Those first few weeks after we brought our first-born home from hospital were nothing like I expected them to be. Of course I was expecting a lack of sleep and the demands that come with looking after a newborn. But I wasn’t prepared for the relentless crying, the complete exhaustion and the constant distress our baby seemed to be in.
I remember I would count how many dishes I could get washed in between her screaming fits, and I would dash into the shower at 6am knowing that it might be the last chance I would get until mid afternoon. I would look forward to drying my hair or vacuuming, as I knew that the hum of the noise would finally lull her to sleep. Other women at baby groups would offer to hold her to see if they had the ‘knack’ to calm her down – they didn’t.
What am I doing wrong?
I’m not sure that people really believed me when I talked about how challenging our baby was. And because she was my first, I wasn’t sure if it was normal. I questioned whether I was just not very good at being a mum, perhaps I wasn’t cut out for it. I’d never been the maternal type and maybe my daughter could sense that? Why didn’t my cuddles comfort her? Was I fussing her too much? Was I not giving her enough fuss?
But deep down I knew this wasn’t how every baby behaved.
We tried every trick in the book to quieten her cries (and get some respite!) Every colic remedy, every white noise app, swaddles, different milk formulas, different routines. But nothing really helped.
In the end I came to accept that my daughter was just far too feisty, head-strong and determined to sit quietly in her bouncer/cot whilst the rest of the world went about her. It wasn’t until we got to around six months and she gained some independence that everything drastically changed.
The next chapter
Two and a half years later and I have the most delightful toddler. Luckily her independent nature set her up in good stead for the months that followed. Potty training was a breeze, she skipped into nursery from day one, she helps get herself dressed and she will eat pretty much anything mum and dad do.
When I fell pregnant with our second, needless to say I wasn’t overly looking forward to returning to the newborn days.
But then he arrived and he honestly couldn’t be more different.
Every child is different…
Six weeks in and our baby boy is a joy. His cries are cute whimpers rather than angry screams, and they’re usually because he needs something – a feed, a sleep, a cuddle – not just because. He naps during the day and is already finding his own routine at night. He’s pacified with a cuddle, some attention or his dummy.
I’ve lost count of the times that people have said to me that you’re so much more relaxed with your second, your second just ‘fits in’. And yes that’s true. I certainly trust my instincts more and I’m confident in my abilities as a mother.
But have I parented any differently? Not really. I am still the same mum, the same person. I’m not sure how I would’ve done things any differently if I could go back to those days when I was a new mum. Our baby was just difficult and there’s nothing I could’ve done to change that.
Certainly in my experience a child’s nature is determined from a very early age, and perhaps there will be chapters in childhood which don’t particularly suit them. Whether it’s the baby months, toddlerhood, adolescence or the teenage years, hardly any of us grow up without testing the boundaries at some point.
Of course, as parents we can provide the encouragement our kids need to raise well-rounded adults. We should be good role models and help nurture their unique talents and attributes. We should teach them to have respect and good manners…
But sometimes there are days, months and even years when no matter how hard we try, our kids get the better of us and we wonder what we’re doing wrong.
Just ride the wave Mama, you’re doing just great.