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‘Beautiful but bloody hard’: What I learned in my first year as a mum

Kinderling News & Features

My little guy has just turned one. For me, that represents 365 days of being his nurturer, comforter, guide, source of nourishment and friend. It’s been beautiful. And life changing. But let’s be real here too - it was mostly bloody hard. 

Perhaps hitting this milestone has heightened my sense of sentimentality, or maybe watching too much of The Handmaid’s Tale has made me feel extra feisty with girl power. Either way, allow me to indulge a little in what I did accomplish and endure, and celebrate those who helped me through. 

Weeks, sleeps and feeds

I’ve spent the past 12 months counting out weeks, sleeps and feeds. There have been more than 800 lullabies sung, over a thousand children’s books read and I’ve artfully mastered three different ways to ‘shush’ the boy to sleep without even opening my mouth. (Tip: the sound of running water works wonders, and I’ve found rubbing my hands in a rhythmic pattern across a noisy doona yields great results - perhaps I have finally found my art form).

If I added up the total time spent breastfeeding each day, I’d tick off at least 156 episodes of The Good Wife. Double that figure for Friends. Many more hours have been spent breastfeeding in the dark and cursing my sleeping husband while wondering who else in the world is in exactly the same position at that exact time. I’ve reasoned that statistically Beyoncé and I must have nursed at the same time - and given she’s juggling twins, that surely doubles the chance of us coordinating our schedules, right? We are definitely connected in some way. 

Then came the tears...

Then there was the three weeks of crying for forty minutes straight, every two hours. Me, not him. That was a real doozy. Twenty one days of feeling trapped and isolated, all topped with three secret, terrifying and recurring ‘intrusive thoughts’. A visit to the doctor and five days in hospital together got me through. Postnatal depression has a nasty sting, and according to Beyond Blue, if you know seven mums, chances are at least one of them has been affected by it. 

I can’t forget the 700 hours spent waiting for his first smile, which has now been gloriously lighting up my life for 337 continuous days. I’ve got two overused quips for the approximately 200 times I’ve been asked if he was a good baby (“I’ve only sent him to juvie once”) or was told he had cute eyes/hair/smile/legs (“thanks, I made him myself”).

There were 12 mercifully short metres to my local cafe, where a quarter-strength flat white was waiting to help me through the haze of sleep deprivation (the number of times my son has ever slept through is zero). 

It takes a village

But of all these numbers, six is quite possibly the most important. Because there have been six new women in my life. Some I found in such unlikely places as a car park or toilet, who have helped me through everything. All fellow mums, they have helped me learn to adjust, made me laugh and brought some very necessary #realtalk about the experience of having a child.

They’re empathic, accidental experts at consoling and always offer reassurances that this too - whatever it may be - shall pass. All without ever any judgement. Far from the Hollywood-sponsored stereotype of ‘competitive parents,’ they have helped me to find my rhythm and carve my own path. 

Some of these women have already gone through their own set of numbers, others are currently wading in the midst of all that math, but it’s solidarity in numbers that has really helped me through my first 12 months. I hope to collect more of these women as the years go on. It certainly does ‘take a village’ - not only raise a child but also to keep mothers standing tall.

All of this translates to one enormous feeling of gratefulness and love. 

If you're struggling and need to talk to someone, you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 or Headspace on 1800 650 890.