It’s now my second time having a baby. The first time was such a life-changing experience, I ended up writing a book about it. At the time I had a great professional role and really valued my independence. (Yes, I had my husband, but he’s a big boy and could look after himself.) The change from being independent to being left in charge of a completely dependent child was a big deal.
Having a teensy, tiny little baby turned my life upside down and inside out.
This time around? Not so much.
I won’t say it’s easy. It’s certainly not. But it hasn’t impacted my life as dramatically as the first time.
This has left me comparing the two experiences and pondering the first time of being a mum and how transformational the journey was.
As a new mum there is hardly an area in your life that hasn’t been impacted by the birth of a child.
Your career is probably on hold, your relationship enters a new phase, your body has changed, your friendships may take on another dimension. You are sleep-deprived, hormonal and constantly attached to another human being. And this human has needs that you probably hadn’t anticipated.
Let’s not forget the fear. Hello irrational fear!
The first year of motherhood is monumental in terms of new emotions, elations, fears, joy, worry and generally trying to figure out what you are doing. You are faced with trying on parenting styles and seeing what fits with your values. If this isn’t complicated enough, it’s likely you’re also navigating your partner’s style and values and trying to find some middle ground.
Your baby is constantly developing. Just when you think you have a handle on the current stage, your baby moves on to the next stage. It’s a game of constant catch-up.
And, then there is you. You are wondering who you are now that you’re a mother. It’s not always easy to etch out time for you. You may be wondering whether the career you worked so hard to build still fits with who you are now. It can be a really confusing time. But also an exciting time as those hard questions (like “Who am I?”, “What am I meant to be doing with my life?”) may come up from their lurking place under the surface, waiting for a suitably chaotic time to shake things up.
If and when it’s time to go back to work, this can be a daunting process. Your child is left in the care of someone else, and you’re now working out how to juggle work and motherhood. Oh, the juggle. The guilt. The rush. (And the secret joy that comes with eating your lunch uninterrupted.)
This first experience of motherhood can be overwhelming, to say the least.
But, over time, things might start getting easier. Don’t get me wrong. Not for a moment do I believe that the challenges get any easier. In fact, in the last five years I have found each succeeding development stage to throw up different and new challenges.
The thing is we get used to being in a state of constant flux. Over time, we work out the information sources that are useful. We find our tribe of people who we can turn to for help or to let off some steam. We trust that we can deal with the next new stage because we’ve somehow coped through the last countless changes that have come before. (Even if it was by the skin of our teeth and we needed professional help along the way.)
The point is, that by the time the next child comes along – especially in my case with a five-year gap, the change wasn’t as overwhelming as last time. It wasn’t stress-free and it wasn’t easy – that five year gap really threw up some challenges in the early months.
This time around I had the benefit of experience and hindsight. I had my tribe who had my back. I had my go-to websites on the go and the 13 HEALTH number on standby. But more so, after each and every one of the small victories of the previous five years and the learning from past mistakes, I was better able to deal with the change.
Ultimately, though, what really helped this time around was the lived knowledge that everything is temporary and this too shall pass.
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