I have been a mother for five years, one month and 22 days. I guess I can add an extra nine months for the cooking bit, but amazingly we have been parents for 1,878 days! How can that be possible? Honestly, how have we winged it for this long? We’ve been wading our way through this crazy journey of parenthood, making it up as we go along; and yet it has felt like the most wonderous and natural thing, to bring these tiny people into our life, mini versions of us, and love them more that we could ever have thought possible.
It feels like only yesterday we went to bed on a freezing November night blissfully unaware that by morning our lives would be turned upside down, inside out and would never be the same again. We held our baby boy, so tiny and small, and we cried with joy and dressed him so gently, frightened we’d break him. Days would pass when he’d snuggle on my chest, belly full of warm milk and content to stay close for hours on end while I indulged in my secret love of comic book movies and Dr Pepper.
Only yesterday I changed my first nappy of hundreds, decoded a breast pump, had a fight with the buggy rain cover in the December rain, was introduced to colic-fighting Infacol, and worried constantly that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or how I was going to keep us all going day after day through this endless fog of sleeplessness.
And now, suddenly, we’ve finished our first full term of primary school and he comes up to my belly button. How did he once fit in there? How are we learning phonics and starting letter writing, building complex Lego structures and train tracks? How do I know that a Spinosaurus was bigger than a Tyrannosaurs Rex, that Heatwave is the red Rescue Bot and Lloyd is the Green Ninja? How did we get here so quickly?
I remember looking at mums with older children in awe, how did they do it? How do you keep them alive? Keep yourself sane? WHEN exactly will I sleep again? Will I ever read a book that’s not by Julia Donaldson? Have sex again? Please, tell me.
Slowly he gets bigger and bigger and you start to get an idea of how things might work. We reach new milestones, rolling, smiling, sitting, eating, walking, laughing, even sleeping – all these things you take for granted as an adult but you realise they are learned. Watching with absolute joy and wonder when they learn new things and he signs for the first time, ‘train’ and ‘more’ – a clue to next four years of our life – and the beginnings of the wonderful chats we’d have.
Then the whirlwind expands as you decide – in the tiny blip of a good sleep – to try for another, and then nine months fly by and you have two small people dependent on you for everything. A mixture of panic as you wonder what the hell have we done while also thinking: isn’t she amazing, the last piece of our family puzzle, and her sleep can’t possibly be worse than his… oh. Yes it can.
Motherhood has changed me, mentally and physically. Who knew I could survive on such little sleep? Who knew my heart could fill with such love? Who knew that my body could continue to grow my babies long past birth? Who knew that poo really can reach their hairline and sweetcorn comes out whole the other side? Who knew that someone so small could push me to the edge, but that I was also capable of such patience? Who knew that I would find lasting friendship in coffee shops, in church halls and over garden fences? Who knew that I could find both strength and weakness in this adventure of motherhood?
And now, somehow, we get to five years at this parenting gig. Other parents now look to me with a longing to know it will be ok, just as I looked at other mums. Exactly WHEN does it get easier? I’m still working it out, wading my way through, but I have come to realise we’re all doing our very best. We are all swimming around like swans on this pond of parenthood, trying desperately to be cool and calm on the surface, while paddling like bloody crazy beneath the water.
What have I learned? The best stuff is in the mundane family life, their little hands in ours, dancing in our pjs, our silly nicknames, pancakes on Saturdays, blissful cuddles in bed, reading our favourite stories over and over, when they run into your arms and all the other weirdness of our perfectly normal life.
Here’s to the next 1,878 days..
Little Hands Baby Sign classes run in Brentford, Hounslow on Tuesdays mornings and Hanwell, Ealing on Thursday mornings from January 2019. Find out more about the classes here.