The Second Six Months
Any parent knows that the first year of a child’s life is incredibly challenging. It’s filled with so many ups and downs. There’s that first precious, gummy smile, or that first giggle, both of which make your heart feel like it might actually burst open with joy. Then there are the poo explosions, the cracked nipples and of course, the sleepless nights. And you experience a tiredness that you never, ever knew was humanly possible.
Those first few months as you navigate your way through the newborn haze are demanding, absolutely. There’s a reason it’s been dubbed, The Fourth Trimester. Friends and family rally together to cook meals, to help with the cleaning and check in regularly to make sure Mum (and Dad) can devote all their time to nurturing this tiny new member of the family.
‘Sleep when the baby sleeps,’ we are told. ‘There’s no rush to lose the baby weight,’ we are reassured. As a society we put a lot of emphasis on the fragility and importance of those early months in the life of a New Baby and a New Mother and rightly so. But what about the months that are to follow?
Fast forward to the second half of the year, when the meals have stopped coming, the visitors have died down and there is no one is offering to do your dishes or hang out your washing. You’ve officially dropped off the ‘new baby radar.’ For me personally, it’s this second half of my baby’s first year that I find the most difficult. My post-birth high has dissipated and I’m no longer running on adrenalin but rather a heady mix of caffeine and sheer exhaustion.
There seems to be an unrealistic expectation floating around in mothering circles and baby sleep books that your child should be sleeping through the night by now. Not mine. Multiple feeds through the night are still the norm and the sleep deprivation has really started to take its toll.
Breastfeeding is no longer a time for sleepy snuggles and Mama/Baby bonding, but rather an act of self-defence in which I try desperately to save my hair being pulled from its roots or my nose being ripped from my face. Nappy changes resemble a wrestling match, where my Son comes out a winner and I come out with shit on my hands.
An active baby now means I can’t let him out of my sight for a second. Gone are the days where I would leave him in the middle of the bed while I made myself a cup of tea or had a quick shower. These little rituals of self-care are now reserved for nap times only. And my indoor plants and other precious household objects have had to be removed from baby ‘grab level’ lest he ends up with a fist full of soil in his mouth or drops a salt lamp on his tiny toes.
Naturally, my house is in a constant state of disarray. My dining table is consistently covered in a mountain of clean washing, just waiting (praying) to be folded and put away. I spend 80% of my life doing dishes in a kitchen that is somehow never clean and my shower hasn’t been scrubbed in weeks.
But amongst all of this chaos there is also a hell of a lot of love, so much learning and discovering and an overwhelming feeling of contentment that comes from becoming a Mother.
My point however, is this: being a Mum to a baby under one is a tough gig. Regardless of whether you struggle through those early newborn days, the second six months or the whole damn year, it does get easier. So be kind to yourself. Ask for help if you need it. And pour yourself a glass of wine, Mama. You’re doing just fine.