Time flies when you haven’t got a clue what you are doing.
One year and 11 hours ago I was in a pool, in St Thomas’ hospital and I was handed a little baby. I looked, in shock at the baby, the midwives, Mike and my mum and said ‘it’s a baby!’. Those three words don’t really do justice to the scale of shock I felt when they gave me this little living, breathing, moving boy. I know I had been pregnant and all, but it still didn’t really make sense to me that that would lead to the point where I would actually have a baby. Goodness knows what I had expected but somehow this was a shock.
What followed, I don’t really remember very clearly, the first few weeks were a whirlwind of anxiety, exhaustion, fear and wonder. I don’t really remember much positive about that time. I know that I loved him, but I remember looking at him often while he slept and wishing that he wasn’t there. I felt this overwhelming and intimidating love for him at the same time as wishing desperately that life could go back to what it was before – a life where I had control of what was happening and could have a shower and wasn’t in pain and just really, feel a little free!
I was overwhelmed by the weight of emotion and the things that I had to learn. It took me four weeks to get out of the house properly and venture into the world. As the weeks went on, I started to fear that it would never get better, that I would never really enjoy it. I felt trapped.
Obviously, within all of this was the contradiction, that this tiny little thing was interesting, growing, learning and cuter than any baby that had ever been born in the history of the world.
It wasn’t until around February, when Elijah was four months old that I began to really enjoy being his mum. Up until then several people had said ‘you must be really enjoying being a mum!’ and every time, because I don’t know how to not say how I feel, I would say ‘no, not really!’ a shocking reply it would seem. I loved being Elijah’s mum, but the day to day job of it, I found exhausting, relentless and pretty thankless.
Problem was, by February, as I began to enjoy being a mum, as Elijah started engaging and interacting more and more and life with him was entering an increasingly fun stage, Mike and I started looking for a house in Reading with the intention of moving asap out of London, which also meant moving away from our community and my family. I also started to write my book again, needing to finish it within a few months.
Just when I wanted to have time exclusively for Elijah, I couldn’t have it. My stress levels started to rise again and there was a whole world of uncertainty and fear in the near future.
Over the following eight months, we found a house and started the process of buying it, I frantically worked to finish the book, we moved house, had to find community, a new church etc, the book was published and the publicity began.
It has been one of those ridiculous years that, with hindsight, you cannot comprehend quite how you got through it.
Elijah is a joy and a delight. He makes life busier, harder, more challenging, more exciting, more innocent. He brings a sense of joy that keeps me moving forwards.
However, this year has been a challenge that, all humour and reflective writing aside, has taken more out of me than I had realised. I have been joking about how I will probably think of a new book to write just in time to get pregnant again and have to do the whole thing over again, but the reality is – it really wouldn’t be funny.
I come to the end of it feeling incredibly content with my lot – my new house is amazing, it feels like home and I am feeling very settled in Reading only four months in. I have made some good friends, remarkably quickly – one of the many wonders of having a baby! The book has gone much better than I had anticipated and people have been incredibly kind about it, which is lovely and encouraging. And finally, and most importantly, my little family is wonderful. Mike is currently sitting feeding Elijah his supper, whilst singing a song from Beauty and the Beast having heard it when my sister and I watched it earlier… it is amusing, gentle and feels safe and happy.
Life is good, my health is a disaster. Despite being exactly where I would like to be, I am drained and broken and feeling as unstable as I have since my breakdown in 2012. I am hoping and praying that I won’t sink any lower, that the doctors in my new NHS area will pull it together soon and I will get some support, but I confess that I am a little scared that I am still on the slide and going down with increasing speed.
So, here we are, about to celebrate a year of this cheeky, naughty, happy, laid back, stubborn, ambitious, precious, beautiful little boy and I am looking forwards to a big glass of wine to aid that celebration. Motherhood has been one learning curve after another, with really, no clue what is going to happen next or how it will make me feel. I cherish nap time as if it is the last rest I will ever have and I am thankful my son enjoys time spent playing on his own. I look forward to the days when throwing his food on the floor and listening to me say ‘no’ stops making him laugh so much, and the days when he thinks screaming at the top of his lungs is not the ultimate joke but in the meantime, I will just enjoy the fact that we made it through and we have him to show for it. The fact that he is who he is, makes that remarkably easy. Most of the time.