A Diary of Motherhood: Week Twenty-Three

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,

"Cheer up grumpy!"

"Oh look, finally a smile!" 

"What's with the face, Baby Bird?"

This is what people have said about you in the past. You see, you're not the smiliest baby in the world and you definitely don't laugh like your life depends on it. You do still do both - smile and laugh - but carefully, almost cautiously, as if you only have a limited number of happy expressions and you don't want to waste them on something that truly isn't worth that killer smile of yours. Because it is the best smile I've ever seen. And your laughter, those squeals that catch in your throat because you haven't quite worked out how to breathe through rolling laughs, it's the closest thing to magic I've ever heard. But you are protective of your grins and your giggles, and I get that. I respect that. In many ways, I suppose it's what makes them little life-savers when they do brighten up my day.

That's exactly what they felt like this week. Life-savers. Like a life ring thrown out to me as I drowned in yet another sleep-deprived week.

Although you're fully recovered from your ear infection, recently you have struggled to settle back into sleeping better at night, not that you were ever a sleeping-all-night kind of baby, or even close to what I could describe as a "good sleeper". As you will probably be bored of being reminded in these diaries, sleeping for long periods of time at night (or any time actually!) is not your forte. But over the last three weeks it has got worse, not better and I have found myself back in a very dire and difficult place similar to that which dominated the first three months of your life. It wasn't so much about how shitty I felt - I got used to feeling run over by a tank - it was more about what the tiredness took from me; energy, focus, alertness, resistance to criticism or unnecessary and my usual readiness to smile. But above all other things what I hated most about sleep deprivation when you were a newborn was that it threatened my sense of humour.

But not this week. This week I learned that your smile will make me smile no matter how bad I feel. This week I learned that your laughter will make me laugh no matter how sad I feel.

As we waved goodbye to one year and welcomed another, I have felt a multitude of emotions. Honestly, the first or perhaps most dominant thing I have been feeling recently is regret. I feel like I should have enjoyed the last five months (because yes, you turned five months the other week) more and I should have let the struggle go quicker, easier, and with more grace. You are never again going to be that small, sweet, ball-like baby that would fall asleep on my chest again. And what did I feel when you were that baby; I felt deep anxiety and often a little trapped by my subsequent ability to do anything else. As the song goes, I could only hold you and for many days (and weeks) this often wasn't even enough. But it should have been. I feel like it should have been enough for me to simply let go of any other commitments and maybe I should have felt content enough to simply sit and hold you. I honestly don't know if that's the way it should (or could) have been, but that's what my regret sometimes leads me to believe.

To write that down brings both relief and release, but yes, more regret too. But I also feel proud. Proud that we made it through that stage anyway. Proud that I made it. Proud that I made you and in many ways, am continuing to make you. Proud that although it's not all day, every day you do smile and you do laugh, and thankfully nowadays it's A LOT more than you cry.

Part of me also knows that during those harder times that I now regret, even when I was frowning, I was smiling somewhere inside. And even when I was crying, deep in those hidden, too-scary-to-confront depths of me, buried under a mountain of hormones and a gazillion preoccupations, I was occasionally laughing loud and heartily. 

I still am, the difference is that now I can hear it loud and clear. That and I'm no longer alone in my laughter and my smiles. Yours are there too in all their precious, perfect, occasionally life-saving glory. Thank you, Baby Bird.

Your sleep-deprived, a-little-tearful-right-now, until-we-next-have-a-giggle-together-that-is, crazy-in-love mother

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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