scotland to open so they could come and visit in their motorhome. We managed to get four generations in a photo on the first day – in the car park of the caravan site, because we weren’t allowed to go in.

We had some days in the house with lots of cuddles and some days out. We had fish and chips at the beach (and discovered that you don’t like taking a bottle if it’s windy, after a hasty trip to the back of the car) and our first trip to a high street since before lockdown started. We were hoping to take you for yout first trip to our local game store, but we misjudged the day and it was closed. Next time! Magic: the Gathering is a huge part of our lives – it’s how your Dad and I met – and we can’t wait to introduce you to it as you get older.

Going into a shopping centre for the first time since the pandemic hit was pretty anxiety-inducing, but we sat and had a coffee and it was so emotional to have a little bit of normality in the midst of the pandemic and new baby turmoil that I’m actually quite emotional looking back on it. I hope it’s something we’re able to do again.

We’ve been waiting a long time to introduce you to the rest of your family, and I know they’ve been waiting a long time to meet you. One of the saddest bits about the pandemic and the lockdown was that it robbed everyone of the chance to see you for the first time as a newborn, instead of various angles of your head through a video call.

More than anything I hope that, whatever happens, we’re starting to claw back some of whatever counts for normal now. I want your family to see you grow up.

I don’t want you to only know the people who love you through a Facetime screen.

15th July 2020: The Loneliness and the Scream

15th July 2020: The Loneliness and the Scream

Dear Edith,

Last week we achieved something that under normal circumstances would have happened weeks ago: our first trip out.

Okay, so technically we’ve been out to get your jags, and we went to the hospital to get your hip scan done when you were only a few weeks old. We’ve been to Granny’s house and for a walk round the park, but this was the first time we’d gone out somewhere for more than an hour.

More importantly, it was the first time I’d taken you anywhere on my own.

A classic Armstrong family outing memento.

We went to a little village not far away to meet up with some other mums. I’d knew one of them a little from WhatsApp, but for all intents and purposes I was heading out to see people I’d never met or really spoken to before.

It was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve done since I had you.

No matter what anyone – including your dad – thinks, I am not an extrovert. I’m really good at talking to people I don’t know at Magic: the Gathering events, but I usually find myself in a group with people I do know well when that’s happening, and it’s much easier to talk to new people when you have some friends to bounce off. I am not at all good at meeting people for the first time when I’m on my own.

Going out and meeting new people would have stressed me out on its own. Taking a little baby out on my own for the first time on top of that had me a nervous wreck.

As usual when I get freaked out about something, it was completely fine. You were absolutely perfect. You had a wee bit of a cry when we were sitting on the grass, but I expected that – you’ve never been a baby who sits and looks around, you need to be entertained in some way. You fell asleep looking out of the pram when we walked to the coffee shop, which was a little hole in the wall because of COVID-19.

It was needed. Not so much by you, because you’re still too little to understand, but by me.

One of our earliest (solo) adventures.

I have two lockdown modes. I either blitz through tons of stuff in a day until I’m knackered, and the sense of achievement fuels me and I don’t stop and think about what’s going on in the world and what’s going to happen in the future and I go to bed full of positivity and accomplishment.

If you’re unsettled or I’m tired and we achieve absolutely nothing other than getting through the day, that’s when the dread kicks in. It’s not so bad now that you’re a little bigger and you can interact with us a bit (we can make you smile now! It’s so much fun) but it’s really, really monotonous having a baby in lockdown. The other day I was getting ready for bed after an Off Day and suddenly time just gaped out in front of me. I don’t know how long it’s going to be before things get even close to being back to normal. I don’t even know what “normal” is going to look like.

I can see why baby groups are a thing. I love you more than I ever thought I could possibly love another human being, but lockdown has reduced our life to a carousel of making bottles and changing nappies and rotating you between my knee and the Mamaroo chair and the play-gym on the floor to keep you entertained. When I do get out of the house now it’s mostly to Granny and Granda’s, and we start again – just in slightly different surroundings.

