Before you have kids, you have a general picture of what kind of parent you want to be. Mine was set in stone; I’d be laid back, happy, laughing, playing, hugging and patient. I’d have a very strong sense of my own identity, would have a career with a perfect work-life balance; would continue going to the gym and surfing and have nights out with the girls. The baby belly would be gone within a matter of months, and we would all eat organic home-cooked meals together as a family. I was desperate to uphold this image that I had created of myself so I could be a great role model for my girls from day one.
And I did it. For about the first 6 months after the girls were born I was, and did almost all of the above (except work, but that was ok, I was on maternity leave).
Slowly though, I started to unravel at the seams. Surviving on only 2 hours broken sleep per night and breastfeeding two very hungry babies probably had a lot to do with the exhaustion, stress, anxiety, constant illnesses and growing sadness that was coming to define me. But so too did the pressure I’d put on myself to be, do and have it all.
A very low point came when the girls were 12 months old and I tried to introduce them to drinking cows milk in the hope it would encourage them to wean from breastfeeding quite so much. They spat it out and looked at me as though I’d given them poison! I experimented with different receptacles, different temperatures, but they even rejected my expressed milk; only mummy would do. I felt betrayed by all the guidance I’d been given to breastfeed until they were one then wean them on to cows milk, as if it were that black and white. Their sleep was worse than when they were newborn yet I refused to sleep train or force them into a bottle by starving them: one thing was clear to me; that was not the mother I wanted to be.
Fast forward to when my girls turned 14 months old give or take. I’m not getting much more sleep; still breastfeeding these hungry gannets who are showing no signs of self-weaning whatsoever, but I am happier than I’ve ever been.
So what’s changed? Well, I’m not quite sure how it happened or what set it off (I thank in part, this wonderful book http://gentlesleepbook.com by Sarah Ockwell Smith) , but it seems that I woke up one morning free from all the pressures and expectations I’d put on myself and the girls. I’d finally accepted the situation and decided to go with the flow. So what if I can’t go back to work, get to the gym 5 times a week or go away for a friend’s hen weekend? So what if I have to sleep pinned to my back by two ridiculously heavy babies while my husband sleeps on a mattress on the floor because it’s the only way any of us get any sleep? These years are so short, my babies have become walking, talking toddlers in the blink of an eye and I can honestly say that now, I am so enjoying dedicating myself entirely to raising them; the most important thing I have ever done in my life.