So it's been two months. A lot has happened, but then again in some ways not much has.
When I look at the eight week old Buddyboo and I see a real little boy emerging from the gangly cute little monkey newborn he was, I feel at once the infinite stretch of time that's elapsed since I gave birth. I almost have to consciously remember what life was like before I was a mother. You hear people say that all the time, but I feel the full force of such amnesia now.
The loveliness of this is the complete surrender to the wonderfulness of being someone's mother. I don't think it would be everyone's cup of tea, but for me nothing feels warmer than his little button eyes looking up at me and knowing exactly what he wants without a word. I seem to have also developed super bionic ears. I start walking towards his cot at the sound of his mouth opening to a cry from the other side of our apartment. We don't have the biggest place but we do have quite a bit of white noise from the road. My husband often looks at me open mouthed almost wondering if I foresaw that cry or if I really did hear his miniscule jaw opening up to a yelp.
The poop of being someone's mother is well... how to explain. The last 48 hours probably best sums up the yoyo rhythm that my life and ergo, my self has become. At the beginning of the week, I decided that Buddyboo was old enough to get into some sort of routine. The reality is that we were probably already in a natural routine worked out by his tiny little two month old biological clock. Trouble is that his clock is on a two, maybe three hours cycle if we're lucky. Especially at night, getting up every two hours to feed (takes around 30 minutes) and change (sometimes also a 30 minute ordeal of poop explosions and clean up), and settling him to sleep (another 30 minutes) means that I am getting 30 minutes of sleep in between. Which needless to say, absolutely sucks.
So I heard about Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby routine which imposes a very precise timetable for feeds, sleeps and plays which allegedly has millions of happy mothers around the world singing its praises for the uninterrupted 7 hour sleeps their baby achieves. Now I did not buy the book because it is so sought after and expensive for what it probably is. I am generally skeptical of magical self help guides that turn out to be just common sense with marketing. However, I did read enough about parent-led schedules for babies to get the gist and combined it with my own sense of what my baby is like.
I do agree that babies don't know what they want, they merely spontaneously feel hunger, discomfort, tiredness etc but are unable to know what to do about it. I find that when Buddyboo is tired, like most babies he won't just go to sleep, he has to be put to sleep. I carefully zip him up in his swaddle, put on some calming yoga music and sing to him a lullaby I have made up for him. Over time I think he now understands that the combination of all these things is me telling him to sleep. So I decided that a structure to their day is on a grander scale, telling the baby what to do with their hunger, boredom, tiredness etc and thus providing them comfort in predictability when they don't know what to do.
For the past week and half I decided to try this sort of routine:
For a few hours of a day we pretty much stick to it and when that happens I feel like Mother of the Year.
Then there are days when looking back at the end of the day, on balance we sort of stuck to it and I feel like maybe not Mother of the Year but deserving of some sort of small medal anyway.
But always, or I should say ALWAYS there is some point in EVERY day when the wheels fall off, Buddyboo reminding me that he did not get the memo about this so-called routine he's supposed to be on. He shows his complete indifference to this routine I've devised by crying inconsolably despite being fed and cleaned, or refusing just flat out REFUSING to go to sleep despite being in fits of rage at his exhaustion. His face contorts red, his fists beating at my chest in frustration or rubbing his eyes, yelping in desperation helplessly ignorant of the simple fact that if he just stopped and slept, his discomfort would ease.
It's tiring. So tiring. There are hours of tireless coaxing, lullaby singing, rocking, swinging, shushing a baby to sleep, only to have my marathon effort at baby whispering completely shattered by an alarming bowel movement, or just inexplicably startling awake. There are many dinners left to grow cold because inevitably the baby calls out for me always at the beginning of a beautiful meal cooked by the hubby. At least the dinners I don't have to worry too much about. Husband is currently very enthusiastic about cooking and for that I am thankful and will proceed to lap it up while it lasts.
Yesterday was one of those days when everything just went wrong. "Wrong" I suppose is the wrong word. Noone said this schedule I decided on was the "right" way. I suppose by setting a schedule I also constructed a standard that a baby could never understand and therefore I am destined to never achieve it.
Budyboo woke up in the morning and just wanted to sleep and cry, sleep and cry all day long. He was not hungry, sick or in pain as far as I could tell. It was like something was going on in his little head, little neurons connecting, new sensations he could not explain. His eyes looked overwhelmed by some invisible phenomenon and I could not help him. No matter how much I comforted him there was nothing I could do and I had often been told that babies just do this sometimes.
I was alone at home for hours on end of the same cycle of baby despair. The clock usually dumb on the wall was somehow loudly reprimanding of all the routine markers I'd missed. With each passing hour I watched the aspirational routine dissolve along with my confidence.
When days like yesterday happen, I start questioning everything. Is he hungry? Or tired? Or both? Each little sign that was just a few hours ago so clear to read were now contradictory at every turn. I find myself force feeding a baby that in hindsight was never hungry. Or putting to sleep a baby who was just hungry. My self confidence explodes just like poop into a dirty nappy.
And this gloomy force cascades into all other forms of self doubt. As I hold the crying baby in my arms not really sure what to do with him anymore, I start wondering if I know anything at all. I wonder who I really am. I start wondering if I am more than a patting, swinging, shushing rock-a-bye milk jug and whether I am still the woman I was before any of this.
The self that was a lawyer confidently advocating for people's rights to a stuck up Magistrate was completely defenseless ironically to a helpless baby. Was I still that person who could do so much more than change nappies and breastfeed in her pyjamas all day long?
It's a dark road from there but I tell myself to just keep on walking.. slowly, in time to the gentle pats I am giving to the little one's bottom to soothe his despair.
Eventually after hours of breakdowns and run ins, it just stops. He coos. He smiles right into me as if to say "I know mummy". And right there in the middle of the night with poop in my hands and hair, I know I could and would do this forever.
I see him and his chubby little legs and feel glee knowing that Ihave physically and mentally contributed to those cute sausage limbs. Most of all I see that in the space of eight weeks, both him and I together have come so far. And maybe that's why my past life seemed like a lifetime ago.