There have been times when I’ve been so exhausted by human interaction that I’ve cried at the end of the day, but I didn’t realise until now that not having any was just as bad. Talking to other mums made me feel human again, and for the first time I felt like I could breathe again. The other day we had a spontaneous visit from some friends and we all sat in the garden and drank coffee and I was a brand-new human being at the end of it.

Whatever comes next, I’m glad that opportunities to connect and reconnect are starting to come up. For you they’ll be photos to show you when you’re older, or faint memories, but they’re the flicker of hope that’s keeping me going when everything is too heavy.

Dear other mums in this situation,

Solidarity. I know that having a baby completely throws every single aspect of your life off-kilter and the pandemic and lockdown has removed everything that was designed to keep us anchored. It’s been the most emotionally turbulent few weeks I’ve ever had, because having a baby is so great but I’m also grieving the things I would have been doing under normal circumstances. It’s really hard for, as a chronic introvert, to express exactly why I have such a strong desire to meet and talk to other mums. Even if it’s not to discuss baby stuff.

I know reasonably that I was in no fit state to take Edith to baby sensory or baby massage or any other groups like that in the first few weeks. I had a traumatic birth and an emergency section and the recovery from that took up what little energy I wasn’t pouring into keeping a tiny human alive. Even so, the grief for the experiences I haven’t had with my first born is stronger than I thought it would be.

In conclusion: I see you. I know we’ve been robbed of experiences and introductions and being able to see our family with our newborns. I know the sadness of being handed a list of baby groups and resources at arm’s length when you haven’t seen past the front window for weeks. I know that it’s a loneliness that isn’t even remotely comparable to anything that’s come before it.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t know what things are going to look like when we reach it, but it’s there. Hang on, mama.

11th July 2020: Cry Baby Cry

11th July 2020: Cry Baby Cry

Dear Edith,

Overall, you’re a very laid-back and happy baby. I joked before you were born that I’d had such an awful pregnancy I wanted a chilled out baby to compensate, and I really couldn’t have been more lucky. You only cry when you’re hungry, up until a couple of nights ago you slept from 10pm until 7 or 8 in the morning, and you never stop smiling.

On Wednesday we took you to get your 12 week vaccinations. Last time I was prepared for days of awfulness, for fever and crying and general malaise. I was armed with infant Calpol and a stiff upper lip.

I needn’t have worried. After the initial screaming fit when you were injected, we dosed you with Calpol every four hours and you were completely fine. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Filled with confidence, I breezed into the twelve week vaccinations to discover that you were getting a pneumococcal one this time, not meningococcal. Apparently it’s only the latter that causes fevers and general unwellness. “Magic,” said I, holding on to your chunky little thigh as you screamed the place down. When we got home I launched the Calpol back into the cupboard and we went about our business as usual.

I’m starting to think I might need it instead.

The past 48 hours have been so uncharacteristically unsettled I’m starting to wonder if the fae folk have swapped you. Your crying has gone from a slightly pissed-off sounding yell to a proper red-in-the-face scream that sounds increasingly hoarse and descends into choked sobbing. We’ve tried bottles, dummies, Calpol, putting you in clothes, putting you back into pyjamas, singing, praying to the Old Gods and assorted blankets. The only times you seem to stop howling are when you exhaust yourself and fall asleep, or when I hold you and pace around the living room over and over and over again, but I’m exhausted and I can’t do it forever.

You’ve gone from sleeping all night to waking up anywhere between one and three times, sometimes for a bottle and a nappy change but sometimes you just fall back asleep against my shoulder. A couple of times I’ve taken you into the bed and let you crash out on top of me, and while usually you do go to sleep like that it means I’ve got to watch you constantly.

I hate seeing you cry. I hate hearing you sound so distressed and not knowing exactly what’s bothering you. I hate that the moment I put you down to get a drink or have a rest you scream like I’ve abandoned you. I feel like a horrible mother. I worry that I’m doing you some psychological damage when I leave you bawling on your Dad’s knee while I put a washing on. Am I ridiculous? Probably, but lockdown is hard and exhaustion is getting to me.

