Tuesday, 15 August 2017

What it looks like, five and a half months of livin'

Five and a half months. Can you believe it? I can't. Sometimes I look at Anna and I'm totally floored by the fact that she exists. Every day her face looks a little different (I personally think she's starting to look a bit like me), every day her noises are a little more enthusiastic, her play choices more discerning. It's really crazy. 

Here's a few thoughts about it all:

How do I feel? I feel exactly the same as I did before. I don't really feel like 'a mother', I don't feel like any divine and sacred wisdom has been imparted upon me. I have a lot of lovely conversations about caring with mothers, grandmothers, aunties, people on the train or in the street. But when I'm without Anna, it's not as if I get knowing looks from other women, an 'I know you have experienced it'. It's weird, I feels I'm only a mother when I'm actively caring for Anna. Outside that, it's all a bit abstract. I don't think I know a whole lot about being a parent, I've only been doing it for the wink of an eye, and I'm constantly being challenged in new ways and having to renegotiate what exactly it is I'm about. I sort of feel like me, enhanced. Like I have this cool little buddy to come around with me and who I can explain things to. 

Caring for someone is so much more challenging and exhausting than I could ever have imagined. I breastfeed Anna, so 24 hours a day, I am on call. I wake up several times a night, if she needs a nap more often than not she needs to be fed to sleep. Recently she's been going through a phase of waking up every 2-3 hours. That's a lot. Being someone's sole source of sustenance is a big responsibility. It's time consuming, calorie consuming. It's wonderful and I don't regret it for a minute, but how on earth can a breastfeeding woman be expected to do so much, with so little support. That isn't a slight on the wonderful people in my life, that's a slight on our fragmented society. Caring for another little person is so tough when we live such solitary lives.

I think it's a good idea to slow down. I did lots of things in the first few months. We went to America, Sweden, the UK. I cleaned, a lot. I breastfed for about 7 hours a day (at least). I had an idea that I needed to go on with my life and take care of Anna. But that is too tiring, not least of all when recovering from pregnancy/labour. That's not to say I don't enjoy bringing her places where babies don't normally go. Proudly having her in a sling while I present at a conference, having her attend meetings, bringing her to conferences, libraries, the pub, Business Class flights. It's been really liberating to to break the mold, of keeping the baby hidden away unless it's pristinely dressed, silent and sleeping. Anna is as important as any adult and not only does she deserve to be present, but we can all benefit from having babies and children present in the things we do, to remind us of who we keep things going for (they are the future adults, after all), and that if a space isn't accessible for a woman and her baby (women do most of the caring after all) then maybe the space should be changed. But back to my original point. I'm tired, and I really enjoy spending time at home and going for long walks.  

To conclude: I enjoy caring for Anna a whole lot but it's very tiring and I sometimes wish I could press pause and have a break for like three hours. The presence of babies in public life is important. I am tired, but not very tired. A nice tired. Anna is a fantastic, joyful human. PhD, ha ha ha. Babies are better when they don't puke all over everything. Tummy time is a concept I never knew about before having a baby, but now dominates a lot of my waking life.

This post was very fragmented, but I think that represents what my life feels like right now: it's lots of little bits, half finished, all the time. But it's great.

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