A Diary of Motherhood: Week Forty-One

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 travelwritingfreelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.

Dear Baby Bird,

Today was Mother's Day in many countries, including the one we live in so we chose to celebrate it. Your father had plenty of warning, including even a visit from two of my friends who teased him about buying appropriate gifts. It still seems like a surreal conversation for two of my old school friends to have with the boy I met snowboarding in Austria. When did we all get so grown up?

So yes, I find it just as surreal that I am now able to celebrate this day not just because I am lucky enough to have a wonderful mother, but also because I am a mother. That said, however, I suspect that it will take a few years before YOU actively celebrate this day with me as of course today you were oblivious to how itwas any different to yesterday. You still woke up several times at night. You still gave me a big smile from your crib when it was time to get you up and dressed. And you have gone about your busy playing and crawling and singing to yourself without any kind of indication that the card and present I opened at breakfast were anything to do with you, even though you tore through the wrapping paper like a champ and let me squeeze you extra hard as I read the card, a little tear or two falling onto your shoulder.

And of course, they weren't. It may have been your name in the card but it was your father whose shoulders today fell on. It was up to him to celebrate me as a mother for the first time and it was up to him to make me feel like I'm doing an okay job of it. And he did. He really did. He wrote a lovely message (as if from you to me) and he bought a print of Van Gogh's Almond Blossom that's now hanging up in the corridor of our apartment, and every time I walk past it I am reminded that it's the first Mother's Day gift I received, and that I'm doing an okay job.

Maybe this is a good context to say that the last nine months or so have not been easy on your dad and me as a couple. As much as I have shared in these diaries how my journey into motherhood as been up and down, they've essentially omitted, downplayed or heavily sugarcoated many of the most challenging moments. The one person, aside from you, who has had a front seat view of or staring role in the harder, darker times has been your father. This has been both a blessing and a curse for him and for me.

Your father is very different from me. He has a very strong, almost stubborn. sense of self and he is confident in his actions and ambitions. It's one of the things I'm most attracted to as I often sway under pressure and all too frequently question and doubt myself. He is also led by logic, while I am led, perhaps even ruled by emotions. It has therefore made explaining post-natal depression to him very difficult. He cannot understand how I could begin to plummet into a vicious circle of self-doubt about how good a mother I am when I have only months experience of it. That's just not long enough to make any sweeping judgments or assessments in his mind.

He also has struggled to comprehend how one minute I can be leaning over you pretending to eat your toes and giggling with you, and the next I can be at my wit's end because you refuse to go for a nap or you have smeared pureed vegetables all over your high chair. To be honest, if it didn't happen to me, I wouldn't understand it either. It's extreme and it's exhausting. In his mind, I should do whatever I can to try and stop this pattern repeating itself. It sounds so simple when I type it out like that, but I know it's not that easy. Besides, I have been trying, but it still happens...

So you see your father and I, we think differently. We always have and I suspect we always will. Before you came along, however, that was easy enough to deal with. We disagreed, we argued, we ignored each other for a while, we made-up, we moved on.

But now you're here I don't want to spend hours not speaking to him. In fact, we have to communicate more just to logistically keep our lives ticking over. I mean dinners, daycare, bath and bed times don't just magically happen. It's taken me a long time, and perhaps a sweet Mother's Day note, to realise that from the moment you were here we had to not only start learning a new way to live together, but a new way to love each other.

Because here's the one big truth I've not even hinted at in previous diary entries. Having a baby has really tested us and I know it's going to keep on testing us. That's got nothing to do with my post-natal anxiety or depression (although that's presented it's own separate challenges) this is just the effect of going from a family of two to three. It has meant we have needed to learn a new way to communicate, a new way to argue, a new way to support, love and care for each other, even when sometimes we really don't want to because we're both sleep-deprived, both stressed and we've said really unpleasant things to each other.

When I think back over the first six months of your life, I'm a little ashamed at how we have both behaved. There's nothing to be gained from going into detail, but simply put, it wasn't our finest hour as individuals or as a couple. And now, although the lows aren't so low anymore and the highs just keep on climbing to greater peaks, I am still very aware of how much work my relationship with your dad needs. Not because it is broken or needs fixing, but because the stronger it is, the stronger we are for each other, and for you.

So today, on Mother's Day I want to acknowledge your father and thank him for making today special, and for all he does to make us stronger.

Your definitely-from-Venus, crazy-in-love-with-your-Martian-daddy, but-please-don't-grow-up-as-stubborn-as-him, 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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