Anyway (she said, mouth full of Easter chocolate), I thought I would let you know that being in the newborn phase for the third time is more complicated than it seems.
I really thought that having done this twice before, I’d have it down. That there wouldn’t be anything to be surprised about. And there have been big improvements, as well as plenty of moments of total joy. I don’t feel tortured over any of our baby choices – because I’m more confident in them and because I don’t have time or space to fret about them – and I think that’s reflected in how placid she is. And the tiny baby developments are even better and lovelier than you remember.
On the other hand, I have found a lot of things to be hard work. And they’ve almost been worse because I feel guilty about STILL finding them hard work, the third time around. Does that make sense? I feel like I should be more together than I am. So, since one of my big new year’s resolutions was to be kind to myself during the newborn phase, and since one of my big life resolutions is to remember that it’s ok to feel whatever you feel, I thought I would record some of the ugliness here. I don’t know, maybe you have it too? And we can both remember that it’s ok.
It’s OK If You Don’t Fall In Love Immediately
I find it hard to describe what I feel over the first week or so with a new baby. The otherworldly strangeness of it, having an entirely new person where there wasn’t one before! It feels like we’ve been lent a baby that we’ll be asked to return at some point. Like I’m road-testing a new identity, but only temporarily. I’m aware of feeling protective and attached, but it’s buried so far under numbness and shock that it’s almost subconscious. Anyway, after a little while the haze clears, and it turns out there is love beating there underneath. Hard and messy and sure, as always. It just takes a bit of time.
It’s OK To Find Your Older Children Exhausting And Sort Of Unpleasant Sometimes
The other day I was reading old blog posts from when Teddy arrived. Here’s what I wrote about two-year-old Hen:
Second Note: I keep telling myself that things will Settle Down with my wonderful firstborn, but let me tell you, I was pondering Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat this morning (2am is weird) and felt for a moment that selling Joseph to the hairy Ishmaelites sounded like a pretty good idea.
I knew that would likely happen again, but I’ve still had to remind myself that the boys are fighting and ignoring every damn thing I say because of change and insecurity and displacement. I asked H this afternoon how he felt about having a new sister, and he paused, and then said thoughtfully, ‘Mmm. I feel worried. Because maybe you won’t have any space for us anymore?’ Urgh, RIGHT TO THE HEART.
Still, you are a human person, and you can simultaneously understand a tantrum and not much enjoy dealing with them every five minutes. They’ll settle down. In the meantime, shut yourself in a cupboard with a biscuit and whinge away.
It’s OK If Breastfeeding Really Isn’t Your Thing
Oh lawks, I am one-score-and-twelve and the progenitor of three children and I am still afraid to say this. I can’t emphasise enough how much better feeding Imogen has been, after we decided to combi-feed from the beginning. To know that she’s getting the goodness in the breastmilk but that I’m not the only thing standing between her and dangerous malnutrition! High fives for that! Feeding is gradually being stripped of the guilt, terror and failure it’s always been bound up with for me, and it’s wonderful.
But still? Even so? I do not find breastfeeding a bonding experience. I adore this baby, but I do all of my quality adoration outside of our two-hourly feeding times. I hate leaking and soreness, I hate fumbling with my underwear in public, and while I’ll do it as long as I feel it needs to be done, I won’t be writing praise poems about it any time soon. It feels like a necessary sacrifice, no more than that.
I have decided that this is alright. (I’m not one breastfeeding consultant/YouTube video away from miraculous transformation; don’t @ me.)
It’s OK To Sometimes Feel Useless, Bored Or Just Very Tired Of It All
She’s the most beautiful thing. And it. Is. Hard. It is much easier to say ‘accept the chaos; it’ll be over soon’ once it’s actually over. Being in the middle of it again, giving up all of your markers of self-worth and achievement in favour of an untidy house, squabbling children, hardcore sleep deprivation and near-constant CBeebies – that’s difficult. It stays difficult, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. I had a sobbing rant at Tim only this morning that included the phrase ‘IT’S ALRIGHT FOR YOU: YOU ARE A WELL-RESPECTED PERSON’, like I was giving him a demented quarterly review.
I love it and I can’t stand it.
I want her to be older and I can’t bear to think of her being any bigger than she is right now.
It’s terribly beautiful and it’s horribly ugly.
I think it’s probably time I accepted the contradiction as the messy, essential, really definitely OK thing it is.