So Bella recently turned one, and part of me can’t believe we made it through the first year, navigating the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. It’s been a year of extreme contrasts. I have experienced the purest happiness (fuelled by a heady cocktail of oxytocin and Hobnobs), but also some of the most emotionally wrenching, soul questioning troughs (fuelled by lack of sleep and crushing self doubt). And what I have learnt as we have grown this amazing little human is that it will always be hard. And what I have found most difficult about being a mum is admitting that. I don’t like acknowledging that everything isn’t perfect all of the time. I desperately want to enjoy EVERY SINGLE SECOND, because I am so grateful for what I have. I want the “grid-perfect” view of motherhood, with the perfectly content and well-behaved child and the perfectly confident and well-adjusted mum. But it’s not that. It’s the most amazing thing I have ever done, but it is also, without question, the hardest. I expected the first three months to be hard, as they aren’t known as “100 days of hell” for no reason. But I didn’t expect it to continue to be hard when we left this phase behind, just a different kind of hard.
And that’s the key word there: “phase”. As your baby grows from mewling newborn to door-slamming three-nager you will go through a never-ending series of difficult phases. And when you are in the midst of one you are CONSUMED by it; you eat, drink and Google it. You end up lost down bottomless internet rabbit holes, wading through obscure blogs from ten years ago, trying desperately to find anyone who has been through exactly what you are going through. But no matter how frustrating that phase is, however much you want to scream into a pillow at the end of every single night, everything stops eventually, because it is (let’s hear it) JUST A PHASE. So in the spirit of full disclosure and admitting what I have found tricky, here are my five hardest “just a phase”-s (so far):
First three months, aka 100 days of hell: This is everything people say and more. It is a phase where you completely suspend life as you know it. I went from a feral birth where I discovered a side of myself I never knew existed (and some swear words I didn’t even know I knew), to a sleep deprived fog, with my battered body enthralled to a tiny human. This was a time of vomit encrusted nursing bras, waddling round Tooting Common in the pissing rain with my adult nappy on, weeping into my breast pads and onto Bella for no reason other than ‘hey I just pushed a human out of my vagina’, and all the time besotted with this miniature slave driver cluster feeding from my bloodied nips.
Napping in the house: from three months onwards we tried to get Bella to nap in the house, in her cot, in her lovingly prepared (and hideously expensive) sleeping bag. You would think we were putting her on a bed of nails wrapped in a blanket made of nettles complete with a pillow of crushed glass. She would sleep for about thirty minutes and then scream and scream, a pink browed nap-resistant banshee. This went on for 65 days. 65 days. I counted them. In desperation I used to Skype my mum into the nap free warzone, as I sat slumped on the floor outside Bella’s room in floods of guilty and frustrated tears.
The fussy food phase: From six months Bella would pretty much put any food in her mouth (she would pretty much put anything in her mouth, edible or not). But then she hit ten months and suddenly turned into a highchair bound Gordon Ramsay. Food was subject to extreme scrutiny before being rudely lobbed at us (I imagine inside she was swearing at us and telling us we better pull our f**king socks up or she would never come back to this shit restaurant ever again.). “Don’t react, don’t react” went on a loop through my head as I scraped mashed up broccoli heads out of the floor boards and scrubbed dried Weetabix off the walls. Thank god the cat will eat anything, really very helpful.
Crawling frustration: Bella was relatively late to crawling, preceded as it was by weeks and weeks of the zombie shuffle. For about a month this was cause for extreme frustration, as she would dry hump my leg and wail because she couldn’t get to what she wanted. Toy offerings were deposited in front of her with hope in our eyes, like she was some kind of tiny goddess who demanded plastic Day-Glo sacrifices, only for them to be slung heavenwards with abject disgust.
The black lung: For twelve weeks now Bella has suffered from the black lung, the cold that just keeps on giving. We have a daily battle with a tide of mucus, where snot trails are left all over my clothing like the calling card of a diseased slug and where wiping her face (the very cheek of us) is met with high pitched sobbing and attempts to dive off the changing table. We also have the Alsatian hack, which makes her sound like she has actual consumption. And there is nothing you can do about it, despite being willing to THROW money at whatever parental placebo comes your way.