Unbelievably, I have managed to keep The Small alive for a whole year and two months. This is remarkable for a number of reasons:
1) I have never kept anything else alive for over a year. Goldfish/hamsters/gerbils…they all had a worryingly short life span under my care. The cats don’t count as they are my husband’s responsibility.
2) This time last year, I wasn’t even sure I would survive the upcoming week, let alone keep someone else alive.
3) My husband and I have managed not to kill each other, which would, inevitably have had some impact on her wellbeing.
So, when I look back over the last year, while I can’t celebrate EVERY decision I have made, I can give myself a big, fat, slap on the back for the enforced transformation I have undergone that has meant that, at the end of the day, we are all still alive fourteen months on.
I won’t lie – it’s been a hard year but it’s been hard because it’s also been so remarkable. I never thought it was possible that I would undergo such enormous, seismic shifts of outlook, personality, gratitude, ethos, belief. I didn’t think it was possible that at 32 years old I still had so much growing, so much learning, so much loving to do. But it turns out that I had all that to do and a whole lot more. So many of these changes were positive…but not all.
I had to learn to survive on 4 hours of sleep a night (if I was lucky) and then I had to learn to wake up and still dig deep, deep, deep down into my reserves and be nice to my husband. I wasn’t always successful at this and I think I would have survived just fine as a person without having to suffer this kind of physical and emotional trauma but suffer it I did.
I had to learn how to completely rejig my priorities and to be ok with that. I had to turn down work to look after the baby because he also had work and he earned more a day than I did. It was simple maths but it felt like a jail sentence at times. I had to learn to be ok with the fact that I couldn’t do everything. I simply couldn’t get through my To Do list…and that was assuming I’d summoned the energy and the clarity of mind to be able to construct one that extended beyond, “Survive today.”
I had to learn to be ok with the fact that I was now clearing up after two people instead of one, and one of those people didn’t even care or know I was doing it. The other one, my husband, was grateful and thankful and all those things but I do remember thinking, “Stop being grateful and thankful…and just do it yourself.” Of course, when he did do it himself, it wasn’t good enough. Which leads me to my next lesson: I had to come to the realisation that I wasn’t a joy to live with.
“WHAT?!! What on earth do you mean?” I hear you holler. I know, right? SHOCKER.
Turns out, having a baby made me realise that I am an enormous, control freak. Like, I mean, a CRAZY one. It was easy to hide, or justify when it was just the two of us, but when I couldn’t help but issue instructions about nappy changing and getting her dressed and packing her nappy bag and how to put her down and how to hold her to go to sleep and when my husband literally threw his hands up in the air and screamed, “When are you going to let me do this in my way?” I realised that I may need to reign it all in a little bit.
Following an argument (WAR) that ended with both of us exhausted from screaming and sobbing on the floor of the living room while The Small slept peacefully in my arms, I realised that I needed to make room for Jimmy to do some stuff.
Because, here’s the overall, big lesson that I learned this year. No one, ever, never, not once, is going to look after your baby as well as you do and that includes your husband. That doesn’t mean they CAN’T look after your baby, it just means that they are never going to do it exactly like you do. And that’s ok. It’s more than ok – it’s actually a pretty cool thing and once you get over it, you realise that it means you can leave your baby without the anxiety and the stress and the worry and you can, even if only for a few hours, remove yourself from the psychic space that your baby inhabits, and remember what it was like, before all this; what it was like fourteen long months ago.
On that note, I’m off to town to meet a friend for a drink and I’m leaving Jimmy in charge and I couldn’t be happier about it.