The “new normal”.
Today Reuben is 3 months old, or 13 weeks. Part of me can’t believe that he’s only been with us for 3 months, some days it seems much longer I have to be honest and say that I still remember what life was like without him, and being ever more honest – life was good without him! That doesn’t mean I am wishing him away, just simply that life before Reuben was good and I have great memories of “just” Gavin and I! In fact, I have most often heard myself complain that life before Reuben was “normal” and I would love just a small measure of that back. That isn’t going to happen and I/we have to get used to a “new normal”. One that involves and revolves around a small boy – our son.
It’s been hard, very hard. I have struggled to adapt to my new role, much more than Gavin has. But he gets to leave the house each morning, freshly showered, has regular lunch breaks and is free to use the bathroom whenever he wishes. He also has endless amounts of adult company and isn’t covered in sour milk, vomit and poop! So, understandably, it hasn’t been such a big change for him. But it has been for me. Reuben and I have had good days and bad days and some just ‘ok’ days! Sometimes, I have cried all day – right from the moment he has woken until he has gone to bed and Gavin has returned home. Other days, I have wondered where the time has gone and celebrated that lack of tears, as I have finally slumped into bed!
As I look back on these last 3 months, there are somethings that I wish I had known BEFORE we all arrived here. It surprises me how antenatal classes prepare you for the birth of the baby but not really the life of the baby! I would much prefer to have learned “life skills” rather than “birthing strategies”. After all, the birth is over eventually and normally you have tons of help to get the baby here during the labour. But once that is over the real work begins and the learning is fast and furious. So, here are some of the thing I wish I had known in advance –
1. Life will NEVER be the same again. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change that. I can “mourn” the loss of what was before but sooner or later I have to get on with life as I now know it. But just because life will never be the same, does not mean life will never again be ‘good’ or ‘great’. I found that very hard to believe early on, but I am trying hard to embrace it now.
2. It does get easier, a little every day. I did not believe this. 3 months on, days are still hard. But not as hard, new or unfamiliar as the early weeks. Often you don’t notice the improvements until you look back. As I think back on life 4 weeks ago I can see things that have gotten better or more settled…but you have to make a conscious effort to look for it!
3. It’s not as simple as +1. 2 becoming 3 is quite a wrench for both mum and dad. There is someone else permanently in your conversation, plans and bedroom. I have to admit, that change has shocked me the most. Reuben is our son, our little man and we made him, but making space and room for him in our life and relationship has not been plain sailing. It takes a lot of compromise, understanding, selfless decisions, patience and determination.
4. Poop stains do not come out of white baby grows. Don’t waste the time scrubbing them!
5. Some days will be great, other won’t. There is no way of knowing in advance what sort of day Reuben is going to have – I just need to learn to go with the flow. It’s not my fault (most of the time!) if he is grumpy or hard to work with – babies cry and sometimes the reason why evades us adults.
6. Sleeping during the day, when Reuben sleeps, does not work for me! Everyone told me to do this but it just stressed me even more. All I could think about, when I was trying to take a nap, was how long I had and would it be enough to refresh me; would I actually wake up when he did; the mountain of dishes and washing that had to be done; and the house that was a mess if visitors decided to call. I gave up trying to nap during the day when he was a couple of weeks and used the time to do whatever I needed. By the way, it’s amazing how much you can get done in a hour when you put your mind to it! On the topic of sleep, most babies do start to sleep longer at night. I did not believe Reuben ever would and thought I would be up every 3 hours for the rest of my life! Drama Queen eh? But now at 3 months he will normally be up just once, between 4.30 and 6am, and will go to sleep again to 7.30 or 8am. Somedays he even has a lie in and I have to wake him at 8.30 am!! AMAZING! 6 weeks ago I would never have believed it possible, but now that it’s arrived it’s such a treat! And everything seems easier and less confusing with a straight 5-6 hours of sleep.
7. Routine is key – yes it’s good for the baby, but it’s great for you! Once you have some sort of idea when the baby likes to eat, play and sleep during the day, everything is a bit more manageable. And bedtime routine is the biggest blessing. I honestly believe that Reuben now knows that bath, pj’s and bottle mean BED! And for the last few weeks he’s down by 7pm and asleep by 7.30pm…bliss!! I hope we can get this to 6.30/7pm as he gets older.
8. Take help when offered! AlWAYS! I have had family and friends who have taken Reuben, for varying amounts of time, and it makes a hugh difference. A solitary two hours, or a trip out to Tesco (which results in a full fridge), actually refreshes me and gives me more energy to return and take care of him. I cannot tell you how thankful I am to certain people for their care for me and devotion to Reuben.
9. My body will never be the same again. I didn’t gain more than baby weight when pregnant (read more on that story here http://lindsayelizabethrobinson.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/size-matters/) and was back in all my pre-pregancy clothes two weeks after giving birth. However, my weight might be similar to before, but my body is not. Never mind the scar (which is still tender and sore) my body is more wobbly and spongy than it was…and for once I don’t have the time and energy to stress over that fact!
10. Having a baby and becoming a Mum is not easy. It’s down right hard, demanding, confusing, stressful, exhausting and all consuming. I have I really struggled between weeks 2 and 9 and thought I was going insane. I felt like I couldn’t cope, would never be able to manage Reuben, and had made a big mistake having him. I also really struggled to bond with him and truly believe that he belonged to me. Some days I just had to look at him and the tears would come, not tears of joy but tears of fear about how this little person was relying on me and I had “no idea who he was”. Those days are definitely passing but they were very scary. For a good few weeks I could see not light at the end of the tunnel. But surprisingly this is NOT ABNORMAL! Thanks to getting some Counselling and talking to a few other ‘mum’ friends I realised that I was not alone. Talking and being honest was the start of helping me to get my head around how I was feeling – there really should be much more support for Mums, especially from medical professional, who I found to be pretty useless in this situation.
So, 3 months in and all of this is now my “new normal”. Reuben is getting big (too big I worry!!) and he’s smiling and cooing and loving playing with me. These days things are easier than they were at the start. I still have moments when I have to pinch myself and be reminded that he’s with us for good – life as we know now is how it’s going to be! What the future holds for me with regards to work, career and pursing my hopes and dreams is currently on hold, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind. But that’s for another day or another post. For now, I am celebrating the fact that Reuben in 3 whole months old and that means he has survived me being his mum for 13 weeks! Phew!
By the way – here’s some photos of him from the last 3 months, thought you might like to see him! Here’ to the “new normal”!