But Can You Tell Me Again?

Friday, 30 March 2018

Rob will tell you that one of the things that pisses him off about me (and I'm hoping it's a short list but you know guys and how much they love to talk about stuff ha!) is that I'm constantly asking for reassurance. And that even if he tells me I'm on the right track, that agrees with what I'm doing or supports my decision, it still takes someone else telling me for it to finally sink in. And I get that it's frustrating. To him it probably feels like his opinion isn't enough, that I'd listen to someone else over him. But I guess for me, sometimes I think he just goes along with what I say because he loves me. Because he doesn't want to start an argument. Because it doesn't think it's worth butting heads over. 

I have realised, especially since becoming a parent, that I really need that reassurance. I crave being told that I'm doing the right thing, that I'm doing a good job. I think we all probably do to be honest. I mean, we've been thrust into this new job/position/world where we have no real prior experience, we're 100% responsible for a LIFE that is not our own, and we really have no idea what we're doing. So it makes sense that we want to feel like we're doing okay. And there are so many ways to parent, so many theories/articles/bits of research that contradict and support each other. At every plunket visit our baby is being charted, compared to other babies. Our parenting is questioned - Does baby sleep in their own bed? Do you want to hear about safe sleeping? What are their sleep habits like? Have they started doing this yet? We actually don't recommend baby-led weaning. 

Every time someone asks how parenthood is going it's - Are they sleeping through the night yet? Do you still let them sleep on you? Isn't that starting bad habits? You definitely need to toughen up and just let them cry it out. Are they crawling yet? Have they started sitting up? Don't you think they're a bit hot? I'm sure they'd rather be doing this than that. And it's hard to feel confident when you're constantly being bombarded by questions, judgements and expectations. You think you have it sorted, that you kinda feel like you know what you're doing and are happy with the parenting choices you've made when an article comes out and flips it all on it's head. Suddenly you're not so sure after all and are googling away to find some kind of reassurance that what you're doing is okay, that you're not causing problems for baby along the way. 

Rob tells me it's more on me than on them. That the media/society isn't going to change just because I want them to so I need to steel myself, be confident and just back the decisions that I'm making. And he's right. I do need to trust myself and us as a couple, that we've decided this is how we want to do things and if it's working for us, then there's no reason to doubt what we're doing. But when you're tired, emotional and unsure, it's pretty hard to find that inner strength to not let things get to you. Plus, one of my flaws is that I'm super defensive. I just don't like feeling like I'm doing something wrong! I generally strive to do my best in everything, and I do like to please people so if I feel that I'm not doing that, it really gets to me. 

I've also noticed this coming out in a lot of Mum's that I've been interacting with too. How's the sleeping going? Oh yeah, well last night he slept with us - but he was so grumpy and I was exhausted and I just couldn't think of any other way we could all sleep but he was totally fine and we all slept great so it was okay that we all slept in the same bed. Mama, you do you. So when he falls asleep on you, do you try and put him down? Well I have tried before but then he usually wakes up and I figure it's better for him to get a solid sleep on me then if I put him in the cot and then he wakes up and it takes ages to get him back to sleep but he's still so little so I don't think I'm starting any bad habits right? And anyway it's nice to have some time to just relax with him and I don't mind anyway. We can't just say what we're doing without feeling like we need to justify it. That we need to explain why we're doing something, just in case we get back lash or told that we're wrong. 

Rob is right though. It IS on me. It's on me to be confident in what we're doing. To reassure myself that the way we are parenting is what works for us and for Jackson and that's all that matters. That we're all happy and healthy, and that's because of the decisions we've made in terms of how we want to raise Jackson and work as a family. I do try and research, just because I don't want to be stubborn and purely follow Jackson's signals if there is potentially a better way that will benefit him and his development. I do think you need to find the balance between knowledge and instinct, even if it's just to make a decision that you can be more confident if what you're doing is backed by research that  believe in and agree with. I feel like I can truly stand up for myself if I really believe that I'm doing the right thing, because sometimes I don't. 