You woke up from a nap this evening and greeted me with a big gummy smile that almost turned into a laugh, so I hope whatever’s ailing you is past. But I’ll keep the Calpol out, just in case.

July 5th 2020: Teg Reggib Reggib

July 5th 2020: Teg Reggib Reggib

Dear Edith,

Another milestone occasion! Lockdown restrictions changing means that we can see more people, and today you met your other Great Granny for the first time. Your Great Auntie Megan and Great Uncle Gavin brought you a play gym and a little bouncy chair, which is excellent as you really hate not being able to see what’s going on, but you aren’t quite at the stage of being able to sit up unaided. We have to gather all the cushions in the room and make you a throne.

(I do have photos of you having a cuddle with your Great Granny McIntyre, but I know she completely hates having her photo taken so I don’t think she’d thank me for posting them. Instead here’s one of you in the play gym. Honestly it looks so comfy I’m dying to have an adult-sized one for naps.)

I had another milestone realisation of sorts today. I’ve been going “ooooh you’re HUGE” when I pick you up for weeks, and people keep exclaiming how big you are when they see you, but you don’t really realise how big your baby’s getting when you’re around them all the time. It’s like the Roald Dahl story Esio Trot, where he swaps tortoises for incrementally bigger ones every day and the owner only realises when they’re too big to get into the little tortoise house. Suddenly I realise that you’re not the fragile, helpless newborn who slept and ate and screamed in the bath any more, and I don’t quite know how that happened.

It’s bittersweet. You’ll never be the sweet tiny baby that was dwarfed by the first-size babygros again, but you’re turning into a little person. You’ve got a cheekly smile and, it turns out, a spicy little temper when you’re hungry. You have a bedtime, a favourite song (the William Tell Overture) and the ability to take your dummy out by yourself.

(Although, I have noticed, not the ability to put it back in before you start yelling for someone else to do it.)

You’re becoming a little girl, and every day I can’t wait to find out more about you.

June 30th 2020: The Long Goodbye

June 30th 2020: The Long Goodbye

Dear Edith,

We looked forward to a lot of things before you were born . Everything’s exciting when you’re having a baby! Aside from actually meeting you though, I think what your dad and I were most excited about was introducing you to the rest of your family.

The pandemic essentially scuppered that. Some people have said that it’s a blessing in disguise in a way, because it’s given us the chance to get to know you and bond with you without feeling obliged to pass you round everyone we know for cuddles, but we’re very close to our family and you were so adored before you were even born that it was painful to watch you change and grow and know that you’d be weeks and months old before anyone else got to see you.

But there was one person I wanted you to meet, more than anyone else.

Your Great-Granny Paton is in a care home. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease years ago, and I knew when I found out I was pregnant that the time we had where she’d be able to appreciate who you were was very finite. I also knew that however much I thought we had, we probably had less.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. They call it “the long goodbye” because it takes people away painfully slowly, loosening their grasp on memory and reality until they don’t recognise anything – themselves, their relatives, their surroundings.

The last few months before she moved into the home were almost poetic in their irony – she would sit with me and watch TV when I was a baby in the early morning when I wouldn’t settle, and I would sit with her and watch TV in the evening as she asked after her mother (who died when I was little) and fretted about getting off home.

I don’t know where she thought “home” was. I’m not sure she did either.

Last week, as the lockdown restrictions start to lift bit by bit, we got to visit at a distance. Great-Granny sat in the conservatory and we sat outside and shouted through a sheet of perspex placed in the open doorway. I held you up at the window in your little dress and tights and we waved.

I don’t think she knows me any more. Her concept of who I was was already tenuous and she’d quite often say “hello” to me the same way she would to the home staff when I walked in until she saw me with your Granny and then it seemed to click. I knew when they announced they were locking down the home for the foreseeable future that not seeing her for weeks would likely sever the fraying threads that were holding onto the memories of me, and I was prepared.

Even if she doesn’t really get that you’re her great-granddaughter, you’re still a tiny little squishy baby. The staff print out photos of you and put them on the wall of her room, and she likes to see you when we video call. When you started grizzling because you wanted a bottle she offered to hold you while I was fiddling around in the bag.

