My journal entry for 23 May reads: This is hard. That’s all it says. On that particular evening, I only had the energy and emotional capacity to write down those words. It had been a long day and a long week, and I was exhausted. There were things I had hoped to get round to after my baby fell asleep, but they had to wait for another day.
I don’t feel this way every day. In fact, I don’t feel this way most days. Motherhood truly is wonderful, surprising, exciting, rewarding, and all those beautiful things people told you it would be. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s been the best experience of my life. But despite the bliss and the joys, there are days when it just feels so hard! It’s not just the parenting that feels overwhelming, it’s also about settling into the new rhythm and flow of my days. That’s what’s hard. I don’t always know where I’ll find the time and energy to study. Will I ever be able to get into a regular exercise routine again? When am I meant to cook, clean, and eat, and shower? When am I supposed to cut my hair and trim my toenails? Do I go to bed at a decent time or should I sneak in some time to write or read? Will I ever be able to have a meal in peace again? Will tonight be the night that I finish an episode of Modern Family or have a decent (not baby related) conversation with my husband?
Somehow, I do all these things. I find time to write. To study. Occasionally, I even make time to relax with a book or a TV show. Some evenings Henry and I find a gap to chat and enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea together. I cook, I clean. I cut my hair and shave my legs. Somehow, it all gets done. Not on the same day! Sometimes not in the same week! But it gets done. Gone are the orderly days of planning things ahead and writing satisfying to-do-lists. I have a to-do-list on the pin board next to my desk. I wrote it early in May and never looked at it again! I left it there as a humorous reminder to myself to stay flexible. Things definitely aren’t the way they used to be, and yet, stuff gets done.
I’m starting to find my feet now that I’m almost six months into parenthood. But just when I think I have something figured out, it changes again. So, when I say, ‘I’m starting to find my feet’, I don’t mean I’m steady and in control. It’s the exact opposite. I’m now starting to surrender to the change, the challenges, and the chaos. Some days I manage to give in completely and those are the easy days, no matter what comes my way. Other times I resist because I have an idea or a plan for the day: I want to get an hour to write while baby naps, for example, or I want to go for a walk when the rain stops. Inevitably, things don’t always go according to plan, and when I resist going with the flow, well, then I get angry and frustrated. Those days are harder.
It was during the first month of motherhood that a random stranger in a parking lot told me: ‘Don’t worry, mama, it gets easier.’ This happened in front of Tesco while I had my then three-week-old baby out in the car seat in the freezing January weather. Daniella had slept for most of the grocery shopping but towards the end she started stirring, ready for her next feed. With her first murmurs I felt panic rise in my belly; I’ve been out and about before with a screaming infant and it was not fun. Thankfully, my mom, with all her steady wisdom, was there with me.
‘What am I going to do if she wakes up?’ I asked her. There was no place to breastfeed inside Tesco! (And just when am I supposed to do grocery shopping?! This is hard!)
‘We’ll calmly go the checkout and pay for the groceries,’ my mom answered.
‘And if she starts screaming?’
‘You’ll comfort her, we’ll finish paying for the groceries and calmly walk towards the car.’
That’s exactly what we did and to my relief, we made it to the car without any crying. All I had to do now was to secure the car seat to the Isofix base. As I tried to clip the seat in, the base kept rotating and I couldn’t figure out how to angle the seat. This is something no one tells you: A car seat is heavy! And at three weeks postpartum I didn’t have the mom-muscles I have now. I kept trying to shift the seat and I kept failing to get it right. I got frustrated and panicky, but I kept thinking, ‘I have to keep things together because I’m a grown woman with a baby, for crying out loud.’ Eventually, I got the trick and the seat clipped in – effortlessly – but by then I was completely frazzled and sweaty. I didn’t even notice the mom in the parking space next to me until she spoke:
‘Don’t worry, mama, it gets easier,’ she said, and gave me a warm knowing smile. She had twins in a double stroller.
I managed to return her smile. If she could make it look so easy with two babies, there was hope for me. And she was right, it did get easier. The car seat, the feedings, the nights, the juggling everything else. It’s still hard but my baby is growing and developing and, more importantly, I’m learning and growing as a mother. I doubt I’ll ever be an easy-going person, but part of my journey is learning to surrender to the flow. And even this gets easier with time.
Have a joyful day!