And Rob (yes you) also needs to understand that as a Mum, you are questioned. You are judged. And sometimes you just want your partner to agree (or not) with you, to read the articles, to show interest in the fact that you're trying to make sure you're taking the best approach and if they don't, to share with you what they think you should be doing. Team effort guys. It's new for everyone, just because us Mum's carried the baby for nine months doesn't mean we know better than you do (even though it might sometimes feel like we do). And when we feel backed, when we're reassured (and we might need it once a day, or sometimes ten) then we can be confident and say - this is my baby, my life, and you can just bloody well let me get on with things thank you very much.

So just bare with me Rob. Reassure me. Let me know that we're in this together. Be honest with me when it comes to parenting choices I've made and let me know if you think we should try something else. I'll get there. Of course I will. It's still early days. But eventually, the judgements will slide off, the expectations won't feel so pressured and I'll be able to confidently face people and stand up for our choices and decisions we've made.

PS. On the subject of sleeping and worrying about your baby cat napping during the day, I recently discovered this wonderful article that put my mind at ease and reassured me that following Jackson's signals was really just allowing his body to naturally do what it needs to do. I felt pretty proud of myself to know that my instincts were correct, that by following what felt right I was aiding a natural process. And now when people question his sleeping habits, I know for sure that it's okay he might not be sleeping how the experts say they should be. That he's behaving as he should and I've just gotta ride it out until he's developmentally ready to change.

A Threeish Month Update.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

My goodness. Three months with Jackson have come and gone and we're starting to hit the crazy developmental stage. The stage where they go from being this fragile little bundle and start turning into someone with more personality, more tricks, who is making more obvious discoveries and developing everyday. 

Hindsight is a funny thing. Throughout the pregnancy I was constantly worried I was doing something that might end up harming him in the long run. During the birth, it was long and a bit awful and I was adamant I'd never do it again. That first month of Jackson was such an uncertain time. Breastfeeding hurt and I questioned having a baby nearly every day, wondering if I was going to be able to handle it and whether I thought it was a good idea at all. I felt like I couldn't do anything right, that I wasn't holding him properly, worried that he wouldn't like me and struggled with the fact that I didn't love this baby at all. And I don't mean that I hated him or didn't want him to exist, but I couldn't connect with him past the fact that I was looking after him.

Other mums told me just wait it out, just get to 4 weeks and breastfeeding will be easier. Get to 6 weeks and you'll start getting into the swing of things and feeling more comfortable. At the time, it was so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just couldn't see things getting better and didn't know if I could manage in the mean time. Well here we are. Threeish months later. And we're all doing fine! We've made it through poonamis, car melt downs, breastfeeding and changing nappies on the side of the road, a 4 hour drive to Tauranga, one round of immunisations and multiple visits out of the house. There's been times where he won't sleep, where he wants extra comfort, where the pram has had to come out a couple of times in a day just to help him (and mum) out a bit. And it's been okay. I mean, it hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been the worst.

Jackson is in the 99.6th percentile for height, weight and head circumference so I'm obviously doing something right. And the breastfeeding is SO much easier. He seems to be an average sleeper, he doesn't fuss too much (except the poor little guy is teething), gives us the biggest smiles and he will not stop talking. Seriously, baby chat is the bloody cutest! He's now wearing 6-12 month onesies, sleeping in his cot and we're looking at car seats in the weekend because he's outgrown his capsule. He's a big boy after all! We're hoping he's going to take after his Dad but who knows. There's still so much growing and changing to come.

It's not just Jackson who has changed over the last threeish months either, it's me too. I can't say that it's become easier, but there is definitely an ease about it. Yes, I still worry too much and end up on google when I'm a little unsure about things. But I've definitely relaxed a bit. I'm slowly learning to be more confident in myself, and to back what I'm doing as a mum. You come to learn that there is a pretty huge range of what's "normal" for a baby and most of the time, your baby fits in it. Which means that it's okay that your parenting is completely different to someone else's. When I ask myself if things are going okay I just go through my little checklist. Is Jackson happy? Yes. Am I happy? Sure am! How about Rob? Looks like it. Well then, seems like we're doing okay.

