When Elsie was born, not quite two years ago, I was totally in love with her. I was happy and excited and just so thrilled to be past the pregnancy.
But I was also anxious that something would happen to her, I was totally exhausted from the sleepless nights, my body felt totally unfamiliar, and I was suffering from the regular winter depression that plagues this part of the world.
Days were spent in a fog of fatigue from nights spent changing sheets covered in vomit. We carried her around almost constantly in order to placate her and attempt to prevent more vomit attacks. She had a horrendously gassy stomach due to my overactive letdown and milk production which ended up continuing the entire year I breastfed her.
Friends and family were sympathetic, but would often (infuriatingly) coo and tell us how placid she was. If this was a placid baby, I thought, I must just be the world’s least tolerant mother. Constant whining, complete aversion to being placed on her back, hatred of car rides, the list seemed to go on and on.
I remember conversations I had with Felix, late at night, so many times in those first six months. We’d look deep into one another’s eyes and say “let’s please not forget how incredibly hard this is if we decide to have another one”.
We ummed and ahhed and eventually decided our family wasn’t yet complete. Not that we didn’t try to convince one ourselves that we were one and done. We had a whole host of arguments to that effect, but it just didn’t feel right to stop with Elsie.
“Well, if we’re going to have another one, let’s get the ball rolling,” I said. Or something along those lines.
I didn’t like being pregnant, and felt traumatised by the newborn days that were so close behind us. I honestly wanted to get it over with.
And 2020 turned out to be an even more punishing year to be pregnant. I was lucky, once again, to experience a fairly uneventful and uncomplicated pregnancy, other than a little hiccup in the form of a breech baby, but he was flipped at the hospital and we carried on as we were.
As the birth approached, I felt calm. Somewhat “calm before the storm” rather than “regular calm”, but nonetheless, my total fear of what was to come became quiet resignation highlighted by a burning desire to no longer be pregnant.
And then I was blessed with the perfect birth team, a wonderful birth, and a beautiful little baby boy who slept between us and completed our family.
The weather is gorgeous, he sleeps like a (somewhat disrupted) dream, eats beautifully, is packing on the pounds, barely spits up, and is a general joy to be around.
Elsie was a beautiful and joyful baby in her own way, but no amount of love for her could make me lie and say she was an easy baby.
Otto’s birth was a healing experience for me, finally getting to feel what it was like to go into labour spontaneously (read: is this it? Is this it? I think this is it…?) and have the unmedicated homebirth I’d dreamed of but never really thought I’d get.
Otto’s infancy is shaping up to be another kind of healing period for me. One where I learn it wasn’t just my inherent lack of maternal qualities that made me doubt my capacity to survive the parenting of another baby.
It was a combination of factors and circumstances and perhaps a touch of postnatal anxiety that I just happened to experience at the time of Elsie’s birth, but not Otto’s.
It turns out there was nothing wrong with me after all.
It turns out other mothers weren’t lying about their easy babies. It turns out they exist.
Just like pregnancy, and everything else in life and the human experience for that matter, the baby bubble is not only different for every mother and baby, but for every season and every birth, for every day and every minute.
It’s different when you’re experiencing a pandemic and when your family is stuck on another continent.
It’s different when you have friends with babies or when your apartment is clean.
And it turns out, that just because you can’t for the life of you “just relax and enjoy every moment because it goes so fast and you never get it back” doesn’t mean you’re a bad mum, and doesn’t mean you long for those days again just because they’re gone.
Sometimes it’s just not fun or nice and there’s no obligation to enjoy the slog. Adding guilt to suffering is futile and counterproductive.
All this, I guess, to give my old self permission to long for the hard times to pass.
Forgiveness for living in the future – when things would be easier – rather than the moment.
And to look back on my first experience of early motherhood and know I wasn’t a failure just because I didn’t love every minute.
And to give thanks to the baby gods who have blessed me with an easier time now.