The first year as a mother, for many women, runs the gamut of emotions – tears, laughter, hysteria, love like they’ve never felt before and a level of tiredness that means your exhausted brain can’t even find the energy to form a sentence properly, so instead you choose not to speak.
As the months have gone by, I can look back at each phase of the first year of motherhood and celebrate with my own mental fist pump. Yes! I survived waking every two hours to feed a snuffling little babe, so tired I could barely lift my head off the pillow. I’ve battled through Greta’s first tooth appearance – and several more – as well as one nasty cold that had me stuck in bed with a snotty, feverish baby glued to my chest.
I’ve travelled solo on a seven-hour flight, with a wriggly 8kg baby who wanted to be anywhere but on my knee. I’ve sacrificed my time (still counting) and energy for the all-consuming job of breastfeeding my baby.
As the world continues to merrily go round, my year has been a swirl of dirty nappies, frantic middle-of-the-night google searches along the lines of “will my baby ever sleep through the night?”, new friendships found and old friendships rediscovered.
I’ve watched my body deflate like a fleshy balloon. The skin that was once taut, cocooning my little bundle of joy, was left like an empty, soggy plastic bag hanging loosely over the waistband of my track pants, slowly dispersing, but never returning to its former self. I’ve learnt to like my upgraded cup size and I eventually gave up the ghost of my old wardrobe and flogged it at a flea market.
I’ve watched - or rather gaped in wonder - at my daughter shoving food into her mouth, her eyes lighting up when she tasted fruit for the first time. For me, feeding her solid foods has been one of the most momentous and enjoyable parts of my motherhood journey so far.
At the 10-month mark, I felt a turning point. Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that Greta had now existed longer on the outside world as long as she had done on the inside of me. It was heartening to take a step back and see the fruition of my efforts. My crawling, cruising, babbling baby was transforming into an independent little girl, who may still rely on me but also now sees the world through her own tiny eyes, won’t take no for an answer, and knows exactly what she wants – which right now is the gold glitter bauble hanging on the Christmas tree.
I’ve added another layer of love to my relationship with my husband. When Greta was born, so were we - as parents. We have watched each other care for this tiny human, in awe and sometimes frustration (“she/he’s doing it all wrong”). We’ve learnt to communicate in hushed whispers and sometimes a jab in the ribs. We’ve laughed like we’ve never laughed before and shed tears of joy most days. We often spend five minutes before bed, staring at photographs of our little girl, who we miss desperately even though she only went to bed a few hours ago, and is likely to wake us up as soon as our heads hit the sack.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve noticed a new sense a calm wash over me. If you can keep your cool while holding a screaming baby at 1am, there’s not a lot else that can raise your stress levels. Okay, I may not be completely zen when Greta splatters tomato ragu on my crisp white blouse, but I am able to reason with myself that it will be alright.
I’ve learned how to have a conversation without dominating it with baby talk, but instead peppering it with gentle anecdotes that won’t scare away my childless friends. At the same time, I also remind myself that I’m not boring and that this is a whole new enlightening dimension of myself that shouldn’t be hidden away.
This time last year, in my final trimester, I was imagining my life as mummy. I imagined the baby snuggles and tried to comprehend the lack of sleep (FYI, no one can prepare you for that). I also doubted myself. How could I, who only had herself to worry about, look after a baby? I still can’t quite understand how I’ve done it, but I did it, albeit with the support of my mum friends on a WhatsApp group.
I have seen and learned things in the last year that have taken my breath away, things that have blown other life-changing experiences out of the water. I’ve met challenges head-on, and persevered when all the odds were against me.
2018 has been the most intense, beautiful, fulfilling and memorable year of my life and I’ll be forever thankful for it. Thankful for my baby, thankful for my husband, and thankful that because Greta now sleeps for longer than two hours, I’ve been able to read my first book in 10 months.
Photos: Jade's own