Ooh er, coming back after a blog hiatus and kicking things off with a controversial post title. This is, though, the one thing I want to say before all of the other things I want to say. It’s more vital I get this out than the fact my newborn is now over nine months old; that breastfeeding is infinitely more rewarding (and initially harder) than I expected; that I’m finally feeling more like myself; or any of the other things I want to talk about. Because, actually, all of those things follow on from the simple truth that I’m not the mother I thought I would be.
This is the mum I thought I’d be:
- Don’t pick him up too much, he’ll be mollycoddled
- Routine, routine, routine – this baby will fit into our lives not the other way round
- Get him used to his cot as early as possible
- Get him to sleep through the night as soon as poss because I love sleep
- Breastfeeding is fine (although jeez everyone needs to stop banging on about it) but I’m not wedded to it so we will see how it goes.
The mum I’ve actually turned out to be is, basically, the complete opposite of the above. I’m pretty much baby led in most things, including feeding and routine. That’s to say – we follow a basic routine but it’s Bug that has laid out what we do and when, I just follow along.
My baby is a terrible sleeper. I rock him to sleep, I boobfeed him to sleep, I cuddle him to sleep and then he sleeps with us all night with multiple wake ups where he rolls over for some food. This is the best and easiest way to ensure we all get some sleep.
The above decision was made at 3am one night when, sweating and exhausted, I tried to put him down in his cot for the millionth time, only for him to wake up. I thought to myself, “I have to get him to sleep in his cot or else…” and I then tried to finish that sentence: or else what, exactly? What was the worst thing that could happen? My son is a happy, secure, lively baby. One day he’ll be able to sleep on his own because that’s how humans function. He will also be able to walk and talk but, for some reason, I wasn’t freaking out about the fact that he wasn’t doing either of those things yet. Just like walking and talking, he isn’t developmentally ready to sleep alone and unaided. I know this because I’m his mum.
Oh yes, that’s another thing I used to scoff at before I became a mum: the idea of a mother’s instinct. It’s pretty much the driving force of much of my decision making in relation to my son so, er, again not the mother I thought I’d be.
I’ve also become one of those people who bang on about breastfeeding. For my son, it’s so, so much more than just about nutrition, it’s how I calm him, how I relax him, how I help him to go to sleep. It’s by far the most important tool in my parenting box. It’s hard. They don’t tell you that in NCT and they really should because then it wouldn’t be such a shock. But if you manage to make it work, it’s absolutely fabulous.
My son and I both had a tough birth and he was not a happy bunny for the first few weeks of his life. So I carried him around in a sling. Again, this was not at all part of my parenting philosophy but my goodness it worked. He slowly stopped being so anxious, he became calmer, he started to enjoy the world instead of sending out “I WANT TO GO BACK IN” vibes all the time.
I think what’s hardest about being the type of mother I’ve turned out to be is that my type of mothering (I should say parenting as my husband is similar) is not the mainstream. Telling people that you bedshare with your baby gets a similar reaction to telling people you feed your baby crack. I’m one of only a small handful of mums who are still breastfeeding, and I’m aware that I’ll continue to be in the minority as we approach Bug’s first birthday as only 0.5% of UK mums continue feeding to this milestone. It can feel a bit lonely being the only one doing things a certain way. But I strongly believe that I’m parenting my baby in the way that he needs. As long as he’s happy, so am I.
So, here we are: nine months in and I’m absolutely not the mother I thought I would be. But, actually, I quite like the one I’ve become.