When the health nurse came to our home for the first visit after my daughter Dominique was born, I’ll admit I was a smug-arse parent. My baby seemed to sleep a lot in that first week, and I even bragged to the nurse how we “vacuum the house while she’s sleeping so she can get used to the noise.” She was a small babe, so I had to wake her every three hours to feed, but in that first week, we were excited to see her as much as we could, so getting up was no biggie.
Then the second week came and BANG – it was like someone sensed my smugness and smashed my face in with a steel hammer of reality. Dom decided she still loved to sleep – but only during the day. Night time was party time and by party time, I mean endless hours of crying. I remember by the time I fed, changed, burped and eventually got (rocked) my girl to sleep, I’d look at the clock and think, “God, I’ve only got an hour before I have to get up again.” By week three I was so exhausted I couldn’t bear it. Everyone would say, “when she sleeps during the day, have a nap” – but those hours were spent washing the endless piles of vomit-covered tiny clothes, singlets, bassinet sheets, etc and you know, just keeping my house from looking like an episode of Hoarders.
Even in those one-hour sleep breaks during the night, there’d be a few times her dummy would fall out of her mouth and she’d start crying. I would estimate that in the first 15 months of her life (which is how long it took before she started sleeping through), I said “for fuck’s sake” about 189,345 times, and that’s a pretty conservative estimation. At about the six week mark, my husband walked in the door from work and found me laying on the bed with my baby, both of us bawling. I just couldn’t take it anymore. It wasn’t just that I was so painfully exhausted, I was also feeling soul-destroyingly guilty. The thing is, I didn’t want help from anyone. I refused offers, even from my own husband, to take the baby for a couple of hours so I could get some sleep. I was a complete and utter control freak. As a mother, I felt like it was my most basic function to look after my kid, and in my mind, I wasn’t doing that well because there were times when I thought I just couldn’t take another night of no sleep.
That day, my husband picked up our baby and said, “I promise you I’ll bring her in when she’s due for her next feed” and walked out of the bedroom. I was so tired that for once, I didn’t put up a fight. I closed my eyes and I slept and to this day, it was the best three hours of sleep I’d ever had in my entire life.
Blogger Sarah Turner, also known as Unmumsy Mum, recently wrote a post called, “Cherish every moment? No. My Advice For Brand New Parents” and it is fabulous in it’s honesty. In her post, Sarah challenges the pressure mothers feel to enjoy EVERY moment with their children, even when those moments are hard as fuck. Sarah’s post, where she admitted that, “On a sleep-deprived/’cluster feeding’/nothing-stops-the-crying type day, it is quite possible that the moment ratio will end up at 80:20 in favour of shit” has seen many mother’s come out with their own struggles of parenting.
Here are some of the tweets she received:
As mothers, I think we can get tied up in feeling guilty to admit that parenting is hard. It is fucking hard, but that admission doesn’t mean that we don’t love our children. The fact that we love our babies more than life makes all that lack of sleep/vomit/shit/crying absolutely worth it, but it doesn’t diminish the ‘hard’.
As my kids are growing, I often feel the hardest years are yet to come. The physical side of having a baby is SO full on, but every age and every stage provides new and different levels of patience, support and anxiety. At the end of the day, we are all doing our best. All we want is happy, healthy children, but I think it’s really important to remember that in order to do that, our kids need happy, healthy parents.
My advice to my fellow mums would be TAKE THE HELP. Take it all. If you are lucky enough to have people in your life who want to lighten the load so you can rest, or go for a walk, or just sit by yourself in the quiet for an hour or two, let them do it. I still struggle with this from time to time but I know that I am a happier, more engaged parent when I let go and allow others to help – and the day will come when I will pay-it-forward and do the same for someone else; even it’s just for a nap and a shower. Because who doesn’t need more of those?
What have you found the hardest part of parenthood?