Just like in the grief process, I have discovered that there are varying stages to look forward to when going into motherhood. They didn’t come all at once, but they’ve certainly all made their appearances. Without further delay, I present to you the 5 stages of motherhood.
1. Denial of Isolation
The feeling that one will never be left alone ever again. Like, ever. Even my bath time isn’t sacred anymore. You see, we figured out that in a house that’s being renovated (yes, still) and has half the roof tiles off in winter, it is warmer to bath with one’s child, than without. Because hell hath no fury like an infant being undressed in the cold and then dangled over a little bath tub while the parents fumble with soap and water and simultaneously try not to drown said child. So now Aiden baths with me, while Jon hangs out on the floor of the bathroom with the changing mat, the toiletries and a fleece covered towel to dress Aiden while he’s screaming in baby language that his parents are trying to murder him.
Just this morning, I went to the toilet while holding my child. He’s hit that 8 week mark, when infants realise that they are no longer, in fact, living inside of their mothers but outside in the real world, which is super scary for them and therefore they must be physically attached to the mother at all times or they scream the house down. So the mother is forced to brush her teeth while rocking the baby, make coffee with one hand while bouncing the baby, and yes, have a pee in the tiny toilet cubicle while cooing to the baby.
Denial of Isolation – will I ever do anything alone again?
There comes a unique sort of anger with parenthood. Anger with your spouse about things that you’d never imagined getting angry with each other over (WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU FORGOT TO BOIL THE KETTLE?! THE BABY IS SCREAMING FOR FOOD NOW AND THERE’S NO HOT WATER TO WARM UP THE MILK! FOUR MINUTES IS TOO LONG TO WAIT!), anger with strange old ladies in the pharmacy who rip open the stroller and reach in to pinch your finally-sleeping infant’s cheeks, anger with every supermarket in Fourways for never having enough trolleys with chairs (I mean, come on, how the fuck are parents supposed to get any shopping done without a space to put the baby? A friend of mine told me she actually makes two or three trips to the tills, takes the bags to her car and then goes back in to shop for the rest of the stuff. WTAF? No, supermarkets, no.) and finally, anger that the maid decided that vacuuming the kitchen tiles (really) at 3pm on a Monday afternoon is a great idea, especially as the baby has just fallen asleep after screaming all day.
I’ve found myself bargaining for all sorts of things in the last few weeks. Please, God, if you let me sleep a full four hours I promise to put out for my husband. Please, husband, if you take this next shift I swear I’ll shave my legs for the first time since birthing our son. Please, leg hairs, if you let me shave you smooth the first time round I promise I’ll not wait this long to shave you again (I mean it this time though). Please, Aiden, if you sleep for just 45 minutes more so I can finish this blog post I’ll use warm wet wipes at 3am to wipe your bum. Please boobs, if you stop aching so much I swear I’ll give him formula at the next feed to give you a break.
4. Depression and/or guilt
This mom guilt and depression thing sets in pretty quickly, ok. On the first day he arrived, I cried because my baby had to get fed formula. On the second day, I cried because Jon had to sit in front of my nipples with a 1ml syringe and catch the colostrum. I feel guilty when I put him to sleep in his nursery because everyone says I should be co-sleeping. I feel guilty when I let him sleep in bed with me after Jon leaves for the office because I should be sticking to the rules of keeping him in the nursery. I feel guilty for only making it 7 weeks of exclusive breast milk feeding. I feel guilty for only taking 4 months maternity, for selecting a creche over a nanny, using Woolies ready-made meals instead of cooking, for neglecting my animals and for saying “good luck” instead of “good night” to my husband. Because really, we need all the luck we can get at night. Aiden has spent the last week waking up at no regular sort of routine at all, so it’s adhoc shifts which means the both of us take turns sleeping with one eye and ear open.
In the beginning I would plan Aiden’s outfits carefully and meticulously. He’d look super cute or stylish or colour coordinated at the very least. Fast forward 8 weeks and I accept that my child is more often than not put into mismatching outfits, outfits that are way too big, and outfits that have stains that no outfits should have. Because when he’s thrown up his food for the seventh time in a day, it’s really all about getting something clean on him. Puke in my hair? It’s totally ok, I accept that. Poop on my shirt? That’s acceptable too, I’ll change after I bath with the baby tonight, right now he’s sleeping and I might just manage a 20 minute power nap. And mama knows that it’s all about getting your nap on whenever and wherever possible.