This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travel, writing, freelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.
Dear Baby Bird,
As previous entries have proven, I have days when motherhood feels manageable, enjoyable, easy even. And I have days when it feels anything but. What I rarely have are weeks when it all feels doable, when that stride I have found keeps me going forward at a pace that is not too fast or not too slow, when I'm not counting down the hours til bedtime at least once in seven days.
That is until this weekend. And it really should have been the week when this didn't happen.
You see I got sick again. It was another sickness bug, believe it or not. Maybe it was the Dutch version of the bug we picked up in the UK but one thing was for sure, from Tuesday until Friday, I really couldn't be any great distance from our bathroom and for much of the rest of the time only lying horizontally helped with my nausea and headaches. Thankfully you and your father didn't get it and thanks to him we bumbled our way through the week so that by Saturday I was eating almost normally again and I even felt strong enough to go on a bike ride with you.
I can't believe I haven't yet documented this but a few weeks ago we bought a new bike, a mamafiets as the Dutch call it, or mother bike. Designed to carry children (at the front and back) our mamafiets was actually a replacement for the bakfiets ("box bike") we'd bought before you were born. While the bakfiets was great last summer, taking you out in your car seat, it was always a little (okay, very) heavy to ride and manouevre and so once winter set in it became little more than a very expensive coat stand and dumping ground for various baby paraphernalia. We talked about selling it for months before we finally listed it online one Saturday night. By six o'clock the following evening it was on its way to a family with three children under four, where it would do the school run at least twice a day. I feel much happier knowing the bike is going to get a lot more use. And our mamafiets is perfect for our current needs. Now we can all go out together without one of us breaking our backs, or your dad can take you with him on his regular bike rides and I can save a little time getting you to daycare in the morning.
But back to this week of sickness and not just survival, but a sort of strange thriving. I think it's because once again sickness made us stop and just focus on the achieving the basics - keeping you fed, bathed, clothed safe, living to some kind of routine - rather than us throwing in any other goals or ambitions to do with work, writing or the house. There's definitely something to be said for living simply, though I'd much rather do it out of pyjamas I've worn for nearly 72 hours. Maybe I'll keep this in mind when I'm feeling fully back to normal...
Because I'm not quite there yet. That bike ride left me dizzy although we only went an embarrassing short distance, but it was long enough to remind me exactly why we live in Amsterdam. Being able to go for a bike ride as a family in relative safety is something your dad and I will never take for granted seeing as we both used to cycle in London; him as a brave/crazy daily commuter and me as a terrified fair-weather two-wheeled tourist. It also let me feel physically the sort of triumph I was experiencing at surviving another wobbly week of illness without falling to pieces or even really feeling too challenged. It was a good feeling.
I suppose this is where people expect me to compare parenting to riding a bike? And that now I'm in the saddle and pedalling away happily with you in front of me where I can whisper things in your ear and adjust your helmet when it slips to the side, isn't this when I say motherhood is like riding a bike, once you know what you're doing you never forget it. Well, no. From what I know of motherhood from the last eight and a half months, I feel like I'll never, ever be able to say that. If I were to draw a comparison it would be to say that I'm still very much in need of my stabilisers. I still find myself feeling totally intimidated by things that used to feel easy and I am still struggling with sleep or the lack thereof on account of nights for you still proving unpredictable and disruptive. I'm not naive enough to dismiss my recent ongoing bouts of illnesses as unrelated to such an extended period of sleep deprivation which has in itself continued to contribute to on-off anxiety that of course plagues me most at night making falling back to sleep after one of your wakings harder than I'd like.
In many ways I'm proud to even be cycling with stabilisers when it comes to motherhood because it proves I'm still getting somewhere albeit with occasional loss of balance, a little saddle sore and a very real and regular need for support and assistance be it in the form of an anti-anxiety tablet or surrendering to only doing as much as I can and letting everything else wait. You probably know by now that I'm not the kind of person for whom that comes easily, so you're not the only one learning new things all the time on this journey. I'm learning too. Always will be if my suspicions about motherhood are correct... Maybe one day parenting will feel as easy, as natural and as simple as riding a bike week after week for me, but until that day I'll treasure these singular weeks with all my might.
Your another-2kg-lighter, incredibly-grateful-to-your-fort-holding-father, looking-forward-to-thousands-more-bike-rides-with-you, crazy-in-love mother x
Frances M. Thompson
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