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,
Although I am ending this week with one ankle twice as big as the other, it has been a good week.
Although I am ending this week more tired than I have been in many months, it has been a good week.
Although I am ending this week very apprehensive about the following seven days - the last week that your age will be 0 - it has been a good week.
Although I am ending this week torn up as I contemplate stopping breastfeeding or not, it has been a good week.
Although I am ending this week constantly in conflict about our decision to sleep train you, it has been a good week.
It's been a good week because as hard as the sleep training has been, it's working. Sometimes I consider the term "sleep training" as just another way to say "crying it out", because in a horrid way that is the bulk of what we do. We listen and wait and sit outside your door, or on the couch, and let you cry it out and figure out how to settle yourself back to sleep. We're doing this, because we feel we've done everything else, including giving you time to adjust to longer stretches of sleep by yourself, which you have... but you also haven't. Five or six hours just isn't long enough anymore - and those were the good nights. We need you to go longer, so we can sleep longer and we can all feel and be a lot healthier.
With your first birthday getting closer on the horizon, it has felt like an unspoken deadline, prompting us to try the thing we really didn't want to have to. But we finally agreed this week that we have to. Here is not the place to get bogged down in the arguments for and against "sleep training". Every baby is different and every adult is different, and that has been demonstrated by the fact your dad and I weren't on the same page about sleep training until this week. That's 50-odd weeks of us not only dealing with a baby who doesn't sleep for long periods of time, but also 50-odd weeks of not seeing eye-to-eye on something that is already saturated in emotional angst. There have therefore been many, many weeks of trying to figure out a happy medium on good nights, or just trying to navigate our way out of a full-blown row on bad nights. To say that it's been a strain on our relationship is an understatement. Again, I'm not going to go into detail about how and what we have done this week because there's just too much minutiae, but I will say that our new approach has been harrowing... but it is working. In just seven days, you've dropped one of the two night feeds you were still waking up for, and you are also sleeping for up to eight or nine hours regularly. This is a huge improvement. I'm so proud of you. I'm so happy for you, because I know it must be doing you good. And I'm very proud of your father who has had to deal with this on the front line as I (or rather my breasts) had to take a big step back so as not to confuse you.
It's been a good week, because on Friday, we took advantage of your new reliable sleep pattern and we booked a babysitter and went out with friends. We drank wine, we ate burgers and we laughed in a room full of adults. It was the kind of "no big deal" I would never have written up as fantastic before you were born, but now this kind of normal is my new kind of fantastic. I love how motherhood doesn't let me take such things for granted anymore.
It's been a good week because I've been busy with work. For the last few months, I've slowly let my copywriting work grow again. It's not been intentional. I've just simply been ready to respond more favourably to potential jobs now that our weekly rhythm has established itself. Working three days a week works well for me, and I think three days of daycare, two days with me and two days as a family suits you well too. I'm very aware that I should take some time to thank my lucky stars that I can afford for all of this to be the case. However, I still battle with guilt and confusion about whether this is the right thing for you and I often spend my working/writing days finding it very hard to focus on tasks. However, while working this week, there was a moment when I went to make myself a cup of tea and I caught sight of the photo I have of you on my phone's wallpaper. I stopped in my tracks wondering when was the last time I thought about you. It was hours ago. Instantly, I felt both sadness but also great relief. It was nice to have my focus on something else. I believe this is necessary for a balance to exist mentally than just physically. I have to disconnect in order to reconnect with you, and really be WITH YOU rather than thinking about work while I'm sat next to you. And vice-versa. Of course, it's going to take several more years before I am always doing this the right way round, but this week was a good start.
It's been a good week because I've been counting my blessings about breastfeeding. In the beginning I said if it worked well for us, I'd go to six months. At six months, I said I'd continue until a year, or for as long as you wanted, because surely solids would prove more interesting than my one flavour, no-name brand. And now as we approach one year, I don't know how I feel. I suspect stopping breastfeeding would enhance so many things about my life from wearing nicer clothes (and bras!) to possibly being able to maybe have a night away with your dad somewhere. But I would miss it. I would miss it painfully. I adore the feeds we have in the morning and the evening - pretty much the only ones you have every day - and I love how much comfortnursing brings you when you're unwell or teething. Some people have already started to ask when I'm going to stop, as if you're already too old. I'm surprised how much I'm not bothered by this and how little I care what people think. To put it bluntly, nursing you has been a precious gift that I know so many mothers would love to enjoy and yet for many different reasons do not. I am not just going to throw it away because someone else thinks I should stop, especially when it's proven to be something we are both still benefiting from. So I'll wait until one of us has a strong desire to stop and then we'll cross that bridge. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy this precious gift.
And that swollen ankle, well, there's not much to be said about that because there's nothing good about going over on your ankle as you walk down stairs, my foot folding almost flat underneath my backside. I'm currently staring at it propped up on a pile of cushions at the other end of the sofa. It's starting to turn a very strange shade of purple and four days on I'm a little concerned that it's still numb to the touch, but it's not painful and for the most part it's not stopped me doing what I needed to do during this busy, good week. It's also funny how before you, this ankle would have taken up all my energy and worry and stress, whereas this week it was just a huge inconvenience that I only recalled when it slowed down my pace.
But maybe that was a good thing too. I've not spent as long watching you play as I have the last few days as my ankle forced me to sit or lie down a bit more. Maybe that's why it's been a good week. Because as well as the working, and the sleep training and the debating about breastfeeding - not to mention the nearly breaking my ankle - I've taken time to watch the way you pout as you gurgle and play with your cups, stacking them on top of one another, frighteningly aware of which one goes in which, or on top of the other. And I've sat with you in the park every day since Thursday, loving how you stretch out the straps of your buggy as you lean forward to watch the doggies running around you. And yesterday, we went on a long bike ride instead of a long walk and I got to bend forward and sing nursery rhymes (and a bit of Jill Scott) in your ear as you felt the breeze in your face and occasionally moved your hand so it rested on my arm.
Yeah, it's been a good week.
Your hobbling-about, purple-is-the-new-black, braving-herself-for-another-week-of-sleep-training, crazy-in-love mother x
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.