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,
Some weeks I know exactly what I'm going to write before the week is over. Occasionally I have to pick from a number of ideas or topics or events that I want to document. Other times I have to press pause, take a moment on Saturday or Sunday (or later, if I couldn't find the pause button) and really think in order to find something I'm really keen to write about. But never before have I been completely out of ideas I deem worthy to pursue.
I think this is a very, very good thing, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it must mean the week has been mostly drama-free. No mishaps, no unsolved mysteries, no moments of ribcage-shaking despair.
Secondly, by contrast, I suppose it must also mean nothing stood out for good reasons either. No wondrous and unique developments, no magical memories in the making, no moments of unbounded joy.
In other words, it essentially shows that some level of normality has landed in our lives.
And yes, we do have a routine now. Each week sort of looks the same in terms of where we go and what we do, and I like this. A lot. (On Mondays we go to baby yoga, then often end up having lunch with other mums from the class, before heading home via the supermarket to make dinner. Tuesday and Wednesday are almost identical in that I take you to daycare, and I come home and try to do as much work and writing as I can. On Thursdays I give you extra squeezes because I've missed you so much, and then we go to an English books reading session for children at the large library close to Centraal Station and after that, your mood allowing, I try to do something in town; a museum, a spot of shopping, a coffee & cake in a restaurant I've long wanted to try. On Fridays we go to another mother and baby exercise class and then I try to keep the afternoon as free and flexible as possible so that we can maybe nap together or your dad can finish work early and we can all hang out together.)
They always say that babies like routines and while I do think this is partially true, I actually think mums like routines more. I find a lot of comfort in having a plan for my days with you, albeit a loose and breakable one. I like my days having direction, instead of failing to conjure up new ideas every morning and subsequently feeling the four walls of our living room creep closer around me when, for whatever reason, I've failed to leave the house before midday.
When I take a second to think about what "normal" looked like a year ago, I can't help but laugh out loud that I just described my current day-to-day life as "normal". They are so very different. Aside from being in the same place, almost everything else is different. Even the clothes I wear, when and how I put them on is different. Now I almost always dress in a rush, grabbing whatever I can that is clean and to hand, which often results in inside out underwear and mismatch colour choices I later try to pull off as representative of my new playful "I don't care" style, but really I do, I really do care that I look like I'm about to audition for Blue Peter... in 1986. Whereas last year I would spend up to thirty minutes each morning trying to squeeze my growing belly into different tops and bottoms, tutting at this inconvenience. Now I'd love to have a growing waistline be my biggest inconvenience of the day. Just the sheer number of tasks I have to do in order to get us out of our house in the morning - for daycare or any other reason - is easily more than the average number of weekly chores I'd do this time last year. And yes, of course, there are all the other things that happen now which definitely didn't this time last year; broken sleep, pooey nappies, daily crying fits and temper tantrums (both yours and mine), getting breast milk sprayed in my eye when you pull away unexpectedly, finding crumbs of baby biscuit in your belly button, doing laundry ten times more often.
You're probably expecting me to follow this up with a list of all the gooey good things* that happen now, which didn't this time last year. All those warm and fuzzy moments that have become normal, because, that's typically how these diary entries go, right? Well, actually, that's not my plan. I'd rather just take a moment and say how at ease I am with how crazily not normal my normal now is. I am content at how different life is compared to a year ago. It's not a shock any more. I no longer find myself feeling startled or unsettled when a new phase begins - you moving about, pulling yourself along on your front, being our most recent development - and I try not to gloomily dwell on the more challenging developments (your sudden desire to wake at 5.45am, for example).
But of course, all this rejoicing in our normal and familiar and routine now is temporary, because things are going to change, because as they say, everything is a phase when it comes to raising children. And you are changing and fast. I can already see your needs changing as you start to eat more solid foods and become much more interested in being held up so you can practise standing. Before too long you'll be too mobile to go to the yoga and exercise classes we take together. Next month, already, we're adding an extra day of daycare to your schedule because my workload is increasing and you enjoy going there so much. And I've long wanted to organise swimming lessons for you, so we'll have to find a day and time to squeeze that in.
I suppose you could say that my new appreciation of my new normal is essentially just a sign that I'm starting to chill out, but I feel like that sort of belittles what I think is a much bigger achievement. I'd rather think, I'm starting to see being a mother as my normal. And that is honestly something that seven months ago I thought I'd never be able to think let alone write down in a sentence that others would read. I'm very proud of myself for getting to this stage and I hope that I can continue to keep embracing all the new phases of your life with just as much calm, openness and yes, a chilled out attitude.
Your yet-to-enjoy-being-that-early-a-bird, amazed-how-fast-you-can-move-in-those-seal-like-pulls-and-shuffles, crazy-in-love-with-normal, and crazy-in-love-with-you, mother x
(*If I was going to write that list of joyful things you do which fill our days I would say how much you love being mobile and how you always, always push yourself by reaching for the furthest away toy on the mat, that little determined pout and overhanging frown above your eyes making my heart melt with pride. I would also add that it feels like everything you do is becoming more amplified; your smile is wider - showing off your two bottom teeth - you laugh louder and with more chained-up giggles, you wave your hands with much greater enthusiasm, often beating your chest or the ground beside you in some sort of horizontal haka. And I would also write about how you much you give us now. Physically, you reach out for us to pick you up, to give you food, to repeat whatever we did to make you laugh. In the last week, both your father and I have noticed how you like to stroke our arms as we hold you, though you've long used your fingers to touch my face as I nurse you, something I love.... until your index finger fish-hooks my bottom lip. And there is also more of an emotional connection too. Like most babies, and wonderfully so, you are unafraid of eye contact and you are a master of it. The way you stare at me while nursing feels a million more times intense than when you first started to do so in those earliest days. Because now we really do have a connection and it's crazy special bond that I have to say feels thankfully and blissfully normal.)
Frances M. Thompson
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