Surviving the First Year of ... the Rest of Your Life

WELCOME TO MOTHERHOOD

Righto, this is quick and messy and on the fly – like life, once you have a bambina. It’s written Wild West style – think Clint Eastwood riding rough, hanging on, storming into a new frontier. These words come from a place of love and honesty. They are pretty much just dot points that I’ve randomly scribbled down, as porridge is being flung up a wall and Greek yoghurt is being squeezed between the thighs. (Clementine’s, not mine.)  

Life is different now, and I would never change it. Thanks to Clem, I’m forced to live in this exact moment – right this very second – and that, my friends, is a precious gift. 

So here are some highs, lows and random stories from what has been the first year of the rest of my life. 

THE FIRST 6 WEEKS

It’s funny what sleep deprivation will do. Actually, it’s not funny – it’s cruel. The one good thing about a severe lack of sleep is that it creates a level playing field. There is no time or energy reserved for bullsh*t. You’re too tired to judge others, you’re just doing your best to get out of bed.  

For the first 6 weeks, we had a rock star baby who would party all night, Robbie Williams style, and perhaps sleep a little during the day. Miraculously she managed to switch her hours and somehow be a good sleeper and then just as we were getting a bit smug … she swapped back again.  

IF I HAD TO PASS ON SOME TIPS FOR THOSE FIRST FEW WEEKS… 

  • A midwife told us the aim of the first 6 weeks with your baby is just to survive. Enjoy the baby bubble and let the world go by without you. 
  • Take it really easy and allow your body to heal. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to look or feel a certain way. (Who’s got time for that, anyway!) 
  • Find your village and support network – wherever or however that may be. (Hello, Mummy Time TV!). My Mothers Group meetings have always been a highlight of my week. 
  • It’s going to be ok. We know the days are long but the weeks and then the months (and I’m guessing the years) go by so damn fast.  

VENTURING OUT

FLYING HOME SOLO WITH A 10-WEEK-OLD 

(Enjoy the bullet point version – it’s all I have time to write – and it’s easier for you to read!) 

*So, I’m flying to my hometown of Armidale to spend time with my family. Flying on my own because my husband Ben has to work. Have limited hands and have to choose between taking a pram and taking a baby carrier. I choose the carrier. 

*l I get to security at Sydney Airport (in rush hour) and I’m told the Bjorn must come off before I walk through the metal detector. It’s only now that I realise you need to put the baby down to get the Bjorn on and off. I’m alone so have to hand Clem over to random airport security guy. He thinks I’m a bit strange, but kindly obliges. 

*I get past security and am busting for a caffeine hit… which leads me to be busting for the toilet … again, I suddenly realise I can’t pass Clem over to anyone, so I pee with Clem still in the baby Bjorn.  

* Once on board and up in the sky, I decide to change Clem’s nappy. The Qantaslink plane is tiny, there is no running water in the bathroom, and very little space to change her. But, somehow, I do. I walk back to my seat feeling pretty chuffed with myself, but realise everyone is looking at me like I’m an idiot for even attempting a change a baby in such a confined space, at 40,000 feet. 

MEETING THE FAM 

After being deep in the baby bubble for the first 8-10 weeks, I was excited to head back to the bush to see my family. On the morning of that flight I woke up with a head cold, burning throat etc, so when I landed, I decided to scoff Mum and Dad’s Vitamin C tablets. I was eating them like lollies – and then breastfeeding. I finally made the connection between the trillions of Vitamin C tablets and Clem’s constant crying and runny nappies. Oh dear.  

Our big family reunion fell on the night of the State of Origin. Picture this – Clem screaming, terrible Ch 9 reception up at the farm, my Dad and brothers trying to move the antennae, (like they used to when we were little kids) and Clem still screaming. Hilarious… for nobody.  

DRIVING IN CARS WITH BABIES 

Mum and Dad drove me over to Gunnedah – a four-hour round trip – so Clem could meet her great grandparents. We had a lovely time – special cuddles, cups of tea and lots of cake. (There’s so much cake in the first year.) The drive home, however was a horror. It’s funny now to look back on, but at the time, it was hard. Clem wouldn’t stop screaming. We made a number of stops on our journey up the Moonbi Ranges – for a nappy change and to breastfeed and to try to work out WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON!!?? We were all crammed in the car – including my sister-in-law, Anji. At one stage I was almost sitting on her lap, trying to feed, with breastmilk going everywhere. But … we got there. For a long time the thought of driving with a baby terrified me. It’s only now that that fear has passed.  

LACTATION LABOTOMY

Ok, I would like to publicly apologise to my brother and sister-in-law for putting their electric kettle on a gas top … and lighting it… and almost setting their kitchen on fire.  

