Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Baby blues

It's like being trapped in a jar.  You can see everything going on around you.  Your house, family, life, world.  But you can't get to it.  Everyone comes and looks in on you fairly regularly, often making cooing noises about how you should be savouring every minute of this.  And you look around you and think, 'are you for real? This? THIS? You want me to savour this???'

Because it's rubbish inside the jar.  You can't get to your people or your kitchen or your shower or even reach your cup of tea.  All you can do is sit at the bottom of the jar wondering how you got stuck there.

And then you hear a noise.  A squeaky-grunty type noise and you remember that you're not alone in here.  There's a little bundle of needs in a Moses Basket that has suddenly become your responsibility.  You vaguely remember that you'd wanted this.  You'd planned it and looked forward to it but you don't want it so much.  In fact, the decision to bring this little person into the world seems like just about the dumbest thing you ever did.

You look at this child.  Your child.  No, it doesn't feel like it is your child right now but you know it is.  Somehow this makes it all more awful.  You go through the motions, nursing it, changing it, keeping it safe, but you resent it.

Sometimes people actually come into the jar to visit you.  In fact, you spend most of your time alone in there desperately looking forward to someone coming in to join you.  They walk in and within seconds you want them gone again.  The only thing that's worse than being trapped in a jar with a baby you can't make happy is to have someone else in there.  Someone telling you how lovely the baby is, suggesting you try feeding it when it screams, giving tips on how to get babies to sleep, eat, rest.  You're not really listening.  All you're thinking is 'either take this baby away from me or leave me alone to work it out myself'.

The worst visitor to the jar is most definitely your husband.  You hate him.  Not in a concsious, 'you did this to me' kind of way.  It's more that everything he does is wrong, not enough, too fussy.  He can't win.  There may or may not be a small voice in your head telling you that this is unreasonable but the emotions will win out and you will just want him as far away from you as possible.  Until he leaves the jar to go to the outside world, of course.  Then you will count down the seconds until he returns.  You envy his freedom.

And you cry.  A lot.  Sometimes because you haven't slept for days, sometimes because your body aches.  Sometimes you cry because the baby is crying, still crying, crying again.  You're out of ideas and energy.  You can only look on at the mess that surrounds you.  You feel helpless and hopeless.  You cry in mourning for your old life, your self, your marriage.  You cry because this is your life now.  There's no way back.  But mostly you don't know why you're crying.  It just seems to be what you d now.  You cry so much that your little jar starts to fill with tears and you wonder if you and the baby will float away.  Or drown.  For a while you welcome that thought.  Drowning.  Then you realise just how terrifying it is that you are having that thought.  You then cry some more.

Sometimes it's really hard to breathe in the jar.

Time passes in the jar but it's impossible to measure.  Days and nights blur into one relentless blur of feeding, changing, settling, waking, feeding, changing, settling...So you give up the fight.  You realise you will be stuck in here with this child forever so you start to figure out how to get along.  It's not quick or easy but it happens.  You have moments where you lock eyes with this little person and realise this is all pretty sucky for them, too.  They're also figuring out a gazillion things.  They can't feed, change or soothe themselves.  They're not out to get you, they're just doing their best with this situation, too.

And then you realise that the child is a she.  Or a he.  But definitely not an 'it'.  She wriggles when you tickle her.  She lifts her head during tummy time.  She starts flailing around in an attempt to roll.  And in these moments you forget about the jar.  You find yourself thinking, 'OK, this is not so bad'.  The moments don't last long but they make the time in jar a bit more bearable.  Not worthwhile, not yet, but bearable.

Then she starts crawling, pulling herself up, eating solids, interacting, walking, dancing, singing, talking.  And at some stage you realise that those OK moments have been growing in intensity and duration.  You now enjoy whole sections of your day.  Stretches of time when the jar doesn't exist.  Where you are in and part of the real world.  You enjoy your daughter.  Seeing her reach for you makes your heart jump.

And then you look up and realise the jar is hardly there at all anymore.

You will find you spend a lot of time sitting with your daughter, remembering the jar.  You will marvel at how far you two have come.  The love between you, the connection you have with each other and the world will make it hard to relate to the mum and baby who were stuck in that jar.  You won't wish for that time back, the jar time.  You may wish you could go back in time to have those weeks, months, years again outside the jar, but you don't miss those days.  These days are so much better.

You will never know how you ended up in that jar.  You and your pregnant belly went to sleep in a bed one night and you woke up in a jar with a baby.  Sounds crazy but it's true.  You know it is.  There was no avoiding that jar so you did your best once in it.  You worked with what you had.  And you worked hard.  So. flipping. hard.

You don't - can't - berate yourself for where you were, or what you did, or what you thought while you were in there.  You survived. You nurtured and nourished and mothered through the struggle and the hurt.  Give your child a kiss, give yourself the credit you're due.  You fought, you loved, you won.  You're out.