I never saw myself, or could even imagine myself as a mother until I was pregnant. My first inkling of what it felt like was when I was around 7 months pregnant and a 2 year old hit my stomach with a badminton racket really hard. I felt a surge of protectiveness, worry, love…it overwhelmed me. My arms cradling my stomach and my heart so heavy worrying that my baby was hurt. This protectiveness, this love so big you just can’t explain it to anyone else, other than another mum, just consumed me. It has ever since.
I didn’t know that I would never use my beautiful moses basket that I brought when I was 8 months pregnant. If I had known that babies prefer the warmth and safety of their mothers bodies, that Thomas thrived with co-sleeping, I never would have even bothered buying it (although it did make a great laundry basket!). Nor the beautiful white cotbed we spent hours putting together…
I wouldn’t have worried myself, spent god knows how many hours reading about baby sleep and Googling ‘how to get your baby to sleep through the night’ or ‘how to get you baby to sleep in their cot’. I wouldn’t have wasted a minute on it. Nor would I have scratched my head wondering why he didn’t sleep a lot, or take hours to fall asleep. Wondering what I was doing wrong. All babies are different. Instead I would have relaxed, knowing that being close to me is what my baby needed and that not all babies sleep through the night until they are older. Waking more than once is also common.
I have accepted that my son needs me during the night, I can’t change him. He likes co-sleeping, he likes the cuddles, the hazy milk feeds. Why are we drilled into believing that babies need otherwise? Why did I get so stressed out about him behaving the way he was designed to be?
I guess the greatest thing I have learnt in the past year has been that my expectations were way off before I had a baby. I thought I’d be able to breastfeed naturally without problems, I thought I’d stop breastfeeding at 6 months, I thought I’d sleep peacefully whilst my baby slept in his moses basket then would move him into his own room to his cot at 6 months. I thought he would sleep for 11 hour stretches by the time he was 1 years old. I thought I’d go out a lot more without him, I thought I’d want to. But I don’t.
I know he will sleep through eventually. I know he will reduce his night feeds eventually. This is what a baby is like. Life is too much of a rush. I’m not going to rush him. Instead I am going to cherish every 4am cuddle, every dreamy feed with my body curled around his, our legs intertwined, and every smile when he sees my face as he opens his eyes. This is what my child is like. I don’t want to spend a second more wishing away this baby time, because this is what babies are like. The experts can say what they want, friends and family can keep telling me I’m making a rod for my own back by co-sleeping, or comment “you’re STILL breastfeeding?!”. They have no idea what my child needs and what makes us happy and content as a family. This is our way and I accept this wonderful role I have as his mother.