Also…  

DIARY ENTRY
23rd May, 17 

“Today I breastfed while doing an eye test at Crows Nest OPSM. I knew I was pushing it a little bringing Clementine – who turned 10 weeks today – but I also thought it would all work itself out. And I guess it did. Anyway… Clem was happy and sleepy as we wheeled our way up Willoughby Road. As soon as we pushed into the (rather small) doorway she woke up and unleashed. Next thing the optometrist (I almost wrote obstetrician) was ready for us – screaming baby and all. Before I knew it, I was trying to read the bottom line with Clem on the boob. Turns out my eyesight is actually fine. We’re now at home listening to Adele on repeat with the white noise app swinging between the shush and a tropical thunderstorm.” 

OTHER BABY BRAIN MOMENTS: 

Answering the door with the feeding singlet really not done up, at all. 

Inviting Jehovah’s Witness door knockers in for tea and cake because I had the time and needed some company. 

Trying on heels at a busy city shopping centre, in my active wear, two days before my brother’s wedding.  

Constantly trying to pay for groceries with a Medicare card. 

Emergency nappy change during a road trip home to the bush. The cafe’s changing table was effectively the top of their washing machine… which is no big deal. But when an impatient man knocked on the door, Clem squirmed and managed to hit the spin cycle button. Disaster. 

Accidentally saying Sweet Dreams to my husband every time he leaves for work. And my tired hubby accidentally saying it back to me. 

THE SUPPORT  

There’s nothing better than watching your extended family fall in love with your child. The bond is so beautiful to watch. Every morning during my stay, Dad would get up at 5.30am to put another log on the fire and to check Clem was warm enough. He didn’t know I could see him do this each morning. My mum would take Clem on walks through the garden and would sing in her ear. My sister was living in New York when Clem was only little, and would tell stories and show baby photos to random commuters on the subway. That’s a proud aunty!   

When you are a new mum, random acts of kindness bring you to tears with gratitude. Like the time I met my old flat mate who is now a dad to a toddler, at a café for breakfast when he was passing through town. Clementine was only 10 weeks old and I was still feeling like a rookie. He instinctually (autopilot) poured my tea, cut my toast and helped me put on my jacket. It was just so simple and so thoughtful. It was such a great example of parents looking out for each other. 

RANDOM TEARS + EMOTIONS  

DIARY ENTRY 

“Moved Clem to her own room and felt like she was now a teenager and officially flying the nest. Now watching Muriel’s Wedding – the part where Muriel walks past her mum as she exits the church and doesn’t acknowledge her. I’m a mess!”   

YOUR LOVE LIFE  

When date night is attending the baby CPR course … and you know things probably won’t change for a long time. 

BACK TO WORK/MOTHERS GUILT/DAY CARE BUGS

For the first time since I’ve left school, I’ve tapped out of the news cycle. This is a big deal for a journalist. I had a year of not hearing about Trump or knowing the intricate details of horror mass school shootings. I also found myself changing jobs, putting family first, and being lucky enough to work part time. 

The change from bub to back-to-work is a challenge. There are so many elements at play – emotions, hormones, confidence, separation anxiety, job security, childcare, money, weaning, time management, and finding a support network.  

Last week, I interviewed Australian icon Ita Buttrose. An hour before the interview I had dropped Clem off at day care, for the first time. I was feeling a little emotional and trying to forget the image of Clem screaming, clinging to me, and not wanting me to leave.   

After the interview, I was chatting with Ita. I mentioned the tears around drop off and she was so kind. She said going back to work is a transition. It takes time. But she said as new mums, we need to be confident and believe in ourselves. Along with making and raising children, she says mums make great employees – we are hard-working, focussed and we don’t waste time on idle chit chat or office politics. This is so true.  

One thing I was not prepared for, however, is day care bugs. I had zero idea! In the space of two weeks we’ve all been flattened by a vomiting bug, colds and ear infections. Delightful.  

FINDING YOUR VOICE 

This is so important. It’s crucial. We all want to feel heard. I’m still working on this one. But as Ita says we need to be confident and speak up. And the time is now. 

ENDLESS LOVE AND BURSTING HEART  

And finally, the greatest thing I have experienced throughout my first year of motherhood, is a fierce love for my daughter, and a feeling of contentment. I watch Clementine and the babies around her, laugh and smile with every cell of their body. Her eyes are just bursting with pure joy and happiness. (Even when she is giving me a nipple cripple mid feeding.)   

So, my final tips for surviving the first year of motherhood are simple:  

  • Love. As much as you can, in every direction. Especially towards your partner. 
  • Slow down. See our wonderful world through your baby’s eyes. 
  • Don’t judge. Never judge. Not even a little bit. Everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have.  
  • Thank the people who raised you. Having Clementine has made me even more appreciative of my parents and everything they have sacrificed for their four children.  
  • Be kind to your mum. 

You can also see my article here on mummytime.co.