Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Going mumderground.

It's such a cliche but really, nothing prepares you for the arrival of your first baby. You can read all of the books and do all of the shopping but nothing can prepare you for how much your life will change. Completely.

Aside from the whole emotional journey of becoming a parent, practically there is an incredible change of pace. From rushing around for work, running to meet friends, cycling busy streets, pounding the gym – sometimes all in one day – you find yourself on the sofa, literally unable to move for hours on end while the baby is on you, feeding. It's nice, it's just completely different. 

At first I felt as though I was in a non-stop chain of chores – nursing for hours at a time, expressing milk, sterilising bottles, all day every day. I despaired at the constant changing of tiny clothes. I read someone compare it to perpetual motion, which is exactly right. But then the feeding calms down, you become more organised, more relaxed, and settle into a routine.

It took us about six and a half weeks to find our routine, which made all the difference and made it feel less like a never-ending mill of baby admin. And topping up the baby's feeds with formula really helped: he is a hungry baby and I'd feed him for hours and he'd still be hungry. Demoralising and, for me, not worth the stress of trying to stick solely to breastfeeding. (Breastfeeding is surprisingly tricky. If you're struggling, the website kellymom has great, in-depth advice. I'd advise trying not to worry about giving them formula if you have to. They need to eat, you need to stay sane.)

Another breakthrough was realising you can just put them down. At first, I felt as though I had to constantly be in the same room as him, talking to him and keeping an eye on him. It was highly boring and stressful: I couldn't work out when to wash my hair or eat my lunch. Realising that I could leave him having a nap or bring him along with me in his bouncy chair was a breakthrough. I can eat! Tidy up the kitchen! Have a shower! It felt like freedom again.

So, nearly four months in, I find myself settled into the routine and adapting to the new way of life. I miss having the time and energy to exercise like I used to, but take him for a long walk up and down the hill, do a bit of yoga, and am going to try the local gym's crèche. I make lunch whenever I want and take my time getting ready to go out while he bounces away on his chair, playing with his toys. I missed going to the cinema, so tried a baby screening and it was great. And it can be a pain having to haul the baby with you everywhere you go, but I find my friends are loving hanging out with little Artie as well. It's a new experience for us all.

It's hard and crazy at first when your whole world changes but I found that with time you adapt and it gets easier. A friend told me she spent the first month perched anxiously on the edge of the sofa and I can totally relate. I couldn't even concentrate on Strictly. But gradually, you relax into it. I'm trying to appreciate having time to do the things I never used to have time to do. 

So, today I'm listening to Tales of The City, making a huge pot of daal and enjoying the little moments, like singing West End Girls to the baby and him loving it. When the smiles and giggles come it feels like the pay-off for all the hard work and you can't wait for the next milestone. This little human you made sitting up? Crawling? It's just the beginning of one long, crazy trip...