One thing I'm waiting for is that huge rush of love. That feeling like my life is complete, that my heart is totally full of a love that I've never felt before. That Jackson has completed me in a way that I never thought was possible. Because that's what's meant to happen right? Apparently. I mean, I definitely love him, and I do LIKE him a lot. When I get a smile or giggle, when he can't take his eyes off me or when he lights up as I walk back into the room, I know we have something special. But I'm still just not quite there. I don't know if I'm holding back because I'm still worried that once he's more aware, he won't like me. That I won't like him. That our personalities will clash. But I'm being patient because I'm sure it will come. I just think about how long it took for me to fall in love with Theo (our cat) and while it's a little different, it kind of isn't.

To be honest, I still don't think it's sunk in that we have a baby (ha!) There are times when I catch myself going "holy shit, that's a baby and it's my baby and I grew it for 9 months in me and then birthed it and now it's mine and holy shit that's my baby." Between the lack of sleep, the 24/7ness of being a parent and the lack of independence on my part, I think the days can all merge together and you don't really get much time to absorb things or reflect. Which might be why it still feels a little surreal to me. But hey, it's early days. I have learned to not be so hard on myself. Three months ago I had never held a baby, was scared shitless of even being near one and look at me now. I've learned and been exposed to so much and I think mostly, I've taken it in my stride. There a days where I wanted to give up, where I honestly thought I couldn't carry on any more but I didn't. I breathed. Re-centered. Had a cuddle with Rob. And moved on.

And that's probably the biggest take away from the last three months. No two days are the same in the world of being a parent. Things are constantly changing and you just have to learn to go with it as much as you can. Right now, your baby is acting purely on instinct - to survive. So they kinda know what they're doing and we just need to learn to try and understand their signals and provide what they need as best as they can. And honestly, it's easier than it sounds once you become a bit more flexible and easy going. But hey, check in with me in a couple of months (after that dreaded four month regression I've been hearing so much about) and we'll see if I'm singing a different tune. I guarantee I will be.

Here's To The Working Parent.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

There's always a bit of to and fro-ing with who has the hardest job. The parent who is working their 9-5 or the parent who's at home with the kids. Both have their challenges. Both have their bonuses. I don't think one is harder than the other, they're just different.

Lately though, I've been noticing how much of a toll it's been taking on Rob. He's had to work in Takapuna this year which is a bit of a hike from our home in Titirangi. It means early starts and late finishes, which, for someone who is NOT an early bird and who has a three month baby, is a bit shit. He's been given more responsibility which is wonderful for his career, but not so great for a first time Dad. We know that while it's hard now, it's going to be worth it in the long run because he'll have a bit more freedom and the potential to earn money but in the mean time, he's struggling.

The thing is, Rob would love to be the stay at home Dad. In fact, he was the big push behind having a baby. I was always open to the idea but because I wasn't sure if it was going to be a reality (and it was looking pretty likely that it wasn't going to be one), I'd kinda come to terms with it not happening. Rob on the other hand, this is what he's always wanted. Coming from a large family, having one of his own was always in his future and for him, the younger the better. I'm so glad that his dream has come true and we have a lovely little family, but I don't think either of us imagined that it was going to be this hard. 

Now, I'm not saying that being a stay at home parent is easy. It's hard being alone all day, with no one to pass your baby over to when they're having a moment or you need a break. You have to hold your pee, stare at an empty glass, clock watch until you can finally have your lunch and nearly go blind from all scrolling through Instagram. You have little beings that are completely dependent on you and you don't get time to yourself. It's just all go 24/7. And all you're looking forward to is when your partner walks through the door and you can offload your children to them, so you can finally get your five minutes to yourself.

