Before I go on about who I am – let me tell you who I was. When I was pregnant I was that person. I was the pregnant woman that talked about how I was going to do everything. I banged on and on about how I wasn’t going to use anything that wasn’t organic or homemade. I was going to get the baby into a routine from day one (I hate my old self even just writing this). I searched for hours and hours for the best moses basket, the best sling, the best buggy. I privately judged women who co-slept and who didn’t breastfeed (oh the irony!) and who believed in baby-led routines. I was a hateful pregnant person and I deserved to be publicly flogged for being such an insufferable little pregnant upstart.
I have, I promise, seen the error of my ways.
Now, though, I am a mother and who the hell knew the process of morphing from one to the other could so radically change a person?
I am a self-employed live music production assistant. I’m a freelance writer (hardly prolific but basically competent). I’m a cat fancier, appreciator of red wine, TV addict, literature major, reformed smoker (suffering from the occasional relapse), converse-wearing mother. I live in London with my husband Jimmy Sims, two Siamese cats and my daughter Billie Scout Sims. We earn enough money to live in Zone 5 (just), we manage the occasional holiday but it’s more time that restricts us than funds. My husband is a musician and works away a lot but when he’s home, he’s home all the time and Billie has two full-time parents which means that, in my life, it’s either really easy being a parent or really hard.
We have a lot of wonderful, supportive family but like a lot of young(ish) professionals living in London many of them are far away. My family is in Yorkshire and Devon and my husband’s family is split between Kent (the other side of the M25 so basically Mordor) and the midlands. We wish we had a parent down the road who could watch Billie for an evening at late notice so we could go a watch a film, or have a bath. We wish we had our entire family living within half an hour’s drive so that Billie would know them all the minute they walked through the door. It saddens me that we have to reintroduce her to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, but them’s the modern breaks.
We have come to realise that the nuclear family is the biggest load of bullshit and that the old adage rings true: it takes a village to raise a child. We ask ourselves a lot where the hell our village is.
I try and eat kale and fish and try not to eat sugar and carbs but honestly, I’m not very good at either. I’ve given up trying to not drink as much wine – it doesn’t seem to make me happy or thin and I enjoy it too much. I do exercise when I can but between a husband that’s away a lot and a fear of shaken-brain syndrome if I run with the buggy, I don’t get many runs in.
I spend way too much time on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram than is good for any functioning adult and must also admit to playing Candy Crush last thing at night, normally when my husband has just gone to sleep so that he won’t see me and judge me. I can spend hours stuffing my virtual shopping basket full of clothes on ASOS only to shut it down without buying anything. I spend way too much money on baby clothes that Billie will grow out off before they’ve even been delivered. If they do still fit her on arrival, she’ll throw avocado down them. I’ve also discovered avocado is the toughest damn stain to get out of anything.
I’m Type A most of the time but for about 10% of the week I’m so dirty and disgusting the milkman thinks I’m a squatter. Generally though, I can’t sleep unless the kitchen is tidy and the washing machine and dishwasher are on. I sweep the floor everyday and should mop it but can’t always be bothered. I spend way more time than I should fluffing cushions on the bed, on the sofa, in the nursery and arranging them neatly. I get frustrated watching my husband make coffee as it seems he can’t do it without throwing it around the kitchen. He bangs doors, pictures he puts up fall down but I am hard, hard, hard to live with and sometimes don’t always give him the space he deserves in the house because I’m so worried about keeping everything tidy. I remind myself fifteen times a day that I need to chill out.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t forget to do something – brush my teeth, put a bra on, lock the door, buy the loo roll.
I’m no Gina Ford but I did shove as much milk into Billie between 7am and 7pm and from week two 7pm was dark time and 7am was light time and she’s slept through since nine weeks old. That’s not a brag – the fact that she sleeps through is about 90% luck, 8% the fact that she’s her Daddy’s daughter and loves her kip and 2% my own success. I’m no Baby Whisperer but Tracey Hogg helped me teach Billie to put herself to sleep. We do some baby-led weaning, we do some spoon-feeding. I make some mushy food, I buy some Ella’s kitchen. I don’t always make her feeds as she wants them. Sometimes, horror of horrors, I make them all in the morning and put them in the fridge until I need them. She hasn’t died of listeria poisoning yet. I breastfed for eight weeks.
I do whatever it takes to get through the day.
I’m no baby expert in that I don’t have a degree in childcare; I haven’t looked after 250,000 children who all slept through from day two. I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing day to day but I have what a lot of these experts don’t have. I have perspective. I am writing from your perspective – as I write Billie is now seven months old meaning I have just given birth for the first time, I’ve tried breastfeeding for the first time, I’ve dealt with nappies, sleepless nights, fights with my husband, complete baby-related exhaustion and total baby-related exhiliration. I’ve just got over being a hormonal mess, I’ve recovered from an episiotomy, an epidural, a thirty-eight hour labour. I’ve broken down in Mothercare on the dreaded Day 3 while screaming at the sales assistant because the bleep on the scanner was too loud.
But coming back to my original question: who the hell do I think I am? I am a new mother who wanted to read a book that said, “It can be really shit at times and you’ll cry and you’ll wonder if it’s easier to throw the baby out of the window or yourself at 4am in the morning when you’ve had three hours sleep in as many days…but that’s ok. There are a million women lying awake right now, wondering if they’ll ever know themselves again, just like you and you are not alone even if you feel more alone than you’ve ever felt in your entire life. There aren’t any words at the moment that will make it instantly ok but there is one thing that will always remain true: This too shall pass.”
When I was sobbing and overwhelmed and so in and out of love with my baby I didn’t know whether I was coming or going I wanted a book like this to read. I didn’t want to read the ‘baby books’. They only served to show me how much there was still to get right and how much of it I was still getting ‘wrong’.
And it does pass. Invariably it passes quickly and you are shoved from one emotion to the next too quickly to even really dwell on it. My husband summed it up perfectly: having a baby is 49% the hardest, most anxiety-laden, stressful thing you’ll ever do and 51% the most wonderful, exhilarating and life-affirming thing you’ll ever do. If you can maintain that balance at least, for most of the time, then you’re doing ok.