She might not remember this moment, but I will.

June 23rd 2020: On Love And Struggle

June 23rd 2020: On Love And Struggle

Dear Edith,

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote anything. I haven’t been well. When people said “your body will never be the same after you’ve had a baby” I thought they meant I’d be a slightly different shape and pee myself when I laugh. Fortunately having a C-section means I’ve avoided the latter. So far, anyway.

I swing between being just having achy, sore joints and being a total wreck who can barely move from exhaustion. Theories on what’s wrong with me range from vitamin deficiency, thyroid problems and ongoing trauma from having a C-section, although I struggle to understand why abdominal surgery would result in my knuckles aching when I carry a mug of coffee between two rooms.

I did have a doctor say “there may be nothing medical science can do for you”, which was lovely. Remember this – doctors are notorious for fobbing off symptoms in women. If you ever need to see one for something that gets minimised or ignored, do not give up and do not downplay how you feel because you’re worried you’re being a pain in the ass. Being a pain in the ass is how to get things done.

Being physically unwell is only half of it though. It sucks, but the emotional struggle is worse.

Don’t worry kid, I know where the food goes.

I knew before I even got pregnant that I’d have postnatal depression. It’s been passed down through our family like some cursed heirloom in a horror story, one that you burn in the garden and find on the mantelpiece again the following day. I was expecting the thick, heavy sadness that seeps into the soul like mould. I thought it’d be endless tearful days, struggling to bond, refusing to leave the house.

Instead it’s somehow more insidious. It waited nearly eight weeks to let me know it was here. It disappears during the day and creeps in after dinner. It’s anxiety that stops me sleeping, a sick fight-or-flight instinct that means I’m constantly terrified and I don’t know what of.

I haven’t had the easiest time since you were born. I had an emergency caesarian section (long story, and one I’ll tell here at some point) and had no sooner gotten over that before I ended up with whatever mystery illness is plaguing me now. There’s very little time, if any, where I’ve been anywhere near on top of my game physically and a lot of the “heavy lifting” has been done by Dad and Granny. I feed you and cuddle you and lie you on the floor to watch nursery rhymes on the TV when you get bored of sitting staring at my face, but for most of the past nine weeks I haven’t been the one rocking you to sleep or putting you in the bath or staying up all night to feed you until your little eyes close.

I get tired and have to lie down in the middle of the day, and if you aren’t sleeping I hand you to Dad, or your Granny, or Grandma. Every time I do, I feel like I’m “shirking my responsibilities”, even though I’m ill and it’s not like I’m being lazy. The guilt is awful and I feel like a failure, and it haunts me all day every day.

But worse – and this is my major, major hangup – every time you’re not literally attached to me I feel like I can almost see your little Bond-o-Meter plummeting.

I’m sure everyone must be sick of me waiting “but what if she doesn’t love me?” at least once a day. I keep getting told that whenever I get up to go to the kitchen your little eyes follow me until they’ve basically rolled back into your skull, but that doesn’t matter to my head. It’s like the anxiety trope of “I assume people hate me for no reason all the time” but you’re only two months old, I can’t talk about it the same way I do with my friends or your Dad do when I need it, and that’s what’s difficult.

It brings me to tears. It makes me so stressed out I can’t eat or sit still. I’m jealous and irritable and and every time you smile for someone else I want the ground to open and consume me.

One of the most powerful things I took away from therapy in my early twenties was the ability to detach from my mental health and acknowledge it. I was able to recognise irrational thoughts and say “this is not real, this is my brain disease”. For some reason, even though logically I know it’s the same in this situation, I am really, really struggling with this right now.

You’re nearly ten weeks weeks old and you’ve lost that helpless, tiny little newborn-ness once and for all. You smile more and more, you’re so close to laughing (you did it in your sleep at Granny and Granda’s house the other day, which was hilarious and deeply creepy), I can see you little tongue going when I talk to you like you’re trying to form the same words I am. You make tiny, cute little noises back at me instead.

It’s only been two months and already I know watching you grow up is going to be the most fun. I know it’s going to make all the bad brain stuff worth it.