29 November 2011

When your newborn isn't new anymore

I feel fine. My skin has stopped glowing and my boobs have almost shrunk back down to their usual size. I don’t have bags under my eyes and my nails are starting to fall apart for no reason again. My pregnancy hormones seem to have now fully retreated whence they came.
The truth is, I’ve been feeling this way for about a month now, but sort of wishing I wasn’t. I now this sounds like I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too, but it’s a sobering thought to realise that my life has stopped being consumed by my new baby, and, like a gyroscope that always rights itself, I have now absorbed my son into my life so much so that I can’t remember what it was like before he was here.
While this is clearly a wonderful feeling, and I am relieved to have got to this stage, I’m also a bit sad that the daze of pregnancy and new-bornness is over. It affords you special status, where you can be excused for forgetting to do things or bursting into tears at any moment, because everyone knows you aren’t supposed to be able to cope. But now I’m past all that, and I’m back to just being myself. And I have to readjust to being myself again, because for 9 months I was two people, then when my son was born I became even less than one person, and now it’s just me again. With him. Still following?
I feel I am sliding quickly down the slope from the anticipated, media-hyped status as ‘new mum’ to the much more serious and rewarding, but less glamourous title of ‘parent’. Having been treading water happily in the roles of independent young woman, and then (still independent) wife for quite some time, this new transition seems to have happened way too fast. Because my son’s life is so short so far compared to mine, the ratio of change to days spent on earth is so much bigger. Instead of waking up and realising I’ve been in the same job for three years and only my hair colour has changed, I now wake up realising that Junior has gained three new skills that he didn’t have last week!
The key, of course, is to appreciate each stage as it happens. But clich├ęs are easier said than done. Changes happen so quickly you can hardly keep up. At mothers’ groups around the world we lovingly compare each others rolling, crawling, walking and talking babies, wishing our own would start doing this or that, while at the same time nostalgically hanging on to those first few weeks when they were so fresh and dependent. The cure for this madness? Take one great night's sleep and count your blessings in the morning.