But, I really feel for the working parent too. For them, it's also 24/7. Sure, they aren't with the kids all day but they're busy. They've got the pressure on them to earn an income, to provide for their family and to keep up with the expectations from their employers. They are also up at night when the baby is crying, but can't spend the day in bed. Instead, they're dragging themselves out of bed and somehow making it through their shift knowing that when they come home, there isn't a break for them either. They're missing out on the first roll, the first word, the first step. They're watching their baby grow up through photos sent by their partner, knowing that what their employment is important, but wanting to be at home every second.

I see what this is doing to Rob. I see that he's struggling between pushing his career and being at home as a Dad. And wanting both as well. Finding that balance is hard, especially when you're already going through massive changes and having to adjust to a little babe in the house. I really don't like the idea that we might look back at the first part of Jackson's life and think of it as stressful and unhappy because we haven't quite got the balance right.

And I don't have the answers. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance being the stay at home mum as well as self employed graphic designer. Does anyone have it figured out? Unlikely! But I just want you working parents to know that I appreciate you. I see what you're doing and what you're going through. I know the struggle that you're dealing with and I want you to know that we couldn't be doing this without you. When you've had a bad day at work, you still show up. You still give us those five minutes that we need, even though you're busting to go to the toilet. You'll settle that crying baby and let them sleep on you, even though you know you have emails to reply to, clients to please.

I know it's hard. But it's also amazing. And you should be so proud of yourselves. Because we are. We'll get through this. We always do. Life always comes in waves of hard times and easy moments and we'll find that ease eventually. But for now, just know that we so appreciate you and what you're doing for our family. 

Please Bear With Me While I Try & Figure It Out.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Jackson, I'm sorry that I keep forgetting. You're so new to this world, and sometimes I expect too much from you. I get frustrated that you won't sleep, forgetting that you are being so exposed and overstimulated by everything around - it's no wonder you don't want to. Sometimes I want you to fit into this mould of how I think you should be, but I forget that for you, there is no routine. There is no mould. No normal. You're just following your instincts to survive, and instead of embracing that, doing my best to help you along and being understanding when things don't go to plan, I wish you'd behave differently. That you would be easier. 

I've started working again, and it's hard not to resent the fact that you're stopping me from getting work done. That when I'm counting on doing work, you wake up early or take ages to settle. I'm stuck between my old life, where I was selfish and spontaneous. Where I could just do what I wanted without worrying too much how it was going to effect anyone else. And now I have this new life. You are my life. I am at your beck and call 24/7, to feed you.. To change you. To comfort you. I knew what I was getting myself into but I didn't anticipate how hard it would be for me to work and  Mum. And the thing is, I still need to work. But I don't know how to do both.

Being in a creative career, inspiration comes and goes. Often I'll be facing a block for days, but then inspiration can hit all of a sudden and I need to sit down for a couple of hours and just let loose. There are also deadlines that need to be decided and met, and I find it so hard to be able to give a straight answer when I don't know what lies ahead for the week. Fast turn arounds and spending hours at the computer are a thing of the past. Because you need me. Not just want.. Need.

I don't really like where my head is at. I'm stressed. And overwhelmed. I'm waking up at 5am (sometimes even 4am) and sacrificing sleep just so I can get some work done. And financially, I know that I need to be working. Without the small income I do bring in, bills won't be paid and bellies might not be filled. But I also just want to Mum. I want to be the housewife. To take care of the housework, make sure our fridge is full. Plan meals and actually cook them. Spend time with you, without having to worry about deadlines and when I'm going to finally sit down at my laptop to get shit done. I want to enjoy my time with you instead of thinking about everything else that needs doing.

