Freya is 18-months-old today and I think this photo perfectly captures her spirit at this age. It isn’t quite in focus because she is never still. The graze on her chin is from where she fell off the puzzle box, which I had warned her approximately 5 billion times not to stand on, and, in fact, what she was standing on again when I took this photo. She is applauding herself, no doubt for standing on the box, which I then tried taking away but she just found something else to climb on. And laughing, always laughing.
My bright, mischievous and happy girl is so, SO full of life. She is glorious.
We have been hearing the distinctive cries of a new-born echoing around our block of flats again after our neighbour gave birth a week or so ago. As a result, my husband, Julian*, and I have been reminiscing about those early days and the things we know now that we wished we had known then. Here are a few of them:
No need to be Superwoman: I think top of my list would be to accept the help that was offered rather than trying to be Superwoman. I should have just sat still, slept and got to know her (and given myself time to heal from the c-section) rather than frantically trying to do washing, get the house in order and cook meals which other people (mainly my mum) offered to do.
Calm down: The panic of having a tiny human in my care, especially one who wouldn’t breastfeed or take a bottle, made me slightly manic on top of all those hormones rushing about. I still feel tense when I think about those first weeks and months.
Trust my instincts: When it came to her feeding and sleeping issues I listened to other, more experienced, people who said she was just “being a baby” rather than trusting myself, which I know is probably natural. If I had had more confidence in my instincts we might have got her dairy intolerance and reflux diagnosed earlier.
The bond will come: I expected that all encompassing rush of love that you read about to occur the moment I laid eyes on her and when it didn’t I panicked. It took months, especially when I was unable settle her, but one day I looked at her and there it was. It gets stronger every day.
Baby wearing: If we could go back and do it all again I would go to a sling library and find one that was right for me (and my sore tummy and back) and her. I had three different ones in the end but didn’t use any of them for ages because they didn’t feel right. It was a lifesaver when I got used to it but I also enjoyed having her close. I really miss it now that she is so independent.
Essential baby clothes: Even though most of her baby clothes were second-hand (a good job as being 10lb 3oz she could never fit into any of the newborn size), there were still things she either never wore or only wore once. If I was doing it again I would stock up on vests and sleep suits with fewer dresses and day wear.
It’s good to talk: I should have talked about how hard I was finding things earlier. There were people willing to listen and offer advice but I was too embarrassed/distraught that I wasn’t the amazing mum I thought I would be to open up. If I had I would have learned that even the people I rate as brilliant mums, who look like they have everything sussed, have struggled at times.
Time: Most of all, I would make the most of her being small. When people said: “This time will fly by, make the most of it” I didn’t believe them because it felt never-ending. As an example, I used to dread every night because I had to sit up for hours and hours holding her upright so she could sleep until I thought I might actually die. Now, after her bath, I get a minute long cuddle, if I am lucky, before she is fidgeting to get into her cot and go to sleep. I don’t miss the reflux days but I wish I had written a sign that read: “This too shall pass”.
A word from him: I asked Julian, who I think it’s fair to say found becoming a father a shock to the system, to answer the question. He said: “I wish I had known how much I would come to love her. I think if I had liked her as much then as I do now it would of helped me get through a lot of the negative feelings I had at the start but I think she had to grow on me and for me to get better at being a dad before that could happen.”
Do you ever think about what you would do differently? What one thing do you wish you had known then that you know now?
* His name isn’t Julian but the afternoon I was going to see 50 Shades he said: “So what time are you going to see Julian?”
Me: “Who is Julian?”
Him: “Julian Grey!”
Me: “Is that Christian’s cousin?”