Last Friday was a very special kind of anniversary – it was a year since we brought Harley home from the hospital. It’s funny looking back, realizing how little we knew, how we truly didn’t know what we were in for. No matter what anyone says, nothing can prepare you for a newborn, and a preemie in particular. Now, a year later, our lives are so different, Harley is so different. Things have gotten so much easier, and also so much harder in other ways. It’s all part of the journey, but with Harley home for a year now, I thought I’d look back at those dark early days a bit, and also at how things are right now.
The past couple days with Harley have been tough. She isn’t sleeping too well – not horribly, but not great. I think she is teething quite badly, plus she is about to hit a major developmental leap which always makes her a bit impossible. She gets upset quite easily, cries more often and is generally just clingy and cranky. However, it is still a million times easier than it was back when we first brought her home. Sure, she can crawl off now, and get into things she shouldn’t (she ejected my PS4 game yesterday, much to my horror… time to move the console!) but she can also interact, smile, play and have a lot more fun than she used to.
When I went to a Geek Girl Dinner at the end of last year, Mandy Weiner spoke about her life and career. She described trying to balance things while procreating, and referred to the first six weeks with a baby as “The Darkness”. It’s definitely something I can relate to – I found those early days ridiculously hard. Part of it was PTSD from the emergency situation of her birth, as well as ensuing postpartum depression. I really struggled in those early weeks, frequently bursting into tears, feeling overwhelmed and just generally wondering if things were ever going to get better. I was so sleep deprived, but also just so depleted. It felt like Harley was taking all my energy, all my time, plus drinking me dry and spitting up and crying when I changed her nappy… the list went on and on. Hardest of all, there seemed to be little if any reward – the most we could do is cuddle or nap together. She wasn’t interactive, couldn’t smile yet, but we were slowing bonding.
Now, she comes to crawl after me when I go for a pee. Now, she smiles when she finds me getting dressed or making food in another room. She lights up when her daddy comes home, and excitedly crawls back and forth from the study to the lounge when we just want to relax in the evenings. It’s adorable (and exhausting) and makes me realize that we’ve done a pretty good job with her so far.
I think that was the hardest part, actually, the bit that I was least prepared for. I knew that I didn’t know what to expect in many ways. I didn’t realize how bone tired I’d be, how utterly exhausting it can be to wake up throughout the night. I didn’t think Harley would be so averse to simple things like changing clothes or nappies. However, the hardest thing was the questioning if I was doing a good job with her – was I stimulating her enough or too much? Was I bonding with her enough? Was I a good mom… am I good mom?
I still worry about being a good mom, I still wonder if I’m doing enough for her. But I’m more confident with it because I see how well she is doing. I had amazing support from my mom and some close friends, people who kept saying I was doing well, that I was the best mommy Harley could ever want. I just wish that more people in my life had been positive like that. Mom guilt is real, and suffered by everyone I talk to. The last thing any of us need is people second guessing or going around our decisions. I still have people in shops telling me Harley isn’t warm enough, or too warm. I still get told that the way I’m dong things isn’t how someone else did them, along with that disapproving look.
Yes, Harley is still breastfed. Yes, Harley sleeps in her own cot. No, she doesn’t sleep through most of the time. No, that doesn’t mean I’m going to wean her. Yes, we’re doing Baby Led Weaning. No, she doesn’t always eat. No, I don’t dress her in pink. Yes, I love dressing her in fun outfits. Yes, I read to her every night. Yes, I plan to send her to school as soon as she can walk. No, I don’t have a nanny. Yes, I plan to continue wearing/carrying her even once she can walk. The list goes on and on.
I wish I had known a year ago that I was doing well, that I could trust my instincts – I really do know what’s best for Harley. And she is growing up so beautifully, such a happy and healthy baby. I didn’t need to know that it would get better (although that did vaguely reassure me), I needed to know that I was already doing a good job. At least now I know to always tell other moms how great they are doing, how happy their baby looks. The mom tribe needs to support each other – if we don’t, who will?