Your Nana has been coming to help, and I know you love your time with her because I can hear you both laughing and talking when I'm in my office. I still haven't come to terms with it. I still feel like I'm failing you. I didn't have a baby so I could sit in an office and listen to someone else look after you. But I don't know how else to make it work? Every day, I can feel myself getting more and more exhausted because I'm not catching up on sleep and I'm not getting a break. And I've always felt so self sufficient so when I ask for help, I feel more like I'm a failure. That I should be able to do it alone and admitting defeat. 

But I have come to realise that I actually missed being creative. And missed working. That when I get into my groove, I don't want to come out and play with you because I just love being able to work with people and create something they love. It's always been my passion. And almost a form of self care. It's my time where I just zone out and maybe, as you get older and more independent, we'll be able to find a balance. Where you're happy to play while I work from the couch. Or you play at my feet while I get things done in the office. I hope so.

I just want you to know that I'm working on it. And I'm working for you. So that you are provided for, but also so that you know it's okay to do things for yourself that you love. That just because I'm sacrificing time with you doesn't mean I don't love you. That I don't want to be with you. It just means that I have look after myself and make sure I stay true to my own passion. We'll figure it out. A way for me to have both. But for now, just know that I'm trying not to resent you. I'm trying to appreciate that having help doesn't mean I'm not doing enough for you. I'm trying to remind myself that it's a good lesson to teach you, that it's important for you to see me follow my dreams so that hopefully you'll feel confident to follow yours.

I'm Exhausted But I Feel Like Me.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

One of the most common pieces of advice you get as a first time parent is "sleep when the baby sleeps." Which sounds great right? Oh of course I'll catch up on sleep because my baby is going to sleep in their little bassinet by themselves for at least three hours so I'll have a nice wee snooze at the same time. Perfect.

Well. Unfortunately. Babies aren't aware of this plan of yours. They don't know that if they sleep in their bed then you can go and do the dishes. Or have a shower. Or have a nap yourself. They just know that they're tired, hungry, need a nappy change or want a cuddle. So unfortunately, unless you have a dream baby that does just what you want them to (please don't tell me they actually exist) the whole "sleep when your baby sleeps" thing just puts unrealistic pressure on you.

And that is why (and you might think I'm insane) I'm up at about 4.30-5am every morning. Voluntarily. But hear me out. I know for a fact (at this stage anyway) that Jackson will sleep for at least 3 hours after that first morning feed. Which is three blissful hours for me to do whatever I want.  Jackson is asleep. Rob's asleep. So it's just me. And sometimes, sleep isn't the priority. Yeah sure, I know it's important and you do need to rest, but sometimes it's not actually what you need.

There are three things that I HAVE to do everyday for me to feel like myself. That's it. Just three. If I can get them done then, regardless of how the rest of the day goes, I'll feel like me again. And it's have a poo. Shower (and wash my hair if I'm feeling fancy). And eat breakfast. In that order. If I can squeeze in a load of washing, or fill the dishwasher, or even have a quick vacuum then that's a bonus! Simple right? Only three little things but usually they make more of a difference to me than if I had an extra couple of hours of sleep.

I also think they help me feel a little less resentful towards him. Yes, that's a thing. Remember, your whole life has turned upside down and it takes a while to adapt from life before baby. Especially when it included leisurely lie-ins and doing everything at your own pace. But if I can manage to do those three things in the morning, I feel clean. I'm full. And I don't have a sore tummy. And then I can appreciate and enjoy my time with him, instead of thinking of all the things I have to do.

Eventually his sleep will stretch out a bit (so I hear) so I'm sure I'll get more of a solid chunk but if I don't.. That's okay. I've figured out what works for me and while you might think I'm crazy for trading sleep for house work or a shower, I've gotta do it. For myself. For my sanity. And when I feel like me, I'm giving Jackson a tired but happy and clean Mum rather than a grumpy, smelly one. I know what I'd prefer.

I'd love to hear if you've got a little routine or things that you need to do each day to feel like yourself? Surely I'm not the only one waking up at 4am to spring clean the house otherwise I'll lose my mind! 
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